June 21, 2008
Stockholm, Sweden

Box 1716
SE-751 47 Uppsala
Contact: Vahagn Avedian
+46 707 73 33 83
[email protected]

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 warranted.

The astonishment and the regret among scholars involved was 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.

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

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