Updated: Apr 26, 2021
Sydney 25 April 2021
Under the slogan of "March of Justice 2021", advocacy groups representing the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek communities participated in a huge march in Sydney and Melbourne on Saturday, April 24th to commemorate the 1915 genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.
This collaborative march came as a step forward of the Joint Justice Initiative. Since it was launched in February 2020 by three Australian organizations: the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU), the Assyrian National Council – Australia and the Australian Hellenic Council. More than 40 Federal Parliamentarians signed the Joint Justice Initiative and pledged allegiance to Australia's national recognition of the 1915 genocide.
The Joint Justice Initiative sends a clear message to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his government - that these communities are demanding the Federal government's recognition of the genocide of Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks.
Led by the Homenetmen Scouts Marching band, the leading delegation included political representatives, clergy, community leaders, youth groups and school students from the Armenian-Australian, Assyrian-Australian, and Greek-Australian communities.
"Most Armenian-Australians, as well as many Assyrian-Australians and Greek-Australians, are direct descendants of survivors of what we commemorate as the Armenian Genocide”.
At the conclusion of this march, many speeches were delivered by the representatives of the state and the three communities, including the following speech by the President of the Assyrian National Council – Australia, Mr. Hermiz Shahen:
To Your eminence Rev Fathers, honourable members of State and Federal Parliaments, To all Peace-loving people who have gathered here, To the organisers of this gathering, The Armenian National Committee of Australia Greetings from the Assyrians of Australia. Shlama Ashuraya We, representatives of the Assyrian community in Australia, are gathered here in solidarity with our brothers, The Armenians, and Greeks. We are here to March for Justice and to get our voices heard for the crimes against humanity committed against our three nations by Ottoman Turkey during their infamous and shameful genocide. On this Day, we honour those who were murdered and reflect on the suffering and resilience of those who survived. We are gathered here today to join in solem remembrance of the genocide of 1915 that was perpetrated by Ottoman Turkey and the 106 years that have passed since that horror….. As we recall the genocide, and reflect on its aftermath, we acknowledge the ways in which the Assyrian, Greek and Armenian people have sought to find healing and move forward. We will always remember our victims of this dreadful genocide so that even those who did not experience it may learn of its cruel nature, its terrible causes and draw lessons that will make it impossible to repeat. Every year on 9 December, the United Nations marks the adoption of the Genocide Convention, which is also the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime. Importantly, the Convention establishes on State Parties the obligation to take measures to prevent and to punish the perpetrators of the crime of genocide. as of July 2019, 152, States have ratified or agreed to this convention including Australia. Yet when it comes to implementation, most of these countries do not adhere to their commitment. Over three million Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks citizens of Turkey were slaughtered by Ottoman Turkey without a question asked, and the world resolve to stay silent in recognising and condemning the perpetrators. As for the Assyrians, … for centuries, genocides, massacres and forced removal have become a normal way of life for our people. To this day, history is repeating itself for them. We have been systematically driven out from our ancestral lands in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. Assyrians have been subject to gross violations of their human rights by way of murder, rape, assault, and forced conversions to Islam by these undemocratic governments in the Middle East. on April 7, 2021, priest Sefer (Aho) from the Mor Yakup Church of the Syriac Orthodox was handed down a 25-month prison sentence on charges of aiding the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) by a court in south eastern Turkey. Our community in Australia and all over the world are demanding the Turkish government for his release. The Armenian newspaper Agos reported two weeks ago that a parking lot is being built on the grounds of the Monastery of St. Efrem in Mardin, belonging to the Syriac Catholic Church.
A Catholic priest named Father Remzi Diril, who used to visit Iraqi Christian refugee families in Turkey providing them with religious services, also faced harassment. Father Diril's elderly parents--71- and 65-year-old residents of a tiny Christian community--were kidnapped from their home in 2020. his mother's body was found naked, with signs of torture but his father is missing till this day. In July 2020, Erdogan officially turned the historic church of Aya Sophia into a mosque. In September 2020 Turkey’s Erdogan initiated an evil Alliance and aggression against the independence of Artsakh which included the deployment of Turkey-backed Jihadists to Baku. Now the Islamist regime of Erdogan and his neo-Ottoman agenda has magnified Turkey's anti-Christian hostility. His glorification of the Ottoman 'spirit of conquest', and references to the 'right of the sword' in converting Aya Sophia and other churches, have downgraded Turkey's Christian citizens to an inferior rank of conquered minorities. his words not only insult the victims and the survivors of the genocide but also endangers the safety of the dwindling Christian community of Turkey. Erdogan is simply doing what his ancestors have done in the past. He is a denialist and obstructer of justice, ……Shame on Erdogan, …. Shame on your fascistic regime . From this official platform, we raise our voice and promise that we will continue seeking justice for our Martyrs ‘innocent souls and the recognition of the Assyrian, Armenian and Greek genocides. Justice will only be served for our nations and our martyrs by acknowledging and condemning the actions of those responsible- the Ottoman Turks and by calling on Turkey - being the legal successor of the Ottoman Empire - to admit and account for the crimes of their ancestors. Accordingly, we call upon the Australian Prime Minister the Hon Scott Morrison MP and the Australia Federal government to stand in the international spotlight as representative for the free nations of the world and as the leading champion in the realm of democracy and human rights, to recognise and condemn the perpetrators of this genocide, The Ottoman Turks. Glory and honour to our Assyrian, Armenian and Greek martyrs.