European Syriac Union calls on Swedish government to apologize to Kurdish and Syriac communities in light of Palme assassination case outcome

STOCKHOLM – With the Swedish public prosecutor officially closing the investigation into the murder of former Prime Minister Olof Palme, Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian (CSA) associations and institutions in Sweden asked for Sweden to settle its past and officially apologize to Kurds and other immigrant groups for the unfair accusations they were subjected to over the years.

Following the assassination of former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme on 28 February 1986, Swedish criminal security pointed the finger at members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed political group that has been engaged in an armed conflict with the Turkish state since the 1980s, and arrested several people close to the party. A few days later, however, they were released.

It has now been 34 years since the Palme assassination, during which time several people were interrogated until it was determined that a Swedish national, Stig Engström, questioned at the time of the murder but deemed merely an unreliable witness, was the likely perpetrator. Engström having killed himself in 2000, public prosecutors were forced to close the investigation on 10 June 2020.

After the announcement of the prime suspects, Kurdish parties asked the Swedish government to apologize for having pointed fingers at members of the PKK.

In this regard, the Turkish newspaper Eversal interviewed European Syriac Union (ESU) official, Yacoub Nuhomo, and asked him about his position on this issue.

Nuhomo stated that Olof Palme gave much support to the Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people and other people like them. He opened Sweden’s doors and took an authentic and true democratic position against the status-quo dictatorial regimes of the Middle East.

With a Syriac population of more than 100,000, several football clubs in different leagues, over 50 churches, hundreds of associations and social clubs across the country, a minister in the Swedish cabinet, and four Syriac parliamentarians in the Swedish Riksdag, CSAs are the most active and integrated immigrant community in Swedish society.

As a result of the Sayfo Genocide of 1915 and subsequent emigration from Turkey and Beth Nahrin (Mesopotamia) due to decades of discrimination and harassment, the CSA people paid a heavy price. After large-scale emigration from their homelands, CSAs have achieved great successes in Sweden.

However, CSA organizations and institutions say that after the Kurdish people were designated targets following the assassination, the Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people in Sweden were also affected. The European Syriac Union has called on Sweden to apologize to all immigrant communities, especially the Kurdish people of Sweden.

According to Nuhomo, targeted operations were launched in the 1980s in Sweden against the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO):

“In this process, our people were targeted and subjected to great accusations, as well as discrimination. Name and denominational differences were deliberately instigated and deepened. It opened the way to divisions within our people. An organization of our people was treated like a terrorist organization. Our people as a whole were kept under pressure. The same methods were applied against the Kurdish movement and its people. With the assassination of Olof Palme, a cynical propaganda against the PKK and the Kurds was maintained for 34 years.”

In Germany, officials also worked to criminalize the Beth Nahrin National Council, accusing some of its cadres on various unfounded charges:

“In this conspiratorial mentality, the German state, from 2002-2003, tried to stigmatize and label us terrorists by filing a lawsuit against our struggle. However, it was not successful. The effort to destroy the PKK through connecting it with the Olof Palme murder came to nothing when the file was closed at a press conference held by the Swedish chief prosecutor on 10 June 2020.”

While the PKK has been cleared of involvement in the Olof Palme murder, the omission of an official apology by the Swedish government is seen by Nuhomo as ethically insufficient:

“It is an ethical responsibility for the Swedish government to eliminate the grievances created by their conspiracies against oppressed peoples, because the damage done by the conspiracies in Sweden to Syriacs and Kurds is not small.

As the European Syriac Union, we have demonstrated our solidarity and position years ago by attending the European Court of Justice’s hearing on the PKK in Luxembourg because declaring the PKK as terrorist organization is unfair. We believe that such a decision was taken in line with upholding the relationship and interests with Turkey. In our view, the recent decision by the Belgian court confirmed this view.

When we consider the outcome of the Olof Palme murder case, i.e. PKK involvement turned out to be a mere accusation, then the fact that the PKK is still included on the list of terrorist organizations has no legal basis anymore.”

Syriac Member of Swedish Parliament for the Vänsterpartiet (Left Party) Tony Haddou said that after Palme’s murder, Sweden’s accusations against the Kurdish people caused great trauma. Haddou remembers that while living in Gothenburg in the 1990s that, “good relations developed between Assyrians and Kurds.”

People began to see little difference between the two peoples,” he continued. “And the terrorist accusations against Kurds also left traces on the Assyrian people.”

Haddou emphasized that the accusations against the PKK for the Palme murder were political, “the Kurds faced heavy accusations for a very long time … they were an easy target.”

“We witnessed discrimination against Kurds all over Europe,” Haddou said.

Haddou also stressed that the Left Party is struggling to remove the PKK from the European Union’s terrorist list.