The Royal Library has attracted heavy criticism after agreeing to let Turkey co-arrange an alternative exhibition about the Armenian Genocide.
The library has complied with the wishes of the Turkish ambassador to Denmark to be involved with the exhibition, ‘The Armenian Genocide and the Scandinavian response’, which is currently on display at the University of Copenhagen.
The Turkish Embassy has been granted the opportunity to stage a Turkish version of the historical events in a move that has generated criticism from a number of circles, including politicians, historians, and the Armenian Embassy in Copenhagen.
“This is giving in to Turkish pressure and it won’t do. Without comparing the two events, it’s like asking neo-Nazis to arrange a Holocaust exhibition,” Søren Espersen, a spokesperson for Dansk Folkeparti (DF), told Berlingske newspaper.
Turkey refuses to to use the 'genocide' to describe the deaths of over an estimated one million Armenians who died during the mass extermination carried out by the Ottoman Empire between the years of 1915-1923. Turkey counters that the deaths were a by-product of the First World War and that the issue should be left to historians.
But Matthias Bjørnlund, a historian and leading Danish expert on the Armenian Genocide, is perplexed over the Royal Library’s decision in the case.
“If you believe that all versions of history are equal, then you’ve undermined your role as a research institution,” Bjørnlund told Berlingske. “It was genocide and not all interpretations of this history are correct.”
The Armenian ambassador to Denmark, Hrachya Aghajanyan, who is a co-host of the original exhibition, is disappointed by the move.
“I hope that the Royal Library will reconsider their decision and not give in to the possible Turkish pressure,” Aghajanyan told Berlingske.
But Erland Kolding Nielsen, the director of the Royal Library, denied that the institution buckled under pressure from Turkey.
“One can’t pressure us, and we have not spoken about removing the Armenian exhibition. We have simply given them the opportunity to show their alternative exhibition,” Nielsen told Berlingske.
Currently, 24 nations – including France, Germany and Russia – officially consider the killings as genocide, but Denmark has yet to make that assertion.
Earlier this year, Turkey condemned the French senate's adoption of a law criminalising those who refuse to recognise the killing of Armenians in 1915 as genocide in France. The Turkish government froze political and military ties with France after the law passed in late January 2012, which would impose a fine of 335,000 kroner and a one-year jail sentence on those found guilty of denying that the deaths amounting to genocide.
It is not yet known when the Turkish exhibition version will debut, but the Turkish embassy said that preparations were underway.