August 16, 2012

Assyria: Friendship Group Discusses Syria Situation

A meeting has convened between about twenty members of the New South Wales Parliament and representatives from Assyrian organisations in Sydney, who met for the second time to discuss the historic and modern-day plight of the Assyrian people in Iraq and Syria. 

Below is a press release issued by the Assyrian Universal Alliance:

The Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) – Australian Chapter is pleased to announce the second meeting of the Assyria Parliamentary Friendship Group which took place on Wednesday, 15th August, 2012, in the Parliament of New South Wales. About 20 members of the upper and lower houses of the Parliament attended this meeting along with representatives from many Assyrian organisations in Sydney. The Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) delegates included Mr. Hermiz Shahen, Deputy Secretary General of the AUA, Mr. David M. David, Regional Secretary of the AUA for Australia and New Zealand and our guests from the United States, Mr. Andre Anton and Dr. Elmer Abbo.

The meeting was called in order by Mr. Andrew Rohan MP, Chairman of the Assyria Parliamentary Friendship Group with presence of both deputy chairs of the committee, Mr. Guy Zingari, MP,  and the Hon. David Clarke, MLC.  Mr. Rohan  thanked all members of the Parliament for their presence and support for this group.  He lauded the initiative of the AUA for establishing the Assyria Parliamentary Friendship Group and gave a brief overview of the history of the Assyrian people. Subsequently, Minister of Transport Ms. Gladys Berejiklian, MP, congratulated the committee and pledged to support the group

Mr. Hermiz Shahen, Deputy Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, also welcomed the attendees and thanked Mr. Rohan, Mr. Clarke, and Mr. Zingari for calling the meeting and their continued support to the Assyrians.  Mr. Shahen discussed the events of Tuesday, 7th August, “Assyrian Martyrs Day,” where a seminar was held in the New South Wales Parliament addressing the Assyrian Genocide of WWI.  The seminar, sponsored by the Assyrian Universal Alliance together with the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, invited Dr. Racho Donef and Stavros Stavridis, both scholars of genocide studies who have prepared research from the Turkish and Australian Archives to document the crimes that were perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against Assyrians as well as Armenians and Pontic Greeks during WWI.

“Millions of indigenous ethnic souls perished as a result of the savagery of the Ottoman Turks. As a result of this genocide, the Assyrians lost all their territories within the borders of modern Turkey. At least 750,000 Assyrians, 1.5 million Armenians and 500,000 Greeks from the Pontos region and many others were exterminated in unbelievable horror scenes of massacres and deportations, and hundreds of thousands of children and women were abducted and forced into Turkification and Islamisation,” said Mr. Shahen.

Mr. Shahen also highlighted the current situation of the Assyrians in Iraq and Syria in recent years. “History is repeating itself for the Assyrian nation.  Our people are being systematically driven out from our ancestral lands in Iraq and Syria. Assyrians have been subject to gross violations of their rights.  Murder, rape, assault, and forced conversions to Islam have become commonplace as armed death squads attempt to force Assyrians out of their habitats,” he explained.

Mr. Shahen urged the NSW State Parliament to raise the plight of Assyrians in Iraq with the Australia Federal Parliament.  “The only effective solution for the indigenous Assyrian people to remain in Iraq is the creation of a new province in the Nineveh Plain, the heart of the Assyrian ancestral homeland.”

American guests filmmakers Mr. Andre Anton and Dr. Elmer Abbo gave a brief report about their documentary ‘Defying Deletion.’  The short documentary film portrays the persecution of the Assyrian people in Iraq from Islamic fundamentalism and Kurdish nationalism since the invasion in 2003.  The film was screened in both the Parliament of New South Wales and the Federal Parliament in Canberra.  Both filmmakers discussed their motivations behind producing this film and the importance of our ancient Assyrian history and culture.  Mr. Anton highlighted the current situation of the indigenous Assyrian people of Iraq and the threats facing their future existence in their own homeland and urged Australia to act internationally to address the crisis.