Monday, 2 May 2016
Private Members' Business
Middle East: Assyrian People
That this House:
(1) recognises that the Assyrian people, who are Christian by religion, are an original and Indigenous people of Iraq and Syria;
(2) is concerned by the ethnic, religious and cultural cleansing of the Assyrian people by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the systematic killings of Assyrian people and destruction of ancient Assyrian cities, churches and artefacts;
(3) acknowledges the targeted killings and kidnappings of Assyrian clergy and ISIL's destruction of a recorded 45 Assyrian churches between June and July 2014;
(4) acknowledges the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Assyrians since the invasion by ISIL in Iraq and Syria, notably in Mosul and the Nineveh Plains in Iraq and the Khabour region in Syria (Hassaka province);
(5) declares that ISIL's treatment of the Assyrian people is a gross violation of human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
(6) notes that on 24 March 2015, the Iraqi Council of Ministers, under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, issued a unanimous declaration condemning the crimes committed by ISIL (Daash) against civilians, Kurds, Christians, Yazidis and Shabak as crimes of genocide;
(8) associates with the recent remarks of United States Secretary of State John Kerry, describing ISIL as 'genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions';
(9) urges the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide to make recommendations through the Secretary-General to the Security Council to recognise, prevent and halt crimes committed by ISIL;
(10) recognises and condemns the:
(a) ongoing genocidal conduct of ISIL against Indigenous minorities in Iraq, including the Assyrian peoples on religious, cultural and ethnic grounds;
(b) forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Assyrians and other minority communities following the ISIL takeover of north-western Iraq;
(c) systematic killing, taking of hostages and human trafficking of minorities; and
(d) destruction of ancient Assyrian cities and holy places;
(11) reaffirms the rights of Christian and other minorities of Iraq to live in peace and freedom and calls for all steps to be taken to ensure that members of the affected communities can live in freedom in Iraq;
(12) notes the aspirations of the Assyrian people for the establishment of an autonomous region in the Nineveh Plains and welcomes the in principle agreement of the Iraqi Government to this; and
(13) calls for the rights of Assyrian Christians to be respected in the post ISIL makeup of Iraq and Syria.
The parliament this week is focussed, quite rightly, on the budget and on the robust political debate in Australia, but we should not forget that there are people around the world facing the most horrendous of circumstances. Included in that are the Assyrian people of Iraq and Syria, who are currently being subjected, it must be said, to genocide.
The Assyrians, the indigenous Christian people of Iraq and Syria, have long suffered persecution, particularly since the fall of Saddam Hussein, but since the rise of ISIS—Islamic State—we have seen an attempt to eradicate the Assyrian people and to destroy their culture and their heritage. Recently, the United States Secretary of State described ISIL as 'genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions'. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said:
I'm sure now we have enough evidence that what is happening is genocide, deliberately aimed at destroying, not only the lives but wiping out the existence of Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territory controlled by ISIS.
It is right and proper that this House associates itself with these sentiments and declares that enough is enough, the genocide must stop.
The Assyrian people have been subject, of course, to persecution for many, many years. The world has witnessed the destruction of Assyrian holy sites, of ancient cultural artefacts and the obliteration of places of worship. We have seen footage of masked men with sledgehammers rampaging through museums and galleries, in an attempt not only to kill Assyrians but also to destroy the heritage and culture of this great and ancient civilisation. It cannot be allowed to occur.
It is right and proper that the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide make recommendations through the Secretary-General to the Security Council to recognise, prevent and halt crimes being perpetrated by Islamic State. As the member for Fowler, the member for Calwell and other members of the House, with the support of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, have said before: it is also right that we plan for a post-Islamic State world for the Assyrian people in which they can live in Iraq, in particular, in freedom—in their homeland in freedom—with all of the necessary protections and the necessary abilities to make their own decisions within Iraq for their own protection. This is very important. We cannot simply wait and hope and pray and work for the defeat of Islamic State without planning for the future.
The Assyrian community in Australia has been very vocal in ensuring that this is the case, particularly the Assyrian Universal Alliance, led by Hermiz Shahen and David David, who, again, have worked with me, the member for Calwell, the member for Fowler, the member for Kingsford Smith and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and have met with the Leader of the Opposition, to progress this case. It is they, I know, who are also very keen to see this motion adopted in the House of Representatives, as does every Assyrian Australian and as does every Australian concerned about human rights anywhere.
The Assyrian people have been forced from Iraq in massive numbers. Many of them were forced from Iraq into Syria, seeking refuge in Syria, and they have now been forced out of this nation, which has given them some degree of protection over the last 10 years, into other countries in the Middle East. Many Assyrians have sought and achieved to find refuge and homes in Australia. They have become fine and upstanding Australians, but they do not rest and will not rest until their brothers, their sisters, their cousins can achieve the same protections as they have. And not necessarily by seeking asylum elsewhere.
I have not met an Assyrian who seeks to leave Iraq out of choice. Assyrians have been forced out of Iraq. This is a land which has been their homeland for thousands of years. This is an ancient and noble civilisation which has done so much for the world. They have been subject, as I said, to terrible, terrible incidents since the fall of Saddam Hussein, but none worse than what they are being subjected to now, which, it can clearly, soberly and regretfully be concluded, is genocide. This attempted genocide cannot be allowed to succeed. We cannot look back on this age and think, 'If only the world had done more, we would not have lost one of the world's great civilisations: the ancient Assyrian civilisation.' The ancient Assyrian civilisation has given the world so much over many thousands of years and it is now time for the world to step in and offer them some protection in return.