Assyrian Genocide 100th Anniversary

Dr HUGH McDERMOTT (Prospect) [5.54 p.m.]: I draw the House's attention to the 100th anniversary of the Assyrian genocide this month. They say time heals all wounds, but I believe some wounds are too deep to heal. The Assyrian people have a history that goes back millennia. However, due to violence, racism and hate they have become a people oppressed over centuries. After one and a half millennia of oppression the Assyrian people suffered one of humanity's worst acts of genocide during the First World War. In 1915, 300,000 Assyrians were brutally murdered, for no other reason than their race and their Christian faith. The perpetrators of this horrendous act knew they were committing a crime against humanity when they slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. The stories of murder and torture are gruesome. A survivor of the genocide, Reverend John Eshoo, wrote:

Assyrians were assembled into one caravansary, and shot to death by guns and revolvers. Blood literally flowed in little streams, and the entire open space within the caravansary became a pool of crimson liquid.

The executioners began by cutting first the fingers of their victims, joint by joint, till the two hands were entirely amputated … Then their throats were half cut, so as to prolong their torture of dying, and while struggling in the agony of death, the victims were kicked and clubbed … Many of them, while still labouring under the pain of death, were thrown into ditches and buried before their souls had expired.

The genocide was not an act of war; it was a crime against humanity. It is time the Turkish Government recognised the genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire. In the century following the first genocide of 1915 the Assyrian people have not been free of oppression; the persecutions continued. In August 1933 Assyrian Christians were attacked again, in what is now known as the Simele massacre. Accounts of this act of genocide are both horrific and heart wrenching:

The Assyrian population of the village of Simel was indiscriminately massacred; men women, and children alike. In one room alone, 81 Assyrians from Baz were barbarously massacred. Priests were tortured and their bodies mutilated. Girls were raped and women violated and made to march naked before the Arab army commanders. Holy books were used as fuel for burning girls. Children were run over by military cars. Pregnant women were bayonetted. Children were flung in the air and pierced on to the points of bayonets.

The massacres continued in 1945 and 1946, with massacres in Azerbaijan and other northern regions of Iran, and then again in 1962 at Barwar, Iraq. The brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq caused untold tragedy for thousands of Assyrians, many of whom fled to Australia. Even after the fall of Saddam Hussein the oppression has continued. Already ISIS has demolished several millennia-old sites of historical significance, and continues its horrific mission of committing acts of genocide against Assyrian Christians. I join a chorus of millions in praying for and demanding an end to this violence. The electorate of Prospect is privileged to be home to thousands of Assyrian families, and I am very privileged to work with many leaders of the Assyrian community. There is great hope for the Assyrian people. Despite the odds, they have survived and contributed enormously to science, mathematics and philosophy.

The spirit of democracy will shine through in the Middle East eventually and I believe the perpetrators of cruelty will be brought to justice. However, the pursuit of peace and justice is never won easily and requires the full support of humanity to succeed. As the member for Prospect, I am committed to assisting the Assyrian people in any way I can. I look forward to the day when the autonomous Assyrian province in northern Iraq is established. That day will come and the House, the Federal Government and the international community must help make it happen. I have faith that, in time, peace will come to the Middle East, and the Assyrian people will no longer be oppressed. To make peace in the future we must remember the past and, in doing so, remember the millennia of oppression and the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to the genocide. May God bless and protect the Assyrian people.

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