The Gallipoli war also holds a special place in the hearts of the Turkish people who fought to defend the homeland. In the last days of the Ottoman Empire young Turks were able to stop the superpowers of the time, British and French armies, with their determination.
Australians and New Zealanders also became nations earning their national identities in the war. Each year, thousands of Australians and New Zealanders attend the Dawn Ceremony on April 25, to commemorate their loss at the Anzac Cove in Gallipoli.
As a graduate of Gallipoli High School, I attended the 75th anniversary of the start of the land war in 1990. I still remember the feeling. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Turkish President Turgut Özal and many leaders joined that great ceremony. But the most powerful image which stayed in my mind was the hug between Turkish and Australian veterans on the sideline of the official ceremonies. They were over their 90s. They tried to communicate about their war memories, as soldiers who fired at each other 75 years ago. They seemed like two brothers who reunited after decades. Probably this was the last time veterans met in such a big ceremony. I saw and felt the Gallipoli spirit there and have never forgotten about it.
The words of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1934, who was a commander in the Ottoman army during the Gallipoli War, inscribed on a stone block recently renewed and erected in the National Park at an area that was once a battlefield, has recently resurfaced again. “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 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,” his words read. Atatürk had showed extraordinary maturity and extended the hand of friendship to his former enemies. His words were welcomed by his counterparts.
After that, citizens of the province of Çanakkale, where Gallipoli is located, and consecutive governments in Turkey embraced these words, and commemorations took place in an atmosphere of friendship. This is the Gallipoli spirit. The massacre committed by a cold-blooded, racist murderer in New Zealand cannot and should not overshadow this spirit.
The terrorist last week killed 50 people in two mosques. He showed no sign of regret after getting caught. The dates and messages on his gun and the manifesto he published were statements of shame and hostility against Muslims, specifically targeting Turks and Turkey. The horribleness of the killing spree aroused indignation in Turkey. But this is now under control.
Although the words of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was clearly targeted by the terrorist, at a Gallipoli ceremony were a reaction to the killer, it caused a problem between Turkey and New Zealand. The presidency’s head of communications, Fahrettin Altun, clarified Erdoğan’s words in line with Gallipoli spirit. “The president was responding to the so-called ‘manifesto’ of the terrorist who killed 50 innocent Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. Turks have always been the most welcoming and gracious hosts to their #Anzac visitors,” he said.