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Australians and Turks remember Gallipoli

By Alice Aslan - posted Friday, 24 April 2015


Gallipoli in Turkey is very special for Australians. Many Australians visit Gallipoli every year to remember the Anzacs. It is not always easy to understand for the Turks how Australians, a nation on the other side of the world can have such a special attachment to a Turkish place. Theirs is an obsession, devotion and worshipping. Of course it requires some knowledge of history to appreciate this unique relationship.

One hundred years ago, the world was divided amongst different empires.Then power meant acquiring more land, and therefore the war was the norm rather than an exception. And in 1915 during the First World War thousands of young Australian soldiers, the Anzacs voluntereed to fight for the colonial British Empire against the imperial Turkish Ottoman Empire. They travellled to the Gallipoli peninsula with a sense of adventure and loyalty to the King.

But soon the Anzacs faced the brutality of war. Thousands of them were killed. The young Turkish soldiers who fought against the British soldiers who had invaded their country won the battle. But thousands of them were also killled. The seeds of two unique nations were sown during the battle of Gallipoli: Turkey with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and Australia with a new identity.

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Bow Hawke sums up the Anzac spirit:

...in that recognition of the special meaning of Australian mateship, the self-recognition of their dependence upon one another-these Australians, by no means all of them born in Australia, drawn from every walk of life and different backgrounds, cast upon these hostile shores, twelve thousand miles from home-there lay the genesis of Anzac tradition…And at the heart of that tradition lay a commitment. It was a simple but deep commitment to one another, each to his fellow Australian. And in that commmitment, I believe, lies the enduring meaning of Anzac, then and today and for the future. It is that commitment, now as much as ever-now, with all the vast changes occurring in our nation, more than ever-it is that commitment to Australia, which defines, and alone defines, what it is to be an Australian. The commitment is all." Hawke points out that "the Anzac tradition, forged in the fires of Gallipoli, must be learned anew, from generation to generation. Its meaning can endure only as long as each new generation of Australians finds the will to reinterpret it-to breathe, as it were, new life into the old story…

But war is always futile. There is no real winners. And in fact Australians and Turks can't be enemies but friends. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of Turkish Republic, said in a generous and noble way that Anzacs are equal to Turkish soldiers:

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.

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About the Author

Alice Aslan is a Turkish-Australian anthropologist, writer and activist based in Sydney. She is passionate about the arts, ideas and justice. She is the author of "Islamophobia in Australia". She can be contacted at alice.aslan@gmail.com

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