Sassounian: 96 Years Later, Turkey Still Pays Price for Genocide Denial

Almost a century after the fact, the Republic of Turkey continues to be disgraced for its persistent denial of the Armenian Genocide.

During his visit to Armenia earlier this month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned Turkey by declaring that 96 years is long enough for Ankara to come to terms with its genocidal crimes. He also threatened to pass a law punishing denial of the Armenian Genocide, unless Turkey recognized it in the near future.

Rather than heeding Sarkozy’s sound advice, Turkish leaders retaliated by attacking him and insulting his country. Here are some of their rejectionist statements:

–Prime Minister Erdogan: “He should first listen to his own advice. He is different in France, different in Armenia, and more different in Turkey. There cannot be a political leader with so many faces. Politics requires honesty… You should know that Turkey is not an easy bite to swallow.”

–Foreign Minister Davutoglu: “France should confront its own history. I consider such remarks as political opportunism.”

–Turkey’s European Union Minister Egemen Bagis: “If Sarkozy worked on how his country could come out of economic turbulence instead of assuming the role of a historian, it would be more meaningful for France and Europe.”

–Devlet Bahceli, leader of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP): The French president is a “rude and ill-mannered” man. “Our advice to Sarkozy is that if he wants to see an example of genocide, he should look back at his history. He will clearly see the atrocities committed in Algeria and will notice explicit or implicit massacres in North Africa.”

The Turkish attacks on France included demonstrations in front of the French Consulate in Istanbul last week, where protesters carried portraits of Sarkozy with Adolph Hitler’s mustache and denounced alleged crimes committed by France in the Algerian War.

Uncharacteristically, Turkish officials did not go beyond mere words to denounce Sarkozy’s statements on the Armenian Genocide. Missing were the customary recall of the Turkish ambassador and threats to boycott French goods. There was no bite in their bark!

The French president was unfazed by the Turkish outbursts. Upon returning to Paris, he sent a letter to Armenian President Serge Sarkisian confirming his earlier statements in Armenia: “Rest assured that France will not cease its commitment, as long as the massacres have not been properly recognized by the descendants of the perpetrators.” Sarkozy went on to state that he was “most of all deeply moved at the Genocide Memorial Monument while paying tribute to the memory of the victims of the death sentence carried out against your people on April 24, 1915.” When the French president learned of the angry Turkish reaction to his statements in Yerevan, he told his aides that he had no regrets: “The Turks have always hated me, so it’s no problem.”

Some French Parliamentarians were incensed, however, upon hearing that Erdogan had accused Sarkozy of being two-faced. They greeted the Turkish leader’s insulting words with loud and derisive exclamations in the French Parliament.

Former Ambassador Omer Engin Lutem expressed his concern that if France were to ban denial of the Armenian Genocide, it would trigger other European countries to follow suit. He cautioned the Turkish public that such a development on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide would constitute a significant victory for Armenians.

Murat Belge, an outspoken Turkish human rights activist, took issue with the negative reaction of his country’s leaders. He boldly condemned all those who claim that “Turks are good people; we do not kill or commit genocide.” Such statements are “slanderous,” Belge stated.

Another prominent scholar and columnist, Ahmet Insel, rebuked Erdogan for telling Sarkozy to look at France’s own colonial past. Insel wondered if Erdogan would indeed recognize the Armenian Genocide if France faced its own history? And what would Turkey do if the same suggestion came from a country that did not have dark pages in its history? Insel observed that this is the same prime minister who claimed the Ottoman archives were open, while his government was blocking the posting of the documents on the internet.

As an Iranian diplomat recently noted: “The Armenian Genocide is a Damoclean Sword hanging over Turkey’s head.” Sooner or later, a wise Turkish leader will come to realize that acknowledging the genocide is more beneficial to Turkey than its continued denial.

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1.    Whether we care to admit or not, the Turks are crafty politicians. They have become quite adept at spinning events and messages to their advantage. Given this it is incredible that
    they continue to operate with pure emotion when it comes to the Genocide. The Iranian diplomat’s comments at the end of Harut’s column are significant. I am certain that there are many politicians in Turkey that understands that continued denial of the inevitable is not a wise approach. The hole they are digging only gets deeper.
         All the more reason for us to understand that somewhere in the back rooms of Ankara, there is a clear understanding that this debate is over. Erdogan is popular in Turkey and imaginative , but is out of touch on this one. He leads with emotion and that is not in the best interests of Turkey. It is in our best interests to move on to reparation discussions and let the Turks catch up when their timing and leadership accepts what will happen at some point.
           Our job is to facilitate this process with our lobbying, keep the diaspora and ROA on the same page and to be prepared for the step beyond recognition. The outrageous responses of the Turkish leadership will accelerate resolution as it creates further responses.

  2. Hasan Yildiz’s comment above demonstrates why it is so difficult to conduct a level headed and productive dialogue with many Turks.  A simple figurative expression is taken literally and over-reacted to.   This over-sensitivity to perceived insult will only hurt Turkey in the long run.  

    “As an Iranian diplomat recently noted: “The Armenian Genocide is a Damoclean Sword hanging over Turkey’s head.” Sooner or later, a wise Turkish leader will come to realize that acknowledging the genocide is more beneficial to Turkey than its continued denial.”

    Former Ambassador Omer Engin Lutem cautions that the banning of genocide denial on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide would constitute a significant victory for Armenians.”    Note:  No denial of genocide in this statement, only the fear that Armenians might “win.”  Since when is the death of over 1 million people and the loss of a nation’s historic homeland a victory?

    I still wonder where the fai-minded Turks are who understand that this is not about winning or losing, but about right and wrong and a just resolution?

  3. Sarko Said “The Turks have always hated me, so it’s no problem”

    I said ” The Armenians and Sarko can always hate the Turks, so it’s no problem”  

  4. Stepan —   It seems to me Turks are sly, nimble, and violent, but not ‘smart’ politicians. One need not be ‘smart’ to advance state policy objectives by mass murdering indigenous people and then portraying their cultural achievements as Turkish. It’s cheap, not smart. Turks were also fortunate in modern history: first, rescued from destruction by the French and the British during the Crimean War; then by the withdrawal of the Russians from the Caucasus fronts in 1915-197 that gave Turks carte blanche to commit the genocide of the Armenians; and then as a NATO member-state during the Cold War and after. This is not smartness. Often times geography plays more determinant role than the brains—or the lack thereof—of the politicians. Armenians are considered a smart nation given their known contributions to the human civilization, but our geography is no friend of ours.

  5. hasan yildiz, see any English dictionary for “all bark and no bite”: (idiomatic) full of big talk but lacking action, power, or substance.  Do you know that your grandfathers called Armenians “infidel dogs” when forcibly boxing them in cattle cars destined for death in Syrian deserts?

  6. I commedn all posts(excluding  the yuilmaz).A lessto him and other such  who have expressed  France  committed Genocide  in Algiers. Not  quite so ,at least not with a scopecomparable to what the Ottoman turks did to Armenian(Ermeni) Rayas.
    Moreover  all or near all other Euroepan nations/states, suchas the Belgian(Belgian congo), the Dutch, the Portuguess, the spaniars   have also committed attrocities plus   this side   of the ocean to native Americans  by incoming Euors.But the have  admitted doing so and compensated as much as possible. Not so with great Turkey.They continue their  erronesou stance towars a people  that  BEST  SERVED  THEIR ANCESTORS!!!!
    UNGRATEFULLNESS, as well ,is  one  of their  TRAITS…which cannot be overlooked.
    I suggest,we wait.Patience  is a  vertue  Armenians  have which will sooner,rather  than later  render good results.
    What  with  the other  PRESENT  THICK PROBLEM   great Turkey faces(that  of  the K U R D S)  and other  nationalities ..and neighbours alike.

  7. Paul: If Turks do not have smart politicians, how come in the year 2011 the US still does not recognize the 1915 massacres as a Genocide? Think about it! I can’t believe how many of you use this and that news on Turks and Turkey here as means of your ego masturbation. Yes, we all know there aren’t any other smarter and glorious nation than Armenians on this planet and if you hadn’t existed, there would be no human civilization and we all six billion people would live in wild forests and deserts trying to hunt each other to survive. God bless all of you Armenians (and plus the French of course, whose backs you need to hide behind). 

  8. Mike —  Assuming you’re a Turk, your irony obviously speaks of silliness not smartness. The US hasn’t so far recognized the Armenian genocide by a legislative act not because Turkish politicians are such smarta***s, but because a host of its own political, military, geostrategic, and economic considerations in the broader region.
    As a reminder, my post was about the ‘smartness’ of Turkish politicians which I contested, not about Armenian ego and that Armenians are smarter than other nations. But, it comes to no surprise to me that you, as an egomaniac Turk, overreact to anything that’s said about a minor issue involving the Turks, especially if the poster is an Armenian.
    For the record:  no, we don’t think that we’re smarter or more glorious than any other nation on this planet, but we pride ourselves by the fact that we’ve enriched human civilization with our contributions in sciences, engineering, art and literature, architecture, religion, music, business and trade.
    And no, six billion (actually, seven already) people wouldn’t live in wild forests and deserts trying to hunt each other to survive if it were not Armenians, but Armenians wouldn’t expect those wild peoples, such as your nomadic forefathers, to invade indigenous people of Asia Minor form the steppes of Central Asia and bring destruction, colonization, and genocidal extermination upon us.
    God has blessed all Armenians even without your fake prayers, as He allowed us to survive the Ottoman Turkish barbarism.

  9. BRAVO PAUL JAN.. BRAVO.. excellent post to so called Turk by the name of Mike..

    i don’t get it.. why these Turks use Western names.. ? just don’t get it… Are they just not tooo proud to come out and say I am a Turk and my name is Mahmet oglu?? hmmmm…

    Paul jan.. God has blessed all Armenians… He blessed us with strong culture, strong love for our country and strong  commitment to our existance and values…

    Can’t say the same about Turks or their loser cousin Azeris….


  10. Hasan– stop acting like you don’t know what it means “no bite in their bark”…… ESPECIALLY when your ancestors called my ancestors infidel dogs… i would just suggest for you not to say anything because as we said… “smartness” is not Turkish govt’ and the denialists forte..

    John the Turk-apparently it is a big problem John oglu.. otherwise you denalists including your govt’s most horrible representatives would not jump on Sarkozy’s throat for what he said..  

  11. Dear Paul, You are quite correct to state about Armenians who survived 5,000 years with a very rich history masterin in all the fields that you have mentioned.

    The Great Musasir Temple of Armenia
    The Greek edifice “panthenon” was built around the year 500 BC or 425 years later than the Armenian temple of Araratian forefathers.

    Armenian History,

    The Armenian Balian Brothers who built the palaces of Istanbul,

    The Armenian Mikoyan who created the MIG Airplanes in Russia,



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