Turkey Attempted to Stifle Genocide Recognition by South Australia

ADELAIDE, Australia–Turkey’s Ambassador to Australia has attempted to prevent Australian lawmakers from recognizing as genocide the organized annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians and 350,000 Greeks during World War I, the Weekend Australian revealed on Saturday.

The newspaper on Saturday reported of the attempts made by the Turkish Ambassador, Murat Ersavci, to block the government of South Australia from passing a motion recognizing the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Genocides. The measure also acknowledged the role of the Armenian Relief Fund of Australia, which provided immediate humanitarian relief to the victims and survivors of the genocide.

On March 25th, South Australia became the second Australian state (after New South Wales in 1997) to recognize the Armenian Genocide when its Parliament’s Legislative Council passed a motion recognizing the Armenian Genocide as “one of the greatest crimes against humanity”.

The report revealed that upon Ersavci’s request, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Stephen Smith, “had written to South Australian Premier Mike Rann outlining the federal Government’s position ‘on these historical events’ in Turkey at the time the remnants of the once mighty Ottoman Empire gave way to the new republic”.

“It is completely undemocratic that the ambassador of a foreign nation forces our Foreign Affairs Minister to lobby the Premier of South Australia,” commented Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia) President, Varant Meguerditchian. “Mr. Ersavci’s actions are a direct attempt to gag our politicians from speaking truthfully about our proud history.”

ANC Australia has called upon the Australian Government to review its official position, in light of eyewitness testimony from ANZAC soldiers held captive in Turkey during WWI, and the overwhelming body of evidence which demonstrates Australia’s involvement in providing aid to the orphaned survivors of the Armenian Genocide,

“Australia can no longer avoid or stay silent on this issue when it is so closely intertwined with Australia’s proud history,” Meguerditchian said.

“We call on the Federal Government of Australia to remain resilient in the face of foreign pressure and independently acknowledge the common history of the Armenian and Australian nations,” he said.

During the last days of the Ottoman Empire, the Government implemented a policy of Genocide upon its Christian Armenian population. As a result, up to 1.5million Armenian men, women and children lost their lives between 1915 and 1922.

Adding weight to the importance of recognizing the Armenian Genocide is the research conducted by the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies that discovered records of Australia’s humanitarian assistance to Armenians following the genocide and testimonies by ANZAC soldiers to atrocities against the Armenians as they occurred.

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