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Utrecht mayor apologises for Dutch city’s past role in slave trade

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The mayor of Utrecht has apologised for the Dutch city’s previous role in slavery and the country’s colonial history.

Sharon Dijksma issued the apology on behalf of Utrecht City Council for its predecessor’s involvement in “the colonial slave trade and the oppression and exploitation of enslaved people”.

“Today we pause to reflect on the history of slavery in our city and look ahead to learn lessons from it,” Dijksma said in a speech.

“I think this is extremely important because we are talking about nothing less than a crime against humanity.”

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Utrecht’s council had approved research into the “exact role” the city’s governors had played in the history of slavery in the Netherlands.

It emerged that around 40% of the city’s administration between the 17th and 19th centuries had interests in the slave trade.

“By taking note of this dark side of our city’s history – and acknowledging it – we create space for discussion,” said Dijksma, “it helps us to understand each other better.”

The Utrecht mayor added that the racist ideas still exist in Dutch society, long after slavery was abolished.

“That is why we must continue to do everything in our power to combat all forms of racism and discrimination,” she said.

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“We acknowledge the suffering of so many innocent adults and children and reflect on the wounds that were inflicted and are still inflicted today.”

“Because only when we know our past can we better understand our present and be ready for a future in which everyone in Utrecht and beyond is treated equally.”

Last year, the mayor of Amsterdam had apologised for the extensive involvement of the Dutch capital’s former governors in the global slave trade.

“It is time to engrave the great injustice of colonial slavery into our city’s identity,” Femke Halsema had said.

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