Swedish ambassador slams Turkish documentary

A documentary film accusing Sweden of genocide against its Sami and Roma populations has angered many Turkish television viewers and media commentators since going to air last week.

Sweden’s Ambassador to Turkey, Christer Asp, spoke to The Local about the divisive documentary and the probability of a link to the announcement of Orhan Pamuk as this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

“The film says things about Sweden that are less than nice. Some parts are fictitious and include serious allegations of abuse,” said Asp.

The ambassador finally got to see the film on Saturday, but readily admits that he had difficulty following it as his Turkish is not quite up to scratch. He has however been fully briefed as to the content of the film and is none too impressed.

“For example, the journalist says that Swedes are all drunkards and that the men beat their wives because women have been given too many freedoms,” said the ambassador.

By the time he sat down to watch the film last Tuesday, national broadcaster TRT had responded to the heated reaction by removing it from the schedule. Not knowing that the station would later rerun the film, the ambassador entered into an e-mail exchange with journalist and film-maker Banu Avar.

“I asked if I could have a copy of the film. To which she said that she would have to consult with TRT’s directors.

“She then went on to say that the allegations of genocide were factual and were well known among scientists and historians. After that I discontinued the dialogue,” said Asp.

The documentary was due to be shown eight times in total last week but was removed from weekday scheduling after Monday’s hotly debated debut. It was however eventually shown again on Saturday and Sunday.

According to the ambassador, the matter has been the subject of some debate in Turkey over the past week.

“It has been widely debated that the film may have centred on Sweden because of Orhan Pamuk getting the Nobel Prize for literature.

“Interviews with Horace Engdahl from the Swedish Academy, for example, were carried out after Pamuk was named this year’s winner.

“The prize was also announced on the same day that the parliamentary assembly in France announced that it was not permissible to deny the Armenian genocide, which is a very sensitive issue in Turkey. And Pamuk has been persecuted for claiming that it really happened.

Much of the film consisted of an attempt to link Pamuk’s “anti-Turkish” accusations with Sweden’s perceived denial of its own genocidal past.

“Pamuk was awarded a Nobel Prize because he denied his own identity,” said Banu Avar, according to Turkish Daily News.

A number of the ambassador’s friends from the Turkish foreign ministry called to express their surprise. But he has not discussed the matter at an official level.

“We have freedom of expression in Sweden and I am not going to contact the foreign ministry or TRT.

“I don’t mind debating a programme that is critical of Sweden but I would expect it to be factual and to meet a minimum level of decency.

“This it failed to do and I would expect any media to think twice before broadcasting such serious allegations,” said Asp.