August 4, 2014

Students join advocacy efforts against Foreign Minister of Australia

Students join advocacy efforts against Foreign Minister of Australia -

SYDNEY: Armenian students, including year 11 students from Galstaun College, have joined in the advocacy efforts of the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia) by criticizing the recent remarks by Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, who explicitly denied the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide.

In a letter addressed to the Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance, Bishop extraordinarily denied the historical reality of the first genocide of the 20th century by stating “we, do not however, recognise these events as ‘genocide’." This outright denial, according to the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia), "takes Australia almost as far back as Turkey on this issue".

In strongly worded letters penned by high school-aged students, a call was made for the Foreign Minister to correct the Australian government's flawed position.

Galstaun College student, Shant Baghoomian, calls out the contradiction made by the Foreign Minister.

He writes: “You claim that ‘the long standing and clear approach of the Australian Government has been not to become involved in this sensitive debate’. Clearly, your comments demonstrate a government stance on the issue as you attempt to appease the Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance.”

Sarine Soghomonian reminds the Foreign Minister “The Armenian Genocide isn't a political bargaining chip Minister Bishop. It must be recognised by the international community and must be condemned by the world!”

Executive Director of the ANC Australia, Vache Kahramanian, thanked students who took the time to write to the Foreign Minister. He remarked: “I thank students who have joined in the community in criticising the Australian government's flawed position in denying the Armenian Genocide.”

In addition to these letters, and others from constituents in Prime Minister Tony Abbott's electorate, an online letter drive initiated by ANC Australia has attracted over 500 complaint emails to Bishop's inbox.

Copies of two of the student letters can be read below:

LETTER FROM 15-YEAR-OLD SARINE SOGHOMONIAN

Dear Minister Bishop,

My name is Sarine Soghomonian; I am 15 years old, and I’m a Year 9 student at Wenona School in North Sydney.  I write to you in relation to your misguided statement, explicitly denying the Armenian Genocide, which is uncharacteristic of Australian governments, your global allies and is deeply insulting and hurtful to the Armenian-Australian community.

I am a proud second generation Australian/Armenian and my family and I have been loyal Liberal supporters for the past 45 years and in those 45 years my grandparents, my parents and I have seen nothing more appalling than what you have done; extraordinarily denying the historical reality of the first genocide of the 20th century, the Armenian genocide, by stating “we, do not however, recognise these events as ‘genocide’." Please explain to me Minister Bishop what you recognise as genocide? Both I, and Dictionary.com define it as ‘the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group’; and Ms Bishop, if the systematic massacre of 1.5 million Christian Armenians stolen land and death marches are not considered factors in which makes themselves considered a ‘genocide’ then please tell me what does. The fact that you repeatedly refer these murderous atrocities as the “Armenian Case” is even more infuriating and offensive to the Australian-Armenian community.

I have read report after report, thinking that a representative from the government in which my family has entrusted our lives with could not have been able to make such a comment like this. Australia does have the capability and political stamina to define the systematic massacre of 1.5 Armenians, but I do understand that you don't want to detriment your current political alliance with Turkey (just like other nations) but in you denying us of our history is not the way to do so. Minister Bishop you should not be speaking about such a controversial matter when it seems as if you know nothing of the topic. The day will come Minister Bishop, when the world’s ignorance and selfish desires will end and we, the Armenian community will get the victory in which is not a victory at all, as we are still the nation who suffered from everything. We are not targeting ourselves, or the older generations as victims, but rather we are the people who seek justice and when that day comes, we will then be able to properly mourn the 1.5 million lives that were lost from 1915-1917. If you are going to acknowledge and put your opinion on any political event that occurred in the past, you have to do it correctly or to not involve yourself at all something in which I assume the Foreign Minister, being yourself would understand completely.

The international community, including some of Australia’s closest allies such as the United States, have never used such harsh language or ever stated to this extent such explicit denial of the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide. I acknowledge that some nations don’t take positions on this topic at all, while others use euphemisms in place of the word “genocide”, including your predecessors, but none explicitly state their nation’s denial of the Armenian Genocide, which according to the International Association of Genocide Scholars, is equivalent to denying the Holocaust. I do not condone these other euphemistic positions, but the position that you have stated is intolerable to Armenian-Australians - most of whom are direct descendants of survivors of the Armenian Genocide.  My great grandparents were all victims from this horrible event that now seems to be defining who Armenians are as a race, how can Australia’s moral conscience become so corrupted and cold-hearted?

This letter was to not to critique your work as I am sure it can be a burden a lot of the time, but I could not continue to idly sit by and watch conflict constantly arise; I wanted to write to you, letting you know the perspective of an Armenian Australian fifteen year old female, who’s family was directly affected by the massacre of our people. The attempt to wipe-out this dark chapter in history is inexcusable and once again demonstrates that Australia’s foreign policy is being silenced by our nation’s ally, Turkey. Your statement goes far beyond the norm of the international community in dealing with this issue.

Your actions represent both a grave offence to Armenian-Australians, and a disservice to all Australians, who expect that our nation’s leadership, when confronting genocide, should never have been reduced to a political issue that can be traded away, retreated from due to pressure, or be used to advance a political agenda, of any kind. Australia’s stand against all instances of genocide should be unconditional.

The Armenian Genocide isn't a political bargaining chip Minister Bishop it must be recognised by the international community and must be condemned by the world! What universe do we live in where murder is acceptable.

In conclusion, I beg you to reconsider and to be a bit more remorseful when you’re dealing with a sensitive topic such as this; you are in your elected position to represent the Australian people and in my opinion and in the opinion of the Australian-Armenian community, you are at the moment not doing a very good job at it. I also pray that you have it in your heart to apologise to the Armenian community in not only Australia, but globally as well.

Regards,

Sarine Soghomonian


LETTER FROM YEAR 11 STUDENT, SHANT BAGHOOMIAN

Dear Julie Bishop,

I would like to express my strong dissatisfaction and disappointment in the views you expressed in your letter to the Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance where you deny recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

As a young Australian and proud Armenian, I find your comments unacceptable and implore you to rethink your decision and statement in not defining the Armenian case as genocide. Your stance should represent the realities of history and should not be based on lies, deceit and political opportunism. At a time where countries such as Australia should be recognising the genocide, your recent policy change contradicts history and fails to comply with nations such as Canada, France, Germany and Italy who have recognised the Armenian Genocide despite pressure from the Turkish government. With the Parliament of New South Wales and South Australia passing a motion in condemning the genocide the expectation was that the Federal Government would follow suit. Your stance regarding the Genocide is surprising and disappointing and reverses the hard work of your fellow parliamentarians who have pursued justice by recognising the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

In your maiden speech to parliament, you make reference to the increasing sense of disillusionment Australians have with their politicians and an increasing level of mistrust of government. Your actions as Foreign Minister in denying the Armenian Genocide reinforce this disillusionment as you turn a blind eye to the Turkish injustices of the past. As Foreign Minister, you have a responsibility to ensure that Australia continues its tradition of being an advocate for human rights and justice. Sadly, your comments undermine the work of your predecessors and disrespect the one and a half million Armenians who were brutally murdered. As Foreign Minister, you must understand that our nation’s ideals and values are not for sale and as Foreign Minister you must understand the responsibility you have in ensuring that Australia recognises the Genocide.

By commenting on the Armenian Genocide, you contradict the statement that you made in your letter to Mr Ozen where you claim that ‘the long standing and clear approach of the Australian Government has been not to become involved in this sensitive debate’. Clearly, your comments demonstrate a government stance on the issue as you attempt to appease the Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance. The use of legal loopholes by such organisations in attempting to achieve public advocacy is one which the Turkish government and its associated organisations have based on self-interest, fear and denial of what is just.

Both the Turkish and Australian governments have forged a strong relationship through their shared history of Gallipoli. While I appreciate the deep bond this has created between the two nations, it is paramount that this relationship not dictate the actions of our politicians who are concerned that any recognition of the Armenian Genocide will threaten the Anzac ceremony at Gallipoli. With the centenary commemoration of Gallipoli approaching next year, it is important that we embrace the Anzac Legend and the sacrifices of Australian soldiers which laid the foundations of our national identity. However, this should not come at the cost of our values, beliefs and ideals.

Next year not only represents the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign, but also marks the centenary of the Armenian Genocide and the loss of one and a half million Armenians. On the eve of the centenary, your comments demonstrate a complete lack of respect as you fail to recognise and honour the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Reports from Anzac soldiers regarding Turkish atrocities should only help reinforce Australia’s position in recognising such crimes against humanity. As the centenary of the genocide approaches, Armenians around the world continue to mourn and suffer from the actions of the Turkish government.

I ask that you immediately reverse your stance on the Armenian Genocide which is based on political gain and not historical truth. This unacceptable position must be corrected and I hope you have the decency to acknowledge your wrong doing and recognise and honour the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Regards,

Shant Baghoomian
Galstaun College

         
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