|Members of the Assyrian community, pictured here at the Assyrian Genocide Memorial on May 14, 2013 in Bonnyrigg, Sydney, Australia, reflect on those killed during the Assyrian genocide. Source: supplied.|
NSW Parliament formally recognises Assyrian genocide as Smithfield MP Andrew Rohan shares tale of parents' survival
by Lauren McMah. Fairfield Advance, May 14, 2013.
SMITHFIELD state Liberal MP Andrew Rohan has paid tribute to the an Australian soldier who rescued his Assyrian parents from a massacre after the Assyrian genocide was formally recognised by the NSW Government.
On Wednesday, State Parliament unanimously passed a motion by Premier Barry O’Farrell calling for the official recognition of the Assyrian, Armenian and Greek genocides.
It is estimated 1.5 million Armenians, 750,000 Assyrians and 500,000 Greeks were massacred by Ottoman Empire forces between 1915 and 1922 during their attempts to eradicate the Christian minorities.
In a speech to Parliament last week, Mr Rohan said his parents were among the 90,000 Assyrian Christian refugees who fled their ancestral home to escape persecution by the Ottoman regime in 1918.
The refugees were protected by 28-year-old Australian Army Captain Stanley Savige.
“Reasoning that a Turkish commander would concentrate on killing him before harming the refugees, he strategically placed his command at the rear of the refugee procession and deliberately drew enemy fire,” Mr Rohan said.
“By offering his command as a target, even though he was outnumbered one hundred to one, Captain Savige managed to slow the enemy advance long enough for most of the refugees to flee.
“My parents survived the genocide because of the heroic actions of Sir Stanley George Savige.”
Captain Savige, who later rose to the military rank of Lieutenant General, was decorated with a Distinguished Service Order for his bravery.
For years local Assyrian, Armenian and Hellenic organisations campaigned to have genocides formally acknowledged by government.
“This recognition will help our Assyrian nation and its organisations in their attempt to strengthen our national existence in the homeland as well as in the diaspora,” Assyrian Universal Alliance deputy secretary-general Hermiz Shahen said.
“It will help our nation to find its rightful place among the nations of the world and to creatively make its special contribution to the universal development of mankind.”