After the setback of the Switzerland vs. Perinçek verdict at the European Court of Human Rights this past October, it was most refreshing and reassuring to hear a major leader in Europe stand up for the Armenians. Indeed, the president of France, François Hollande, delivered a powerful speech in Paris on January 29 at the annual banquet organized by the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organizations in France (CCAF) and solemnly pledged to introduce a law in the French Parliament criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide. (See related story on page 1.)
Incidentally, unlike the US, Armenian lobbying groups in France cooperate under one umbrella, despite the traditional differences and animosities plaguing their political parties. The ARF (Dashnagtsoutiun) has strong ties with the ruling Socialist party and the ADL (Ramgavar) and other groupings and individuals are affiliated with RMP, the right-leaning party.
The CCAF annual banquet has become a tradition where movers and shakers in the community congregate. Therefore, any president or politician may miss the opportunity at his or her own peril. This time around, among the participants were legendary singer Charles Aznavour, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Armenian-American Sorbonne Professor Mark Moogalian, who wrestled a terrorist on a Paris-bound train from Brussels. The last two, incidentally, received awards at the banquet.
The highlight of the evening was the appearance of the French president, who delivered a well-crafted speech outlining the cause of justice presented by the recognition of the Armenian Genocide within the framework of French values and policies. He proudly said that he had visited Yerevan to participate in the centennial commemoration of the Genocide, representing not only the audience gathered at the banquet and his country France, but also in order to support the international struggle for justice.
While delving into the current crises in the world, especially the refugee problem, he indicated that today’s refugees come from the same locations where the Armenian Genocide took place, Der Zor and Aleppo.