YEREVAN –The Parliament of Sweden last week recognized the Armenian Genocide after a long debate with a vote of 131 to 130. The resolution mandates Sweden to officially describe the large-scale murders of Armenians and other ethnic groups in Turkey in the early years of the last century as genocide. We present the translated text of the resolution below:
1 Proposal for Parliament Decision
1. The Parliament announces to the government its decision in reference to what is stated in the motion regarding Sweden recognizing the 1915 genocide against Armenians, Assyrians/Syrians/Chaldeans and Pontic Greeks.
2. The Parliament announces to the government its decision in reference to what is stated in the motion that Sweden should act within EU and UN for an international recognition of the 1915 genocide against Armenians, Assyrians/Syrians/Chaldeans and Pontic Greeks.
3. The Parliament announces to the government its decision in reference to what is stated in the motion that Sweden should act for Turkey to recognize the 1915 genocide against Armenians, Assyrians/Syrians/Chaldeans and Pontic Greeks.
“Forum for living history is an authority which has the mission to – with basis in the Holocaust – work with issues which concern tolerance, democracy and human rights. By illuminating the darkest pieces of the human history we want to affect the future.”
So reads the description of an agency which works on mission by order of the Swedish Government and educates, among others, about the 1915 genocide. The lesson of history is one of the cornerstones of the present-day democracies where we have learned of our mistakes and by preventing repetition of earlier errors we strive for a better future. However, a prevention of future missteps, especially if these are known from the history, can not be implemented if one does not openly recognizes committed errors. Thus, history revisionism is a dangerous tool for facilitating repetition of the dark pages of the history.
The 1915 genocide foremost engulfed Armenians, Assyrians/Syrians/Chaldeans and Pontic Greeks, but later came to also affect other minorities. It was the dream of a large Turanic Empire, Great Turan, which caused the Turkish leaders wanting to ethnically homogenize the remains of the decaying Ottoman Empire at the turn of the 19th century. This was achieved under the cover of the ongoing world war, when the Armenian, Assyrian/Syrian/Chaldean and Pontic Greek population of the empire were, almost entirely, annihilated. Researchers estimate that about 1,500,000 Armenians, between 250,000 and 500,000 Assyrians/Syrians/Chaldeans and about 350,000 Pontic Greeks have been killed or disappeared.
During the short period following the Turkish defeat in 1918 until the time when the Turkish nationalistic movement, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal, the genocide was discussed openly. Political and military leaders stood on trial, accused for “war crimes” and “committed crimes against humanity”. Several of them were found guilty and sentenced to the death or prison. During these trials horrible details about the persecution of the minorities in the Ottoman Empire were reveled. Thus, Turkey went through the same phase as the one Germany experienced after the Second World War. However, the process was short-lived. The emergence of the Turkish nationalistic movement and the dissolution of the Sultanate resulted in the discontinuation of the trials and the majority of the accused were set free. Almost, the entire remaining Christian population – Armenians, Assyrians/Syrians/Chaldeans, and Pontic Greeks – were expelled from areas they had inhabited for over thousands of years.
3 UN Genocide Convention 1948, the European Parliament and Official Recognitions
Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who coined the term “genocide” during the 1940s and was the father of the UN Convention of Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, was fully aware of the 1915 genocide and the failure of the international community to intervene. His revision of the definition was adopted in the UN Convention which reads as follows:
Article 2) In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
– Killing members of the group;
– Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
– Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
– Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
– Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Furthermore, it is established that the present-day UN Convention from 1948 is not a new legislation, but merely a ratification of existing international laws on “crimes against humanity” which were stated in the Sèvres Treaty, Article 230 (1920). Even more important is the fact that the UN Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, adopted on November 26, 1968, in power since November 11, 1970, which ratifies its retroactive an non-prescriptive nature. Of this very reason, both massacres in the Ottoman Empire and the Holocaust are cases of genocide in accordance to the UN Convention, in spite the fact that both occurred before the Convention was established.
During the history of UN two larger studies/reports have been conducted on the crime of genocide. The first was the so-called Ruhashyankiko Report, from 1978, and the second was the Whitaker Report, conducted by Benjamin Whitaker in 1985 (Economic and Social Council Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Thirty-eighth session, Item 4 of the provisional agenda, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1985/6).
The 1915 genocide is mentioned in several places in as an example of committed genocides during the 20th century. The report was voted on in the Subcommittee of the UN Committee for Human Rights with the voices 14 against 1 (4 abstentions) in August, 1985. On June 18, 1987, the European Parliament officially recognized the Armenian genocide. Since 1965, that is, the 50th anniversary of the genocide, several countries and organizations have officially recognized the 1915 genocide, among others Uruguay (1965), Cypress (1982), Russia (1995), Greece (1996), Lebanon (1997), Belgium (1998), France (1998), Italy (2000), The Vatican (2000), Switzerland (2003), Argentina (2003), Canada (2004), Slovakia (2004), Netherlands (2004), Poland (2005), Venezuela (2005), Germany (2005), Lithuania (2005), and Chile (2007).
4 The Research on the 1915 Genocide and Swedish Knowledge
Second to the Holocaust, the 1915 genocide is regarded as the most studied case in the modern time. Today a broad and interdisciplinary consensus exists among an overwhelming majority of genocide scholars who regard the massacres in the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide and which is referred by the scholars as the “genocide prototype” (while the Holocaust is called the “genocide paradigm”). The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), an independent world leading and interdisciplinary authority within the area, has in several occasions ratified a consensus in this matter, namely: June 13, 1997, June 13, 2005, October 5, 2007 and April 23, 2008. The resolution from July 13, 2007 reads as follows:
WHEREAS the denial of genocide is widely recognized as the final stage of genocide, enshrining impunity for the perpetrators of genocide, and demonstrably paving the way for future genocides;
WHEREAS the Ottoman genocide against minority populations during and following the First World War is usually depicted as a genocide against Armenians alone, with little recognition of the qualitatively similar genocides against other Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire;
BE IT RESOLVED that it is the conviction of the International Association of Genocide Scholars that the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the Empire between 1914 and 1923 constituted a genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Association calls upon the government of Turkey to acknowledge the genocides against these populations, to issue a formal apology, and to take prompt and meaningful steps toward restitution.
ON June 8, more than 60 world leading genocide experts signed an appeal directed to the members of the Parliament where they dismissed the claims about disunity among scholars regarding the 1915 genocide. The research must continue and both Turkey and the world must secure the possibilities for an open, independent and undisturbed atmosphere, among others by Turkey having to give full access to its archives as well as allowing similar discussions without scientist, authors, journalists and publishers risking prosecution for having commented on the reality of the genocide.
New research at Uppsala University witnesses also about a genuine Swedish knowledge of the 1915 genocide. Swedish Foreign Ministry and General Staff Head Quarters were fully informed about the ongoing annihilation through reports which the Swedish Ambassador Per Gustaf August Cosswa Anckarsvärd and the Swedish Military Attaché Einar af Wirsén (both stationed in Constantinople) sent to Stockholm. Among others one can read the following:
• Anckarsvärd, July 6, 1915: “Mr. Minister, The persecutions of the Armenians have reached hair-raising proportions and all points to the fact that the Young Turks want to seize the opportunity, since due to different reasons there are no effective external pressure to be feared, to once and for all put an end to the Armenian question. The means for this are quite simple and consist of the extermination of the Armenian nation.”
• Anckarsvärd, July 22, 1915: “It is not only the Armenians, but also the Turkish subjects of Greek nationality who at the present are subjected to severe persecutions… According to Mr.Tsamados [Greek chargé d’affaires] it [the deportations] can not be any other issue than an annihilation war against the Greek nation in Turkey …”
• Anckarsvärd, September 2, 1915: “The six so-called Armenian vilayets seem to be totally cleansed from, at least, its Armenian-Catholic Armenians… It is obvious that the Turks are taking the opportunity to, now during the war, exterminate the Armenian nation so that when the peace comes no Armenian question longer exists.”
• Wirsén, May 13, 1916: “ The health situation in Iraq is horrifying. Typhus fever claims numerous victims. The Armenian persecutions have to a large degree contributed to the spreading of the disease, since the expelled [Armenians] in hundred thousands have died from hunger and deprivation along the roads.”
• Anckarsvärd, January 5, 1917: “ The situation would have been different if Turkey had followed the advice of the Central Powers in letting them organise the question of provisioning etc…Even worse than this is, however, the extermination of Armenians, which, perhaps, could have been prevented if German advisers had in time received authority over the civilian administration as the German officers actually practise over army and navy.”
• Envoy Ahlgren, August 20, 1917: “The high prices continue to climb… There are several reasons:… and finally the strong decreasing of labour power, caused partly by the mobilisation but partly also by the extermination of the Armenian race”.
In his memoirs “Memories from Peace and War” (1942), Wirsén dedicated an entire chapter to the genocide. In “The Murder of a Nation”, Wirsén writes that:
“Officially, these [the deportations] had the goal to move the entire Armenian population to the steppe regions of Northern Mesopotamia and Syria, but in reality they aimed to exterminate the Armenians, whereby the pure Turkish element in Asia Minor would achieve a dominating position.… The annihilation of the Armenian nation in Asia Minor must upset all human feelings. The way in which the Armenian issue was solved was hair-raising.”
In addition to these, there are numerous eyewitness accounts which missionaries and field workers such as Alma Johansson, Maria Anholm, Lars Erik Högberg, E. John Larson, Olga Moberg, Per Pehrsson and others published. Hjalmar Branting was the very first person, who long before Lemkin, used the term genocide (“folkmord”) when he, on March 26, 1917, called the persecutions against the Armenians as “an organized and systematic genocide, worse than what we ever have seen in Europe”.
A recognition of the 1915 genocide is not only important in order to redress the affected ethic groups and minorities which still live in Turkey, but also for the promotion of Turkey’s development. Turkey can not become a better democracy if the truth about its past is denied. The Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was murdered for having openly expressed himself regarding thegenocide and several others have been prosecuted by the same infamous Paragraph 301. The latest changes of the law by the Turkish Government are purely cosmetic and do not imply any changes what so ever. It is said that history should be left to historians and we completely support that. However, it is the responsibility of the politicians to act in accordance to historic facts and historic research. Furthermore, a Swedish recognition of the truth and a historic fact should not imply any hinder for either the reform work in Turkey or Turkey’s EU negotiations. With basis in what we have stated above, we consider that Sweden should recognize the 1915 genocide against Armenians, Assyrians/Syrians/Chaldeans, and Pontic Greeks. This should the Parliament present as its consideration to the Government.
Furthermore, we do consider that Sweden should act internationally, within the framework for EU and UN, for an international recognition of the 1915 genocide against Armenians, Assyrians/Syrians/Chaldeans, and Pontic Greeks. This should the Parliament present as its consideration to the Government.
As long as countries such as Sweden does not confront Turkey with the truth and the facts which are at hand, Turkey can not go further on its path to an more open society, a better democracy and fully open up its possibilities for a membership in EU. Thus, Sweden should act for Turkey to recognize the 1915 genocide against Armenians, Assyrians/Syrians/Chaldeans, and Pontic Greeks. This should the Parliament present as its consideration to the Government.
Stockholm October 2, 2008
Alice Åström (Left) Annelie Enochson (Christian Democrat) Bodil Ceballos (Green) Christopher Ödmann (Green) Esabelle Dingizian (Green) Fredrik Malm (Liberal) Hans Linde (Left) Helena Leander (Green) Kalle Larsson (Left) Lars Ohly (Left) Lennart Sacrédeus (Christian Democrat) Mats Pertoft (Green) Max Andersson (Green) Nikos Papadopoulos (Social Democrat) Yilmaz Kerimo (Social Democrat).