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article imageTurkish 'traitor' jibe to Dutch MPs over Armenia sparks anger

By AFP     Feb 26, 2018 in World

Accusations of treason levelled by a Turkish newspaper at five Dutch MPs of Turkish descent for voting to recognise the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as "genocide" provoked a strong backlash in The Netherlands on Monday.

Dutch lawmakers overwhelmingly voted on Thursday in favour of a proposal that the country's parliament refer to the massacre as "the Armenian genocide" -- a move strongly condemned by Ankara.

Turkish pro-government newspaper Sabah on Saturday said "the five MPs showed again that they are against Turkey" by supporting the "scandalous decision".

Dutch parliamentary speaker Khadija Arib responded on Sunday, saying that "threatening or inciting threats in reaction to people expressing their opinion in unacceptable".

"It has no place in a democracy or an open and free society such as ours," Arib was quoted Monday by De Volkskrant newspaper as saying, adding that "it is called freedom of speech".

Armenians have long sought international recognition for the 1915-1917 killings in the Ottoman era as genocide, which they say left some 1.5 million of their people dead.

But Turkey -- the Ottoman Empire's successor state -- argues that it was a collective tragedy in which equal numbers of Turks and Armenians died.

Another pro-government newspaper, Yeni Akit, labelled the five lawmakers "degenerates" on Sunday.

Since then, the lawmakers -- two from the Socialist Party, two from the environmental GreenLeft party and one from the Liberal VVD party -- have reported receiving threats and hate mail.

"The era of intimidation and demonisation is over," Zihni Ozdil, one of the GreenLeft MPs, told the Algemeen Dagblad tabloid.

"I do not feel totally targeted by these kind of people. I am Dutch," said Dilan Yesilgoz of the VVD, who arrived in the Netherlands as a refugee in 1984.

So far, parliaments in more than 20 countries, including Germany, have voted for laws or resolutions explicitly recognising the Armenian "genocide".

The vote comes at a low point in diplomatic ties between the Netherlands and Turkey after a Dutch decision earlier this month to withdraw its ambassador.

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