Federal Armenian Genocide recognition drive gathers pace in Australia [VIDEOS + ACTION ALERT]

By armenia.com.au | Tuesday, 31 May 2011

CANBERRA: Armenian Genocide recognition became the dominant topic of a Federal parliamentary sitting on Monday, when three Members of Parliament in Joe Hockey, John Alexander and Paul Fletcher called for Australia to join the list of countries which have recognised and condemned the first genocide of the 20th century.

The committee room which hosted the three statements also included Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd, who heard the calls of his three paliamentary colleagues loud and clear.

The three MPs declared that the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian-Australian community are united in their objective to achieve universal recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and that a resolution by the Australian Federal Parliament was long overdue.

Hockey, who spoke first, set the tone for the session when he stated: “The drive to have the Armenian Genocide formally recognised is now stronger than ever. A new generation of Armenians have become determined to see all governments around the world recognise the events of 1915 for what they were, the systemic genocide of the Armenians.”

The Shadow Treasurer continued: “As a nation we were brought together as immigrants, in viewing the values of tolerance, understanding and a fair go, it’s time we recognise the facts of the past to ensure the future does not contain such deplorable acts as the Armenian Genocide.”

Alexander, whose electorate of Bennelong is home to the largest Armenian-Australian community, was next to speak.

Bringing the issue to the House floor for the second time in as many months, Alexander this time drew attention to the recent vandalism of the Armenian Genocide Monument in Sydney.

He said: “The simple plaque and foundation stone memorialising the 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children massacred by the Ottoman Government was smashed and removed just weeks after the annual Ryde Council Armenian Genocide commemoration. It is reassuring to note that Ryde Council will be constructing a larger, stronger and more vandal-proof Armenian Genocide Memorial in its place.”

Recalling the testimonies of ANZAC soldiers who lay witness to the Armenian Genocide, Alexander continued: “During World War One, almost 400 ANZAC soldiers witnessed the massacre of Hellenes, Armenians and Assyrians whilst imprisoned as POW’s by the Ottoman Empire. In a number of their memoirs we read of the starvation, the massacre and the suffering of the inhabitants of these lands.”

Alexander's speech also represented a significant milestone, as it brought to light for the first time in the Federal Parliament, the Genocide of the Hellenes and Assyrians, who were also subject to the same Ottoman policy of genocide as the Armenians.

Fletcher then rose to show support for the Armenian community.

“In modern times Mr Deputy Speaker we have witnessed the atrocity of the Armenian Genocide which began on April the 24th 1915. Regrettably, the Armenian Genocide has not yet been recognised by the Australian government and I join with my parliamentary colleague Mr Hockey and my parliamentary colleague Mr Alexander in calling for that to happen.”

Immediately following the Armenian Genocide discussion, the Deputy Speaker of the House commented: “I am sure that all members would associate themselves with the sentiments expressed by these honourable members.”

Rudd, formerly Prime Minister, is the current architect of Australia’s  policy on the Armenian Genocide as Foreign Affairs Minister.

Upon hearing the statements, he preceded his statement on an unrelated topic with: “Thank you very much Mr Deputy Speaker. It is important in this place to reflect on significant events in our communities."

With a rise in support for recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Australia, pressure is now building on Rudd to adopt a policy recognising the Armenian Genocide as a crime against humanity.

ANC Australia Executive Director Varant Meguerditchian said: “This once-taboo issue has now become a dominant topic on the floor of the Federal parliament.”

“We thank our righteous representatives Mr Hockey, Mr Alexander and Mr Fletcher for leading the cause for change on the Australian government’s policy regarding the Armenian Genocide.”

The parliamentary sitting dominated by calls for Armenian Genocide recognition echoed a recent declaration by the Shadow Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison, who just days ago placed on parliamentary record his belief that the Armenian Genocide was one of the greatest crimes against humanity.