Assyrian Genocide Conference At the European Parliament

Assyrian International News Agency
March 27 2007

Assyrian Genocide Conference At the European Parliament

The Ottoman Empire’s widespread persecution of Assyrian civilians
during World War I constituted a form of genocide, the present-day
term for an attempt to destroy a national, ethnic or religious group,
in whole or in part. Ottoman soldiers and their Kurdish and Persian
militia partners subjected hundreds of thousands of Assyrians to a
deliberate and systematic campaign of massacre, torture, abduction,
deportation, impoverishment and cultural and ethnic destruction.

Up to now, the international community has been hesitant to recognize
the Assyrian experience as a form of genocide. However, the Assyrian
genocide is indistinguishable in form from its Armenian counterpart.
Both are narrowly intertwined.

My presentation will deal with the debate about the genocide issue on
the Belgian scene in the form that it has explicitly taken, the
Armenian genocide, and implicitly and indirectly the Assyrian
genocide, Seyfo. My analysis will identify a number of negationist
actors in Belgium, highlight their objectives and their strategies,
their links with Belgian political parties, with the Turkish embassy
in Brussels and with not very commendable organizations in Turkey.

The Belgian State and the Ottoman Genocide

In 1998, the Belgian senate recognized the genocide committed by the
Ottomans against the Armenians during WW I.

On June 6, 2005, the Justice Commission of the Belgian Senate
rejected a draft bill (Ref. 51/ 1284) meant to extend the March 23,
1995 law criminalizing the negationism of the Nazi genocide against
the Jews to all the genocides and crimes against humanity legally
recognized.

The issue of the Armenian genocide which was recognized by all the
parties was sneaked in during the debate, especially by the MRAX
(Movement against Racism, Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia), but was
excluded from the draft law because it had not been recognized by an
international jurisdiction. The draft bill extending the
criminalization of negationism divided the parties in power and was
finally rejected with twelve ‘no’ votes to two ‘yes’ votes. If it had
been approved in Parliament, Belgium would have been the first
country to punish those who deny the Armenian genocide allegations.

Revisionist and Negationist Players in Belgium

Several Turkish nationalist organizations based and operating in
Belgium but linked to sister-organizations based in Turkey are
opposed to the qualification of genocide attributed to the mass-scale
massacres of Armenians during WWI and even deny the very existence of
such massacres.

The Association of Ataturk’s Philosophy in Belgium/ Association de la
Pensée d’Ataturk en Belgique (APAB-BADD) is a non-profit association
linked to the Turkish Labor Party, a nationalist maoist party which
is hostile to the United States and to the European Union. It
receives public subsidies.

EYAD/ The House of Turkey is a social association. Strange though it
may be, its chairman Metin Edeer is also a member of the municipal
council of the Turkish town Emirdag (22,000 inhabitants) although he
lives in Belgium. He was elected in 2004 on the list of the MHP
(Green Wolves), the nationalist extreme-right party in Turkey.

The Turkish Islamic Religious Foundation of Belgium / Fondation
religieuse islamique turque de Belgique (FRITB-BTIDV), better known
under the name Diyanet whose president is the adviser for social
affairs at the Turkish embassy in Brussels, Omer Faruk Turan.

The Belgian-Turkish Coordination Council (CCBT-BTKK), which was
created in March 1996, is an umbrella organization for more than
ninety Turkish associations. It gathers together nationalist
extreme-right movements depending directly from the Turkish embassy
in Brussels. Its leader, Kenan Daggun, was sentenced to nine days in
prison due to the incidents that took place during the demonstration
against the monument erected in memory of the Armenian genocide in
Ixelles.

The Sports Federation of the Turks of Belgium/ Fédération sportive
des Turcs de Belgique is an organization depending from the Turkish
embassy in Brussels.

Yeni Belturk is an association which published a magazine and runs a
nationalist and negationist website bearing the same name.

The symbolic target of the revisionist and negationist actors
operating on the Belgian territory, and especially in Brussels, is an
Armenian monument.

In 1995, the Armenian community in Belgium proposed to the municipal
council of Ixelles (Brussels) to erect a monument in memory of the
victims of the Armenian genocide at Square Henri Michaux in Ixelles
(Brussels) The proposal was unanimously adopted.

Revisionist and Negationist Campaign in Belgium

In March 2003, the Association of Ataturk’s Philosophy in Belgium
(APAB-BADD) organized a non-authorized demonstration in front of the
monument dedicated to the Armenian genocide and spattered it with
painting. The police had to intervene and to arrest several
demonstrators. Elected members of Turkish descent belonging to
several francophone political parties in power supported this
campaign.

In the same year, during the campaign for the parliamentary
elections, the APAB-BADD and the Belgian-Turkish Coordination Council
(BTKK) pressured the mayor of Ixelles to remove the monument
commemorating the Armenian genocide.

On May 29, 2004, during the political campaign for regional
elections, Turkish extremists held a demonstration in Brussels under
the slogan "Reject the assertions of genocide." On this occasion, the
Committee for the Coordination of the Turkish Associations claimed
the destruction of the Armenian monument in Ixelles. Emir Kir, who
was to become State Secretary of the Brussels Parliament in charge of
Monuments after those elections participated in the demonstration. It
was also the case for a number of Belgian elected candidates of
Turkish descent belonging to the Socialist Party, the Liberal Party,
the Green, the Democrat and Humanist Centre. Among the participants,
it is worth mentioning Afyon Mahmut Koçak, a member of the Turkish
Parliament belonging to the party of the Prime Minister, the
president of the Turkish Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the mayor
of the Turkish town Emirdag and a number of Brussels municipal
councilors of Turkish descent.

On December 16, 2004, Yves de Jonghe d’Ardoye addressed a question to
the then mayor, Willy Decourty, and the councilors of Ixelles about a
demonstration for the demolition of the Armenian monument. The
opponents to the Armenian monument raised the issue of the legality
of that construction but their attempt was unsuccessful. In his
answer, the mayor admitted that Turkish movements had exerted
pressure on him to remove the monument but he did not yield to it.

On February 15, 2007, a number of negationist associations organized
a conference called "A look at the so-called Armenian genocide" with
a controversial guest-speaker, Mr. Yusuf Halaçoglu, President of the
Turkish History Foundation. This foundation is not an academic
institution but has always served the political agenda of Ataturk and
his ideological heirs since its creation in the 1930s. Mr. Halaçoglu
is currently prosecuted by Swiss justice on the basis of article 261
bis of the Swiss criminal code pertaining to racial discrimination
after he delivered a speech in Winterthur in 2004. Despite these
charges, the Socialist mayor of the commune of Saint-Josse (Brussels)
failed to prohibit this meeting.

Freedom of Expression and Negationism

Another tactic that was used to try to silence anti-negationist
activists was to prosecute them on the grounds of defamation.

In November 2004, State Secretary of the Brussels Regional Parliament
Emir Kir (Socialist Party) sued the persons in charge of the website
Suffrage Universel who had called him "a negationist, a liar and a
delinquent" regarding the issue of the Armenian genocide and his
expenses during the last electoral campaign.

In the part of his complaint related to the genocide issue, Emir Kir
declared : "It is a fact that the Ottoman Empire ordered the massacre
of the Armenian populations and internal displacements (…). This
policy can only be unconditionally condemned (…) but I cannot make
the next step consisting in affirming that it is a genocide to be
assimilated to the genocide of the Jews by the Nazis as long as an
independent commission of historians has not qualified these facts."

The defendants were Pierre-Yves Lambert, an independent researcher,
and Mehmet Koksal, a journalist of Turkish descent. Both are running
the website in their personal capacity.

The trial started on September 14, 2005. Emir Kir was defended by a
famous barrister, Marc Uyttendaele, the husband of Minister of
Justice, Laurette Onkelinx, who belongs to the Socialist Party.

The King’s Procurator Valery de Theux de Meylandt said about the
accused that "the incriminated remarks were not off the acceptable
limits."

The court decision was released on October 28, 2005. It was 100% in
favor of the courageous defendants.

Links Between the Belgian Political Parties and the Revisionist
Players

Due to the election system of proportionate representation, the
political parties court the various cultural groups of foreign origin
heavily present in Belgium, and in particular in Brussels, by putting
Belgian citizens of Turkish, Moroccan, Congolese, etc… descent on
their election lists to garner as many votes as possible from their
respective communities. In the last local elections in Brussels, more
than 50% of the candidates of the same political party were sometimes
of foreign descent.

The problem is not their origin but the fact that the major political
parties have failed to screen them on the basis of a number of
legitimate criteria and that they have put extreme-right and
extreme-left nationalist candidates on their election lists. A number
of them have campaigned in their native language and are said to have
held a double language within and without their communities. They
have now been elected at various levels of the legislative and
executive institutions and some are accused of double allegiance,
which is incompatible with the Belgian institutions.

It must also be said that ministers and party leaders have campaigned
in the premises of Turkish associations known to be negationist.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The debate around the terminology "genocide" or not is outdated.
Those who delay their position on this issue until "an international
independent commission of historians is put in place and publicizes
its verdict" just do not want to recognize the first genocide of the
20th century. Such a commission exists: it is the international
community of historians who throughout the last 90 years have amply
demonstrated that a genocide was perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire
against the Armenians and the Assyrians during WW I.

The Ottoman genocide of the Armenians and the Ottoman genocide of the
Assyrians are the two sides of the same coin. They cannot be
separated from each other. They are one and the same genocide.

Our organization "Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l" recommends

to the Belgian political parties

to recognize that genocide unambiguously

to ask their elected members to recognize it

to screen their candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

to the Belgian elected people of Turkish descent

to have one and sole allegiance: the Belgian state

to the MRAX, the Centre for Equal Opportunities, Armenian, Assyrian
and civic organizations

to lodge complaints against negationist statements, conferences and
demonstrations on the basis of the legislation prohibiting racism and
negationism.

By Willy Fautré
Human Rights Without Frontiers

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