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GENOCIDE

Sweden lags on Turkey genocide recognition

Despite a request from the Riksdag last year, the Swedish government still hasn’t recognized the genocide of Armenians and other ethnic groups in WWI.

“It is the way the have stifled it which is surprising – how they have refused to comment on it – just like Turkey did for a good 95 years,“ Vahagn Avedian, spokesperson for the Union of Armenian Associations in Sweden told the Local.

The motion to recognize the genocide of Armenians and other ethnic groups – Chaldeans, Syrians, Assyrians and Pontian Greeks – was passed in the Riksdag in March last year.

Though it had the backing of members of five of the seven Swedish parliamentary parties, the vote’s outcome was uncertain until the very last minute as the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs had recommended a rejection.

The government was against, and both Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and foreign minister Carl Bildt had dissociated themselves from the motion.

“We think it is a mistake to politicise history,” Bildt wrote on his personal blog at the time.

But with four centre-right politicians choosing to vote with the opposition, the resolution was eventually passed in March last year, by a single vote.

Turkey immediately elected to recall its ambassador to Sweden, Zergün Korutürk.

Two weeks later she was back in Sweden.

Before her departure from Turkey, she told reporters in Ankara that her return became possible only after the Swedish government distanced itself from the parliament’s decision.

“The Swedish government has clearly said that the decision would not be put into practice,” Korutürk was quoted by the Anatolia news agency as saying.

A year later, it does seem as if the Swedish government has done little to implement the Riksdag’s decision. According to SR, the Riksdag were recently informed that ‘the question is under preparation’.

The government’s failure to act has drawn criticism from both the opposition and from within their own parties.

“They have put the request at the bottom of a drawer and probably thrown away the key as well. When the Riksdag makes this kind of decision and urges the government to act, I think that it is reasonable to expect them to do so, “ Fredrik Malm, spokesman on foreign policy for the Liberal Party, told Sveriges Radio (SR).

“I think that it is fairly provoking that we have a foreign minister who isn’t popularly elected who chooses to openly ignore and work against a decision taken by us, the people’s representatives,” Hans Linde, Green party MP, said to SR.

Last year, Armenians in Sweden were jubilant over the Riksdag’s decision. Today, the joy has turned somewhat sour.

“Everyone I have spoken to – not just Armenians but other ethnic groups too- is very disappointed,” Avedian told The Local.

Although a similar outcome had been expected, no one thought that it would go this far.

“Despite all the talk of human rights, freedom of speech and solidarity, it all comes down to power politics in the end,” Avedian told The Local.

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TURKEY

Turkish government accused of trying to silence critics with arrest of Swedish writer

Charges against a Swedish-Turkish writer who was arrested while holidaying in Spain are an attempt by the Turkish government to silence its critics, non-profit organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) claims.

Turkish government accused of trying to silence critics with arrest of Swedish writer
File photo not related to the story. Photo: Petros Giannakouris/AP

Hamza Yalcin was arrested on Tuesday in Barcelona following the issue of an international arrest warrant from Turkey, who accuse him of organizing terrorist acts.

Since moving to Sweden in 1984, Yalcin has written for regime-critical newspaper Odak Dergisi, who according to RSF has angered President Erdogan in Ankara.

“This is an attempt from Erdogan to extend his power outside of the country's borders. He wants to show that he can reach critical voices even if they do not exist in the country. It's an abuse of international police cooperation that risks having major consequences,” RSF Sweden president Jonathan Lundqvist said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Swedish writer wanted by Turkey arrested in Spain

The organization insists that Spanish authorities should dismiss the Turkish accusations and release the 59-year-old to travel home to Sweden.

If he is sent to Turkey then he risks being tried along with over 100 other journalists who the Turkish government has accused of similar crimes, according to RSF. Turkey is ranked 155 out of the 180 countries in the RSF's Press Freedom Index.

Sweden's Foreign Ministry (UD) has asked to meet Yalcin.

“We want to have consular access, and both our embassy in Madrid and our consulate in Barcelona are in contact with the Spanish authorities and have asked for consular access,” UD communications officer Gunnar Vrang told TT.

Yalcin is the second Swedish national to be arrested on Turkey's orders in less then a month. Sweden's Foreign Minister criticized Turkey in July after IT consultant Ali Gharavi was jailed in the country along with several human rights activists for allegedly aiding a terror group. The Swedish government understood that he was there to attend a seminar about freedom of the internet.

READ ALSO: Sweden slams Turkey for jailing activist