AUA media release regarding the Assyrian Martyrs Day

Sydney – August 12, 2013.
The Australian Assyrian community commemorated Assyrian Martyrs and Genocide day on Sunday 4th August 2013. A prayer dedicated to the victims of the genocide was held at St Hurmizd Cathedral and St Mary’s Church of the Assyrian Church of the East, followed by a wreath laying ceremony at the Assyrian Genocide Monument at Bonnyrigg Park, Bonnyrigg. Prayers were offered for the souls of the martyrs, incense and flowers were placed in their memory. The monument was erected in remembrance of the 750,000 Assyrian souls who perished during the 1914 to 1923 genocide perpetrated against the Assyrian Nation at the hands of Ottoman Turkey.
On the evening of the same day a seminar was organized by the Assyrian Universal Alliance Australian Chapter (AUA) together with the Assyrian Australian National Federation at Ur Ashur Club. Guest speaker Dr. Panayiotis Diamadis, President of the Australian Hellenic Educators “Association” and Director of the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies presented a topic titled “Assyrian Genocide in the Australian Classroom”.
The formal proceedings began with the Australian and Assyrian national anthems, then the Master of ceremonies Mr. Ninos Aaron, Chairman of The Young Assyrians of the Assyrian Universal Alliance – Australia, welcomed the attendees and invited Rev. Ninos Elya to bless the event with a prayer.
The event saw speeches from local and federal politicians, The Hon Chris Bowen MP, The Treasurer of Australia, Mr Craig Kelly MP, member for Hughes, Rev the Hon Honourable Fred Nile MLC, President of the Australian Christian Democratic Party and Mr Guy Zangari MP, Shadow Minister for Citizenship & Communities, and Deputy Chairman of Assyria Parliamentary Friendship Group.
AUA Deputy Secretary General, Mr Hermiz Shahen said: “The 7th of August has been designated, by the AUA, as a memorial day for Assyrian Martyrs slaughtered at the hands of the Ottoman army during WW1, and those who were cruelly martyred by the Iraqi Army in August 1933, one year after Iraq declared its independence. This Memorial Day not only remembers a dark time in our nation’s history, it speaks also of what is occurring today – and calls for a just intervention by all people and nations who value humanity.”
Mr Shahen thanked the Honorable Chris Bowen MP, for raising a motion on the 30th May this year, spearheaded by the AUA, in support of the demand for the establishment of an autonomous province for the Assyrians and all historical Christians in the Nineveh Plains. He also thanked the Hon Fred Nile MLC for moving a successful motion on 1st May 2013 recognising the Assyrian and Greek genocide, as well as reaffirming the Armenian genocide, in the Legislative Council of the NSW State Parliament. Mr Shahen thanked the Hon Barry O’Farrell, Premier of NSW for the recognition of this genocide in the Legislative Assembly of NSW State Parliament on 8 May 2013.
Mr Chris Bowen MP stated “tonight we remember great people who gave their lives for no crime or sin but purely because they were Assyrian, they are rightly remembered as martyrs, and we can
honour them and do them best by continuing to work for the freedom of the Assyrian People in the Middle East, by continuing to work on the administrative and autonomous homeland that the AUA has so passionately and effectively put on the national and international agenda which we are pleased to work with them on”.
He went on to say “That we can continue to say to the rest of the world that Australia stands very clearly on the side of the Assyrian people who ask for nothing more than a chance to live in freedom and peace in their homeland which they are the indigenous people. That Australia should say that Assyrians whether they live in Iraq or Syria or Turkey or Lebanon or Iran should have the chance to have what we in Australia have to offer”.
“We will stand with the Assyrian people and will continue to stand with the Assyrian people until that day comes when the Assyrian people will live in freedom. That is not an aspiration but a fact, and I know the day will come and Australia will be a friend, ally, advocate and provider of haven through our immigration programs for the Assyrian people” he said.
Mr. David M. David, President of the Assyrian Australia National Federation welcomed all the guests including the representatives of the Assyrian organisations as well as the representatives of the Local, State and Federal Government. He thanked them for their attendance and strong support over years.
Dr Panayiotis Diamadis began his presentation by highlighting that “a number of our speakers have all focused on the importance of memory and what happens in the past to the present, this is why teaching Assyrian genocide and Assyrian history is important”.
“The effort will be to produce appropriate classroom resources and activities highlighting the role genocide has played in the Australian story in the last century. This effort will not be restricted to the history classroom – it will be extended across the curriculum” Dr Diamadis said.
Dr Panayiotis emphasized that “Education is the best way to prevent future genocides. This is why the recent NSW Board of Studies announcement is of such importance: by studying genocide and its impacts, we learn about the forces that shaped Australia and the world. “The Turkish state convinced itself more or less that denialism is the only path to follow”.
Mr Guy Zangari MP congratulated the parents and the many young Australian Assyrians for attending this commemoration and applauded their ability to speak in their mother tongue.
Mr Zangari said, “I believe that things that happened in the past should always be remembered and commemorated” and went on to emphasize the importance “to remember our mothers and fathers who suffered at the hands of people who were really not human”.
“It was quite remarkable to hear Dr Diamadis saying that Australia has played a significant role in extending the hand of friendship to the Assyrian community in the last century, and of course your choice to come to this country further strengthens the fact that we have a wonderful relationship,” he said.
Mr Craig Kelly MP said, “if we look at the situation in the Middle East today, in Egypt , in Syria and in Iraq we see the conditions of persecution of the Christian minorities continues, and that is the danger, and that is why it is so important that we remember and make sure the world is aware of what happened to the Assyrian community close to one hundred years ago”.
“As a member for the 43rd parliament of Australia, I will be very proud to stand up and speak on and support motions speaking for the recognition of the genocide and also calling for the autonomous region in North West Iraq for the Assyrian people, I truly believe that autonomous region is the key to the peace and the future of the Assyrian community and other Christian communities in the Middle East,” he said.
Rev the Hon. Fred Nile MLC thanked those who congratulated him for moving the motion in the State Parliament. “I want to express my appreciation to the AUA leaders and other who helped prepare the motion and gave me advice and assistance and also I thank the leaders of all the parties in the State Parliament who all enthusiastically supported the motion, so the motion could be passed unanimously. And for that I had a very nasty letter from the Turkish Consul General in which he accused me of hate speech. Of course none of that will have any effect on me, I strive to stand up for truth in opposing evil in all various forms.”
Other speakers were Mr Simon Essavian, President of the Assyrian Charity and educational community which hosted the commemoration. Melani Alkhas from the Young Assyrians of the AUA presented on the importance of not forgetting. Mrs Carmen Lazar, People Of Australia Ambassador, and principle of Diqlat Assyrian School of the Assyrian Australian Association arranged for three students to speak on various topics, they were Esho Reiad, Cadena Simonyans and Mark Sinawi.
The commemorative evening also included several moving pieces of poetry by well know Assyrian poets Mr Yosip Minashi and Ms Wilma Dinkha.
Assyrian Universal Alliance- Australian Chapter
PO Box 34, Fairfield NSW 1860 Australia.