Anastasia Lavrina
Political analyst, TV journalist

Islamophobia and Turkophobia at the state level

In march 2022, in a number of French cities, regular mass protest movements against racial discrimination took place. Participants of the action, timed to coincide with the World Day against Racism, demanded the country’s authorities to legalize undocumented migrants and stop police violence against migrants. It is obvious that racial discrimination and prejudice against Muslims in France have become part of the political development. Being a citizen of the Republic does not mean having equal rights with everyone. Ethnicity and religion mean a lot. And this despite the fact that at the official level, the authorities are constantly reminded of the French values ​​of anti-racism.

Loud scandals once again swept the country when a real struggle for power unfolded between the presidential candidates. Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour has repeatedly said that the massive influx of migrants into the country must be stopped. Two years ago, the court sentenced him to a fine of 3,000 euros for inciting hatred on religious grounds. In 2014 Eric Zemmour told an Italian newspaper that “Muslims have their own civil code, which is the Quran. In the areas of their compact residence, they establish their own laws, and, as a result, the native French flee from there”. Eric Zemmour has sharply criticized the statements of Emmanuel Macron and Algerian leaders on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Evian Accords, which ended the Algerian war. In the newspaper Le Figaro, the far-right presidential candidate proposed to revise the migration agreement signed in 1968. Then he promised that after being elected President, he would finally put an end to the exorbitant migration privileges of the Algerians. Earlier, on January 17, a court in France decided to fine Eric Zemmour for his racist remarks. He was found guilty of « racist hate speech » because of his remarks in 2020 that « migrant children are thieves, murderers and rapists ».

There are quite a few television programs in France, such as « Zone interdite » on the M6 ​​channel, which focus on the discussion of « radical Islamism », or rather the positioning of Muslims as a problem for society.

In a 2020 BBC article highlighted that France has the highest Muslim population of any European nation, with over 5.7 million Muslims, making about 8.8% of the country’s population. However, this has never embarrassed another presidential candidate, the leader of the far-right Rassemblement National party, Marine Le Pen, known for her militant Islamophobic views. In 2015, the French city of Lyon held a trial against Marine Le Pen in connection with her speech five years ago, in which she compared the spectacle of Muslims praying in the street with the Nazi occupation of Paris. In an interview with the French TV channel LCI, Marine Le Pen later stated that she dared to say what all the French think.

It is not surprising that Valerie Pecresse, the head of the central Ile-de-France Paris region, chose the “defense” of Christian Armenia as the main weapon of her election campaign. Madame Pecresse did not limit herself to a visit to Yerevan, but decided to continue her election campaign by illegally visiting the Azerbaijani city of Khankendi, where Russian peacekeepers are temporarily deployed. Of course, the votes of the ethnic Armenians in France did not help her in the elections, but the « Republicans » candidate managed to express her Islamophobic position, ranting about the Christian values ​​of Armenia.

During the years in power, President Emmanuel Macron adopted a number of laws on the so-called « fight against terrorism », which directly harassed the Muslim population of the country. Under Macron, Islam began to be seen by most French citizens as an existential threat to civilization, traditions and values. In October 2019, Christophe Castaner, then Minister of the Interior in Macron’s government, at a parliamentary committee hearing cited that the wearing of a beard and the « deliberate » observance of Ramadan are as signs of radicalization.

Against this background, Islamophobia can be considered as one of the main reasons for the biased attitude of the French government towards Azerbaijan. Since the second half of October 2020, during the 44-day Patriotic War when Azerbaijan was liberating its lands from the Armenian occupation, representatives of the French establishment began to present the situation as a global inter-religious confrontation between Islam and Christianity. On October 19, Republican French senator Valerie Boyer, wrote on her Twitter account: « To oppose Azerbaijan’s attack on Nagorno-Karabakh means to oppose the spread of Turkish Islam in Europe. » The personal enmity of many French politicians towards Türkiye, France’s main sworn rival in the Mediterranean, was often expressed in pro-Armenian statements. The lack of information about multicultural and secular Azerbaijan in French society continues to be the main barrier to breaking false propaganda. The French media simply refuse to give information that destroys the established foundations and traditions. The influence of the large Armenian lobby in the country is blocking any information that can somehow destroy the myth of an “aggressive” Muslim country in the South Caucasus.

The racist policy of France has a long history. Back in 1885, French Foreign Minister Jules Ferry told MPs: “It must be said openly that the higher races have a right, unlike the lower ones, because they have an obligation. They are bound to bring the lower races to civilization. » Guided by such instructions, until the early 1960s, the French massacred the Muslim population of the Maghreb. The French genocidal mentality manifested itself with might and main in Algeria. During the entire period of French rule from 1830 to 1962, several million Muslim Algerians were brutally murdered by French troops. The peoples of many countries in Asia, Africa and Europe remember well the history of France’s colonial policy, which resulted in famine, destruction and death. Modern politicians in France prefer to remain silent about the sins of the ancestors of their people, and such words as « genocide », « occupation » and « terror » have long become politicized terms.

The power of Armenian lobby in French media

France is the second country after the USA with the most powerful and influential Armenian diaspora. The number of Armenians in France is approaching 1 million, and the Armenian diaspora in this country seeks to dominate politics. Some politicians are well aware of this and are not averse to enlisting their support in the elections, expressing their readiness to represent their interests in the highest echelons of power in case of victory. All the efforts of the Armenian diaspora in France are aimed at inciting Turkophobia and Islamophobia. Behind these loud expressions, ethnic Armenians are trying to justify the actions of the military-political leadership of Armenia directed against Azerbaijan. Hundreds of Armenian organizations and pro-Armenian media are lobbying against the Turks.

It is not surprising that during the 44-day Patriotic War, there was practically no information on French TV channels reflecting the realities of what was happening in the region. Under pressure from the Armenian diaspora, TF1 TV channel was forced to remove a report from the front line by journalist Liseron Boudoul, which aired on October 22. Co-Chairman of the Council of Armenian Organizations of France Frank Murad Papazian began to openly threaten the author of the report on his Twitter account. According to some French journalists, they were forced to add fake information about the situation in the region, such as the presence of mercenaries, to their reports in order to publish them in their media. Otherwise, the editors refused to accept their materials.

In the current situation, the behavior of the President of France can be justified precisely by fear of the media controlled by influential Armenians. In the last elections, the French Armenians did not distinguish themselves by the number of votes in support of the re-elected President Emmanuel Macron, but now, they can harm him. If Macron starts pursuing a policy that is contrary to their interests, then the influential media will quickly find an excuse to tarnish the reputation of the President.

In April of 2022, Macron himself admitted that during the years of his presidency, he did not ignore the problem of the far right, but could not prevent their strengthening. Emmanuel Macron builds his political convictions, focusing on the right sector, since without it he will not be able to govern the country. Accordingly, his statements fully reflect their interests, which are based on hatred towards Türkiye and Azerbaijan.

In the book called “Le Grand Manipulateur. Les réseaux secrets de Macron”, the author, Marc Endeweld, talks about the personal qualities of President Macron, who lives according to the principle « séduire – utiliser – jeter », which means « seduce, use, throw away « . The author boldly calls Macron a populist, highly dependent on the opinion of the press. From this we can conclude that the opinion of the French press, which is largely controlled by the Armenian lobby, plays an important role in the behavior of the country’s leader.

Desire to exclude the influence of Russia in the region

Furiously defending Armenia and justifying all the crimes of the military-political leadership of the country, French politicians, in fact, care little about the future of the Armenian people. The religious factor is present; however, it is not unimportant that supporting Armenia is the only chance for France to maintain at least some influence in the South Caucasus. Over the years of its chairmanship in the OSCE Minsk Group, France has not established itself as an objective co-chairman capable of helping to resolve the long-term conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Immediately after the 44-day war in 2020, France decided to try its luck on its own by offering the services of an intermediary in the post-war period. Of course, knowing well the pronounced pro-Armenian position of France, Azerbaijan resolutely rejected such a proposal.

This is not surprising. After all, French officials and parliamentarians did not react in any way to the shelling of Ganja and more than 80 other settlements of Azerbaijan during the 44-day Patriotic War. As a result of systematic rocket and mortar attacks by the Armenian Armed Forces, dozens of civilians of Azerbaijan were killed and injured. The French Senate often discusses the “preservation of the Armenian cultural and religious heritage” on the territory of Azerbaijan, but there is not a word about hundreds of religious and cultural monuments destroyed in the previously occupied Azerbaijani territories. On November 25, 2020, the French Senate adopted a resolution calling on the government to “demand an international investigation into the war crimes committed in Nagorno-Karabakh” and ensure “the security of the Armenian population and the right of return of displaced persons, as well as the preservation of Armenian cultural and religious heritage.” In Paris, the politicians do not like to talk about the million refugees and internally displaced persons who have arisen in Azerbaijan due to the occupation policy of Armenia and the systematic attacks of the Armenian armed groups in the end of 80s beginning of the 90s.

The negotiations on normalization of relations between Baku and Yerevan gradually moved into a bilateral format of direct interaction. The mediation of Russia and the European Union was welcomed, but direct interference in the negotiation process between the two countries of the South Caucasus was not allowed. Some progress has been made over the past 2 years. As part of the last meeting held in Prague, with the participation of President Macron and President of the European Council Charles Michel, an agreement was reached to start work on drawing up a peace treaty.

Feeding the Armenian society with false hopes, France is trying in every possible way to accelerate Armenia’s retreat from Russia, turning it into its own regional satellite. A direct proof of this is Macron’s recent speech on the France 2 TV channel, where he stated that Russia “trying to create disorder in the Caucasus in order to weaken and divide us all”. To strengthen its presence in the region, France needs Armenia, and for this it is necessary to deploy and support a large anti-Azerbaijani campaign.

If a peace treaty is signed between Baku and Yerevan, Armenia will be able to join many economic and transport projects in the region. By restoring diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan and Türkiye, conditions for long-term peace and cooperation will be created in the region. Against this background, it is logical to conclude that the launch of the Zangezur corridor, which will connect Azerbaijan with the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic through the territory of Armenia, and become an important component of the global Middle Corridor project, is not in the interests of official Paris. The growing role of Azerbaijan and Türkiye as exporting and transit countries, on an international scale, frightens France. This alignment does not suit either the large Armenian diaspora living there, or the leadership of this country. Guided by loud statements such as: “We will not leave Armenia,” Emmanuel Macron builds on the words of revanchist Armenians that Russia and the CSTO left them and did not support during the latest military provocation, which led to a clash on the Armenian- Azerbaijani border on September 12-13. President Macron decided to go against the well-known political line of France, which is based on the recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. On November 30, 2022, another false and slanderous anti-Azerbaijan resolution entitled « Protection of the Armenian people and the Christian communities of Europe and the East » was adopted in the lower chamber (National Assembly) of the French Parliament.

France acted not only as a bodyguard for Armenia, but also for Greece, promising military assistance if the Turkish-Greek military conflict resumes. Here Emmanuel Macron refers to support of the national sovereignty of Christian Greece, but Paris clearly does not care about the sovereignty of Muslim Azerbaijan and Türkiye. Having a good colonial experience, France may have decided for itself to secretly colonize Armenia, making it an enemy for Russia and the main destabilizer of the peace process in the South Caucasus.

President Macron has started a dangerous game that could turn into serious problems for France. Taking into account the incredibly large number of ethnic Armenians living in his country, it is possible that tomorrow they will begin to demand more rights for themselves, ignoring all the foundations of French society. A strong and influential Armenian diaspora forces the French political class to act in a way that is beneficial to them, which sometimes leads to some astonishment in French public opinion. Having felt the power, the Armenians of France can go quite far, demanding special privileges for themselves and inciting inter-religious conflict in society even more. Before it’s too late, Emmanuel Macron should think about these consequences.

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