The politicization of a country’s history


Earlier this week, Turkey recalled its ambassador from Stockholm, Sweden and cancelled the Turkish prime minister’s visit to the country.   

This event marked the latest in a series of protests by Turkey in regards to the recent recognition of mass killings in Armenia as genocide. 

Last week, relations between Sweden and Turkey were strained when Swedish Parliament decided, by one vote, to call the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire a genocide.  

According to the Hürriyet Daily News, a Turkish newspaper, the Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt phoned to repair ties.

Reportedly, Reinfeldt said that the decision “paves the way for a politicization of historical events.”  

In an interesting twist to the events, both the foreign ministers of Turkey and Sweden have condemned the vote to label the early 20th century killings as a genocide. 

The Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, was upset by the vote, and told Reuters that “the politicization of history serves no useful purpose.”  

As relations between Sweden and Turkey remain damaged, countries around the world are continuing to follow the trend set by the United States – who approved a measure to condemn the killings two weeks ago.

Many question whether the politicization of a historical event is a necessary step. 

Historically, as a term, genocide was first used in a widespread manner during the Second World War – long after the killings of Armenians in Turkey in 1915.   

Canada’s recent decision to recognize the Armenian killings as genocide this month is not the first time Canada has done so.

Five years ago, there was a parliamentary vote that officially declared the crime as genocide, although, the Paul Martin government did not support the initiative at the time.  

Today, the question is whether or not the politicization of these historical events, never labeled previously, should be called genocide. 

Regardless of the overwhelming protest from Turkish officials, following the lead of the United States, Canada and Sweden have both publicly denounced the killings as genocide.

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