Number 225 | April 25, 2013
Every year on April 25, Turks, Australians and New Zealanders join together to commemorate ANZAC Day. On this day 98 years ago, with the Allies at their side, the newly formed Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACS) landed on the Gallipoli peninsula to invade the Ottoman Empire’s capitol, modern-day Istanbul, and take control of a precious WWI supply route to Russia. As support for the war waned, the British came to Australia with a propaganda machine aimed at encouraging young Australian men to sign-up to fight in this war on a foreign land half a world away. Over the next nine months, the Turks fought a bloody battle against the ANZACs, and while the Ottoman army ultimately prevailed, both sides suffered great hardships and heavy casualties.
For the ANZACS, this little known WWI event is recognized as their first ever major offensive and has become a defining moment in shaping the national identities of the Australian and New Zealand people. For Turks, it gave inspiration and a leader (Mustafa Kemal) to the Turkish National Resistance Movement that eventually freed Anatolia from foreign invasion.
Australia's Veterans Affairs' Minister Warren Snowdon attended the Turkish commemorative ceremonies yesterday on the Gallipoli peninsula ahead of the joint Australian and New Zealand dawn service he led on Anzac day today.
"It's an important fact that people understand there was a massive loss of life by the Ottoman Empire - the Turkish troops," the minister stated at the ceremony. "We need to understand in Australia that while there were many thousands of Australian and New Zealand lives lost, there were literally tens of thousands of Turkish souls who lost their lives during the campaign," he said and added that Australia and Turkey now were "great friends."
In 1934, when memories of the battle were still fresh, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, commander at Gallipoli and founder of modern Turkey, stated:
“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives...You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours...you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land. they have become our sons as well.”
Today Gallipoli has become a symbol of reconciliation. Following last year’s anniversary, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Australian counterpart, Julia Gillard, met in Ankara, Turkey to plan a special remembrance of the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign. The two leaders announced that 2015 would be proclaimed the Year of Turkey in Australia and the Year of Australia in Turkey.
Please also read “Overcoming Conflict: How the Battle of Gallipoli Sparked a New Friendship” by TCA Research Fellow Sevin Elekdag and Onur Isci, Lecturer at History Department of Georgetown University, published in Eurasia Review on April 25, at www.eurasiareview.com.