he Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia) has released contents from a letter it has addressed to the Premier of New South Wales, the Hon. Mike Baird MP, the Minister for Communities and Citizenship, the Hon. Victor Dominello MP, and the Deputy Chairperson of the ANZAC Memorial Building, on the issue of the placement of yet another Australian memorial dedicated to the first president of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Last month, a plaque was unveiled at the ANZAC Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park dedicated to the memory of Ataturk ahead of the Centenary of ANZAC Day. This is in addition to a Memorial that was erected many years ago at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
The intent of the letter by ANC Australia was to ensure that the NSW Government and the ANZAC Memorial Trust marks the Centenary of Anzac Day in an honest manner with regards to a full and frank acknowledgement of the events that occurred during World War I.
The letter made specific reference to the heinous war crimes committed by Ataturk during World War I, including the genocide of Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks.
The letter read: “2015 marks not only the Centenary of Anzac Day but also of the Armenian Genocide. It is critical that during such an important period of modern history that facts are reported on correctly.”
“While Australian soldiers bravely fought along side the Allied Forces, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who later became idolised by Nazi Germany and Adolf Hilter for how he “liberated” Turkey, embarked on a course of pillaging the ethnic minatory groups of the Ottoman Empire.”
The letter added: “To erect memorials to Ataturk and to pay tribute to his legacy is to honour his legacy of rape, murder, dictatorship, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Not only does this memorial insult the memory and the victims of the Armenian Genocide, it is also a dishonour to the Australian forces who met their final fate during World War I.”
“It is important that we acknowledge the friendship that was formed in the years after the War between Australia and Turkey, which deserves recognition and support during this Centenary year of commemoration, but this friendship should not allow important historical facts to be cast aside.”
ANC Australia Executive Director, Vache Kahramanian revealed that plans presented to the NSW government to memorialise Ataturk within the grounds of Parliament House Peace Garden was defeated by lobbying after ANC Australia was made aware of it. He expressed disappointment that the NSW government did not consult with the Armenian-Australian community in advance of erecting this memorial.
Kahramanian said: “As Australians, we understand the importance of the ANZAC memory to Australia. However Ataturk, a self-proclaimed dictator, should not need be honoured for Australia to remember the heroics of Gallipoli.”
He added: “Our community expected to be consulted on such a plan, which would have allowed us to educate the decision-makers on all the facts at hand before taking such a step. To say we are disappointed is an understatement, and we look forward to the response to our correspondence.”