FAIRFIELD, Australia -- A monument commemorating the genocide of 750,000 Assyrians during World War I was unveiled on Sat., Aug. 7, reported the Assyrian International News Agency. Ankara reacted immediately, accusing Australia of distorting history.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said on Aug. 9 that Turkey condemned the opening of the Assyrian Genocide Monument.
"We express regret over participation of federal executives to this intentional activity which will not have any contribution to relations of the two countries," Unal said in a written statement. The monument showed unethical searches of circles, he added, which appeal to the poisoning of excellent relations between Australia and Turkey, for the rewriting of history for political goals.
Unal said support to the efforts in question was a "grave and unacceptable development," indicating that the opening of the monument had caused indignation and disappointment among Turkish citizens living in Australia.
The monument, designed by Assyrian artist Lewis Batros, was strongly opposed by the Turkish community in Australia, which claimed the monument would "sew division" between the Assyrian and Turkish communities.
"Turkey hopes that federal and local politicians, who allowed construction of the monument despite all the against initiatives, are aware of the dangers caused by such kind of steps which aim at sowing seeds of hatred and enmity and which contradict historical facts," Unal said.
"Turkey calls on all the related parties to assume a stance appropriate to friendship of peoples of Turkey and Australia to prevent such kind of steps which unilaterally target to distort history for political aims," he added.
More than 2,000 Assyrians and Australians attended the dedication at Bonnyrigg Park. The monument was sponsored by the Assyrian Universal Alliance and officially approved by the Fairfield City Council on Dec. 15, 2009.
The monument is dedicated to the Turkish genocide of Assyrians as well as the 1933 massacre of Assyrians at Simmele by Iraqi government forces, when 3,000 Assyrians were killed.
The Assyrian Genocide Monument in Australia is not the first of its kind. Genocide monuments have been erected in Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, and Russia, but it is the most controversial one to date. On Feb. 5, the mayor of Yerevan signed an order approving the construction of an Assyrian genocide monument in Armenia and allocating 16 square meters for the site. The monument is currently in the planning stage.