Scott Morrison has refused to officially call the massacre of millions of Armenians during WWI genocide, despite calls from protesters in Sydney.
On Monday the prime minister released a statement calling the Ottoman Empire massacres one of the “greatest crimes of modern history” but avoided using the term genocide.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese also fell short of acknowledging it as genocide, while calling for Turkey “to come to terms with historical facts”.
“Australia must stand on the right side of truth and justice … failing to condemn past crimes leads to them being repeated,” said Michael Kolokossian, the Armenian National Committee of Australia’s political affairs director.
Armenian, Greek and Assyrian communities of Sydney and Melbourne rallied on Sunday to mark the 107th anniversary of the mass murder of up to three million people, most at the peak of the persecution in 1915. The systematic massacring and deportation of Armenians was carried out by authorities to prevent a feared independence movement as the strength of the Ottoman Empire waned.
The systematic extermination of a million and-a-half Armenians, a million Greeks and about half-a-million Assyrians between 1913 and 1923 was driven to create a “Turkey for the Turks”.
A partnership was established between the Armenian National Committee of Australia, The Assyrian National Council of Australia and the Australian Hellenic Council two years ago to advocate for recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Australian government.
Modern day Turkey refuses to categorise the killings and forced death marches into the Syrian desert as genocide, however a number of nations now recognise the genocide which is remembered on Armenian Genocide Memorial Day every April 24.
“Without an apology or recognition of what has happened to our ancestors, it is impossible to move on and heal,” said Rita Zakarian, who attended the rally.
“It is time for the Australian government to formally recognise the Armenian genocide and that the lack of recognition is a wound for the massacre survivors.”
Protesters outside Sydney Town Hall, chanted “speak up ScoMo”, “1915 never again” and “shame on Turkey” as they marched through the city.
Garbis Pilobisian said it is important to raise awareness about what happened in 1915 and to inform the Australian population about this crime.
“My ancestors were part of this heartbreaking event… and justice must prevail,” he said.
Last year US president Joe Biden officially recognised the ‘genocide’ and on Monday referred to victims “who were deported, massacred or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination”.
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed Biden’s statement was “based on lies and false information”.
Around the world 33 countries have officially recognised the Armenian genocide.
Main picture of protesters at Sydney Town Hall by Tamar Pilobisian.