Turkish Consulate in Sydney complains to Australian Human Rights Commission about GCT: Our response

Turkish Consulate General in Sydney.

On September 8, Greek City Times received a complaint from Melih Karalar, Consul General of the Republic of Turkey in Sydney, against Greek City Times and journalist Paul Antonopoulous via the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Karalar states that his complaint is in relation to the article “Today Greece celebrates a
national hero while Turkey celebrates the genocider of Greeks.”

On August 16 and 17, Karalar amended his complaint to also include the article “Atatürk’s house in Thessaloniki needs to become a Greek Genocide museum.”

A Senior Investigator/Conciliator, whose name will not be included, was assigned to the complaint that alleges:

(a) The publication on 23 April 2020 of the article/column with the headline “Today Greece celebrates a national hero while Turkey celebrates the genocider of Greeks” constitutes racial hatred by the respondents under section18C of the Racial Discrimination Act; and

(b) The publication on 7 July 2020 of the article/column with the headline “Atatürk’s house in Thessaloniki needs to become a Greek Genocide museum” constitutes racial hatred by the respondents under section18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Greek City Times’ response to Karalar’s ludicrous allegations was made via Paul Antonopoulos directly to the Conciliator from the Australian Human Rights Commission on September 20.

The response follows:

Greetings Ms [name redacted],

I am highly disturbed that the Turkish Consulate in Sydney has contacted the Australian Human Rights Commission on allegations I breached the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. To what I am sure will be to the disappointment of the Consular General in Sydney, Melih Karalar, I now reside in Greece after being permitted to leave Australia. You can read about my experience in traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic here. I can provide him the details of my solicitor in Athens if he wishes to pursue this.

None-the-less, I will still respond to the allegations he has made.

In the email dated May 29, 2020, the Turkish Consulate General in Sydney highlights four contentions as the reason why they are accusing me of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

  • “Mr Paul Antonopoulos’s article contained amongst other statements the following: Ataturk was an Albanian‐Jew and not Turkish.”

In the “statement” I made in the article in question, there are two hyperlinks I provided.

The first hyperlink is an article by Beverley Blythe on the New York University website. It states:

“Who was this Ataturk? His very name means, ‘Father of Turkey’. He was born as Mustafa, the only surviving son of Zubeyde and Ali Riza; a small Muslim family slightly less poor than it’s impoverished neighbors in the dusty hill town of Salonika. He was of solid peasant stock of Albanian and [North] Macedonian origins.”

The second hyperlink leads to a webpage about the Dönmeh on the Jewish Virtual Library. The Dönmeh were Jews from the city of Thessaloniki [Salonika] during the Ottoman period that were publicly Muslim but retained their Jewish beliefs privately. The Jewish Virtual Library says as part of its Mission Statement that its purpose is “To manage and expand the Jewish Virtual Library, the most comprehensive online resource on Jewish history, politics and culture, to provide a one-stop shop for users from around the world seeking answers to questions on subjects ranging from anti-Semitism to Zionism.”

On its Dönmeh [Doenmeh] page, the Jewish Virtual Library writes: “One assertion that was commonly made by many Jews of Salonika [Thessaloniki] (denied, however, by the Turkish government) was that *Kemal Atatürk was of Doenmeh origin.

The Turkish Consul General in Sydney can chase New York University and the Jewish Virtual Library and leave me alone.

  • The Turkish Consular General makes issue that I highlighted “Atatürk’s mother worked in a brothel.”

I don’t even know why this would be considered “discrimination” as it is common fact.

In fact, I would like to notify the Australian Human Rights Commission about Turkey’s disgusting human rights record of charging and imprisoning esteemed Turkish citizens, including academics and religious leaders, who made the same statement I did because it violates Turkey’s draconian penal code TUR38432.E. The penal codes Article 1 states: “Anyone who publicly insults or curses the memory of Atatürk shall be imprisoned with a heavy sentence of between one and three years” and Article 2 states “If the crimes outlined in the first article are committed by a group of two or more individuals, or publicly, or in public districts or by means of the press will have the penalty imposed increased by a proportion of one-half.”

Because of Turkey’s gross violation of press and individual freedoms, many Turkish citizens have been charged and imprisoned for highlighting that Atatürk’s mother was a brothel worker.

In 2017, Turkish historians Süleyman Yeşilyurt and Mustafa Armağa were arrested for saying that Atatürk’s mother worked at a brothel. In 2018, Islamic preacher Hasan Akar received a 2.5 year prison sentence for saying Atatürk’s mother worked in a brothel. In fact, many in Turkey have been arrested and imprisoned for this. For me to highlight every case is a painstakingly long process which I will not do.

I do not understand why the Australian Human Rights Commission is wasting my time by entertaining the Turkish Consul General in Sydney’s ludicrous belief that they can somehow make me accountable to Turkey’s human rights violating laws in Australia via you?

The third and fourth complaints by the Turkish Consul General in Sydney against me is that I said “Atatürk is one of the biggest mass murderers in recent history” and “Atatürk committed an act of genocide.”

The 1914-1923 genocide and ethnic cleansing of 3.5 million Christians, overwhelmingly Greek, Armenian and Assyrian by Ottoman authorities and continued by Atatürk, is a historical fact and reality, and Turkish state-backed historical revisionism should not be given the light of day to have a platform to espouse genocide denialism. I am bewildered that the Australian Human Rights Commission are giving genocide denialism credence and credibility by allowing an objective historical fact to be used as a complaint against me.

I invite the Australian Human Rights Commission to read the 2007 resolution by the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the leading and foremost academic body in genocide studies. Their resolution states that “the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the Empire between 1914 and 1923 constituted a genocide against Armenians, Assyrians and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks” and that they call “upon the government of Turkey to acknowledge the genocide against these populations, to issue a formal apology, and to take prompt and meaningful steps toward restitution.”

The genocide of the Ottoman Empire’s Christian minority, perpetrated by Ottoman authorities and later continued by Atatürk, not only has academic consensus, but is also recognized by the United States, the majority of Western Europe, and by the State Parliaments of New South Wales and South Australia.

In fact, in February of this year, the Greek, Armenian and Assyrian communities of Australia started joint efforts for the genocide to be recognised by the Federal Government. Since February, the Joint Justice Initiative has so far announced support from across the Australian political spectrum, specifically from Senator Louise PrattWarren Entsch MPJoel Fitzgibbon MPAndrew Wilkie MPJulian Leeser MPMichelle Rowland MPSenator Paul ScarrTony Zappia MPSenator Sarah Hanson-YoungSenator Hollie HughesSenator Rex PatrickMike Freelander MPSenator Eric AbetzSenator Larissa WatersSenator Pat DodsonJason Falinski MPJosh Burns MPJohn Alexander MPSenator Andrew Bragg and Bob Katter MP, with a promise of more announcements to come.

I invite the Australian Human Rights Commission to join these efforts to have the Australian Federal government recognise the Greek, Armenian and Assyrian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire and Atatürk, rather than entertain the delusional denials by the Turkish Consul General in Sydney. It will only be a matter of time until the Australian Federal Government recognises the genocide, just as the overwhelming majority of Western states have done, and something that has complete international academic consensus.

I also invite you to read an article by James Robins in The Guardian entitled: “Anzacs witnessed the Armenian genocide – that shouldn’t be forgotten in our mythologising”; a 449-page document by the University of Wollongong entitled “Australian press coverage of the Armenian genocide 1915-1923”; and also first-hand ANZAC accounts by Australian soldiers who witnessed the genocide during World War I.

Please, do not waste my time by entertaining the delusions of the Turkish Consul General in Sydney that Atatürk was not a genocide perpetrator – I am very sure the Greek, Armenian and Assyrian communities, numbering nearly a million Australian citizens, with the backing of scores of Australian Members of Parliament and Senators, will be less than impressed that the Australian Human Rights Commission is being used as a platform for genocide deniers.

Also, I want to bring attention to a few more facts.

The Consul General in Sydney also says “There are also monuments throughout Australia in which Ataturk is contained and his speeches of peace and friendship referenced.”

This mythology of Atatürk’s speeches of peace and friendship have become a part of ANZAC mythology. And I do not use the word mythology lightly either.

I highly recommend the Australian Human Rights Commission read the 2015 article in The Guardian by Paul Daley, titled “Ataturk’s ‘Johnnies and Mehmets’ words about the Anzacs are shrouded in doubt” that states “The heartfelt speech attributed to Ataturk about Turks and Australians in Gallipoli is historically dubious, extensive research shows”; also, the 2017 Sydney Morning Herald article by David Stephens, titled: “’Johnnies and Mehmets’: Kemal Ataturk’s ‘quote’ is an Anzac confidence trick’”;  and, also a 2018 article in New Zealand’s Newsroom that quotes Professor Peter Stanley from the University of New South Wales saying that the positive words said to the ANZAC’s by Atatürk “is fraudulent.”

In fact, the Australian Human Rights Commission should take an active part of having statues and plaques of Atatürk in Australia removed from public display as it offends hundreds of thousands of Australian citizens who are descended from survivors of the Ottoman-Atatürk perpetrated genocide against Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians.

We also cannot forget that Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned Australians and New Zealanders in 2019 traveling to Gallipoli for ANZAC Day that they will return “in coffins like their grandfathers.”

The Consul General in Sydney also states “As mentioned we have had many members of the Turkish Community contact us both distressed, offended, angry and insulted by the publication. It is of great concern to us particularly given the importance of multiculturalism to the Australian identity and the strong ties our nations have.”

It is regrettable that the Turkish community of Australia is “distressed, offended, angry and insulted by the publication” and that “it is of great concern” for the Turkish Consul General in Sydney. Since the Turkish Consul General in Sydney highlights “the importance of multiculturalism to the Australian identity,” as a journalist living in Athens but somehow accountable to the Turkish Consul General in Sydney, it is only fair that I make the Turkish Consul General in Sydney accountable for articles originating in Turkey, in the past month alone [September], that undermines the importance of multiculturalism to the Australian identity and the strong ties that Australia and Greece have, especially for the Greek-Australian community of over 700,000 people.

From the past month [September] alone:

Or instead of media coming from Turkey, there are human right breaking and minority persecuting articles in Australian-Turkish media.

Australia-based online Turkish News Press wrote in an article in July that “tears of joy flowed to the sounds of Takbir [Allah is great] that echoed across the domes of Hagia Sophia Mosque.” The conversion of Hagia Sophia, considered the centre of Christian Orthodoxy alike to the Vatican for Catholics or Mecca for Muslims, into a mosque was something that offended and deeply hurt the near million Orthodox Christians living in Australia. The conversion received widespread international condemnation, including from across the Muslim World, and received open congratulations and praise from only a very few select radical countries and organisations that have strong ties to Turkey, like Iran and the Hamas terrorist organisation.

I want to bring attention to an article by the Sydney-based Avustrayla Postasi Turkish-Australian news portal that continually refers to a “Turkish minority” in the Western Thrace region of Greece. There is no Turkish minority in Greece, as stipulated by the Treaty of Lausanne that was signed between Greece, Turkey, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Japan, and others. The Treaty of Lausanne, as it appears on the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s very own website in English, stipulates in Part VI Article 2 that “Moslems established in the region to the east of the frontier line laid down in 1918 by the Treaty of Bucharest shall be considered as Moslem inhabitants of Western Thrace.” To me it is shocking that the Avustrayla Postasi would try and claim Greece’s Muslim minority as Turkish, especially since Turkey itself signed the Treaty of Lausanne in conjunction with Greece, the UK, France and others, and in which the Treaty is on the Turkish Foreign Ministry website. The Avustrayla Postasi deeply offends the identity of Greek Muslims in Western Thrace by calling them a Turkish minority. Many of these Greek Muslims play an integral part of Greek society, whether it be in politics, media, sports, the arts and the military.

I also want to highlight that Victoria-based Turkish Report continually refers to the Republic of Cyprus as the “Greek Cypriot Administration” as Turkey is the only country in the entire world that not only refuses to recognise the Republic of Cyprus and illegally identifies the Republic of Cyprus as the “Greek Cypriot Administration,” but Turkey is the only country in the world to recognise the illegal entity known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. United Nations Security Council Resolution 541 and United Nations Security Council Resolution 550 denounces the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as an illegal entity and also denounces Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus. The Turkish Report’s reference to the Republic of Cyprus as the “Greek Cypriot Administration” deeply hurts and offends Cypriot and Greek Australians. The Turkish Report’s continual reference to the “Greek Cypriot Administration” not only undermines United Nations resolutions and international law, but it evokes painful memories on Cypriot Australians whose home country’s legitimacy is put into question by Turkish Report. Many Cypriot Australians suffered through the 1974 Turkish invasion of the Republic of Cyprus that not only led to the ethnic cleansing of over 200,000 Greek Cypriots in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, but Greek Cypriot women were raped and prisoners were tortured by Turkish soldiers, as reported by the European Commission of Human Rights. Many of these victims of the Turkish military’s barbarity now call Australia home.

In fact, the claim by the Turkish Consul General in Sydney that he has “great concern […] given the importance of multiculturalism to the Australian identity,” can only be rejected since on the anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Turkish Consul General in Sydney retweeted the Turkish Embassy of Australia that falsely wrote Turkey “brought peace and freedom to the island of Cyprus, we commemorate with gratitude our glorious martyrs,” followed by photos displaying the illegal Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Turkish Consulate in Sydney

I once again emphasise that the 1974 invasion of Cyprus and the so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” have been deemed illegal and illegitimate by United Nations Security Council Resolution 541 and United Nations Security Council Resolution 550, and the tweet and retweet by the Turkish Embassy in Australia and the Turkish Consul General of Sydney deeply offends Cypriot Greeks, and is contrary to UN resolutions and international law.

There are many more provocations in Turkish and/or Turkish-Australian media, academia and politics from the past month alone that I can highlight that does great damage to multiculturalism in Australia and offends the Greek community. Shall I begin bombarding the Australian Human Rights Commission about actions by the Turkish Consulate General in Sydney, the Turkish Embassy and Australian-Turkish media that break United Nations resolutions – because it will be a near daily communication.

I reject that the Turkish Consulate General in Sydney is worried about multiculturalism in Australia, especially since Turkey has a shocking historical record on ethnic and religious minorities when we consider the 1914-1923 genocide against the Christian minority, the 1937-1938 Dersim massacre where nearly 14,000 Alevis (a religious minority) were massacred, the 1955 Istanbul pogrom that saw the Greek community diminish from 120,000 people to 4,000 today, the 1974 invasion of northern Cyprus that led to the ethnic cleansing of the regions entire 200,000+ Greek community bar 343 individuals, various massacres in the 1970’s and 1980’s that led to thousands of Alevi’s exterminated, and hundreds of thousands of Kurds massacred in not only Turkey, but also in Syria and Iraq by the Turkish military. This is to name but a very few examples from a very long list of atrocities and persecution against minorities in Turkey.

It is with little surprise that Turkey is once again the only NATO country on the U.S. State Department’s “Special Watch List” in its 2020 Annual Report titled “United States Commission on International Religious Freedom”; The 2020 Human Rights Watch report said “Turkey has been experiencing a deepening human rights crisis over the past four years with a dramatic erosion of its rule of law and democracy framework” and that Kurds have complained “of torture, ill-treatment and cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment in police custody and prison”; Amnesty International reported in 2019 that “credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment continued to be reported. In Urfa, eastern Turkey, men and women who were detained in May after an armed clash between security forces and the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) reported, through their lawyers, that they had been tortured including with electric shocks to genitals.” In addition, the 2020 Freedom House Freedom in the World 2020 report scored Turkey 32/100, considering it not a free country partly because of Turkey’s treatment of minorities.

We also cannot forget that Turkey is one of the lowest ranked countries in the 2020 Reporters Without Borders report for media freedoms in the world, is the second most susceptible country surveyed on the European continent and its surrounds to fake news, has the most journalists jailed in the whole world, and 90% of media is government controlled.

More importantly, Nordic Monitor released documents that found Turkey’s “National Intelligence Organization (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı, or MIT) has spied on critics and opponents of the Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Australian territory. In what is likely to be the first confirmed case of MIT espionage in the country, a prominent figure affiliated with a pro-democracy opposition group was targeted in Sydney by agents of Turkey’s authoritarian rulers.”

It has been proven that Turkish intelligence agents work out of the Turkish embassies in Washington DCAthensBelgium, the Czech RepublicPolandKyrgyzstan, Austria and many other locations, so there is a possibility they are also working out of Australian diplomatic missions.

With the Turkish intelligence agency potentially working in Turkey’s diplomatic missions in Australia, it is of little surprise that the Turkish Consulate General in Sydney is attempting to bring Turkey’s laws, that are considered human rights breaking by Canberra, to silence those critical of the Erdoğan regime in Australia too.

The Turkish Consulate General in Sydney is attempting to bring Turkey’s draconian laws to Australia to silence critics of the Erdoğan regime and those who highlight Turkey’s historical injustice against its Christian minority. They are attempting to do this through the Australian Human Rights Commission.

I would kindly suggest that the Australian Human Rights Commission do not support the Turkish Consulate General in Sydney’s unscientific, unacademic and antihistorical official narrative on the founding years of the modern Turkish Republic – built on Atatürk’s radical drive to create a “Turkey for the Turks” that resulted in millions of Christians being exterminated.

Since the February 2020 Joint Justice Initiative’s Memorandum of Understanding between the Armenian National Committee of Australia, the Assyrian Universal Alliance – Australia Chapter and the Australian Hellenic Council, representing close to a million Australians, in only a matter of seven months they have received pledges from dozens of Australian MP’s and senators, with many more to be announced, to recognise Turkey’s genocide against its Greek, Armenian and Assyrian citizens between 1914 and 1923. Turkey not only has the most journalists jailed in the world, but it has 700 scholars criminally charged for being supporters of Fethullah Gülen, a critic of the Erdoğan regime who is in exile in the United States because of trumped up criminal charges that he is a terrorist leader. Turkish academics associated with Fethullah Gülen recognize Atatürk’s genocide against the Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians and are being persecuted for this in Turkey. In fact, in 2019 alone, 36,000 Turkish citizens faced criminal investigations for insulting dictator Erdoğan, many of them accused of being associated with Pennsylvania-based Gülen, as reported by the Stockholm Center for Freedom.

It would be highly advisable that the Australian Human Rights Commission do not associate itself with the attempts by the Turkish Consul General in Sydney to bring Turkey’s draconian laws to Australia so they can silence critics of the human rights breaking Erdoğan regime. I would also suggest that the Australian Human Rights Commission do not side with genocide deniers, especially at a time when the Federal Government is on the cusps of recognising the shocking and disgusting actions committed by Atatürk against the Christian minority, whose descendants numbering hundreds of thousands call Australia home.