Sabri Atman speech in Swedish Parliament

One month ago the President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama, visited Turkey. The President’s speech in the Turkish Parliament centred on reconciliation and improvement of state relations. Prior to his speech, the President had made use of the Armenian word for genocide; “Meds Yegehern” in the American Congress, relating to Turkey’s dark period of genocide during the First World War. When Mr. Obama, in Turkey, received the question of whether he had regretted the use of the word in his speech, he directly replied “No!”.   The day we stop asking Turkey for recognition of the genocide of Christian Assyrians, Armenians and Pontic Greeks might therefore get nearer.

The Turkish Republic was founded on the bloodshed of these ethnic groups. It is our responsibility, as grandchildren to the victims, to demand recognition. This responsibility must also be shouldered by the grandchildren of the perpetrators. Many intellectual Turks and Kurds do currently take a stand against the genocide. Many do also demand recognition, and some even ask for forgiveness. They want to leave this dark chapter behind themselves once and for all in order for everybody to proceed with their lives without having an open wound that will not heal. These brave heroes are being persecuted and haunted by the Turkish state, a country that Sweden hopes to see as a member of the European Union.  

Would Germany have been able to move on and develop – as it has – if its political leaders had not recognised the horrors of the Holocaust? The question almost sounds naïve, but it is important. Intellectuals in Germany that recognized the annihilation of Jews and Romanis were not persecuted for their admission of the truth. They did not have to live under a false identity. However, in modern Turkey, individuals like Berzan Boti are forced to live in secret. Today he wants us to disclose his real identity. He wants to step forward, and he wants to be one of many intellectuals around the world that takes great risks in order for the truth to be revealed. Ladies and gentleman, allow me to present Behzat Bilek!

His heroic deed is a reminder that not all Kurds and Turks during World War I were guilty of genocidal acts. Many helped in saving Christians. But one shall not forget the collective responsibility. Every Turk has a duty to pressure his or her government to recognise the Assyrian Genocide; Kurds have a responsibility to do the same.

We and I think I can speak on behalf of all Assyrians around the world, would also like to thank the Swedish members of the Parliament that are writing bills and in other ways are trying to establish a recognition of the genocide in the Swedish Parliament. A motion of recognition here in Sweden and in other European countries would put substantial pressure on Turkey to do the same. It would send out the signal to its government and parliament that Sweden welcomes Turkey to the European Union but not at any price. Turkey must respect human rights! Turkey must recognize the genocide of Assyrian, Armenian and Pontian Christians during the World War I. Otherwise, it is not worthy of belonging to the European community. One cannot build a future on hypocrisy.

Friends, this is a historical day. History is written today. During times when our society is colored by greed, one person has stepped forward in order give – rather than to take. And the objective of his presentation is not a random act; rather, it is the return of land that came into his possession through murder … through genocide!

Behzat Bilek, Sayin Bilek: We Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) congratulate you for your brave deed. Assyrians understand especially well the degree of risk you have taken today by handing back the title-deeds to land that rightfully belongs to us.

Thank you very much.

Sabri Atman, 13 May 2009

Swedish Parliament

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