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12 march 2010 - Thank You Sweden!
Stockholm, Sweden- March 12, 2010
Thank You Sweden!
It is no exaggeration to say that it took a while before we realized that the numbers 130 ”yes”
and “131” no on the monitor, in reality meant 131 “yes”. The Swedish Parliament had defied the government’s proposal of rejecting recognition of the 1915 genocide. To be honest, most of us were quite prepared, after a long debate, to hear yet another rejection and then go home to start gathering more evidence and argumentation for why a recognition of the 1915 genocide was in place. As a rare exception, it was nice to see how adult persons were crying. It was tears of joy.

I was interviewed by the Swedish Public TV just as I left the Parliament building, but I hardly remember what I’ve said. I recall, however, saying that we are so used to rejections that we might have not quite realized what just has happened. My thoughts were not collected enough when I was asked “But, why did then the recognition come now?” I might have not had a proper answer then, but would like to say that it is due to the fact that the evidence and the argumentation have amounted to such level that we can answer “why not!?” Earlier, they could excuse themselves by blaming insufficient knowledge and uncertainty in the issue. Today we have seven parliamentary parties who all no longer deny the reality of the 1915 genocide. That not all of them are quite willing to go the whole distance and officially call it by its true name is a different story. But now, the
Swedish Parliament was ready to recognize. Our gratitude goes to all MPs who have worked for this cause, those who voted for recognition, but above all to those brave MPs who defied the party directives, voting against party and government line, standing firmly for what they believed to be their true conviction about reality and justice.

It was disheartening to hear the news of Turkey recalling its ambassador from Sweden as protest against the voting as well as canceling the upcoming visit by Prime Minister Erdogan. There is hardly anyone who doubts the Swedish support for Turkey in general and the Swedish support for a Turkish EU membership in particular. A recognition of a historical fact should not disturb these relations. One hears quite often that a recognition will nourish the ultra-national and undemocratic forces in Turkey who are against a Turkish EU membership. I would, however, rather assert that a recognition of the truth is supporting the reform-friendly forces which are striving for a more open and transparent Turkey which will have courage to learn about its suppressed history and in due time, when it is ready, even to accept and confront it.

It was equally sad to hear from Foreign Minister Carl Bildt that some powers in Turkey, as a result of the Swedish Parliament’s decision, have now demanded a cancellation of the protocols regarding the reconciliation process with Armenia. The recognition at least did not harm my good relations with Ahmet Önal, the Chairman of the Swedish-Turkish Union of Associations, who I know since the genocide conference in Stockholm back in the spring of 2009. Even though we have only met 2-3 times, our meetings and talks, where we have different views regarding the events of the WWI, have always been respectful and in positive tones. Even now when we met outside the Parliament Chamber we greeted each other by shaking hands and talking about the ongoing debate in the chamber. We disagreed, maybe quite expected, about the need of the debate in the Parliament and the result of its repercussions irrespective of the outcome. After the voting, I met Ahmet on my way to the elevators. We shook hands, talked for a short moment and wished each other good luck before we went our separate ways. I would like to hope that Armenia and Turkey can also continue their reconciliation process in the same civilized and friendly manner that I and Ahmet obviously can. Sweden’s role in this issue can only be of a positive nature. After all, I and Ahmet are as much as Swedes as we are Armenian and Turk respectively. We have a Swedish education and learned to discuss and argument according to the Swedish open and sober model, which differs, one has to admit, from what we are used to in both Armenia and Turkey. If the Swedish model can achieve this on a micro-level at home, I am certain that it will be able to do the same on macro-level internationally, among others between Armenia and Turkey.

The fact that the recognition does heal wounds and promotes reconciliation was also confirmed in the debate we have had in Sweden. It was with utter joy and pride that Armenians, Assyrians/Syrians/Chaldeans listened to Gulan Avci (Liberal MP) talking during the debate. They felt a great admiration for Avci who was talking about her Kurdish heritage, the Kurdish part in the genocide and apologizing for the wrongdoings, but also, quite rightfully, point out that far from the entire Kurdish population participated in the massacres and many risked their own lives when they rescued thousands of Christians from a certain death. The same is true about the Turks. During our journey to recognition, we have had
much support from Kurds in Sweden, among others the columnist Sakine Madon and the well-known comedian Özz Nujen, who have actively participated in the debate, for which we are grateful. The recognition has without any doubts brought our peoples closer to each other and one step in the right direction. I am convinced that we can achieve the same result between Turks and the affected minorities, inside as well as outside Turkey.

Yesterday, the politicians in the Swedish Parliament stopped playing historians and instead confirmed the scholarly result. If Armenians were overjoyed, I can only imagine how Assyrians/Syrians/Chaldeans and Pontic Greeks were feeling. For the first time in history they have received official recognition for what the scholarly community, by the IAGS resolution in the fall of 2007, has declared by including these groups as victims of what is generally called the Armenian genocide. I can imagine the gratitude and the respect which all these people, here in at home but also around the world, now feel towards Sweden. As far as the research is concerned, it must and will always be free and the Swedish recognition will and should in no way pose an obstacle for its freedom or for the freedom of speech. We now know quite a lot about the events in Ottoman Turkey during WWI, but far from everything. Thus, the research shall continue to find out more, but it is rather right time to be content with the search for “if” it happened, and move on to “why” it happened and “how” can we in best way understand the underlying reasons in order to be able to prevent similar human catastrophes.
I see the Swedish recognition of the 1915 genocide in only positive
aspects and nothing else but the promotion of the democracy in Turkey and
a support to an honest and sincere reconciliation process between Armenia
and Turkey. I thank Sweden for contributing to the positive forces by
acknowledging and confronting the truth.

Vahagn Avedian
M.A. History
Chief Editor of
Secretary of the Union of Armenian Associations in Sweden

Vahagn Avedian

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