Wed. Jun 7th, 2023

The Netherlands is preparing for a historic move to apologize for centuries of enslavement. According to the representatives of the current generation of enslaved people, simply saying sorry is not enough.

The Netherlands will apologize for centuries of enslavement
The Netherlands will apologize for centuries of enslavement


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It has been almost one and a half hundred years since the end of the tradition of enslaving people by the European country Netherlands. In this regard, the Dutch government is now preparing for a historic move to formally apologize. But the current families of the millions of former enslaved people who will receive an apology say they have not been consulted and that an apology for past crimes will not be enough.

A woman stands in front of the official residence of the city’s mayor, Jennifer Tosh, on Heernegracht, a street in the Golden Bend, an affluent residential area along one of the many canals that run through the city in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Is. This woman is the founder of ‘Black Heritage Tours Amsterdam’, an organization that organizes tours of Amsterdam related to the heritage of black residents.

Jennifer Tosh herself was born in America but her parents were from Surrey. She points to a square metal monument on the ground in front of the main entrance to the official residence of the mayor of Amsterdam, which reads: “As long as memory lives, sorrow will not be in vain.”

This building was built in 1672. The entrepreneur who built it was Paulos Godin. He was one of the organizers of the Dutch West India Company. Like his other neighbors living on the banks of the Heerangarakht Canal, this man was also a very wealthy businessman of his time. He also made at least a large part of his wealth by enslaving humans.

Six hundred thousand slaves were brought to the Netherlands

During centuries of human enslavement and trade, about six million people were enslaved from Africa by ships in the Netherlands. This slave trade was equivalent to about five percent of the total volume of human trade across the Atlantic Ocean. These slaves were later transported to the Dutch colonies of Surinam and CuraƧao, as well as to the colonies of many other European countries in the North and South American continents.

African slaves enslaved by the Netherlands were also forcibly transported to several Dutch colonies in the Indian Ocean, including present-day Indonesia, for example. In addition, enslaved people from Bali and Java in Indonesia were transported by their Dutch traders to what is now South Africa.

Many slaves were also killed during this sea transport of human beings. Those who survived and their descendants were forced to work in the most brutal conditions as farm slaves in the European colonies.

The horror story of Naam Ghulam centuries ago

A heart-wrenching example of what Dutch traders who traded humans as slaves did in the past is that of a slave named Wally. Among the slaves who revolted in 1707 in the Dutch colony of Suriname was a slave laborer in the sugarcane fields.

His life story was also included in the historical exhibition, which was organized last year at the Royal Museum in Amsterdam’s Reichsmuseum. Vali’s punishment for disobeying the orders of his masters involved flaying his body with red-hot metal tongs and later burning him alive. Not only this, after Vali’s death, his head was cut off and put on a spear and it was displayed in public for several days so that all the other slaves would take a lesson.

Purpose of government apology

Dutch cultural history expert Jennifer Tosh says that the Dutch tradition of enslaving and trading people spanned more than two and a half centuries. Its remains and effects can still be seen in today’s Amsterdam. The inhabitants of this city include the current generations of former slaves.

When Jennifer Tosh founded ‘Black Heritage Tours Amsterdam’ in 2013, her aim was to educate locals and foreign tourists about the harsh realities of the past, which had been ‘knowingly ignored’ for centuries. . Jennifer Tosh says that she wanted to break the criminal silence about the legacy and dark past of modern Dutch society, which had been adopted almost everywhere until then.

But now times have changed and so have its requirements. The Dutch government plans to formally apologize for its role in the past slave trade on Monday, December 19.

As the Dutch government prepares to issue its first formal apology, classified details from a handful of official documents were published in the country’s media last month. Since then, the government refrained from saying anything, but the matter has been making headlines in the country’s media ever since.

Reparations groups demand billions of euros in financial reparations

Individuals and organizations representing current generations of former slaves in today’s Netherlands say the government has not consulted them about possible apologies and that an apology for past behavior alone would not be enough.

Armand Zander, head of the Syrian National Reparation Commission, says the government plans to allocate a possible 200 million euros to raise public awareness of the country’s past practices of enslavement. Apart from this, 27 million euros will be allocated for the construction of a new museum in this regard.

According to Armand Zander, these small and symbolic measures will not be enough. He said, “Whatever was destroyed on a large scale, it should be repaired, remedied and reparated on a similar scale.” Euros will be required.

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