Greek Media -- It was a historic day for the Australian Assyrian community as over 2000 people assembled for the unveiling of the world’s first monument to the victims of the Assyrian Genocide to be erected in a public space. In a proud display of solidarity, the Australian Hellenic and Australian Armenian communities were both well-represented, joining members of Federal, state and local politics on an occasion of remembrance and celebration.
The Assyrian Genocide Monument at Bonnyrigg in Sydney’s south-western suburbs is an initiative of the Assyrian Universal Alliance - Australian Chapter, with Mr Hermiz Shahen as Secretary. It is dedicated to the victims of the Assyrian genocide (SEYFO) during and after World War One 1914-1918, committed by the Ottoman Turkish Empire as well as the victims of the 1933 Simele massacre in Iraq and all Assyrian martyrs since then.
One of the most powerful addresses of the day was delivered by the Hon. Amanda Fazio MLC, President of the Legislative Council of the Parliament of NSW. Focusing on efforts by opponents of the Monument, Ms Fazio stated that “in the way Jewish Holocaust deniers are reviled, so should deniers of the Assyrian, Armenian and Greek Genocides be reviled”.
The theme of the shared suffering of the Assyrian, Armenian and Hellenic peoples was echoed by all the speakers, both during the ceremony and during the seminar that followed. Messages of support were also delivered by His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia, Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church of the East Australia and New Zealand, Mr Nick Lalich (Member for Cabramatta and Mayor of the City of Fairfield), Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (Liberal Senator for New South Wales), the Hon. Ninos Khoshaba (Member for Smithfield), Mr Victor Dominello (Member for Ryde), and Rev. the Hon. Fred Nile MLC.
On behalf of the Australian Hellenic Council (NSW), Dr Panayiotis Diamadis (Secretary) spoke about the common desire of the Australian Assyrian, Australian Hellenic and Australian Armenian communities for recognition of their common experience of genocide in the 20th century.
“It was supremely appropriate for the indigenous people of Australia to welcome the indigenous people of Bet-Nahrain (Mesopotamia) in commemorating a common experience: genocide”.
Dr Diamadis also referred extensively to the demand of the Australian Hellenic Council, the Armenian National and the Assyrian Universal Alliance for recognition of the Assyrian, Armenian and Hellenic Genocides by the Federal and regional parliaments of the Commonwealth. The Programme included a joint statement of the three public affairs bodies on the Genocide Recognition issue.
The Australian Hellenic community representation was very noticeable, with a number of Hellenic national flags and young members of the “Argonautes”.
Association dressed in traditional Pontian costume. The Australian Hellenic Council Coordinator, Mr George Vellis, committee member Petros Kalligas and the leader of the Friends of the AHC, Mr Lambros
Papadopoulos, were in attendance with a number of committee members. Also the Pan-Pontian Brotherhood “Pontoxeniteas” President, Mr Dimitrios Kouklides and committee, as well as a large delegation from the Pontian Folkloric and Cultural Association “Argonautes”.
The historic event also attracted representation from Melbourne, with the Return To Anatolia organisation Chairperson Mrs Sofia Kotanides being joined by committee member Helen Papaioannou.
Mr Tsimbidis from the Pontian Federation of Melbourne was also present.
The monument unveiling was the latest expression of solidarity by the Australian Hellenic community to the Australian Assyrian community. Thousands of Assyrians found safe haven in Hellas and Cyprus during the Genocide of 1914-1924. Thousands more fled persecution in Republican Turkey and Iraq, before joining relatives in Australia. It is part of a relationship that stretches back millennia.
“It was a historic day during which the eternal flame within was reignited,” stated AHC NSW Coordinator George Vellis. “In order to allow us to move forward and put the millions of souls to rest, we call upon the governments of the world to recognise the genocides of the three peoples. Lest we forget”.
With this joint presence at the monument unveiling, the Australian Assyrian, Australian Hellenic and Australian Armenian communities declared in no uncertain terms their desire for recognition of their common experience of genocide by the political representatives of their adopted homeland.