Editorial: One Week after Sweden Rejected Recognition of the 1915 Genocide…
By Vahagn Avedian

June 21, 2008
Stockholm, Sweden

One Week after Sweden Rejected Recognition of the 1915 Genocide…

A week has passed by since the world heard the argumentation of the Swedish Parliament and its decision to reject recognition of the 1915 genocide. A short review of its meaning and effects is in its place.

The astonishment and the regret among the scholars were great. Already at the signing of the petition addressed to the Swedish Parliament, numerous scholars expressed their regret about the need of such a letter in 2008 and that in Sweden, best expressed by one who wrote : “I’m just sad and disturbed that such a letter is even necessary at this late date”. The following are some of many like-minded reactions received following the announcement of the parliament’s decision:
  • “I am dismayed by the Swedish parliament decision and by the cheap and hollow arguments they used, and I am surprised about the 245 vs. 37 result and about the position of the social democrats. It was their government who invited me to the first Holocaust memorial conference in Stockholm and who institutes the Living history Project... it doesn't help Turkey, at least a democratic Turkey that will confront its own history.”
  • “This is truly a sad day not only for Sweden but for the rest of us as well.”
  • “This makes for disheartening, indeed bitter, reading.“
  • “As a scholar, I find the actions -- let alone the words -- of these Swedish Parliamentarians willfully ignorant rather than uneducated. As a citizen, I find them hugely disappointing on every level. More to the point: politically short-sighted and intellectually bankrupt.”
  • ”What a pitiableness! (That is all I can say now).”

Thus, this is not only about Turkey and the involved minorities, but it is also about the reputation of Sweden and its political leaders. That a party which is regarded as the founder of Forum for Living History and another which already has recognized the 1915 genocide at its general congress voted against a recognition did not make the issue any better. As one of the scholars wrote, it was highly strange that the Social Democrats, who were the promoters of Forum for Living History (governmental agency which educates the Swedish society and teachers about the 1915 genocide), themselves refuse to recognize the genocide. At their Party Congress in August 2005, Folkpartiet (The Liberals) recognized the 1915 genocide and recommended that “The EU should exert strong pressure on Turkey to recognize the genocide committed against Armenians, Assyrians, Syriacs, Chaldeans, and Pontic Greeks during WWI.” One should practice what one preaches…

In the newspaper Dagen (June 13, 2008), MP Alf Svensson (Christian Democrat) pointed out that the parliament, after all, had recognized the genocide indirectly when it was stated that “The Committee understands that what engulfed the Armenians, Assyrian/Syriacs and Chaldeans during the reign of the Ottoman Empire would, according to the 1948 Convention, probably be regarded as genocide, if it had been in power at the time.” It might look that way, but let see what a refusal to recognize the 1915 genocide for its true nature has meant in Turkey. Precisely as the scholars stated in the petition (signed by over 60 world leading genocide experts), the refusal to recognize a genocide is nothing but supporting and abetting its denial. The Swedish Parliament’s decision was quickly intercepted by Turkish media and the news was published in several newspapers. Hürryet (June 14, 2008) cited Egeman Bagis, member of the AKP party (i.e. the same “democratic” powers which the Swedish Foreign Committee wishes to promote) and advisor to the prime minister, expressing his gratitude for the Swedish Parliament’s rejection of “the Armenian allegations” in regard to “the so-called genocide”. The text continues: “Some 300,000 Armenians and at least an equal number of Turks were killed in civil strife when Armenians, backed by Russia, rose up against the Ottomans in 1915.” Thus, now supported by the Swedish Parliament, it is the Armenians who have killed more Turks and Kurds and not the way around, while the “indirectly recognized” genocide is merely “Armenian allegations.” Hürriyet, one of the three largest newspapers in Turkey and maybe the most influential one, is actually regarded as of “liberal” nature. It is often accused for attempts for destabilizing the country and has ”Türkiye Türklerindir” (Turkey belongs to Turks) beside Atatürk’s image in its logotype. The newspapers “Zaman”, “Turkish Weekly” and others had similar reporting. If now these are the liberal powers in Turkey, one might imagine what the “extremist” organizations have done with the Swedish genocide denial. Thus, the parliament, exactly as stated in the petition, and quite contrary to what Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and the Foreign Department have tried to pretend to be the case, has now directly contributed to nourishing history revisionism and those currents which make the life of the minorities unbearable in Turkey.

It should be mentioned that on June 17, 2008, the publicist Ragip Zarakolu was sentenced to five months prison for having “insulted the Turkish Nation” in accordance to the infamous paragraph 301. His crime: having published a translation of the British author George Jerjian’s book “The Truth will set us Free: Armenians and Turks Reconciled”, about the Armenian Massacres of 1915. Thereby one can verify that the alteration in the law which took place in April, 2008, opposite to the assertion of the Swedish Foreign Committee mentioning the “reform package”, “freedom package” or the “democracy package”, is nothing but a cosmetic change and a masquerade. Furthermore, it was displayed that the recommendation of the Foreign Committee for a rejection of recognition “…in the time being, it would be venturesome to disturb an initiate and delicate national process” is quite baseless. The Swedish refusal to more forcefully and more clearly support the democracy in Turkey can only abet similar actions and decisions in a Turkey which obviously is incapable of reforming itself from within. This can, in no ways, promote the demanded development in Turkey, or benefit Sweden’s reputation, or the interests of EU.

The voting protocol was a very interesting reading. Those 37 MPs ho voted for recognition of the 1915 genocide deserve all praise and honor, especially those who defied their party lines and the presented disinformation and instead followed their own principles and the facts at hand. After questioning some MPs who had voted “yes” for rejecting a recognition, it became clear that the knowledge in the issue is almost non-existing. The MPs had, more or less, blindly followed the “recommendation” of the Foreign Department. Thus, some of the blame for the wrongful decision and the disinformation among the MPs must be placed upon our organizations that should, in good time, have had supplied the MPs with correct data, resolutions, reports etc. Therefore, in connection with the elections to the EU Parliament in 2009 and the Swedish elections in 2010, we will make sure that the MPs, unlike those parliamentary members who during the debate could not answer one single question in defense of the rejection decision, at least do not lack knowledge in the issue and will be able to form their own opinion rather than voting in accordance to a directive which demonstrably was based on pitfalls and errors.

Vahagn Avedian
Chairman of the Board, Union of Armenian Associations in Sweden
Chief Editor of