PARIS—“All Frenchmen of Armenian descent, who live in France have the right, to protect the memory of their ancestors slaughtered in 1915,” Valerie Boyer, the French member of parliament who drafted the bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide, said on her Facebook page.
“This law aims to punish all those, who will question the fact of Genocide in French territory,” she explained.
“The Armenian genocide is recognized in Russia, Canada, Argentina, Italy, Sweden and even in Germany. Its denial is penalized in Switzerland. Yet, none of these states is being threatened in its diplomatic relations or business by Turkey,” Boyer wrote.
Meanwhile, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Monday that Boyer has become a target of death threats and her Web site was hacked by Turks.
According to RFE/RL, Boyer told the BFMTV station that she, her children and parents have received “extremely grave” threats since then. “It’s totally paradoxical to be the author and the rapporteur of a text which speaks of human rights, human dignity, recognition and protection of the weak, and legislate under threat, be threatened by a foreign state and then be subjected to extremely grave personal threats,” she said.
“Death threats, threats of rape and threats of destruction, name-calling and insults. I find this very shocking.”
Boyer added that she will lodge a “complaint” with relevant French authorities but is undaunted by the threats. “This process can only strengthen us in both our beliefs and our resolve,” she said.
An adviser to French Interior Minister Claude Gueant told “Le Figaro” daily on Monday that the lawmaker and her family will be given a “discreet and effective protection for some time.” “The risk is not very high but we are not immune to a disequilibrium,” the official said.
Boyer, who is also the deputy head of French parliamentary caucus promoting ties with Armenia, spoke to the French news channel following a hacker attack on her website.
Visitors to www.valerie-boyer.fr were automatically redirected on Sunday to another website purportedly owned by a Turkish hacker group presenting itself as GrayHatz. It displayed the Turkish national flag and contained a message to the French government and France’s 500,000-strong Armenian community.
“You, the Diaspora Armenians, are such cowards that you don’t have guts to open up the Armenian archives and face the truth,” read the message posted in Turkish and English. “You, the French people, are so pitiful and pathetic that you are disregarding the truths for votes.”
The latter accusation was in tune with the Turkish government’s claims that Sarkozy engineered the bill’s passage to gain the support of French-Armenian voters in next year’s presidential election. Ankara has also denounced the legislation as an infringement of freedom of speech and academic debate.
“Freedom of speech and state propaganda are very different things,” Boyer told the French lower house last Thursday in a clear reference to Turkey’s vehement denial of a government policy to annihilate the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during World War One.
Boyer’s website was still disabled as of Monday evening, displaying a blank page. The UMP deputy’s Facebook page had scores of abusive comments from apparently Turkish users and messages of support from Armenians posted in recent days.
Under the adopted legislation, anyone in France publicly denying the Armenian genocide could face a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($58,000). In order to enter into force the law needs to be approved by the French Senate dominated by members of the opposition Socialist Party.
The Paris-based Armenews.com news service reported on Monday that the Senate majority leader, Francois Rebsamen, has demanded that the government include it on the Senate agenda “as soon as possible.”
“Even if this text carries electoral suspicions, nothing would be worse today than to bury it, thereby creating misunderstanding and disappointment of the Armenian community, having raised the indignation and anger of the Turkish community,” Rebsamen said in a statement.
Turkey recalled its ambassador in Paris and imposed political and military sanctions on France following the National Assembly vote. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to take more punitive steps if “the current [French] attitude is maintained.”
Turkish ambassadors from all over the world reportedly gathered in Ankara on Saturday to discuss ways of preventing more countries from taking similar measures ahead of the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian massacres in 1915.
“We should all be prepared also because we will face an intensive campaign from the Armenian diaspora in 2015,” the AFP news agency quoted an unnamed senior Turkish diplomat as saying on Friday. “And we should take history not from 1915 but from 1914 and explain what happened in the Balkans during that period,” said the diplomat.
While criticizing the French bill, some Turkish commentators have urged the authorities in Ankara to address the genocide issue more openly. “We have avoided any talk on 1915 for decades,” Mehmet Tezkan wrote in the “Milliyet” daily.
“One must be blind not to see what will happen four years later,” Tezkan said, according to AFP. “The genocide will be recognized by the entire world in 2015 on its 100th anniversary.”
Meanwhile, the leader of the Socialist majority in the French Senate reportedly demanded that President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government submit the bill to the upper house of parliament “as soon as possible.”