NSW parliament recognises Greek genocide

Greek families crying for their relatives (Smyrna massacre, 1922).
Greek families crying for their relatives (Smyrna massacre, 1922).
NSW parliament “condemns the genocides of the Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks, and all other acts of genocide as the ultimate act of intolerance” 

A motion recognising the Greek, Assyrian and Armenian genocide was passed unanimously by the Parliament of NSW Legislative Council, after the request of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, the Australian Hellenic Council and the Armenian National Committee.
While in 1997 the NSW Parliament passed a motion recognising the genocide of the Armenians, on Wednesday 1 May the House recognised that between 1914-1923, Greeks and Assyrians were subjected to qualitatively similar genocides by the then Ottoman Government.

The motion passed reads that the NSW Parliament “condemns the genocides of the Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks, and all other acts of genocide as the ultimate act of intolerance”. The motion also called on the Commonwealth Government to condemn the genocides of the Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks.

“This recognition will act as a powerful counter to those, especially in present-day Turkey, who still ignore or deny outright the genocides of the Ottoman Christian minorities,” said Mr Hermiz Shahen, the Deputy Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance. In his announcement, Mr Shahen thanked the Australian Hellenic Council and the Armenian National Committee, whose cooperation on the issue was crowned with Wednesday’s genocide recognition by the NSW Parliament.

According to Assyria Times, the member of the NSW Legislative Council and President of the Australian Christian Party Fred Nile, was responsible for moving the motion on 30 April and the rectification of the historical injustice. Mr Nile also demanded that the State of Turkey recognises and apologises for the Genocide.

“In remembering these events, we do not seek to apportion blame. This is a matter of history, and history must neither be erased nor forgotten.”

“People of our great state donated generously to save the lives of those who had reached sanctuary in Greece, French Syria, British Iraq and British Palestine. The story of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Genocides are a part of the Australian story and deserve their rightful place in that narrative,” Fred Nile said in his adjournment speech.

“When the Anzacs landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula, there were Greek people living there, tilling the soil and fishing the waters. There were also Turkish tax collectors, police and soldiers. The non-Turks are the people who were deported; these are the people who were massacred during World War I and after,” Nile said.

In his speech, Fred Nile referred specifically to Dr Panayiotis Diamadis and Mr Vicken Babkenian, Directors of the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, whose pioneering research into the Australia’s relationship to the Armenian, Greeks and Assyrian Genocides has returned to the light of day this issue for the people of New South Wales.

“Recognition of historical events, and above all the recognition of genocide, is a human right issue and is very much a part of the Australian story. It’s not a foreign problem that has been brought to this country. For our community, it’s recognition of some of the pioneers of the community who came here directly from Pontos and Asia Minor, especially in Victoria. It’s recognition of their heritage and it’s a very important step politically for our community, in showing that these issues are not just a hundred years old problems that we can forget about, but are very much current because of the impact they have on generations later. These are not historic issues, but issues of international law and human rights essentially,” Panayiotis Diamadis, director of the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies told Neos Kosmos.

Dr Diamadis said it took long time to convince political parties and conduct a research that would prove the genocide was not a matter of foreign policy, but an Australian story, with Australian own servicemen witnessing the suffering of Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks.

“This is why the Australian Institute of Genocide studies specifically focuses on the Australian relationship – Australian eye witnesses, Australian aid activists who helped rebuild refugees’ lives, making it part of Australian story. We now want to bring it to Australian curriculum of the history for schools, as part of the existing subjects.”

For Dr Panayiotis Diamadis, it has been a “great honour” to contribute to the research and the recognition of the Genocide in the NSW Parliament.

“It’s another step forward. Our ultimate goal is to have a similar resolution in Federal Parliament. We have been working towards it for years – we believe the support is growing, but there are still especially political concerns to get over. We believe that with education we can educate our parliamentarians to see that this is not just a foreign policy issue, it’s a human rights issue, it’s a legal issue, and very much it’s part of the Australian story,” Dr Diamandis said.

New South Wales Parliament became the second Australian state to recognise the Greek, Assyrian and Armenian Genocide.The parliament of South Australia became the first legislative body in the world to recognise the genocide of the Assyrians and Greeks in 2009.

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