Australian parliamentary leader responds to Turkish condemnation of Genocide recognition

On May 10 the Parliament of New South Wales, Australia, unanimously passed a motion to recognize the Greek, Assyrian and Armenian genocide perpetrated by Ottoman Turks in World War One. Turkey responded by condemning the motion  and barring Australian legislators from Gallipoli. The Turkish Consul General sent a letter to the NSW Parliament in which he condemned the genocide recognition. AINA reports that the sponsor of the motion, Rev. Hon. Fred Nile, the Parliamentary Leader and member of the Christian Democratic Party, responded to the Turkish Consul General’s letter as follows:

Dear Sir

As you noted in your correspondence of 6th May 2013, I moved a motion of recognition of the Genocides of the indigenous Assyrian and Hellenic peoples of Anatolia, incorporating a re-affirmation of the 1997 recognition of the Genocide of the indigenous Armenian people. The motion was tabled and carried unanimously, in accordance with Parliamentary procedure.

Similar motions of a commemorative nature are moved and carried by members of both Houses of the Parliament of New South Wales on a regular basis on a wide range of issues, particularly related to human rights and current affairs.

My intention in moving this motion was NOT to attack or denigrate the modern State of Turkey which was established by a great Turkish leader, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who I greatly admire.

These Genocides were carried out by the leaders of the Ottoman Empire, not the modern State of Turkey which has wonderful relations with Australia, in spite of the Gallipoli campaign.

In moving this motion, I have drawn on the conclusions reached by the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Scholars, and other national and international scholarly groups. The unanimous opinion is that the Assyrian, Armenian and Hellenic peoples were victims of genocide in the 1910s and 1920s.

As noted by Australian jurist Geoffrey Robertson QC in his 2009 study ‘Was there an Armenian Genocide?” (attached), Winston Churchill declared the events to be ‘an administrative holocaust … there is no reasonable doubt that this crime was planned and executed for political reasons.’

When commemorations and scholarly conferences on the Genocide of the Armenians are regularly held within the Republic of Turkey, and Turkish scholars and writers such as Taner Akcam and Orhan Pamuk call for recognition of the fact of the Genocides, I fail to understand how the NSW Legislative Council resolution constitutes ‘sowing the seeds of hatred’ in Australia? Please visit for recent examples:

The Genocide Recognition motion has a very strong focus on the Genocides as part of the Australian national story. As documented in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, ANZACs were captured and imprisoned as far south as the Sinai peninsula, as far east as Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) as well as across Anatolia. Visit here for more details.

The archives of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra have written and photographic evidence that ANZACs rescued Armenians and Assyrians in Persia (Iran) and Mesopotamia (Iraq), as well as during the Palestine Campaign. Many of these ANZACs later became involved in an international humanitarian relief effort on behalf of the survivors for over a decade.

The events of the Assyrian, Armenian, and Hellenic Genocides were documented by the Australian media from early 1914 (before World War One began), throughout the war and well into the 1920s (National Library of Australia). I also refer you to a recent study by Dr John Williams of the University of Tasmania, published in the April 2013 issue of Quadrant magazine: The Ethnic Cleansing of Greeks from Gallipoli, April 1915.

As the Armenian National Archives were only formed in 1923, when the Genocides were almost over, a ‘joint commission of history’ between the Republics of Armenia and Turkey would have little to discuss (National Archives of Armenia) The archives relevant to the Genocides of the Armenians, Assyrians and Hellenes are in Ankara, Constantinople (Istanbul) and Moscow.

In conclusion, for the Christian Democratic Party, as for the entire Parliament of New South Wales, recognition of the Genocides of the indigenous Assyrian, Armenian and Hellenic peoples of the Ottoman Empire is not simply a matter of history. As the effects of the Genocides continue to this day, it is an issue of international law and human rights and I will continue to advocate such issues at every opportunity.

“Let justice be done, souls consoled, broken hearts mended, nations reconciled and honour given to all those who perished so needlessly during a dark hour in mankind’s recent history”.

Yours sincerely,
Rev. Hon. Fred Nile

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