Pallone Calls on Powell to Protest Turkish Law Criminalizing Discussion of the Armenian Genocide

WASHINGTON–DC (ANCA)–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) this week called on Secretary of State Colin Powell to formally protest Turkey’s adoption of a new penal code that criminalizes even the discussion of the Armenian genocide.

Section 306 of new Turkish penal code provides for prison sentences of between three and ten years for remarks concerning the facts of the Armenian genocide or the withdrawal of Turkish occupation forces from Cyprus. In his letter–Congressman Pallone noted that this action represents a "hardening [of Turkey’s] anti-Armenian stance and undermines hopes for a reduction of tensions in the region."

Commenting specifically on the Administration’s opposition to the Genocide Resolution (H.Res.193 and S.Res.164)–Rep. Pallone said–"We have been told–recently and in the past–that the State Department and the Administration have fought so strenuously against this legislation–because its adoption would somehow harm progress in the region toward the normalization of ties between these two states. This line of reasoning is–in my view–deeply flawed. However–if the State Department were to seriously rely on this argument concerning improved Turkey-Armenia relations–it would stand to reason that the State Department should also publicly and privately condemn Turkey’s patently hateful codification of its official campaign to deny the Armenian genocide."

"Armenian Americans–having endured years of attacks on efforts to recognize the Armenian genocide–remain profoundly troubled by the hypocrisy of a State Department that never hesitates to openly protest–and strenuously work against–legislation before Congress commemorating this crime–yet seems perpetually unable to summon the will to utter even a single word of concern regarding Turkey’s hateful and shameless campaign of genocide denial," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

The full text of Congressman Pallone’s letter is provided below.

Dear Secretary Powell,

I write to you today to bring your attention to a recent troubling development in Turkey. Just this past week–Turkey adopted a new penal code that represents a dramatic display of the Turkish government’s campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide and further inhibit a resolution to the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus. This new criminal code not only hinders improved relations between the Republic of Armenia and Turkey–but it is also an imprudent step on the part of a nation that is desperately trying to establish an image of having a free and democratic society.

Section 306 of this new criminal code would punish individual Turkish citizens or groups that confirm the fact of the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey or call for the end of the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus–with up to ten years in prison. Far from coming to terms with the Genocide or reaching out to Armenia-Turkey–in adopting Section 306 of its new penal code–is hardening its anti-Armenian stance and undermining hopes for a reduction of tensions in the region.

I would like–for a moment–to discuss why I consider it important that the State Department not remain silent in the face of this extremely troubling restriction on freedom of expression mandated by a NATO ally. In the past–when the State Department has spoken out against an Armenian Genocide Resolution–it has argued that such legislation would not contribute to improved Turkish-Armenian relations. We have been told–recently and in the past–that the State Department and the Administration have fought so strenuously against this legislation–because its adoption would somehow harm progress in the region toward the normalization of ties between these two states.

This line of reasoning is–in my view–deeply flawed. However–if the State Department were to seriously rely on this argument concerning improved Turkey-Armenia relations–it would stand to reason that the State Department should also publicly and privately condemn Turkey’s patently hateful codification of its official campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide–the most recent attempt being in the form of a repressive and unjustified new criminal code.

Section 306 of the new criminal code does nothing to remove barriers to bilateral cooperation and lower the level of distrust and tension in this critically important region. I urge you and the State Department to condemn this oppressive provision in the criminal code and do everything that is in your power to ensure that the government of Turkey–our NATO ally-cease to inhibit the rights of its citizens; remove its troops from Northern Cyprus; come to terms with its own history; and finally start living up to the expectations that the United States has of free and democratic nations.

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