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Genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 11 May 2023

Tags: Violence, Condolence

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I also recognise and support this motion. It is something that my whole life I have wondered why Australia has not done this before. It is long past time to recognise the millions of people who were murdered in a program of ethnic and religious erasure. It was a program that was systematically carried out in an organised fashion across eight years. It started and continued with the deliberate intent to eliminate all Armenian people and it was described to be a final solution.

It is important to understand that this was a systematic and organised process. I will not describe the details that other people have talked about, but it is worth reading into the record what was done and what was done in advance by members of the Ottoman Turks, the Ittihad Central Committee that was in charge at the time in 1915.

On 2 February, a member of the committee advised the German ambassador that the war is the only propitious moment to conclude the Armenian question. That was at the time where there was a slow and continuous build up of murders, rapes, public hangings, and the incarceration of intellectuals, particularly of Armenian leaders. Massacres, stealing and looting of property were commonplace throughout this early period.

It was in April 1915 that the famous monastery of Zeitun was burnt by the Turks. It was one of many attacks and attempts to obliterate Orthodox Christian culture and community, and to purposely try to affect the spirit of the Armenian people. It did not work but it was carried out extensively.

It was by May 1915 that the New York Times reported that the Young Turks had adopted a policy to annihilate the Armenians. In June that year, another member of the Ittihad Central Committee, Enver, issued an announcement that they would give the Armenians a new and final residence. It was in June that they dispatched directions concerning forced deportations, where Armenians were deported to the Syrian desert and, in mass numbers, left there to starve without water. This was such a regular number of deportations that they had to advise the precautions of separating the convoys of Armenian deportees by a distance of five hours. We can only imagine how many people. These were massacres of Armenian Christians, Maronites, Nestorians, Europeans, Catholics and other non-Muslim people that occurred throughout that time.

It was Ambassador Henry Morgenthau who reported in August that the committee had told him that they had carefully considered in all its details the matter of crushing the Armenians, and that the policy being pursued was that which had been officially adopted. Morgenthau was also told that deporations were not the result of hasty decisions but of careful and prolonged deliberations, and that three quarters of the Armenians had already been disposed of. This was a systematic plan to annihilate the Armenian population and it nearly worked. But it did not.

It is incredibly important, as others have said, to recognise the lessons of history and to understand that our silence is effectively a denial of the reality of what happened. It diminishes responsibility. It also does not recognise the harm and suffering that has occurred for the children, the grandchildren, and the survivors of people who were murdered throughout that period, who have had to live with the silence where this genocide has not been internationally recognised.

It is important for all of us to commit to correct the historical record if it is ever incorrect, to learn the lessons of history, and to always stand and call out fascism, authoritarianism and hate crimes in all their forms. The silence of the Armenian genocide was used, as Dr Broad said.

I will read out the detail that is in the Armenian National Institute. If anyone wants to understand the reality of what happened, they just need to look at the Armenian National Institute, which is in the United States. It has developed a chronology of what is known with the day by-day evidence and reports of atrocities and horrific acts that occurred. As of August 2022, the last part of the chronology collected was from 1939. It was from Adolf Hitler, who was addressing his military commanders a week before the invasion of Poland and the start of World War II. Hitler spoke then of his orders to kill without mercy or pity all men, women and children of Polish race or language. He concluded his remarks by saying: 'Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?'

I want to respect and thank very much the people who have travelled here. It is important to be able to speak publicly and have it on the record of the Tasmanian parliament, recognition of the pain and suffering that has occurred for people in the absence of this public recognition. It does not remove that pain and suffering but it is an essential part of the process of healing, along with our commitment to always collectively stand against all forms of hate.