Armenian, Greek and Assyrian communities condemn Australian Ambassador to Turkey over Ataturk praise

The peak advocacy bodies of the Armenian-Australian, Assyrian-Australian, and Greek-Australian communities have expressed their deep concern and dismay at comments made by Australia’s Ambassador to Turkey, H.E. Miles Armitage praising genocidal dictator Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as a humanitarian.

In a letter addressed to Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, the Armenian National Committee of Australia, the Assyrian National Council – Australia and the Australian Hellenic Council called attention to the Ambassador’s unsettling message in the An?tkabir Private Book during a visit to the mausoleum of Ataturk, which praised the “humanity” of a violent dictator “on behalf of all Australians,” Ambassador Armitage tweeted.

Under Ataturk’s authoritarian regime, the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks who had suffered genocides on the lands of their ancestors, fell victim again to the now-celebrated dictator’s legacy policy of genocide denial, which continues in Turkey today.

Whilst he may be known as the father of modern Turkey for modernising and secularising the country, a lesser-told history of the man referred to as Kemal was his reliance on the oldest evils of conquerors: a genocidal campaign to slaughter, burn, drown, destroy and remove indigenous people from their homelands.

Despite this, Ambassador Armitage felt it was appropriate to “honour the memory of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk” and to declare “his leadership, vision and humanity” as “an inspiration to both our peoples”.

“These words and actions are a stain on the integrity of Australia, discrediting its reputation for upholding human rights while deeply offending the descendants of survivors of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Genocides living in Australia,” said Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU), Haig Kayserian.

“Our communities feel personally insulted that our representative would glorify a figure responsible for committing countless heinous and horrific crimes against our ancestors, and we would hope that dictatorship, racial and religious repression, as well as crimes against humanity, are not values that ‘inspire’ Australian leaders, as they most definitely do not inspire everyday Australians,” Kayserian added.

The peak advocacy bodies have requested the Australian Government correct the remarks of the Australian Ambassador to Turkey as not reflective of Australia’s recollection of history, which is disrespectful to many ethnic Australians who are descendants of survivors of Kemal who proudly call Australia home.

On 25th February 2020, over 100 Federal Australian parliamentarians, diplomats, departmental officials, political staffers, academics, media and community leaders were treated to cultural performances, food, wine and brandy, as well as the historic signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, which affirmed that the signatory public affairs representatives of the three communities were jointly committed to seeing Australia recognise the Turkish-committed Genocides against the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian citizens of the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

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