Australian Mayors join call for recognition of Armenian Genocide

Mayor Gail Giles-Gidney of the City of Willoughby and Mayor Jerome Laxale of the City of Ryde recently added to calls for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to recognise the Armenian Genocide, following the 106th anniversary of the mass killings and deportations committed by the Ottoman Empire in 1915, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU).

Both municipalities are home to thousands of Sydney-based Armenian-Australians who were direct descendants of survivors of the Armenian Genocide and have established vibrant Armenian community centres, schools and churches.

In her letter to the Prime Minister, Mayor Giles-Gidney reaffirmed Willoughby City Council’s position and endorsed the 1997 resolution on the Armenian Genocide passed by the New South Wales State Parliament. The letter also condemned the atrocity, recognised that Assyrians and Greeks were also subjected to genocides by the same perpetrators, and noted the importance of learning from history. Mayor Giles-Gidney acknowledged the ANZAC prisoners of war who witnessed and saved Armenian victims, as well as the significant humanitarian relief effort by Australians.

Mayor Jerome Laxale’s letter to the Prime Minister called upon “the Australian Government to recognise the Armenian Genocide”, as his Council has unanimously done on several occasions at the joint initiative of Councillor Sarkis Yedelian – himself a grandchild of Armenian Genocide survivors.

ANC-AU Executive Director Haig Kayserian thanked Mayor Giles-Gidney and Mayor Laxale for their continued support and solidarity with the Armenian-Australian community, and acting on their councils’ Armenian Genocide recognition motions by calling upon the Federal Government to do the same.

“Recognition of the Armenian Genocide is important for Armenian-Australians in our pursuit for justice and for humanity in its pursuit for prevention of such crimes, therefore to have Mayors Giles-Gidney and Laxale amplify calls on our Prime Minister is both sincerely appreciated by our community and simply the right thing to do,” said Kayserian.

In 2005, the City of Ryde formally recognised the Armenian Genocide, with a memorial plaque honouring the 1.5 million Armenians who were killed in forced deportations and massacres. Council reaffirmed its position in 2018 by passing of a resolution recognising the Genocide and again in 2021 by unveiling an Armenian Khatchkar (cross-stone) in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

In 2015, Willoughby City Council also passed a motion recognising the Armenian Genocide, becoming the second Australian local government to accurately characterise the events as Genocide.

The New South Wales and South Australian State Parliaments have also recognised the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Genocides, while the Australian parliament has debated in favour of motions correctly characterising the events of 1915 as genocides.

The Joint Justice Initiative of the Armenian-Australian, Assyrian-Australian and Greek-Australian communities has over 40 Federal parliamentarians as signatories, collectively calling on the Australian Government to recognise the genocides committed against their ancestors, while the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also received letters calling for his accurate recognition of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Genocides from Mr. Trent Zimmerman MP and Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP – as co-convenors of the Armenia-Australia Inter-Parliamentary Union, Senator Janet Rice – as the Foreign Affairs Spokesperson of The Australian Greens, Hon. Jonathan O’Dea MP and Hon. Walt Secord MLC – as co-convenors of the New South Wales Armenia-Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group, the New South Wales Young Liberals, the New South Wales Ecumenical Council representing 16 churches, Christian Charity Barnabas Fund Australia, Kurdish Lobby Australia, Arab Council of Australia, as well as from numerous prominent academics.

The Jewish-Australian community also added their voice to these calls, with the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the Zionist Federation of Australia, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the editors of Australian Jewish News calling on Australia and Israel to recognise the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocides.

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