CANBERRA: The Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia) has labelled a recent statement by Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop on the Armenian Genocide “unacceptable”, and called on the Australian government to reverse this error in judgment.Jul 26, 2014 (Curiously, that link is now broken and the article no longer accessible. But we got hold to the text anyway!)
In a letter addressed to the Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance, Bishop extraordinarily denies the historical reality of the first genocide of the 20th century by stating “we, do not however, recognise these events as ‘genocide’.”
“While recent Australian governments have not referred to the Armenian Genocide as ‘genocide’, they have done so by describing the events in some detail, then referring to the ‘genocide’ as ‘tragic events’ or with other euphemisms,” said ANC Australia Executive Director, Vache Kahramanian.
“While these euphemisms will always be unacceptable, they were consistent with other deniers in the Western world. Bishop’s statement of outright denial of the Armenian Genocide takes Australia almost as far back as Turkey on this issue.”
Continued below the fold!
Australia Must Dismiss Foreign Minister For Denying the Armenian Genocide
By Harut Sassounian–www.TheCaliforniaCourier.com
The Turkish Sabah newspaper published last week the following disturbing news: “Australian FM: Armenian Case not Genocide.”
Sabah described the events that led to its nefarious headline. Gunay Evinch, board member and past president of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), had recently visited Australia to brief local Turkish groups on the Movsesian lawsuit. He told them that “the United States Supreme Court let stand a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision invalidating a California law that had defined the Armenian case as genocide, because it was US federal policy not to define the Armenian case as genocide.”
Sabah also reported that Evinch’s visit was “a part of a broader Anglo-Turkish Diaspora Cooperation Program in which Turks in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Jersey (sic) share best practices based on a common jurisprudential and political heritage.”
Following Evinch’s advice, Ertunc Ozen, President of Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance, wrote to Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on May 5, “expressing concern at motions passed by the parliament of New South Wales in May 2013 regarding Turkey and the fate of various communities of the Ottoman Empire during and after World War I.”
Foreign Minister Bishop wrote to Ozen on June 4: “The Australian Government acknowledges the devastating effects which the tragic events at the end of the Ottoman Empire have had on later generations, and on their identity, heritage and culture.” Astonishingly, she added: “We do not, however, recognize these events as ‘genocide.’ Australian states and territories have no constitutional role in the formulation of Australian foreign policy. While respecting the rights of individuals and groups to have strong views on the matter, the long-standing and clear approach of the Australian Government has been not to become involved in this sensitive debate.”
The Foreign Minister is wrong on three counts: 1) She erred in stating that Australia does not recognize the Armenian Genocide. While the Australian government prefers not to use the term genocide in order not to antagonize Turkey, no other official has ever stated that it was not genocide; 2) She incorrectly wrote that the Australian states that recognized the Armenian Genocide were formulating foreign policy. These states had simply acknowledged a historical fact; and 3) She contradicted herself by stating that the Australian Government does not get involved “in this sensitive debate,” yet she did permit herself to get involved by stating that it was not genocide!
Vache Kahramanian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of Australia, immediately dispatched a strongly-worded letter to the Foreign Minister, calling her ‘misguided statement’ ‘deeply insulting and hurtful to the Armenian-Australian community.’ He also characterized Bishop’s views as ‘intolerable,’ ‘inexcusable,’ ‘a grave offense,’ and ‘a disservice to all Australians.’ Kahramanian justifiably wondered, “How can Australia’s moral conscience become so corrupted?”
ANC-Australia’s Executive Director reminded the Foreign Minister that her statement was in stark contrast to “the views held by many senior ministers in the current government. As recently as April 2014, Australia’s Treasurer, the Hon. Joe Hockey MP, issued an official statement on the 99th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide marking April 24 as the day ‘we gather to remember the 1.5 million people who perished in the genocide.’ Ministers Turnbull, Morrison, along with ranking members from Labor, the Greens, minor parties and Independents have called on the Australian Parliament to officially recognise the events of 1915 as genocide. Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, during his years as Opposition Leader, issued an annual statement referring to the Armenian Genocide with no qualifiers or euphemisms.”
Kahramanian also told the Foreign Minister: “By denying the Armenian Genocide you are also denying Australia’s very own history. Located within Australia’s National Archives are countless numbers of testimonies by ANZAC prisoners of war who were held captive in the Ottoman Empire…. These testimonies vividly recall the suffering and annihilation of the Armenian people.”
ANC-Australia Chairman Greg Soghomonian urged the Foreign Minister to “immediately reverse this critical error of judgment,” and requested a meeting with her.
I suggest that Australian-Armenians ask Prime Minister Tony Abbott whether the Foreign Minister had cleared her deeply offensive letter with him beforehand. If she had not, the ANC-Australia should demand her immediate dismissal. ANC should ask all three Australian state parliaments that have recognized the Armenian Genocide to adopt a new resolution condemning Foreign Minister Bishop’s denialist stand and urging the Prime Minister to fire her! (Source)
Bishop’s statement comes in stark contrast to fellow senior government ministers who have actively called for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Australian Parliament. As recently as April of this year, Treasurer Joe Hockey stated: “Today we gather to remember the 1.5 million people who perished in the genocide… there is no other word for it.”
Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, along with ranking members from Labor, the Greens, minor parties and Independents have in the recent past called on the Australian Parliament to officially recognise the events of 1915 as genocide.
The Foreign Minister’s statement is uncharacteristic of successive Australian governments’ policy on the Armenian Genocide, and lags considerably behind allies including the United States and the United Kingdom and its policy is removed completely from nations such as Canada, France, Germany and Italy, who have taken the moral high ground to recognise the Armenian Genocide.
In a powerful letter addressed to the Foreign Minister, ANC Australia calls into question Australia’s recent policy change and calls on the Australian government to review its position, so that as a starting point, it falls into line with the other major allies, then progresses the “moral heights of outright recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide”.
ANC Australia calls on the Australian Foreign Minister to “not whitewash this dark chapter in history” and says that it doing so is “inexcusable”. Such actions not only denigrate the memory of genocide victims but also disrespect Australia’s very own history and the heroic of ANZAC prisoners of war who witnessed this crime against humanity.
ANC Australia Chairman, Greg Soghomonian, remarked: “The Australian Foreign Minister must immediately reverse this critical error of judgment and listen to the will of the Australian Parliament in recognising and honouring the victims of the Armenian Genocide.”
A meeting has been sought with the Foreign Minister and her office to discuss this critical issue.