STRASBOURG, France: “Tolerance towards Muslims in Europe equates to peace in Europe.”
Dogu Perincek, a Turkish opposition politician who recently had a travel ban lifted by Ankara, traveled to Strasbourg last week to defend himself in a case at the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR,) in which he was charged with denying what is known as the Armenian Genocide. The Cairo Post spoke with him about the case, the final ruling of which is expected in the coming months.
“The key of this case is tolerance and freedom for Muslim and Turkish people in Europe,” said Perincek, the head of the Turkish Workers Party. “Once there was a certain point of view, a judgment on the Jews during Hitler’s time, not only in Germany but in all the countries and regions that were conquered by Hitler, Jews were discriminated against. Now the same discrimination happens against the Muslims and Turkish people.”
His legal battle began in 2005, after describing calling the genocide an “international lie” at a conference in Switzerland. He was sentenced to 90 days in prison in 2007 by a Swiss court, which considered the remarks hate speech. Perincek appealed the ruling to the ECHR, which found in his favor in 2013. Geneva challenged the ruling, and a final hearing was held Jan. 28 at the court.
Perincek does not dispute mass killings and displacements of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during 1915-1923, but contests that the violence came from both sides, and was carried out during wartime, and cannot as such be considered genocide. The ECHR agreed with his right to question the historical character of the events, and said that for his remarks to qualify as incitement there would have to be a racial character to his remarks. .
The attention on his case, he said, was motivated by discrimination towards Muslims, rather than protecting the principle of the Armenian Genocide, and noted recent marches in France in support of the freedom of expression.
“At the end, what has been lived in the context of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, and the events on the discussion about the so-called Armenian Genocide, are at the end connected,” he said.
“We are strictly condemning the killing of the policemen and the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, but if you look at the results, then we see that after the attack a discriminatory atmosphere has been developed towards Muslims.”
“In the context of genocide there is a prejudice which has turned into a hard prejudice. In WWI from 1914-1918, there it was first developed, from the two sides in the war. French, England and Russia were one side and they were saying the Turks were committing massacres as war propaganda,” Perincek said, adding “In the end, we should not like to think that the Turkish people would like a certain treatment, when you limit of expression then everybody is being limited.”
“The freedom of expression or opinion, at the core, is freedom for the opposing, or differing opinion. For example, to say ‘long live the king’ does not need freedom of expression. But to be able to say ‘The king is naked’ you need liberty.”