During the recent issue about whether some statues should be removed or not I noticed what seemed to be a majority of Greek Australians were against it. Most seemed to say that it’s part of Australia’s history and they should remain.
I wonder how Australians of Greek origin feel about the following.
While the debate about the merit of removing some of the statues and monuments relates to explorers and key figures within our Australian history and their connection to indigenous people, there are a couple of memorials we should also look at that are considered an affront to hundreds of thousands of Australians especially those from Armenian, Assyrian and Greek backgrounds.
These are the memorials dedicated to Kemal Ataturk who happened to be the officer in charge of the Turkish troops that fought the Anzacs at Gallipolli in 1915.
However by 1922 he had become the commander in chief of all his country’s troops.
But very few Australians are aware of his dark legacy because if they were his reputation here would be shredded. This is the man who contributed to what is considered one of the 20th century’s largest forced expulsion of people from the region of Turkey which was their own country, about 2 million of them fled for their lives mostly into Greece plus he instituted the mass killings of civilians. He allowed his troops in September 1922 to march into Smyrne, an Aegean coastal city that was the biggest city in Asia Minor and considered the Paris of the east, consisting mostly of Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks. They killed tens of thousands of them, raped and kidnapped thousands more women and girls, never to be seen again. He then had his troops burn and destroy the city, which Turkey eventually rebuilt and renamed Izmir.
The sole reason for their deaths and or exile was due to the different religious beliefs they had to the Turks and thus were seen as people who could not be trusted to continue to live in Turkey, even though these ethnic groups such as the Greeks had been living there quietly for perhaps two thousand years and some could only speak Turkish. But even this was still seen as inadequate proof that they could be considered to be loyal and faithful to Turkey.
Ataturk in the following year, 1923, became his country’s first president and is considered one of the great leaders of the last century doing many good things for Turkey.
However we in Australia have two memorials dedicated to Ataturk, one in Canberra and the other in Sydney’s Hyde Park, the latter was only unveiled as recent as 2015!
Why should we continue to remember and honour a contributor to mass murder who should have been tried for war crimes? Unfortunately years of sanitised history has contributed to making Ataturk a myth worth believing in.
Just as an employer should check the references of potential new employees our government has failed in every regard to scrutinise the history of Ataturk before allowing memorials be built in his honour.
At the very least these memorials to Ataturk should be removed.