ATATURK’S WORDS TO THE ANZAC MOTHERS, 21.6.2019
Photo: Atatürk Memorial -Anzac Parade, Canberra
The battles of Çanakkale, when Anzacs first encountered Turkish troops, have a special place in the history of relations between Turkey and Australia. Mutually respectful and friendly ties, borne uniquely out of a fierce battlefield, have continuously developed to this day. The first President of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk delivered the following message to the Australian and New Zealander mothers in 1934 as an expression of this friendship:
“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 in this country of ours.
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away 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.”
The poignantand magnanimous words of Atatürk were delivered on his behalf by Şükrü Kaya, the Minister of the Interior, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Çanakkale Victory and the Martyrs' Day, on 18 March 1934.
By defining “opposing” forces as “those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives”, Atatürk, as a soldier and a commander, expressed his sentiments of appreciation for Anzacs with sincerity and maturity.
Atatürk paid tribute to the bravery of Anzac soldiers in a battle against people whom they never met, in a land which was unfamiliar and far away from their homelands, without knowing the reason or purpose of the battle. Thus, he commemorated them as “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 in this country of ours.”
At the conclusion of the battle that lasted ten months, not only were there thousands of martyrs left behind but also thousands of bereaving mothers. Therefore, Atatürk addressed Anzac mothers as “You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away 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.” By this, he wanted to give the message that we regard your sons as one of ours and as such we protect their graves with love and respect.
Furthermore, there is another message of Atatürk addressed to Australians which was published at the request of “The Star” newspaper in Melbourne, which is as follows:
“The landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, and the fighting which took place on the Peninsula will never be forgotten. It showed to the World the heroism of all those who shed their blood there. How heart rendering for their nations were the losses that this struggle caused!”
As will be noted, Atatürk once again emphasized his deep sentiments that were already expressed on 18 March. This succinct and meaningful message of Atatürk was conveyed to “The Star” newspaper through a telegram signed by Hasan Rıza Bey (Soyak), Deputy Secretary General. The message was translated into French, which was the language used for international correspondence at the time, and was published under the headline: “Turkey, Old Foe, Remembers” on 25 April 1934. The copies of the newspaper as well as the letter by the Managing Editor of “The Star”, indicating appreciation of Atatürk’s message can be viewed below.
These inspirational words reflect the wisdom and the statesmanship of a victorious commander, Atatürk, who had been in the middle of the horrendous battle himself and who witnessed first hand the sorrow and suffering of thousands of soldiers.
Australians have a special place in the hearts and minds of all Turks, dating back to 1915, when Mehmets and the diggers developed a sense of deep respect regardless of the intense fighting they endured. Ever since, Turkey and Australia have fostered a close and friendly relationship.
We are confident that the historical bonds of friendship between our two countries and peoples will continue to grow and deepen.
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