Margot Wallström, the new Swedish Foreign Minister is used to being in the spotlight. She is internationally known for, amongst other things, campaigning on behalf of vulnerable women and girls in war zones, and has, in the past, worked as a special envoy of the United Nations.
On the 30th of October, she made headlines all over the world when Sweden became the biggest West European country to recognize Palestine as a state. Israel protested. But Sweden, or rather the Social Democratic-led government which took office earlier this month, believes that Palestinians have met the criteria under international law for such recognition. In response, in an article by Associated Press, Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, welcomed the move by Sweden: “It is our hope that other EU member states and countries worldwide will follow Sweden’s lead and recognize Palestine before the chances for a two-state solution are destroyed indefinitely,” he said.
IN THE WEEK that followed the Swedish Parliament held a debate. The opposing Liberal party had earlier asked Wallström if she would recognize Islamic State’s war crimes against indigenous Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs as well as Yazidies and other ethnic minorities in Iraq as “genocide”.
Many people around the world followed it. On the floor were Robert Hannah, an Assyrian-Swedish MP from Iraq, and Margot Wallström.
Most people thought this would be an easy debate for Hannah. After all, if Wallström recognized Palestine as a state in the face of Israeli protest when many other countries have not, then IS brutality in Iraq and Syria against defenseless children, women and men fulfill all the criteria to be called a genocide.
The actions of Islamic State in the north of Iraq, have included forced conversions to Islam, rape, mass executions, the selling of abducted women and girls into slavery, the pillage of property and theft of belongings, the desecration and destruction of ancient buildings, artefacts, and literature of invaluable significance to civilisation. They have forced the expulsion of the Christians of Mosul, who prior to that had lived there for over 1700 years, and almost all of the Assyrian Christians of the Nineveh Province, in total around 250,000 persons, as well as the Yazidi communities of Sinjar and elsewhere in Nineveh, numbering around 200,000 persons. All of this constitutes an act of genocide against the Assyrian people and the Yazidis of Iraq according to Article 2 of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948).
Before the debate I studied Rome Statute of the international criminal court. Article 6, as shown below, outlines when persecution, slaughter and ethno-religious cleansing should be termed a “genocide”:
For the purpose of this Statute, “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:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
On the morning that genocide against my nation and other ethnic peoples in Iraq was about to be debated in the Swedish Parliament, I had breakfast with my mother. Mom said nearly the same thing as Ashrawi. ”We have an Assyrian minister in the Swedish Parliament. We have six parliamentarians and we are more then one per cent of the Swedish population. It’s my hope that Sweden will take the lead and recognize these unbelievable atrocities against our nation as genocide. Then other EU member states and countries worldwide will follow Sweden.” Mom was positive Sweden would do the right thing. After our breakfast I posted a couple of lines on my facebook wall:
Later today there is a debate in the Swedish Parliament about what to call IS war against Iraqs indigneous people. Is it a Genocide or not? The discussion is between Robert Hannah (Assyrian MP in Sweden) and Swedish Minister of Foreign affairs, Margot Wallström.
Hundreds of thousands of victims thank you, Robert for not forgetting them. There are no other word to use, it is a Genocide, make Wallström understand that today in the debate. You got this. Facts. Numbers. The truth.
“They have forced the expulsion of the Christians of Mosul”
So when Wallström, in the Swedish Parliament, in the country I’m proud to be part of, proud to be a citizen of, refused to acknowledge the genocide I just wanted to give up, and switch my brain off to the slaughter of defenceless people in the Middle East. But then, when I began to think rationally again, I felt only disgust.
SHAME Margot Wallström. Shame on the Swedish government. By denying the genocide you trivialise the alarming statistics that have been emerging from Iraq and Syria, you disregard the survivors and you dishonour the victims who were beheaded or killed in mass shootings. You cast doubt on the truth being spoken by those who are now forced to live among church pews, in unfinished buildings, in abandoned schools and malls. You forget about the tens of thousands who are spending this very winter’s day clearing the mud from the floor of their tent, the only home they now have. You negatively impact entire ethnic groups who watch on as fellow members of their community become widowed and orphaned thousands of miles away.
You may forget but I, and millions of people with me worldwide, will never forget and we will continue to be a voice for those who cannot defend themselves, because you have not.