"Close to Armenia since World War One"

interview to Raymond Kévorkian

Picture of the Armenian genocide (from Tempi)

Picture of the Armenian genocide (from Tempi)

by Carolina Figini, 5 February 2013

The historian who masters the topic of the Ottoman Righteous and Director of the Bibliothèque Nubar in Paris told Gariwo about the way the European Day of the Righteous could be accepted in France, the Righteous who could be honoured on that day and the duty of Europe to remember the Armenian genocide, even though some people could think it is too far away from us. 

Who are the Righteous for the Armenians? 

They are Turks, Curds, American missionaries and many other individuals. 

Would it be important to remember such Righteous during the European day of the Righteous? 

Yes, I think so. Somebody could step in to take this Day to France, maybe Mr. Nicolas Tavitian. 

And what do you think of the  teachers' and journalists' acceptance of the Day of the Righteous in your country? How could they welcome this event? 

I am no manager, I carry out scientific research. For the moment it is the first time that we talk about it in France. I think the acceptance depends on the way we present the Day.

Could we also remember the Ottoman officers who rescued the Armenians in this European Day of the Righteous? 

Of course. They were officers and also militaries. I have studied them for at least 15 years. 

Which impact had the law against negationism in France? Was it effective? Is it a good method to defeat genocide denial?

The law passed in the Parliament, but it was then cancelled by the Constitutional Council. Yet it gave rise to a debate on the problem of freedom of expressions. I think important suggestions have emerged especially about the Anglosaxon model, in which nothing is forbidden. 

Which measures should Europe undertake against negationism? 

The law is only a feature of the measures necessary to counter the denial of mass crimes. And France only tried to accept a European directive of 2007. Europe is in fact already equipped with a tool against negationism, which proves its will to fight this phenomenon. Yet the only country that has accepted it properly is Slowakia, I think. 

Talking to a European citizen who is totally unaware of the Armenian history, how would you explain Europe's duty to remember the Armenian tragedy? 

I think the key is World War One. It is in that context that the Armenians were exterminated and the civilian populations that were submitted to the cruelest violence during first world war are the Armenian populations. 

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