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Echoes of Gallipoli

By Russell Grenning - posted Monday, 25 June 2018

It might not sit all that comfortably with our solemn commemoration of Anzac Day on 25 April every year but the simple fact is that the disastrous 1915 Allied invasion of Ottoman Turkey – then an ally of Germany – was little more than a minor skirmish in the bloody carnage of World War I.

While the enduring ANZAC tradition was forged at Gallipoli where 11,500 Australian and New Zealand troops lost their lives in this heroic but futile campaign, it was quickly forgotten in Europe. Neither the British nor the French, who also had troops there, wanted to remember failure and the war went on more for three more savage years.

What perhaps is sometimes overlooked is that Turkey also still remembers Gallipoli. It was, after all, an attempted invasion of their country and it was, for them, a victory.


Now one hundred and three years later, this recalled campaign is a flash point in relations between Turkey and Europe.

Last 25 April, while Australia and New Zealand remembered our fallen in all wars with parades and church services, images emerged of children in Islamic mosques in Vienna playing dead and covered with Turkish flags. While the Austrian Arab Religious Community which runs six mosques in the country called this event "highly regrettable", it enraged the Austrian Government which responded swiftly.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced that the Turkish nationalist mosque was being shut down and the Arab Religious Community was being dissolved. In 2015, the Austrian Government passed the so-called "Islamic law" which banned foreign funding of religious groups and which introduced a duty for Muslims in Austria to have "a positive fundamental view towards state and society".

"Parallel societies, political Islam and tendencies toward radicalisation have no place in our country," Kurz said.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan who has been adopting an increasingly strict Islamic policy for domestic political reasons announced, "These measures taken by the Austrian Chancellor are, I fear, leading towards a war between the cross and the crescent." If this reference to a potential conflict between Christianity and Islam wasn't clear enough. Erdogan said, "You do this and we sit idle? It means we will take steps too" and added, "The western world should get their act together."

Erdogan was Prime Minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014 before becoming President and he is the leader of the dominant Justice and Development Party (AKP).


In May, 2005, he visited Israel and in 2007 the Israeli President visited Turkey – the first and only time Israel and a Muslim-majority country have had such cordial relations – but this friendliness was fleeting and in 2017 he denounced Israel as a "terrorist state". In March, 2017, he said to Turks in Europe, "Make not three but five children because you are the future of Europe. That will be the best response to the injustices against you" and if he expected this to send shivers down the collective backbone of Europe then he would not have been disappointed.



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About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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