CANBERRA, Australia—The peak advocacy bodies of Australia’s Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek communities have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to launch the “Joint Justice Initiative” at a Cultural Cocktail event. The event was held on Tuesday, February 25 at the Australian Parliament House’s Mural Hall.
Around 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 which affirmed that the public affairs representatives of the three communities were jointly committed to seeing Australia recognize the Turkish-committed Genocide against the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian citizens of the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
The Joint Justice Initiative’s Memorandum of Understanding stipulates that the Armenian National Committee of Australia, the Assyrian Universal Alliance – Australia Chapter and the Australian Hellenic Council “shall continue and expand their cooperation and joint advocacy for the international affirmation and justice for the Genocides of the indigenous Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek populations of the Ottoman Empire perpetrated by the Ottoman Turkish government.”
Further, the document confirms the communities participating in the Joint Justice Initiative “shall jointly advocate against any attempt by the Turkish Government to use the sacred ANZAC graves in Gallipoli (and access by Australians to those graves and memorials) as ‘hostages’ or bargaining chips in coercing or persuading the Australian Government in being complicit in the Turkish State’s denial campaign with respect to the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Genocides.”
Haig Kayserian of the Armenian National Committee of Australia spoke on behalf of the Joint Justice Initiative, stating that the three communities – who are made up of descendants of survivors of the Ottoman Turkish Genocide of Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks during WWI – consider this a significant step towards the realization of their collective goals.
“The launch of the Joint Justice Initiative and our signing of this Memorandum of Understanding signals our commitment to redouble our joint efforts to ensure Australia is a party of truth and justice when it comes to the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Genocide,” he said.
“In recent years, Australia’s Parliament has seen dozens of speakers declare support for Federal recognition of the Genocide committed against our ancestors, and we believe it is past time that Canberra gives up the word games it plays on this issue in the name of a false diplomacy against a bullying foreign dictatorship.”
The Assyrian Universal Alliance – Australia Chapter’s Deputy Secretary General Hermiz Shahen declared: “Denial is the continuation of genocide, and Australia’s inaction in recognizing and condemning means we are failing the very values our country was built on.”
“It was Australians who came to the aid of Armenian, Assyrian and Greek victims of the genocide over 100 years ago, while our ANZACs witnessed the barbarity suffered by the Christian minorities deliberately targeted by the Ottoman government, and it should be in the spirit of those Australians that our political leaders stand up for what is right,” Shahen added.
The Australian Hellenic Council’s George Vellis declared: “It is time Australia stands up for human rights, truth and justice, and the Armenian-Australian, Assyrian-Australian, and Greek-Australian communities have today declared that this is an absolute priority for the country’s lawmakers and government.”
The Joint Justice Initiative invited Members of Parliament and Senators to sign a pledge that declares their support for Australia’s recognition of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Genocides, and event hosts Members of Parliament Trent Zimmerman and Joel Fitzgibbon addressed the audience as co-conveners of the Armenia-Australia Interparliamentary Union stressing their backing.
Professor Peter Stanley, who is the former Director of the Australian War Memorial and co-author of Australia, Armenia & the Great War, spoke to press the importance of Australia’s recognition of the Genocide committed against the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks of the Ottoman Empire.
The Joint Justice Initiative’s Memorandum of Understanding text in full is available below.
JOINT JUSTICE INITIATIVE – MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
ON COOPERATION BETWEEN THE ARMENIAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF AUSTRALIA, THE ASSYRIAN UNIVERSAL ALLIANCE, AND THE AUSTRALIAN HELLENIC COUNCIL
The Armenian National Committee of Australia, Assyrian Universal Alliance and the Australian Hellenic Council, hereafter the “Parties”:
A. Recognizing the historical and friendly relations between the Armenian, Assyrian and Hellenic (Greek) Nations;
B. Attaching paramount importance to the friendly relations, mutual understanding, strong solidarity, and continued close cooperation between the Armenian-Australian, Assyrian-Australian and Hellenic-Australian Communities;
C. Convinced that the cooperation and mutual ties between the three Communities should further deepen and strengthen;
D. Committed to ensuring comprehensive cooperation aimed at the further development of inter-communal ties, exchange of experience, joint deliberations and consultations in areas of mutual interest, and exchange of information on issues of mutual interest;
E. Concerned about the aggressive rhetoric and activities of the Turkish government and its allies in Australia, aimed at deliberately misleading the Australian public and government and spreading disinformation regarding the Genocide of the indigenous Armenian, Assyrian and Greek populations of the Ottoman Empire perpetrated by the Ottoman Turkish government.
DO HEREBY AGREE ON THE FOLLOWING:
- The Parties shall undertake joint advocacy and public education initiatives promoting human rights, peace and the rule of law;
- The Parties shall continue and expand their co-operation and joint advocacy for the international affirmation and justice for the Genocides of the indigenous Armenian, Assyrian and Greek, and Assyrian populations of the Ottoman Empire perpetrated by the Ottoman Turkish government;
- The Parties shall continue and expand their joint efforts in countering historical revisionism and/or denial of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocide by Turkey and its proxies;
- The Parties shall undertake work in ensuring that the Genocide perpetrated against the indigenous Armenian, Assyrian and Greek populations of the Ottoman Empire is properly taught in public and private schools and universities in Australia;
- The Parties shall collaborate closely on any Turkish Government bond divestment initiatives as well as any other punitive mechanisms for as long as the Turkish Government continues to deny the truth and bar justice for the Genocide perpetrated against the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek peoples;
- The Parties shall advocate in Australia – in particular to the Australian Government, for the protection of the fundamental human rights, including the religious, cultural and educational freedoms of the surviving Christian Communities in Turkey, including the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Communities;
- The Parties shall support the internationally recognized status of the Ecumenical Patriarch and for the reopening of the illegally closed Halki Monastery;
- The Parties shall support efforts aimed at precluding Turkish Government’s interference in the activities and governance of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople;
- The Parties shall coordinate and support efforts aimed at reparation, restitution, and retribution by the Turkish Government as a result of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Genocides, including the return to the respective Communities of all religious, national, and private property stolen or otherwise confiscated as part of the Genocides;
- The Parties shall continue to educate the Australian people about the deteriorating human rights situation and the ongoing repressions and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities and civil society activists in Turkey;
- The Parties shall jointly advocate against any attempt by the Turkish Government to use the sacred ANZAC graves in Gallipoli (and access by Australians to those graves and memorials) as “hostages” or bargaining chips in coercing or persuading the Australian Government in being complicit in the Turkish State’s denial campaign with respect to the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Genocides;
- The Parties shall coordinate and support all efforts aimed at increasing awareness of Australia’s first major, international humanitarian efforts to help save the survivors of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Genocides, in particular the orphans.