O’Farrell faces Gallipoli threat

By Bianca Martins
Not happy: David David, Simon Essavian, William David, Paul Azzo and Hermiz Shahen — all members of the Assyrian community — at the Bonnyrigg monument. Picture: Luke Fuda

PREMIER Barry O’Farrell and all NSW Parliament members may be banned from the centenary commemorations in Gallipoli in 2015, the Turkish Government has warned.

The announcement was made after a motion officially recognising the genocide of Assyrian people at the hands of the then Turkish Ottoman was passed unanimously by the NSW Legislative Council in May.

The Turkish government has strongly condemned the motion and says it is not compatible with historical facts.

Members of the local Assyrian community argue otherwise.

Recently they successfully lobbied Fairfield Council to change the wording on a monument in Bonnyrigg and a plaque in Fairfield commemorating what they call the Assyrian genocide.

Fairfield councillor Ninos Khoshaba, who raised the motion in Parliament when he was the Smithfield MP, said he was disappointed by the Turkish threat to ban NSW MPs from attending the Gallipoli service.

“I think they are being a little unreasonable and it’s disappointing to take that stance, but it’s a decision they need to live with,” he said.

“This is something that happened 100 years ago. It’s not a reflection of the current government or the Turkish people here in Australia.

“This genocide was committed by the then Ottoman Empire and it was their own people who overthrew the Ottoman Empire during that time.”

Cr Khoshaba said it was also disappointing that people were trying to defend the genocide.

“As for being barred, it was their decision,” he said.

“I’m not going to lose any sleep over not being allowed to go to Turkey.”

But the local Turkish community disagree with the Assyrian interpretation of the incident, which took place during World War I.

Turkish community spokesman Adem Cetinay said he supported the decision made by the Turkish government.

“I think it’s too soft,” he said.

“You can’t be someone’s friend and then not their friend at the same time. It was both sides of Parliament that passed this motion, which was even sadder.

“There’s no evidence than genocide took place. It’s all fabricated evidence.”

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But the Assyrian Universal Alliance’s deputy secretary-general, Hermiz Shahen, said millions of Christians perished because of the genocide.

“The Ottoman Empire carried out ethnic cleansing against all the Christian nations — the Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians,” he said.

“This is a fact that they cannot deny — millions of indigenous ethnic people perished because of it. It’s unfortunate that they are trying to deny the facts. We want to forget the past, but how can we forget it when Turkey aren’t apologising for what happened and giving relief for people to leave history behind.

“They are threatening sovereignty to do what they think is the right thing. And it’s not right.”