YEREVAN, PARIS, ISTANBUL—There was a festive mood outside the French embassy in Yerevan as Armenians celebrated the passing of a French law making it illegal to deny that the Armenian Genocide.
Many expressed their gratitude to France and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose party first proposed the bill. Sarkozy also received a letter from Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian.
“Today France has reaffirmed its greatness and power, its devotion to the universal human values,” said Sarkisian in his letter. “This day is exceptional for all those, who are struggling for the protection of human rights, for the condemnation and prevention of the crimes against humanity.”
“I thank you for your personal commitment, for your invaluable input which made possible the adoption of the law criminalizing the denial of genocides. I convey to you these words of gratitude and wish you new and greater achievements for the benefit and the best future of France and the French people,” said Sarkisian in his letter addressed to Sarkozy.
Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said the French decision was important for history: “This day will be written in gold, not only in the history of friendship between the Armenian and French
peoples, but also in the annals of history for the protection of human rights worldwide, and will further consolidate the existing mechanisms of prevention of crimes against humanity.”
All political groups in Armenia, whether in government or opposition, have welcomed the decision made by the French Senate on Monday night after more than seven hours of debate.
The French ambassador to Armenia, Henri Renaud, was warmly received by the crowd outside the embassy, where many shook his hand and patted him on the back.
A student outside the embassy said he was there to express his gratitude: “Today we are together in front of the French embassy in Armenia to thank the French people, who, without putting economic
interests first, adopted the law that will invigorate the relationship between French and Armenian people.”
Waving flags, and chanting “merci,” the crowd outside the embassy also brought banners and postcards saying “France is the Protector of Historical Justice” and “France is our Friend.”
The two Catholicoi also welcomed Monday’s decision.
His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians wrote to Sarkozy to express his gratitude on behalf of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin.
His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, issued a statement, in which he said that the action by the French Senate would assist Turkey to correct its historical record.
“France is opening the road for Turkey to correct its historical record. The vote of 23 January 2012 reminds us of the event during the Armenian Genocide when the French Navy evacuated some of our people and brought them to Lebanon to avoid the fate of their brothers and sisters. The vote is a continuation of France’s historical commitment to human rights,” said Aram I.
“Through this historical vote, France is assisting Turkey to join those courageous countries that have set a process for reconciliation: Germany’s admission of the Holocaust, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Rwanda’s Gacaca Process, Serbia’s admission of the Srebrenica Genocide, Canada’s admission of the Genocide of the Aboriginal people,” added Aram I.
“This is an opportunity for Turkey to give up its negationist language, to cease calling countries committed to human rights as ‘irresponsible’ and to begin a new courageous journey of correcting its historical records and engaging in a reparation process,” concluded the Catholicos.
In an interesting footnote a couple from the northwestern Akhurik village named their baby boy, born on Wednesday, Sarkozy in honor of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The parents expressed their gratitude to the president after the French Senate passed on Monday a bill that outlaws the denial of genocide including the Armenian Genocide in the early 20th century. The bill that sets the country on a collision course with Turkey is yet be signed by President Sarkozy.
The boy has already received his birth certificate with his name, Sarkozy Avetisyan.