What role can Sweden play ?
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to participate in this conference. I would like to thank the Kurdish national association in Sweden for inviting me here and of course also the organizers of this event. This opportunity will give me new impressions, knowledge and experiences that will be useful in guiding me in my coming work in the Swedish parliament.
I am incredibly proud and impressed by the Kurds living in Sweden. The Kurds in Sweden have played an active role in our society for a long time, and we can pride ourselves with prominent personalities in many areas. For example, one of our most popular young artists is Darin and currently the most famous comedian is Özz Nujen. Since I was in school I have had good friends who are Kurds. This has given me new views on the world around me but their experiences have also opened my eyes.
For centuries the Kurdish people have been denied the right to their history, heritage, their culture and language. Millions of Kurds have been victims to oppression in Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Regimes have come and gone, the names of the oppressors have changed – but the acts of cruelty against the world’s 30-40 million Kurds have remained. In this assembly these facts are obviously well known, but they can’t be stressed enough.
The horrors of Halabja may be the most obvious image of the oppression that Saddam Hussein and his regime represented. Three decades of political terror has finally come to an end. Saddam Hussein, one of the world’s most brutal dictators has been captured and brought to justice.
Irrespective of the reasons why the USA chose to bring about the fall of Saddam Hussein, the consequences are fantastic. I and my organization supported the USA, an opinion we did not share with many people in Sweden. Military interventions are very complex and they always lead to some degree of civilian sacrifice and suffering. But, in some cases this is necessary. We would be too naïve and gullible if we fail to realize that we need an array of tools to promote democracy and human rights around the world. Everything from trade and diplomacy to military means are needed in the struggle for a better world.
During my service in Kosovo the military forces were drastically diminished. Shortly thereafter security suffered a great setback and many people were forced to flee their homes. Military presence is always a matter of judgement. Judging between upholding security and the will to be independent. No situation resembles the next and therefore it could be difficult to draw parallels between international interventions. However, looking at the work that has been done around the world, they all indicate long-term military presence.
Sweden has not offered military troops to help build a democracy here in Iraq. This I apologize, even though I realize that we, with our minute resources, hardly could have made a significant difference.
I was not born in Sweden because I was smart or far-sighted. I was born in Sweden because I was lucky. All of us born where democracy reigns have a responsibility to strengthen the democratic powers in the Middle East. In a region that has been plagued by brutal oppression and tyranny for decades, the support from the rest of the world is more important than ever.
Sweden has periodically done great work for the Kurdish people and many Kurds, who were forced to flee, have found a refuge in our country. However, what has been and still is missing in the Swedish foreign policy is a joint policy to safeguard the rights of the Kurdish people. The Kurdish issue is seldom discussed in its overall context. The issue is instead redirected to the comfortable discussions about the respective national states. Issues about Kurdish rights have been lifted in relation to the conditions in Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey, but a joint strategy to protect the rights of the Kurds has not been presented. What happens in one part of Kurdistan is highly relevant to what happens in other parts of Kurdistan.
Sweden presenting a joint policy for the Kurdish people is something we work for. Within this policy Sweden has to, among other things, act against the oppression of the Kurds by the Syrian regime, the acts of cruelty against Kurds by the Islamic government in Iran, support the democratic development in Region Kurdistan in Iraq, and help the Kurds that Saddam Hussein forced to flee from Kirkuk to return and finally to constantly make sure that the European Union raises the issue of Kurdish rights in the cooperation with Turkey.
The Swedish strategy should be based on the following three all-embracing principles:
In a not too distant future, Turkey could be able to join the European Union. For that to be the case, Turkey has to become an adequate democracy, which fully respects human rights and the rights of the Kurdish people. Turkey’s aspiration for a membership in the European Union opens great possibilities to improve the situation in terms of human rights in general and for the Kurds. Sweden must promote the topicality of the Kurdish issue and make sure it is always on the agenda in the European Union. It is crucial that the European Union takes advantage of Turkey’s ambition to become a member in order to once and for all finish the Turkish oppression of the Kurdish minority.
Here in southern Kurdistan the social structure is well developed through the local Kurdish autonomy. One way for Sweden to support the local autonomy would be to open a consulate. Trade and enterprise is a springboard out of poverty. Through Sweden’s opening of a consulate in the autonomous Region Kurdistan in Iraq the interface between Sweden and the Kurdish regions could be strengthened. For Sweden, a consulate would give an opportunity to use the knowledge held by many Swedish Kurds and which could be used to achieve increased trade between Sweden and southern Kurdistan. A consulate in southern Kurdistan would furthermore state Sweden’s position on supporting a future federal structure in Iraq.
Yet Sweden must play an even larger part. The Swedish strategy must push for the democratic development in all of the Middle East. If you are serious about the survival of democratic values you must have a comprehensive plan for the democratization of the entire Middle East. If you are content with influencing only certain parts you risk the future footing of democracy as a whole. This applies both to geography as well as rights. Equality between women and men should never be looked upon as a separate luxury that you can only afford when all else is working well. Equality is an obvious part of the democratic construction, during its entire process.
Sweden can contribute with a good example. Partly when it comes to the coexistence of minority groups, but also when it comes to equality between women and men. Scandinavia has during the years found peaceful solutions for minority groups. In Sweden the struggle of the Sami people for recognition has at times been turbulent but we have managed mutual understanding and been able to offer the Sami people possibilities to live according to their culture within the Swedish culture. This also applies to the Swedish minority in Finland where the Finland-Swedes and their rights to use their language. The use of Swedish in the Finnish society is seen as a possibility and not a threat.
Sweden could be the most equal country in the world. We have through considerable reforms created a society where women and men live and work on the same conditions. This has not come about by chance, but by deliberate work both politically and in civilian life.
Still, we all know that with only good examples you get nowhere. It requires commitment and intention to achieve a positive development and the courage and the political leadership to dare make demands.
(*) Parti Libéral, Suède
Nina Larsson tillbaka från Irak
Nina Larsson är på väg till Kurdistan