Australia (AINA) — In a speech to the New South Wales Parliament on Wednesday, August 21, 2013, the Rev Fred Nile said the following to the Turkish Consul-General concerning Armenian, Assyrian and Hellenic-Greek genocides:
Armenian, Assyrian And Greek Genocides
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [6.11 p.m.]: I wish to speak on the genocide of the Indigenous Assyrian, Armenian and Hellenic Greek populations of the Ottoman Empire. Part of this adjournment speech is a response to the Hon. Charlie Lynn’s previous adjournment speech. I take this opportunity to clarify or go into more depth on the Australian historical sources from which I have drawn my conclusions. The term “genocide” was coined by Polish jurist Raphael Lemkin in 1943, drawing heavily on the experiences of the Armenians, Assyrians and Hellenic Greeks. As Lemkin stated in a radio broadcast on 23 December 1947, “History and the present are full of genocide cases. Christians of various denominations, Moslems and Jews, Armenians and Slavs, Greeks and Russians, dark skinned Hereros in Africa and white skinned Poles perished by millions from this crime.” Writing in Gallipoli Mission two decades earlier, Charles W. Bean noted “the attempts by some Turkish leaders to exterminate this people, and the dreadful means used before and during the war”.
Almost 300 Anzacs were taken prisoner by the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Approximately 67 were captured around Anzac Cove. In addition, there were the 30 crew members of the Australian submarine HMAS AE2, which sunk on 30 April 1915, and approximately 200 others from the battle fronts in Sinai, Palestine and Mesopotamia. There are published and unpublished repatriated prisoner-of-war statements, diaries and letters from Anzac records, witnessing and hearing about atrocities committed against the Indigenous Hellenic Greek, Armenian and Assyrian peoples of the Ottoman Empire. The diary of Private Daniel Bartholomew Creedon of the 9th Battalion, AIF, is but one example of material in the Australian War Memorial relating to the genocides. Captured on Gallipoli on 28 June 1915, Creedon recorded how in the Ankara region he was held at different rimes “in an old Monastery” and “in the church”. On 2 February 1916 Creedon made the following entry:
The people say the Turks killed one and a quarter million Armenians.
Private Daniel Creedon died in Angora, or Ankara, on 27 February 1917, aged 23 years. Without a known grave, he is commemorated on Memorial 49 in the Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery, Iraq. The Dunsterforce was a small British army including 22 Australians that “was despatched by the War Office to hold the Turks back from Persia and the Indian frontier”. In his unpublished memoir, the original of which is kept in the Australian War Memorial, Captain–later Lieutenant-General–Stanley George Savige wrote:
The unfortunate women folk were so overcome at the sight of the first party of British that they wept aloud. They would call down upon us the blessings of God and rush across and kiss our hands and boots in very joy at the sight of their first deliverance from the cruel raids of the Turks. We could not save them all … with lumps in our throats we ignored the cries of the helpless in our endeavour to save as many as we could.
In a 1919 interview with Sydney’s Sunday Times, Captain J. M. Sorrell, M.M., said:
It was almost a hopeless task as the road for a hundred mile was thick with refugees. The suffering was very great, and in spite of all that our people could do thousands succumbed to starvation, disease and exhaustion. It was a ghastly business, and the trail was well marked with bodies of human beings and all kinds of animals
The crux of this debate is the individual and collective right to memory. Since when is remembering the past hate speech? Is it hate speech to speak of the Aboriginal resistance to British colonisation of Australia? Is it recalling hatreds, real or imagined, to commemorate the Shoah, the Jewish Genocide, or Timorese or Papuan suffering under the Japanese in World War II? Historical debate often involves offence being taken by individuals, especially when entrenched positions are being undermined. When the Armenian genocide commemorations can be openly held within the Republic of Turkey, it is conciliation, not “ideological and religious hatred” that is being fostered. The mayor of the major city of Diyarbekir in the country’s south-cast invited Armenians and Assyrians to return to the city built by their ancestors to attend a commemoration on 23 April this year in the city’s Metropolitan Municipality Theatre. In closing, I quote the Premier of our great State, the Hon. Barry O’Farrell, MP on the recognition of the genocides of the Armenian, Assyrian and Hellenic Genocides: “…such historical events is to ensure that, as a community, we work to prevent any repeat of such incidents in the future.”