In an unprecedented development, seven Federal Members of Parliament rose in the House of Representatives on November 21, 22 and 23 to affirm the historical reality of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Genocides and call for Australian recognition of these crimes against humanity.
MPs Craig Kelly, Malcolm Turnbull, Michael Danby and Joel Fitzgibbon -- new supporters of this fundamental issue of humanity -- joined their voices to long-time friends of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian communities, MPs John Alexander, Joe Hockey and Paul Fletcher in paying tribute to the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century.
The speeches coincided with the visit of a combined delegation of about 25 representatives including the Chairman of the ANC World Council, Mr. Hagop Der Khatchadourian, members of the ANC Australia National Board, ANC Australia Western Sydney, ANC Australia Melbourne, the Armenian Youth Federation, the Assyrian Universal Alliance, Young Assyrians of the AUA , and the Australian Hellenic Council campaigned in the largest ever Advocacy Week which brought together representatives of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian communities of Australia.
In a joint effort, the three delegations met with over 30 members of the Senate and Federal Parliament pursuing support for Australian recognition of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Genocides in Canberra.
In his first parliamentary speech on this issue, the Member for Hughes, Craig Kelly, spoke in detail about the genocidal policies of the Ottoman Empire against its Armenian, Greek and Assyrian populations.
"The Armenian Genocide and the related Assyrian and Greek Genocides were the result of a deliberate and systematic campaign against the Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire between 1914 and 1923," Kelly said.
"Aside from the deaths, Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire had their wealth and property confiscated without compensation. Businesses and farms were lost, and schools, churches, hospitals and monasteries became the property of the Ottoman Empire." The Member for Hughes underlined the importance for Australia to recognise this crime against humanity.
"It is now time for our parliament to join other parliaments around the world and recognise these genocides for what they were," Kelly stated.
The Member for Wentworth, Malcolm Turnbull, also delivering his first parliamentary speech on this issue, welcomed the representatives of ANC Australia, AHC and AUA in the public gallery of the Chamber of the House of Representatives. "They are assembled here, as we are, to lament what was one of the great crimes against humanity, not simply a crime against the Greeks, the Assyrians and the Armenians but a crime against humanity--the elimination, the execution, the murder of hundreds of thousands of millions of people for no reason other than that they were different. This type of crime, this sort of genocidal crime, is something that sadly is not unique in our experience," Turnbull said. The Member for Wentworth reflected on the Ottoman Empire's record of multiculturalism of which these genocidal crimes constituted an aberration.
"We lament today great crimes but also the loss of diversity and the loss of tolerance," Turnbull said.
The Member for Melbourne Ports and Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Michael Danby, affirmed the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide during a debate in the House of Representatives on a motion related to the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica.
"… Adolf Hitler, said on 22 August 1939, on the eve of perpetrating another genocide, 'Who remembers the Armenians?', referring to the failure of anyone to react to Turkey's genocide of two million Armenians. It is because he was able to say that in Europe in the 1930s that further tragedies engulfed Europe," said the Member for Melbourne Ports.
Danby emphasised the need to acknowledge and remember past genocides in Armenia, Rwanda, Darfur and Srebrenica to prevent such horrible crimes from recurring.
The Member for Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon voiced similar sentiments in his first public statement on this issue. "We should collectively spend more time recognising that between 1915 and 1923 hundreds of thousands of Armenians had their lives cut short for no other reason than for their ethnicity," said Fitzgibbon.
"The best and most effective way to heal the wounds carried still by Armenians today is to recognise and acknowledge both the events of the past and the motivations behind them. Only then will the global community collectively be able to offer the Armenian people and others sufficient empathy. And only then will the international community be able to genuinely claim an unqualified determination to identify and eradicate genocide in any and every corner of the globe."
The Member for Bennelong, John Alexander, reaffirmed his support for the recognition of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Genocides during an adjournment speech on November 21.
Recalling the 1948 United Nations' Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Alexander said: "From the eyewitness accounts of ANZAC soldiers and survivors there is little doubt that the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, one million Greeks and 750,000 Assyrians fits this definition."
Alexander called upon the Australian government to join the wave of international recognition of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Genocide.
"I urge the government to follow in the footsteps of so many nations in formally recognising these genocides. The actions of members of this parliament will help to solidify the global movement to identify these atrocities for what they are."
The Member for North Sydney, Joe Hockey emphasised the strong connections between Australian history and the genocide that began in 1915 during an adjournment speech on November 21.
"Our country has a strong association with the events beginning in 1915. The Ottomans began their genocide of the Armenian people on 24 April 1915--the day before the first Australian soldiers landed at Anzac Cove--and many Australian soldiers witnessed the tragic events the Armenian race suffered at the hands of the Ottomans."
Hockey firmly called for an official Australian recognition of this crime against humanity.
"We as a nation should no longer fail to recognise the truth of history--truth that was recorded even by the Australian media as it was occurring, at the beginning of the 20th century--and so I officially call on our parliament again to recognise the genocide of the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians that occurred in Ottoman Turkey between 1915 and 1923."
The Member for Bradfield, Paul Fletcher once again affirmed the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide and called for its official recognition by the Australian government during a constituency speech on November 22.
"Consistent with the definition of genocide, these deaths took place with the clear intent of destroying Armenians as an ethnic group."
"Some 20 countries around the world have declared these events as genocide. These countries include Canada, France and Germany. It is time that the Australian government also recognised what happened in the early decades of the last century as genocide," stated Fletcher.
The seven Federal Members join Shadow Minister for Immigration Scott Morisson, Senator Nick Xenophon and Senator Lee Rhiannon who in recent months called for recognition of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Genocides by the Federal government of Australia.
The Canberra leg of Advocacy Week 2011 concluded with a first-ever presentation to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence on the historical reality of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Genocides, its ongoing implications, its links to Australian history and the importance of official Australian recognition of this crime against humanity.
The presentation, entitled "Consequences of an Unresolved Crime against Humanity," was delivered by ANC Australia's international guest for Advocacy Week 2011, Mr. Hagop Der Khatchadourian, and ANC Australia Executive Director Varant Meguerditchian.
"The progress we were able to make in Canberra over the last two days has been outstanding, with several Federal Members placing on public record their support for Australian recognition of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Genocides and a first ever presentation delivered to the peak foreign affairs body of the Australian government on the urgency of this issue," said Meguerditchian.
"Working together with our colleagues in AHC and AUA, we have been successful in garnering support for this important issue of humanity from all sides of the Australian political spectrum and have no doubt built an irreversible momentum across the political spectrum for Australian recognition of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Genocides," he noted.
For more information see here (pages 119, 122, 124, 121).