Special for the Armenian Weekly
PARIS, France—On Jan. 18, 2001, the French National Assembly passed a bill recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
The first step towards recognition occurred in 1998. In fact, a private bill, inspired by the election pledge of Lionel Jospin, who was running for president in 1995, was put on the agenda of the National Assembly in 1997 by politicians Jean-Paul Bret, the president of the France-Armenia group, Didier Migaud, René Rouquet, and all members of the Socialist Party. The parliamentary majority was in favor of the law and the first debate took place on May 29, 1998, in front of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Human rights were central to the discussions, since socialists appealed to the universal values of the French Republic. A politician, Guy Hemrier, also claimed that the recognition of the Armenian Genocide was necessary to reinforce the values of remembering and preventing such catastrophes from happening again.
After years of debate, the law passed on Jan. 18, 2001. The bill contained one article: “France publicly recognizes the 1915 Genocide of the Armenians.”
Fifteen years after the law passed in France, Turkey has still not recognized the genocide; some Turks still claim that Armenians were the terrorists. On Jan. 1, 2016, an Armenian, Levon Aroutiounian, recounted a personal experience on the French website Rue 89: One day, while in the school cafeteria, a friend, Sabri, asked Levon what he did on the weekend. Levon responded that he attended a conference about the Armenian Genocide. Aroutiounian was discussing the history of the Armenian Genocide with Sabri when a Turkish girl joined the conversation, arguing that the genocide was a lie. For her, a war had taken place between Turks and Armenians—a war that ended in the deaths of 1 million Armenians and 2 millions Turks. She even said, “You guys killed us. We should talk about the massacres against the Turks and not the Armenians. It is heartbreaking that the media [focuses on] the deaths of a people to the detriment of another whose victims numbered more. The imaginary stories of the genocide were invented by the West.”
Thus, even as we approach the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the fight for Armenian Genocide recognition and the struggle to change mentalities about what occurred in 1915 is not over.