Strong Solidarity Commitment by the Austrian Ruling Party for the Recognition of the Assyrian Genocide
Posted: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 09:27 PM UTC
The Assyrians have received a strong commitment for support of their efforts for the recognition of the Assyrian Genocide. This commitment was expressed by high-ranking politicians of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) during a commemoration event held for the 5th year in Vienna Brigittenau on Saturday, 16 June 2007. The first event was organized back in 2002.This year’s invitation of the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) attracted more than 200 people, among them high-ranking politicians of Austria and representative of numerous organizations. The importance of this event was that it stood under the agreed intent o prepare for a formal petition by the ADO to achieve the formal recognition of the Assyrian Genocide by the Austrian parliament.
The commemoration ceremony was opened by a welcome message of the SPÖ district chairman Mr. Karl Lacina, who welcomed the numerous honor guests individually. Among those was the Vice President of the Upper House of Parliament of the Republic of Austria, Mrs. Anneli Haselbach. Friendly greetings were conveyed from the Federal State Parliament President of Vienna, Johann Hatzl and First Chairman of the Vienna local council Mr. Godwin Schuster as well as the national party secretary, state parliament delegate and local council member, Professor Harry Kopietz (SPÖ). Among the guests were also representatives of various organization.
Mr. Lacina welcomed Dr. Gabriele Yonan and praised her book The Forgotten Holocaust as a historical work of great importance - not only for the Assyrians but for all upright people, who support human rights. In context of the 50th anniversary of the ADO and its continuous engagement for the Assyrian people, he spoke of a double reason to convene in Vienna. He encouraged continuing and working along the committed path and not to give up despite challenges, until the acknowledgment of the Genocide against the Assyrians is accomplished by international bodies and states.
The first speaker of the day was introduced by the moderator Mrs. Josefa Tomsik, former national vice-chairman of the SPÖ. The Vice President of the Upper House of Parliament of the Republic of Austria, Mrs. Anneli Haselbach took the stage and underlined the necessity for solidarity with people, who suffered terribly. She called the Genocide a horrible experience, saying that “one tries to understand, how this was possible and how it happens that humans crossed all thresholds to commit such a crime?”.“Is it a force of nature?”, she asked. Unfortunately, it is not, she asserted: Darfur, Red Kmer, Uganda and the Nazi Regime speak for that. She cited a Holocaust survivor who gave two reasons for what drives humans to commit crimes against the humanity. First, they are convinced that they are doing rightfully for their group, religion or community. In addition, they act correctly according to their conception of the world. Obviously, they do what fits into their limited conception of the world, added Mrs. Haselbach.
Often such people would not recognize the extent of their criminal behavior. And if their acts become publicly known, they deceive themselves and many of them speak of performing their duties. She further cited Koffi Annan, former General-Secretary of the U.N who spoke on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz: “The badness needs the silence of the masses”. And exactly this kind of silence we should not adopt, stressed Mrs. Haselbach, while she appealed for a civil courage and for human rights that must be high-held. Subsequently, the chairman of the ADO, section Europe, Mr. Sabri Alkan spoke briefly about the establishment of the ADO, which was by any means coincidental, rather its was a result of historical reasons, tragedies like the Genocide of 1915, massacre in Semile in Iraq 1933. Persecution and discrimination were among the main motives. Mr. Alkan stressed ADO’s commitment for making the Genocide of 1915 public and recognized; he said that Turkey must admit committed injustice. A country who stands not to its history and does not confess committed acts, will have no friends in Europe and among democratic countries.
Chorepiscopos Dr. Emanuel Aydin spoke as representative of the Eastern Orthodox Christians (Syrian Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Coptic Orthodox) and outlined the historically difficult situation of the Christians in the Near East and expressed gratitude to the district chief Mr. Karl Lacina for the SPÖ opening Assyrians “a room in their heart”, in order to listen to us.
The state parliament delegates and local council Erich Valentin spoke strongly about solidarity and political evaluation of the historical events. According to him, the Genocide against the Assyrians and Armenians was accomplished based on a plan drawn 92 years ago by the Young Turks and resulted in approximately 3 million victims. The whole plan was strategically prepared with clear instructions to the army of that time. On the political dimension, so Mr. Valentine, it can be stated today that the Turkish government signals still no willingness to talk about it seriously. However, if already 24 sovereign countries have recognized the Armenian Genocide of 1915 by their democratic elected parliament bodies, than “we must ask ourselves so Mr. Valentin, if there is such a European standard - how must ourselves deal with the history? The conclusion of this meeting is, that the Assyrian people like the Armenians demand justice and acknowledgment of history, nothing more! This is a fundamental right, which is demanded in particular from a state that is ante portas to the European Union”.
“If the EU is not just a community of shareholders, but forms a community of values and standards, fixed in the Copenhagener Agreement, describing how one deals with one another, than these values are the minimum standards, which have to be expected from Turkey as well. Only then, Turkey can become equivalent moral partner within the EU,” Mr. Valentin stressed. He referred also to a conference on the Assyrian Genocide held on March 26, 2007 in the EU, which found broad support across party borders. He regretted that representatives of Turkey in the European Parliament demanded that the conference was not allowed to take place, since the title Genocide - from their view - would be a lie. Mr. Valentin assured that the government of Austria, the city of Vienna and their representatives, in particular the SPÖ, stand at the side of the Assyrians, fight with them, until their rights are acknowledged.
Dr. Dimitri Papas, representing the Eastern Christian Union in Vienna acknowledged Aslan Ergen’s effort as the ADO section leader in Austria organizing the event and honored the victims the Genocide. More than 20,000 eastern Christians live in Vienna with their 13 church communities. Dr. Papas referred also to the present difficult situation of the Christians in the Middle East and in particular in Iraq, where they are exposed to discriminations, pursuits and pogroms. They are victims, because they are convinced of things that naturally respected in the West: human rights and religious freedom.
Dr. Gabriele Yonan started her speech with appreciation to the special interest of Austria in the Genocide of the Assyrians and the particular political support for the acknowledgment of this crime. Dr. Yonan was already in the year 2002 guest speaker at this event in Vienna, where she outlined her thesis of the events of the Genocide. She spoke about the fact that since the appearance of her book naturally numerous new developments took place, which hopefully will be documented in a further volume including new documents from archives, which were inaccessible before.
Dr. Yonan further talked about the emergence of the previously mentioned UN convention of 1948 and its initiator Rafael Lemkin. Dr. Yonan described that the massacres of Semile 1933 in particular and its treatment by the Völkerbund (predecessor to the U.N.) served Lemkin as cause to formulate his Genocide convention proposal; the Holocaust during the Nazi regime made the whole overdue.
Dr. Yonan stated that the events of 1915, which took place under the cover of the war, were not Genocide against the Armenians only, but a Genocide against the Christians of the Ottoman Empire. The basis for that formed the call to the Jihad - the holy Islamic war. The sources, to which the Armenians refer are the same that reveal the suffering of the Assyrians as well.
She quoted the title of an interview “Massacres, but not Genocide” from October 2006 in the Austrian magazine Profil with the Turkish Ambassador in Austria, which reflects the current stand of Turkey. The argumentation is that during the World War I civil war prevailed in Turkey and Armenians supported the Russians, although this does not apply to all provinces, Dr. Yonan added. Besides that, she said that we have to ask the question, why the Assyrian villages were depopulated in Hakkari and Tur Abdin, although the Assyrians were not politicized as parts of the Armenians?
Dr. Yonan underlined that she is supportive that Turkey becomes tied-up closer with the EU, however only if the Cyprus question and the question of the Genocide is solved. At the end of her speech Dr. Yonan appreciated the efforts of the ADO in Austria and in particular the engagement of the ADO of representative Aslan Ergen, who keeps co-operation with the political class of Austria upright.
Aslan Ergen expressed gratitude to the speakers and the audience for the strong interest for the event. He thanked the SPÖ friends for standing to the side of the Assyrians, and assist if necessary. He appealed that we must do everything, so that over 3 millions people did not die in vain. This is not about revenge, but acknowledgment of history. Turkey must do this step, before it can join into the EU.