Ladies and Gentlemen:
Only One hundred Years ago, unknown to most, two-thirds of the Assyrian population were massacred by the Ottoman Turks. While the Assyrian, Armenian and Greek genocide is an historical fact; Turkey still denies that it took places.
This genocide is an event that the survivors will never forget. The wounds of this genocide are not healed yet. Turkey and their allies from the Kurdish tribes must not only acknowledge this crime that they committed, but then compensate the survivors for the pain and losses suffered at their hands.
Instead of acknowledging the wrongs of the past, Turkey strongly advocates and lobbies to the world to “Forget about it!” and “Just move on!” Yet, with generations displaced and a future destroyed, the Assyrian people cannot simply “forget.” Our cause is just, and we stand defiant to declare that to the world that “What Turkey did is a crime against humanity, and we will never forget it! Turkey should acknowledge the crimes they committed and compensate the survivors – period!
The international community must always strongly condemn the atrocities of murder, rape, slavery, regardless of them happening in the past or in the present. Victims must always be compensated for their losses, and the United Nations Security Council must lead the way. If we cannot condemn the genocides of the past then we have hope of preventing more in the present or future.
Germany has acknowledged and condemned the Holocaust committed by the Nazi Party, and become a democratic country. Two weeks ago, the same Germany recognized the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocide. I hope this beautiful country of Switzerland, which has a deep democratic tradition, will be the next country to recognize the Assyrian Genocide, because it is the right thing to do by all democratic and civilized nations. However, in Turkey, which calls itself a democracy, sultan Erdogan has taken another direction, one that suggest not democracy but dictatorship. Mr. Erdogan, Turkey’s president, has said, that: “It’s not possible for a Muslim to commit genocide.” This is of course absurd. Any nation, any group of people, can commit terrible acts, Christian, Jew or Muslim. Today, ISIS terrorists who call themselves Muslims are committing horrible acts of genocide, and president Erdogan, fully aware of these crimes, is nonetheless allowing ISIS, Jabhat al Nusra and other Islamic Extremists to cross his Turkish borders, to murder and terrorize people in Iraq and Syria, and return safely to Turkey, even being treated in Turkish hospitals.
Talaat Pasha, together with Jemal Pasha, and Enver Pasha were the masterminds of the Genocide 1915. Yet, throughout Turkey streets are named after these murders. Can we imagine, any of us, going to Germany and walking in streets named after Hitler, Himmler and other key players of the Holocaust? Would such thing be acceptable? Well, thousands of places in Turkey are given the names of these murderers – Talat Pasha, Jemal Pasha, Enver Pasha, Nusret, Dr. Reshid and etc. Given these murderers of the past, this celebration of these men of genocide, who would dream to assert that Turkey is a modern and democratic country that can attend to be member in the European Union?
Today, Turkey should hear our message. Today is a very important and unique day in the history of the Assyrian peoples. Today is the day that, we find the first Assyrian Genocide Memorial approved by a local government in Switzerland.
First and foremost on behalf of the Assyrian Genocide Research Center, Seyfo Center, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the authorities in Locarno for making this dream a reality. At the same time, I wish to congratulate the Assyrian community on their success for planning and creating this beautiful memorial dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Assyrian Genocide. In recent years, Assyrians have been working diligently towards greater public awareness and worldwide recognition of the Assyrian Genocide. The Genocide committed against the Assyrian people by the Ottoman Empire and other genocides, including the 1933 Semele Massacre in Northern Iraq, are historical realities that have affected the lives of every Assyrian family up to today.
We Assyrians standing here today are the children of a nation which was almost completely eliminated from the face of the earth. However, those who died will never be forgotten because here today history is being re-written in Locarno. I’m also proud to stand in front of you today knowing that over 27 countries have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide. It is my hope that in the future, countries will continue to follow in their footsteps and include the recognition of Assyrians and Greeks as victims of the same Genocide.
In closing, I would like to say that we must continue to demand that Turkey, and all nations around the world, recognize this historical reality. I am honored to Stand before my fellow Sisters and Brothers whose forefathers fought for the sake of our Survival and Humanity.
We will never forget the Assyrian, Armenian and Greek Genocides.
Sabri Atman, June 18, 2016, Locarno
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