those who deny that the 1915-1917 massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks constituted genocide.
The vote came as a boost for Armenian churches and human rights groups who have long made a case to recognize as “genocide” the killing of what they estimate were 1.5 million, mainly Armenian, Hellenic, and Assyrian Christians, a figure disputed by Turkey.
It is unclear how many evangelicals were among the murdered Christians, as experts believe Christianity was instituted as a ‘state religion’ in Armenia in the year 301. Evangelicals claim Christianity can not be imposed, but should be based on a free “personal decision for Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior."
Turkey rejects the use of the term genocide in the sensitive Armenian issue and condemned the French vote. In a reaction, The Turkish government called it a "serious blow" to relations with France and threatened sanctions.
"Turkish-French relations, which have been meticulously developed over the centuries, took a severe blow today through the irresponsible initiatives of some short-sighted French politicians, based on unfounded allegations," the Turkish foreign ministry said.
The bill was also criticized within the European Union and even the French government, however at least more than a dozen other nations, including Switzerland, Russia and Argentina, also classified the killings as genocide. Some critics linked it to those lobbying against Turkey’s entry into the EU.
Armenia welcomed the French parliament’s decision to recognize the genocide. It was "a natural continuation of France’s principled and consistent defense of human and historic rights and values," the French News Agency (AFP) quoted Armenia Foreign Minister Vartan Oksanian, as saying.
Under the new bill, which still needs the approval of the French Senate and the president to take effect, penalties can be given of up to a year in jail and a $57,000 fine for anyone denying that the massacres were genocide, the same punishment imposed for denying the Nazi Holocaust. .
Multiple ironies accompanied Thursday’s vote as Turkish Novelist Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel literature prize. Only last year, Turkish prosecutors charged Pamuk with "insulting Turkishness" under the country’s notorious Criminal Code Article 301.