The notion of a genocide has long been a contentious point of debate for Turks many of whom argue that it is a misrepresentation of history.
But many scholars and other eyewitness accounts, some from Anzac Prisoners of War who were interned in empty Armenian churches, witnessed the deportation and emptying out of Armenian villages and support the genocide claims.
Australians pause and reflect during the Gallipoli dawn service. The pilgrimage to Gallipoli has become almost a rite of passage for young Australians. Photo: AFP/STR
The pilgrimage to Gallipoli has become almost a rite of passage for young Australians. It is, for many, about connecting with a national identity.
But as they stand bleary eyed at the dawn service wrapped in the flag, few would know that in 1915 as Australian soldiers were forging their own national mythology on the beaches of Anzac Cove – elsewhere in Turkey the Ottoman regime was conducting the wholesale removal and destruction of another national identity.
That process of deportations, forced marches and executions began in the area known as Anatolia just days before the ANZACS landed at Gallipoli.
But many historians fear that as we approach the centenary of both events, the Anzac legend and the Gallipoli industry that has sprung up around it may obscure the other important commemoration.
People were 'systematically eliminated'
The Christian campaigner and NSW Upper House MP Fred Nile was the force behind the unanimous motions passed by both houses of the NSW Parliament.
He says the Armenians have no time for arguments about definitions or the sensitivities of the modern Turkish state.
Mr Nile has just returned from a tour of Armenia with a cross-party delegation.
"(The Ottoman Turks) just eliminated people systematically – community by community, village by village", he says.
"In fact it's interesting that when Adolf Hitler planned the genocide of the Jews there were some questions asked and he said himself 'Don't worry, who remembers the Armenian genocide?' Who remembers it?"
And genocide scholars also have no doubts.
Colin Tatz is a world renowned genocide expert who has spent his entire career investigating racial extermination from Nazi Germany through to the Australian frontier wars.
“There is categorical evidence that what happened between 1915 and 1922 was genocide of the Armenians, the Pontian Greeks and the Assyrian communities to the extent of roughly half of their population.”
– Colin Tatz
"There is categorical evidence that what happened between 1915 and 1922 was genocide of the Armenians, the Pontian Greeks and the Assyrian communities to the extent of roughly half of their population".
Scholars like professor Tatz put the final death toll at about one-and-a-half million people and he says many Armenians have welcomed the NSW Parliamentary motions.
Around the world Turkish efforts to prevent any official recognition of genocide have been remarkably successful.
Only 21 countries have passed a resolution to that effect. The British government and the United States government have not, although 43 US states have, and neither has the Australian Government.
The Turkish Consul General Gulseren Celik says she is confident the Federal Parliament has no intention of following what she describes as the "outrageous" NSW motions.
"We expect Australians to show the same kind of respect that we have shown to their history and their ancestry," she said.
"Those individuals who show no respect to our history will not be welcome in Turkey."
Evidence of Anzac PoWs dismissed as a 'fabrication'
The Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu has hit back in a press release.
"These persons who try to damage the spirit of Canakkle/Gallipoli will also not have their place in the Canakkale ceremonies where we commemorate our sons lying side by side in our soil," he said.
The local council at Gallipoli has also made it clear the critics will not be welcome at the centenary celebrations in 2015.
"We announce to the public that we will not forgive those who are behind these decisions and that we don't want to see them in Canakkale anymore," it said.
When asked by the ABC if this meant that NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, and indeed the entire NSW Parliament would not be given visas to attend the centenary commemorations, Gulseren Celik replied, "yes".
In her letter to the NSW Parliament Ms Celik dismissed the evidence of Anzac PoWs as a fabrication.
"As we near the centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign the proponents of the so-called genocide will continue their quest to try to hijack the very special bond that exists between our two countries by fabricating that Anzac soldiers who were PoW were witnesses to these so-called allegations," she said.
The link between the Anzacs, Gallipoli and the Armenian genocide is a sensitive area for all, wrapped as it is in the legend of two nations who both cling to the significance that this one military campaign has had on their national identities.
Turkish officials are frequent visitors to the Australian war memorial, for instance, and Armenian Australians have long been critical of the influence they believe the Turks have had on the way the memorial has depicted the Australian World War I experience.
World War I galleries make little mention of genocide
World War I galleries are currently being renovated but in the past public exhibitions glossed over the Armenian experience with no mention of genocide.
Although some information has been posted on the War Memorial’s website, it has shied away from the events, saying that at this stage they will not be including this story in the new galleries as the World War I gallery space is limited and only so many stories can be told.
“Australians want to know the truth about the First World War and the truth about the Great War is that a million-and-half Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.”
– Peter Stanley
But World War I historians, such as Peter Stanley who worked for many years at the War Memorial, say 2015 should be an occasion that allows both countries to be bigger than their national self interest.
"I would expect that it would be covered in proportion by an Australian institution that is explaining to us the First World War as a whole," he said.
"I think the Turks are expecting that the friendship we forged through Gallipoli, which is genuine, is enough to paper over our knowledge of the Armenian genocide but the fact of the matter is it isn't.
"Australians want to know the truth about the First World War and the truth about the Great War is that a million-and-half Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman Empire."
Australian Broadcasting Corporation Broadcast: 21/08/2013 Reporter: Michael Brissenden
The Turkish government uses the centenary celebrations at Gallipoli to try to shut down criticism of the Armenian genocide.
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The Turkish Government is threatening to ban a group of Australian politicians from the centenary celebrations at Gallipoli in 2015 in what some see as a bald attempt to rewrite its own World War I history.
It goes back to May this year when the New South Wales Parliament passed a motion recognising the Armenian genocide, carried out by the Ottoman Turk regime, in which an estimated million and a half people died.
The move infuriated Turkish authorities, who are now threatening retaliation.
National security correspondent Michael Brissenden has this exclusive report.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN, REPORTER: Every April, Australians in their thousands make the pilgrimage to Gallipoli to commemorate the national mythology forged on the beaches of Anzac Cove. What few Australians realise is that the day coincides with another anniversary of an even more tragic episode in history.
PETER STANLEY, MILITARY HISTORIAN: So as well as the myths that we seem to find ourselves unable to escape from, we also want to embrace the truth of Gallipoli, and the fact is is that the Armenian genocide happened almost within days of the invasion of Gallipoli.
COLIN TATZ, VISITING FELLOW, ANU: In my view, it's both. It's the 100th anniversary of the genocidal events and the 100th anniversary of the famous Gallipoli landings.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: On the eve of what Australians call Anzac Day, Armenians around the world hold their own day of remembrance to mark the wholesale annihilation of Armenian Christians in the dying days of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
FRED NILE, NSW LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: And they just eliminated people systematically, community by community, village by village. And in fact it's interesting when Adolf Hitler planned to have the genocide of the Jews, there were some questions asked, and he said himself, "Don't worry, who remembers the Armenian genocide?"
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Fred Nile has just returned from a tour of Armenia with a cross-party delegation.
FRED NILE: Well I think we have to deal with the truth and I hope Australia is mature enough to do that.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But the response from the Turks to the motions passed by both houses of the NSW Parliament recognising and condemning the Armenian genocide has been blistering.
GULSEREN CELIK, TURKISH CONSUL-GENERAL, NSW: These people want to hijack this very special bond, the Turkish ANZAC spirit, this is their target.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Turkish Consul-General has written a lengthy and angry response to the NSW Parliament, condemning what she describes as the baseless allegations of genocide.
GULSEREN CELIK: There certainly is no scholarly consensus on the events of 1915. There are quite a few number of non-Turkish historians who do not accept the genocide thesis.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The genocide debate has long inflamed passions on both sides. The description "genocide" has consistently been dismissed by the Turks as a one-sided representation of history.
Despite reports at the time of mass evacuations of Armenian villages far from conflict zones, evidence of forced marches, eyewitness testimony and countless academic investigations.
COLIN TATZ: There is categorical evidence from scholarship around the world that what happened between 1915 and 1922 was a genocide of the Armenians, the Pontian Greeks and the Assyrian community to the extent of roughly one half of their total population.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Colin Tatz is one of the world's most prominent genocide scholars. He's vilified by Turkish nationalists and his research has been challenged by the Turkish Government.
COLIN TATZ: Never in history has a nation state been so dedicated to the eradication of what they call a lie.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And the Turkish state has hit back with a threat to the one event that has for decades now underpinned our close diplomatic relations. A Foreign Ministry statement says the proponents of this motion will no longer be welcome at the Gallipoli commemorations.
TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTRY STATEMENT (male voiceover): "These persons who try to damage the spirit of Canakkale/Gallipoli will also not have their place in the Canakkale ceremonies where we commemorate our sons lying side by side in our soil."
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The local council at Gallipoli has also made it clear that critics will not be welcome at the centenary celebrations in 2015.
GALLIPOLI LOCAL COUNCIL (male voiceover): "We announce to the public that we will not forgive those who are behind these decisions and that we do not want to see them in Canakkale anymore."
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: So the Premier and members of the Parliament will not be welcome at the 2015 celebrations?
GULSEREN CELIK: Well, I think one should read the press statement of our ministry carefully.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well the press statement says they won't be welcome, so one would assume that they won't be given the visas to go.
GULSEREN CELIK: Yes.
FRED NILE: I'm not gonna have a heart attack if I can't go there, but I think it's unfair to have some blanket ban on all members of the NSW Parliament.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But the motion passed by the NSW Parliament is a moment the Australian, Armenian, Greek and Syrian communities have been waiting for for some time.
Panayiotis Diamadis has been collating evidence and eyewitness accounts of the genocide written by Australian POWs captured by the Turks. Most were held in empty Armenian churches in emptied out Armenian villages.
PANAYIOTIS DIAMADIS, UTS: "Turkish soldiers armed with whips were driving the women and children into the sheep trucks. It was evidently intended to transport them to some distant concentration camp."
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: That's one of many accounts written by POWs who returned. Another one of them was Colonel Thomas White, who later became a politician and a minister in the Lyons Government. His eyewitness account describes passing columns of Armenians being marched to certain death in the desert. Dead bodies littered the side of the road.
The Turkish Consul-General describes the claims that Australian POWs witnessed genocide as a fabrication.
GULSEREN CELIK: They were imprisoned in western part of Anatolia, so they could not witness the so-called genocides.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And even here at the Australian War Memorial, there's almost no mention of the Armenian genocide.
The link between the ANZACs, Gallipoli and the Armenian genocide is a sensitive area for all, wrapped as it is in the legend of two nations who cling to the significance that this one military campaign has had on their national identities. Turkish officials are frequent visitors here and Armenian Australians have long been critical of the influence they believe the Turks have had on how the memorial has depicted Australia's First World War experience.
PETER STANLEY: I think the Turks are expecting that the friendship that we forged through Gallipoli, which is genuine, is enough to paper over our knowledge of the Armenian genocide. But the fact is it isn't, because Australians want to know the truth about the First World War, and the truth about the Great War is is that 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.
Last edited on 08/24/2013 at 06:46 AM (UTC3 Nineveh, Assyria)
Rev. Hon. Fred Nile ED., L.Th., M.L.C. Parliamentary Leader, Christian Democratic Party Parliament House, Macquarie Street, SYDNEY NSW 2000
Telephone: (02) 9230 2478 | Facsimile: (02) 9230 2098 Email: f.nile ( a t ) parliament.nsw.gov.au
Rev Fred Nile replies to Turkish Consul-General concerning Armenian, Assyrian and Hellenic-Greek genocide
Friday 23 August 2013
In his speech to the NSW Parliament on Wednesday 21 August 2013, Mr Nile stated the following:
ARMENIAN, ASSYRIAN AND GREEK GENOCIDES
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE <6.11 p.m.>: I wish to speak on the genocide of the Indigenous Assyrian, Armenian and Hellenic Greek populations of the Ottoman Empire. Part of this adjournment speech is a response to the Hon. Charlie Lynn's previous adjournment speech. I take this opportunity to clarify or go into more depth on the Australian historical sources from which I have drawn my conclusions. The term "genocide" was coined by Polish jurist Raphael Lemkin in 1943, drawing heavily on the experiences of the Armenians, Assyrians and Hellenic Greeks. As Lemkin stated in a radio broadcast on 23 December 1947, "History and the present are full of genocide cases. Christians of various denominations, Moslems and Jews, Armenians and Slavs, Greeks and Russians, dark skinned Hereros in Africa and white skinned Poles perished by millions from this crime." Writing in Gallipoli Mission two decades earlier, Charles W. Bean noted "the attempts by some Turkish leaders to exterminate this people, and the dreadful means used before and during the war".
Almost 300 Anzacs were taken prisoner by the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Approximately 67 were captured around Anzac Cove. In addition, there were the 30 crew members of the Australian submarine HMAS AE2, which sunk on 30 April 1915, and approximately 200 others from the battle fronts in Sinai, Palestine and Mesopotamia. There are published and unpublished repatriated prisoner-of-war statements, diaries and letters from Anzac records, witnessing and hearing about atrocities committed against the Indigenous Hellenic Greek, Armenian and Assyrian peoples of the Ottoman Empire. The diary of Private Daniel Bartholomew Creedon of the 9th Battalion, AIF, is but one example of material in the Australian War Memorial relating to the genocides. Captured on Gallipoli on 28 June 1915, Creedon recorded how in the Ankara region he was held at different rimes "in an old Monastery" and "in the church". On 2 February 1916 Creedon made the following entry:
The people say the Turks killed one and a quarter million Armenians. Private Daniel Creedon died in Angora, or Ankara, on 27 February 1917, aged 23 years. Without a known grave, he is commemorated on Memorial 49 in the Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery, Iraq. The Dunsterforce was a small British army including 22 Australians that "was despatched by the War Office to hold the Turks back from Persia and the Indian frontier". In his unpublished memoir, the original of which is kept in the Australian War Memorial, Captain—later Lieutenant-General—Stanley George Savige wrote: The unfortunate women folk were so overcome at the sight of the first party of British that they wept aloud. They would call down upon us the blessings of God and rush across and kiss our hands and boots in very joy at the sight of their first deliverance from the cruel raids of the Turks. We could not save them all … with lumps in our throats we ignored the cries of the helpless in our endeavour to save as many as we could.
In a 1919 interview with Sydney's Sunday Times, Captain J. M. Sorrell, M.M., said:
It was almost a hopeless task as the road for a hundred mile was thick with refugees. The suffering was very great, and in spite of all that our people could do thousands succumbed to starvation, disease and exhaustion. It was a ghastly business, and the trail was well marked with bodies of human beings and all kinds of animals.
The crux of this debate is the individual and collective right to memory. Since when is remembering the past hate speech? Is it hate speech to speak of the Aboriginal resistance to British colonisation of Australia? Is it recalling hatreds, real or imagined, to commemorate the Shoah, the Jewish Genocide, or Timorese or Papuan suffering under the Japanese in World War II? Historical debate often involves offence being taken by individuals, especially when entrenched positions are being undermined. When the Armenian genocide commemorations can be openly held within the Republic of Turkey, it is conciliation, not "ideological and religious hatred" that is being fostered. The mayor of the major city of Diyarbekir in the country's south-cast invited Armenians and Assyrians to return to the city built by their ancestors to attend a commemoration on 23 April this year in the city's Metropolitan Municipality Theatre. In closing, I quote the Premier of our great State, the Hon. Barry O'Farrell, MP on the recognition of the genocides of the Armenian, Assyrian and Hellenic Genocides:
… such historical events is to ensure that, as a community, we work to prevent any repeat of such incidents in the future.
For Media Interviews contact: Rev Fred Nile (02) 9230 2478 or 0418 619 731? Research Assistant: Belinda Dover (02) 9230 2978
\ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)
1: an ancient empire of Ashur
2: a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern
Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)
a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of
its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender
4: a democratic state that believes in the freedom of
religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the
principles of the United Nations Charter —
Ethnicity, Religion, Language
Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
\ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)
1: descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur
2: the Assyrians, although representing but one single
nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now
doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle
ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding
hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the
East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.
These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the
Christian Era. No one can coherently understand the Assyrians
as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church
from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly
difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for
in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control,
religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a
criterion of nationality.
the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya,
Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean,
Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu,
Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye,
Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. —
1: a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of
the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.
2: has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical
Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.