Mr Sabri Atman and Mr Ninos Aho were both guests of thee Melbourne organisations, the Australian Assyrian Arts and Literature Foundation, Beth-Nahrin Cultural Club and Victorian Assyrian Community, who had organised the event in their honour.
Dignitaries present included Mr Hermiz Shahen, the Deputy Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance and Mr David David, President of the Assyrian Australian National Federation, who had travelled from Sydney to be in attendance. Rev. Gewargis Toma of the Assyrian Church of the East and Cor-bishop Iskander Afram of the Syriac Orthodox Church were also present, along with representatives from numerous Assyrian political, social and cultural organisations.
Addressing the event, Mr Jacob Haweil, Chairman of the Australian Assyrian Arts and Literature Foundation, discussed the great importance of the erection of the Assyrian Genocide Monument in Sydney and praised the efforts of all those involved in the project. Similarly, Mr Haweil thanked both Mr Sabri Atman and Mr Ninos Aho for taking the time to visit Melbourne and spread their message of Assyrian national renewal and progress.
The program, presented in both the western and eastern dialects of the Assyrian language, saw numerous poets from amongst the Assyrian community in Melbourne deliver often heartwarming and patriotic poems relating to Assyrian nationalism and in particular, the Assyrian Genocide. Following the recitation of poetry and a number of musical performances, the evening’s two keynote addresses were delivered by the guests of honour, Mr Sabri Atman and Mr Ninos Aho.
Mr Sabri Atman, director of Sweden’s Assyrian Genocide Research Center (Seyfo Center), gave a poignant speech on the importance of Assyrian genocide recognition and the great progress made hitherto in both public awareness and formal recognition, particularly in Europe. Pledging to never cease in the fight for Assyrian genocide recognition, Mr Sabri Atman called on all those in attendance to lend their support to the movement as a means of ensuring its success. Mr Sabri Atman also employed the opportunity to comment on the nature of Turkish denial, categorically and thoroughly repudiating many of the common talking points used in denial of the Assyrian genocide.
In his address, Mr Ninos Aho highlighted the unifying nature of Seyfo (the Assyrian word for sword, commonly used to refer to the Assyrian genocide) in the Assyrian national movement and its ability to circumvent religious and political cleavages. Mr Ninos Aho’s rousing speech, delivered in both western and eastern Assyrian, left many attendees emotional and with tears in their eyes. Of course, many had particularly come to hear Mr Ninos Aho’s timeless poetry. The guest of honour did not disappoint, passionately reciting a number of poems to rounds of rapturous applause and a standing ovation.
The conclusion of the highly successful event saw many attendees grasp the opportunity to reminisce with the guests of honour, recall memories of life in the traditional Assyrian homeland and ponder the future direction of the Assyrian national movement.
By: Naramsin Daro
Australian Assyrian Arts and Literature Foundation