MPs call on Dutch government to recognise 1915 Armenia massacre as genocide

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By Matthew Holroyd
While the exact amount of people killed in the massacre is disputed, Armenia says that as many as 1.5 million died.
While the exact amount of people killed in the massacre is disputed, Armenia says that as many as 1.5 million died.   -   Copyright  AP Photo, File

Dutch MPs have urged the country's government to officially recognise the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide.

Between 1915 and 1917, an estimated 1.5 million Armenian citizens were driven from their homes and murdered by the Ottoman Empire, alongside other Christian minorities.

In 2018, Dutch lawmakers in the lower house of parliament voted overwhelmingly to acknowledge this act as genocide. But the decision did not become the country's official policy and terminology. Thursday's vote, in the upper house of parliament, seeks to change this.

Turkish authorities have denied that the events of over a hundred years ago constitute a genocide. Indeed Dutch caretaker prime minister, Mark Rutte, has said that recognising it as such will not contribute to reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey. 

But lawmaker Joël Voordewind from the ChristenUnie (Christian Union) - the smallest party in the departing coalition - said the Dutch government's vague position was "absurd".

"The government still uses the phrase 'the issue of the Armenian Genocide' or speaks of 'the terrible events'," Voordewind added in a statement.

"In doing so it evades the truth; that it was a planned and deliberate genocide."

Turkey continues to dispute the description, saying the toll has been inflated and that those killed were victims of a civil war.

But the Christian Union has been trying to get the Dutch government to acknowledge the deaths as a genocide since 2004.

Its proposal has received support from other members in the Dutch Parliament including the Greens, the Socialist Party, and the Christian Democratic Appeal.

"This recognition is very important, the genocide is an open wound for the Armenian community," said Voordewind.

"The fact that many countries, including the Netherlands, did not even want to recognise that it was a genocide makes it all the more painful."

"For that reason alone, it is important that our government speaks out clearly about what happened in the past."

"Recognising the past is a crucial first step for reconciliation and to prevent repetition," he added.

In 2018, a member of the Dutch cabinet attended the annual commemoration of the killings in the Armenian capital Yerevan for the first time.

Five years ago, German MPs overwhelmingly voted to declare the 1915 massacre as a genocide in a historic vote in the Bundestag, angering Turkey.

Ankara also recalled its French ambassador in 2011 after Paris passed a law making it illegal to deny that the early 20th-century slaughter of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire constituted a genocide.

The Dutch government has not responded to Euronews' request for a statement on the matter.