(AFP) - A powerful Turkish civil servants' trade union has decided to boycott French insurer AXA after the company agreed to indemnify heirs of victims of the 1915 Turkish massacre of Armenians, the head of the union said Monday.
"We must put an end to business relations with AXA. It is not possible for us to do business with a company that tramples the rights of our country," Ahmet Aksu, the head of the Memur-Sen union, told AFP. He said that Memur-Sen had appealed to its 200,000 members not to take out policies from AXA.
The insurers unleashed a wave of anger in Turkey after they agreed on October 13 to settle a class action suit by descendants of the victims of the controversial killings under Ottoman rule for $17 million.
Under the terms of the deal announced in the United States, AXA will donate at least $3 million to various French-based Armenian charities and another $11 million to a fund designed to pay out to policy holders of AXA units that did business in the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of the Turkish Republic.
The deal, which was harshly criticized by the Turkish media, also dealt a blow to OYAK, an industrial venture representing the army pension fund and AXA's partner in Turkey since 1999. OYAK announced after the deal that it was reviewing the situation in the light of the "sensitivities of the Turkish people."
Aksu argued that OYAK should dissociate itself from the French company. "Their union hurts us deeply. Think about it: one of Turkey's most trustworthy institutions (the armed forces) is working with a company like Axa," he said. Aksu said his trade union appealed to its members to demonstrate next week in front of AXA-OYAK offices.
Memur-Sen also wants AXA to issue a public apology and to indemnify Turks killed by Armenians during the last years of the Ottoman Empire.
Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Namik Tan said AXA's position has nothing to do with the government's views of the Armenian massacres.