Australian House of Representatives adopts motion calling on government to recognize 1915 Sayfo genocide on Suraye, Armenians, and Greeks

SYDNEY –MP Trent Zimmerman (Liberal Party, North Sydney) submitted a draft motion in the Federal Australian parliament on November 29, calling for official Australian recognition of the Sayfo Genocide of 1915 committed by Turks and Kurds in the Ottoman Empire – now the Republic of Turkey – against the Syriacs, Armenians, and Pontic Greeks. The motion (non-binding) was seconded by Liberal Party MPs John Alexander, Julian Leeser (Berowra), and other members of the House. The ball is now in the Australian federal government’s court.

The motion is the result of the tireless work of three representative organizations – the Armenian National Committee of Australia, the Assyrian National Council in Australia and the Australian Hellenic Council – who have sought recognition for their communities through a 2020 Memorandum of Understanding and a Joint Justice Initiative.

The motion was approved in the presence of representatives of the Assyrian National Council, Armenian National Committee of Australia, and the Australian Hellenic Council.

Australia has a large community of Suraye (Chaldeans-Assyrians-Arameans), in Fairfield, Sydney and Melbourne. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are 40,218 Syriac-Assyrians and 21,166 Syriac-Chaldeans in Australia.

Syriacs in Melbourne adhere to the Syriac Catholic, Orthodox, Maronite, Chaldean Catholic, and the Assyrian and Ancient Churches of the East. Most originate from Iraq. The Syriac Joseph Haweil is mayor of the City of Hume (population 225 thousand) which is part of the Metropolitan Area of Melbourne.

Sydney also has a large Suraye community. The City of Fairfield, Sydney Metropolitan area, had a Suraya mayor in the past. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data for the year 2016 for the greater Sydney area (state of New South Wales) there were 9,340 persons speaking Sureth or Chaldean Neo-Aramaic (2011: 5,247) and 20,316 speakers of Sureth or Assyrian Neo-Aramaic (2011: 15,571). The figures from 2016 will be considerably higher in 2021 due to the massive emigration in recent years by Suraye from Iraq and also Syria.

You can see the full debate on the motion in Australian Federal Parliament here: