by Ertunc Ozen, CEO of Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance
Since its inception ATA-A’s main goal was to try to get community leaders to see the very real dangers in making a political football of foreign historical events. This is especially so given our multicultural community and harmony. We have never shied away from debating issues, and in fact welcome informed debate (rather than megaphone diplomacy), and keenly await the day we can sit down and discuss, with mutual respect, our common history with certain Armenian and Greek lobby groups.
Unfortunately, many MPs have seen the benefit, in terms of short term gain, in pandering to the prejudices and hatreds of some ethnic minority groups, and elevated their interpretations of historical events to a level justifying “recognition” by NSW Parliament. We do not consider this is a proper use of Parliament, nor do we think these sorts of acts are in the best interests of our community.
A perfect example of the Pandora’s box that opens with this sort of vote chasing can be seen on the Armenian Lobby’s website: anc.org.au . It seems that this group, so used to getting its own way with NSW politicians, now considers it has the right to “be consulted” and veto any commemoration of the bonds of friendship between Turkey and Australia.
Our countries share an unbreakable bond, forged on the battlefield, that grew out of the respect two foes developed for each other. How desperately the Armenian lobby would like to see this bond broken can be seen when one looks at their use of the derisory term “Anzackery” to denigrate those who still commemorate and attach importance to this monumental event in both countries’ histories. In a very real sense, the allied landings at Gallipolli were the birth pains of two great nations.
Further, out of that horrible event, grew an unlikely, indeed unique respect, and then friendship. There is no other example of this in the history of warfare. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the hero of the Gallipolli campaign, and father of modern Turkey, paid respect to those sent to fight for the allies, who lost their lives on Turkish soil.
It is his words that adorn the lobby of many an RSL, that are inscribed with honour and pride at the new monument in Hyde Park. This man, possibly the greatest military strategist and leader, certainly of the 20th Century, chose words of reconciliation and respect, indeed love, for those who were once foes. Yet the ANC has a big problem with a small monument commemorating this message. Take a moment to read what Ataturk said to the mothers who lost sons in the campaign:
Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
The Armenian Lobby calls the man who uttered these words, a man who won the universal respect of all his foes, who emancipated the Turkish women and who united the Turkish people to form a modern, secular republic out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire a “Genocidal Dictator”. Ataturk’s actions, and his greatness speak for themselves, we will not list his many achievements and victories here. We do however suggest that a man who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by his arch enemy, Venizelos, the then PM of Greece, does not in any way deserve such a slander.
We understand the extremist Armenian lobby’s desperate attempt to somehow lay the blame for the massacres of Armenians in 1915-1916 at the feet of the Modern Republic of Turkey. It is only that way that they can claim compensation, and land. This is the motivation behind such a terrible slur on one of the 20th Century’s greatest men. In their single minded mission to wreak vengeance upon Turkey and Turks, Armenian extremists have assassinated Turkish diplomats, civilians, bombed airports around the world, and planned the killing of thousands, all for “recognition” . Do we really want this in NSW?
We note that the Armenian Lobby is happy to invite a convicted terrorist, Viken Hovsepian, to Australia to lecture this country’s Armenian youth about what they should be doing. They also each year commemorate the actions of the “Lisbon 5” terrorist group, as though they were heroes. These are not the sort of ideas that NSW Parliament should be permitting to flower in this state. NSW has no room for this sort of hatred.
We suggest that the backlash over this monument shows how deeply the extremist Armenian Lobby and its followers hate Turkey, and all things Turkish. Their hatred cannot be quelled. We are saddened that they are so blinded by prejudice that they would protest even these outstanding words of reconciliation. We are deeply offended that they would even oppose words of reconciliation. This is not, of course, the first time the Armenian lobby has sought to politicise the ANZAC tradition.
It is the Armenian lobby’s almost singular obsession to try and stain the friendship between Australia and Turkey with their allegations of Genocide. If they could only sour this brotherly spirit, somehow break this bond, only then would they be happy.
We say that, as Australian Turks, we are proud of our history. We also share in the ANZAC story and consider it an honour to have once fought against the ANZACs, and now find ourselves living amongst their ancestors, as fellow Australians. We call on all Australian governments to reaffirm the friendship and mutual respect that grew out of the ANZAC tradition, and congratulate the NSW parliament for recognising the magnificent contribution of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, not just to that legacy, but to the formation of a democratic, modern secular republic in the Middle East, which was at peace with all its neighbours.
CEO of Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance