Sydney – 6 April, 2016
The Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) together with the Assyrian Australian National Federation (AANF) hosted one of the most successful Assyrian New Year Festivals in the last decade. Thousands of people were in attendance at Fairfield showground to celebrate the Assyrian culture. The Festival started at 10:00 am and the music and dancing continued till the 10:00 pm close.
The formal proceedings began with the official opening of the Dr. Donny George Exhibit at 1:30 pm. The Dr. Donny George Exhibit was established to highlight Assyrian contributions to the advancement of civilization. This year however, the organisers of the exhibit, The Young Assyrians, saw it fit to use the exhibit as a platform to raise awareness of the ongoing genocide perpetrated against the Assyrian nation in both Iraq and Syria. The exhibit began by defining genocide, then went on to demonstrate in a clear and concise manner how the events in Iraq and Syria amount to genocide according to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The customary New Year Program commenced at 2:00 pm, with both the Australian and Assyrian national anthems performed by Mrs. Marlen Shukur, who was accompanied by a string trio.
A blessing prayer followed by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile MLC, President of the Christian Democratic Party.
After welcoming the attendees, the Master of ceremonies Miss Melanie Alkhas, a member of The Young Assyrians of the AUA and Mr. Ninos Aaron, Chairman of The Young Assyrians, invited Mr. Hermiz Shahen, Deputy Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, to officially welcome the guests. Mr Shahen extended a warm welcome to representatives of the Local, State and Federal Governments for their attendance and support over the years. He also thanked representatives of Armenian, Coptic, Greek, Jewish, Italian, Mandean, Vietnamese and Assyrian organisations from Sydney and Melbourne for their attendance. Mr. Shahen spoke about the bitter situation of the Assyrians in Iraq and Syria who are currently living on the edge of extinction, marginalised and facing genocidal actions by the Islamic State. He pleaded to the International Community including Australia to help Assyrians who are systematically driven out from their ancestral homeland in Iraq and Syria, who have been subjected to gross violations of human and legal rights.
“Assyrians, who have suffered genocide after genocide for the last century, are struggling to get the current atrocities committed by Daesh and Al-Qaeda recognised as crime of genocide”. Mr Shahen said.
“The AUA restates its call to the Australian Government as well as the United States for the official recognition of the current atrocities and killing of the indigenous Assyrians and other ethnic minority groups of Iraq and Syria perpetrated by ISIS against them on religious, cultural and ethnic grounds, as a crime of genocide. We also call on you to endorse and to assist in the establishment of a self- governed safe haven in the Assyrian heartland in Northern Iraq (between the Upper Zap and Euphrates Rivers) for the Assyrian Christians,” He said.
Mr. David M. David, President of the Assyrian Australia National Federation welcomed the attendees. Speaking in the Assyrian language he stressed the importance of this national day for all Assyrians.
Other guest speakers were: Senator the Hon. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for International Development and the Pacific, representing the Prime Minister of Australia; The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP; The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Deputy Leader of the Opposition; The Hon Chris Bowen MP, Shadow Treasurer; Mr Chris Hayes MP; The Hon Philip Ruddock MP; Mr Craig Kelly MP; The Hon Gladys Berejiklian, MP, NSW Treasurer, and Minister for Industrial Relations; Mr. Guy Zangari MP; Dr Hugh McDermott MP; Mr Frank Carbone, Mayor of Fairfield City Council; Mr David Clarke MLC ; Reverend The Hon. Fred Nile, MLC and Mrs Tanya Davies MP.
All speakers praised in their speeches the role of the Assyrian Universal Alliance in its continued deliberations and meetings with the Australian government. They talked about the inevitability of the Assyrian peoples struggle to obtain their full rights and freedom in Iraq. They blessed this great occasion, expressed their appreciation of the D. Donny George Exhibit that was organised by the Young Assyrians and conveyed pride in the Assyrian civilization.
Other guests included Mr. Nick Lalich MP; The Hon Paul Green MLC; Detective Inspector Ed Walsh representing Superintendent Peter Lennon, Fairfield Police Station; Mrs Niki Panagiotou, Vice Consul of Greece.
The conclusion of the official opening program saw many awards presented to the various sponsors.
The 2016 Friend of Assyria Award was presented to Mrs. Karen Bos, Board Vice President of Christian Faith and Freedom. The award was granted in recognition of her devotion to helping persecuted Christians throughout the world, for raising awareness about the plight of persecuted Assyrians in Iraq and Syria through various means including; newsletters, websites, speaking engagements, conferences and human rights dialogues, as well as for her great efforts in educating and informing politicians and diplomatic representatives about the extent of religious and ethnic persecution against Assyrians.
The 2016 Young Assyrian Australian of the Year Award was presented to a talented young Assyrian, Mr Ramos Jacob, in recognition of his selfless devotion and tireless efforts to promote the Assyrian national cause through the art of music, as well as being a model of creativity and helping to break down barriers between Assyrian and Australian cultures.
Two members of parliament were also acknowledged for their long services and close relationship with the Assyrian community, The Hon Philip Ruddock MP, Member for Berowra and Reverend the Hon Fred Nile MLC.
At 6:00 pm, a dramatic arts piece was performed by a collaboration of Assyrian youth groups. The theatrical piece simulated the arrival of King and Queen of Assyria from the remote past to bless the festivity.
The Festival ended with a beautiful display of Fireworks at 9:00 pm accompanied with live music.
Assyrian Universal Alliance
Media Contact: Mr. Hermiz Shahen
Mobile: 0407 235349