The Australian Gazetesinde yayınlanan makale - Gallipoli , Bound by blood and respect

Reha Keskintepe 24.04.2015

Today as Australians commemorate the Centenary of the Anzac landings in Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, in solemn ceremonies at Anzac Cove, in front of the War Memorial in Canberra, and in all cities, towns, churches and schools in this young and free country, it is indeed an honour, privilege and once in a life time experience for me to represent Turkey in Australia, as Ambassador of a friendly country. This friendship was born during the fierce battles at Gallipoli, deepened by the compassionate words of Atatürk addressed to the Anzac mothers in 1934, and matured ever since with best of feelings nurtured by the Turkish and Australian peoples towards each other. Successive Australian and Turkish Governments and our political leaders over a century have honoured this legacy and deployed every effort to maintain and build on the solid foundation of our historical friendship.

Let us for a moment take a step back to 1915, the fateful year during the Great War, when the Ottoman Empire fought at no less than thirteen different fronts stretching from Galitzia in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus to Mesopotamia, Palestine and Yemen. The Entente powers were convinced that the “sick man of Europe” needed only a last and defining blow, if you will, to finish the job and they were busy signing secret agreements to partition the Ottoman Empire. In short, Ottoman Turks were fighting for their survival when the Ottoman Empire was fast disintegrating. The Turkish nation displayed utmost perseverance and determination to protect and defend the homeland against all odds, paying a very heavy price in blood and treasure. Turks proved there was no limit to the sacrifice they would endure in the struggle for dignity and freedom. Turkish troops were led by courageous and battle hardened commanders, most notably Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who ordered his troops “not to attack, but to die” to stop the Anzacs. Hence the epic struggle at Çanakkale (Gallipoli) justly became the cornerstone of Turkish national identity. In the aftermath of the Great War, which the Ottoman Empire lost and which led to its subsequent partitioning, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk led the War of Independence, defeated invading powers and founded the Republic of Turkey in 1923, becoming its first President.

On the other hand, the landing of the ANZACs on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 25 April 1915, was a defining event in Australian history. It is generally accepted that the Anzac spirit was born out of this battle, on the shores, ridges and trenches of Gallipoli and lives on today, forming the national identity of Australians, who are proud of this legacy.

At Gallipoli, the Diggers and Mehmetçiks (Turkish soldiers) fought courageously with honour, pride and sense of duty, under most dire conditions, but never lost their respect for the “enemy” on the other side. Turks and Australians have since fostered a close and friendly relationship owing much to Atatürk’s words of compassion and wisdom, addressed to the mothers of Anzac soldiers who fell in Gallipoli, “those heroes…after having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well”. These words, which are well known in Australia and in Turkey and often recited for good purpose, will resonate for centuries to come and constitute the foundation of the Turkish-Australian friendship.

Today, as Turks, Australians and New Zealanders stand without any grievance shoulder to shoulder at the dawn ceremony at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli/Turkey and Turkish-Australians march together with their compatriots at ceremonies across Australia, it will be testimony to deep bonds of fraternity and friendship between our peoples.

It also demonstrates that the commemorations are not just an Anzac event, but rather a joint Anzac-Turkish event, and I am confident that they will be recognised as such in both

Turkey and Australia. I am convinced as we move into the future, the way we commemorate our common history will continue to have a bearing on the national identities of Turks and Australians. Moreover, Turkish-Australian friendship should serve as a strong message to the international community, plagued by ethnic, sectarian and religious conflicts; for tolerance, mutual understanding and peace among nations. The message is there, loud and clear, for all to receive, given by the leaders of our countries on 23 April 2015 at the Peace Summit in İstanbul, at today’s Centenary Commemorations, at many conferences, concerts, cultural and social events, and new publications released in both countries. Monuments recently unveiled at King’s Domain in Melbourne and at Hyde Park in Sydney will carry the same message to future generations of Australians.

I would especially like to recognise and to express my deep appreciation to all Australian institutions, universities, cultural organisations and distinguished individuals which have contributed immensely to our friendship with their remarkable work in connection with the centenary commemorations. These contributions have set a high standard to be emulated and will go a long way in forging the cultural relations between our countries.

As we look to the future, and to the prospects of further strengthening our ties, we can build on the solid foundations already in place; a shared history, the freedoms and democratic values we cherish, the human bonds, the expanding people to people contacts, just to name a few. Moreover, Turkey and Australia are both members of the G-20, and the MIKTA Group in the G-20, with strong and growing economies likely to be placed in the world’s top 10 in the near future. Great opportunities exist for increasing trade and investment. Turkey is a bridge between East and West, while Australia brings Western values and concepts to Asia. Diplomatically, Turkey and Australia share similar views on many international issues and support each other in the international fora. Given these elements we are destined to move forward together.

In the past century time has been on our side, Turks and Australians have used it prudently to foster a genuine camaraderie. It is up to future generations to follow in the footsteps of their forefathers to make the next century a time of ever deepening relations and exemplary friendship.

Reha Keskintepe


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