Monday, 13 May, 2024

France’s doublespeak on the term ‘genocide’

Macron recently said Russian acts of violence in Ukraine should not be called genocide, while France has unabashedly used the term in the context of Armenians to score political points.

While the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been continuing with great ferocity since February 24, politicians and leaders of all stripes in the West outdid themselves over the definition of war crimes allegedly committed by the Russian army against Ukrainian civilians. Leaving aside the mutual recriminations of the warring parties over massacres committed, US President Joe Biden accused Russia of committing genocide in Ukraine, slamming Russian President Putin for "trying to wipe out the idea of being Ukrainian."

Regarding the current conflict in Ukraine, Biden is not the only Western leader who has accused Russia of genocide. The US president, of all people, accuses Moscow of committing genocide against Ukraine, while Washington, in recent decades, under the pretext of the "war on terror" or "possession of weapons of mass destruction," carried out military interventions in states such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed in the US Army operations, and even more than one million civilians were slaughtered just in Iraq.

The United Nations Genocide Convention

First of all, the term genocide is a legal definition. It comes from the Greek word for origin, descent (genos) and the Latin word caedere, which means to murder and slaughter. The idea behind the UN Genocide Convention, which was adopted in 1948 and came into force in 1951, originally came from the Polish-Jewish jurist Raphael Lemkin.

In simple terms, genocide circumscribes all crimes committed with the intent "to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, or religious group." According to the UN Register, it was the US that, after the adoption of the UN Genocide Convention, made two reservations and issued a detailed statement of understanding.

French President Emmanuel Macron, on the other hand, has refused to call the Russian army's actions in Ukraine a genocide. In Macron's view, an "escalation of words" does not contribute to peace. He said that the Russian army had indeed waged war in Ukraine, but he has been cautious about using such a term. In an interview with a French radio station, Macron explicitly said the term genocide should be defined by lawyers and not by politicians.

Opportunistic approach

Both US President Biden and French President Macron have commented on the Russian army's actions in Ukraine, and the meandering opportunistic approach to the term genocide is clear from the remarks of both presidents.

The West's double standards come to the fore precisely in the uncritical use of terms such as genocide. It is always used when political interests take precedence over internationally binding agreements such as the UN Genocide Convention, and the Convention has been deliberately undermined by Armenian lobby organisations and their supporters for years.

Was it not the French parliament that in 2001 classified the resettlement of the Armenian population during World War I as "genocide"? Didn't Emmanuel Macron proclaim "April 24 Remembrance Day" in France in 2019 by presidential decree, fulfilling an election promise to the influential Armenian electorate in France?

French colonial crimes in Algeria

After the end of World War II, a liberation movement formed in the then French colony of Algeria, which France fought with violence. In this course, several tens of thousands of Algerians initially lost their lives. As a result of the anti-colonial Algerian war of independence, up to 1.5 million Algerians were killed. France refuses to acknowledge its colonial crimes in Algeria, let alone apologise, and there is no talk of reparations at all.

France is always on the spot to accuse Türkiye of "genocide" against the Ottoman Armenians but conceals its own participation during World War I against the Ottoman Empire. It not only occupied Turkish cities such as Adana, Antep, Maras, Mersin, Osmaniye and Urfa, but also supported the rebellious Armenian militias with weapons and ammunition.

Furthermore, many Armenians were fighting in the ranks of the French army and an Armenian legion that carried out systematic massacres, looting and pillaging of the Turkish Muslim civilian population.

A trail of devastation and horror ran throughout eastern Anatolia, and the full extent of Armenian atrocities against the Turkish Muslim population is evident in the many mass graves that were dug. In the eastern Anatolian city of Igdir, for example, Armenian units attacked unarmed civilians, and hundreds were cruelly killed. In the town of Mus alone, Armenian militias committed a massacre of women, children, and the elderly, killing an estimated 2,800 people.

After the eastern Anatolian city of Erzurum was captured by the Russian tsarist army on February 16 1916, Armenian militias imprisoned 587 inhabitants of the village of Ortabahce (Cinis) in the mosque and set fire to the Muslim place of worship, killing everyone inside. There are testimonies about this massacre from family members of the killed victims who saw the atrocities committed by the Armenians. According to official data, 524,000 people lost their lives because of the mass murders committed by Armenian militias against the Turkish population in eastern and southeastern Anatolia.

A one-sided emphasis on the Armenian narrative

It is well known that during the resettlement of the Armenian population from the war zones during World War I, many Armenians lost their lives due to rampant epidemics, hunger, exhaustion, and attacks by marauding gangs – even though the Ottoman government had made plans for protection and food supply. However, the resettlement aspect is presented from a one-sided pro-Armenian perspective, emphasising only the Armenian narrative and imputing an extermination intent to those responsible for the resettlement decision that did not exist in this form.

Türkiye has repeatedly proposed the establishment of a joint commission of historians to research the events during World War I, but this has been rejected by the Armenian government. By instrumentalising and politicising the resettlement of Armenians as a historical event, anti-Turkish resentment is stirred up, which may be useful to politicians in election campaigns or to Armenian interest groups, but is not conducive to an honest reappraisal of historical suffering.

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