Turks oppose Assyrian monument in Bonnyrigg

newsLocal by Carleen Frost
 Turkish community members are rallying against the Assyrian genocide memorial, proposed for Bonnyrigg. (composite image)
ERECTING a monument to honour Assyrian victims of genocide could spark a violent racial feud in Fairfield, according to the city’s Turkish community.

The Turks were accused of killing as many as 750,000 Assyrians during World War I. However no Australian government has ever officially recognised the massacre.

In NSW the event has been recognised by the Local Government Association but not by State Parliament.

Bossley Park resident Adem Cetinay said many Turkish people believed their countrymen were not responsible for the slaughter.

He has collected 800 signatures on a petition opposing the “offensive” monument.

“We don’t believe that genocide took place,” he said. “This is going to cause a real division in our community.”

In June, the Assyrian Universal Alliance lodged a proposal with Fairfield Council to erect a 4.5m-high monument and name a Bonnyrigg park the Garden of Nineveh, after the ancient holy capital of Assyria.

More than 80 local residents submitted comments to council on the proposal before the community consultation period ended last week. Councillors will vote on the plans at Tuesday’s monthly meeting.

Mr Cetinay said the city’s five Assyrian councillors – deputy mayor Anwar Khoshaba, Albert Mooshi, Sam Yousif, Zaya Toma and Andrew Rohan – should abstain from voting.

Crs Khoshaba, Mooshi and Yousif have previously declared they have “very close” relationships with the Assyrian Universal Alliance.

“Not to do so would mar the council’s decision-making process as being tainted by conflict and bias,” Mr Cetinay said.

The plans have been backed by Smithfield State Labor MP Ninos Khoshaba, who is Cr Khoshaba’s son, but opposed by Fowler Federal Labor MP Julia Irwin.

Armenian National Committee of Australia president Varant Meguerditchian said it was well known that the Assyrian genocide took place.

He said the Assyrians and the Armenians were both slaughtered by the Turks during World War I.

The Armenian genocide has been recognised by the NSW Parliament and the South Australian Government.

Mr Meguerditchian said that, although the genocides occurred concurrently, the Armenian community had been more vocal in having the event recognised.

“It has been recognised by more than 70 governments around the world,” he said.

State Government lobbyist Joseph Adams, of Canley Heights, said he wanted the NSW Parliament to officially recognise the Assyrian genocide before any monument was built.

“I have no doubt this event happened,” he said “My ancestors were involved in this.”