Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Remember

This has got absolutely nothing to do with pencils, but just for now, it’s something I’d like to say.

Today is a public holiday, ANZAC Day. It is an important day to me, it’s the “Remembrance” day here in New Zealand, and in Australia too, when we remember those who served their country in times of conflict. It’s easy to be bombarded with negative stories about the state of the world, so just for today I’d like to present a more positive image, of nations putting aside their differences, putting their history behind them, moving on and getting along.

In World War One, the ANZACs (Australia & New Zealand Army Corps) participated in the Gallipoli campaign. That was the seaborne invasion of Turkey (the then Ottoman Empire) by British Empire and French forces on this day, April 25, back in 1915. In the fighting that followed, there were many hundreds of thousands of casualties. On the Turkish side this was in the successful defence of their homeland, and on the Allied side it was ultimately for nought, as the invasion failed and they were evacuated from Turkey. The campaign is a seminal event in Australian and New Zealand history, often regarded as our “coming of age” as nations, rather than as just colonies of the British Empire.

In today’s geopolitical situation it would be easy to portray the ANZACs as just another bunch of Western Christian crusaders, quite literally sailing half-way around the world to attack an Islamic nation. Instead, in a very gracious stance by the government and people of Turkey, we, the defeated ANZAC invaders, are allowed to commemorate our war dead on Turkish soil. Every year, tens of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders visit Gallipoli, with many thousands attending the ceremonies at Gallipoli in Turkey on ANZAC day itself. Australian and New Zealand government and military personnel attend, sometimes up to the Prime Ministers and Chiefs of Defence Staff, along with Australian and NZ warships and soldiers. All this, in the country that we invaded.

As much as I would like to, I sometimes struggle to imagine us New Zealanders being so generous if the positions were reversed. Irrespective of whatever allegations some level at Turkey regarding human rights and their treatment of ethnic minorities, surely here is a lesson in tolerance and reconciliation for us all.

From Wikipedia:
“The significance of the battle of Gallipoli is perhaps most strongly felt in Australia and New Zealand where it was the first great conflict experienced by those fledgling nations. Before Gallipoli the citizens of these countries were confident of the superiority of the British Empire and were proud and eager to offer their service. Gallipoli shook that confidence, and then three years on the Western Front (in France/Belgium) would destroy it utterly.”

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pencils or not. A very good point to be remembered here in the EU where we are quick on the trigger regarding Turkey. Well done Turkey!

musti said...

Thank you for your nice words.

I am sure you know what Ataturk wrote in 1934 about what went on in Gallipoli:

"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."

He is dearly missed to this day, and increasingly so, for half of us the liberal Turks.

As he said, all Turks feel that your sons are our sons, and you are always welcome here in Turkey.

kiwi-d said...

Hello Musti.
Thanks for your comment. Yes I did know Ataturks words, he was indeed a great man.
The current tensions between liberal and conservative forces in Turkey do make the news here down under. I hope that things can be resolved to everyones satisfaction.