100th ANZAC Day: How Gallipoli Turned an Islamic Empire into Secular Country, and a Quote that Brings Tears To Every English Speaker's Eyes
100 years ago on April 25, the legend of Officer Mustafa Kemal (1881-1938) began when his Ottoman Empire 19th Division withstood heavy Allied naval bombardment and decimated the Australian and New Zealand ANZAC ground troops in what is now called Anzac Cove. The ANZAC landing that established a short-lived Gallipoli peninsula foothold across the Dardanelles from Çanakkale, Turkey, is considered the D-Day of World War I.
Kemal later took the name Atatürk, meaning "Father of the Turks," and his words to the ANZAC mothers brings tears to the eyes of every English-speaker who falls in love with the wonders of Turkey.
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.
-Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Although it is questioned whether Atatürk actually authored these words, the quote is consistent with ideals shared by humans across the world.
First Lord of the British Admiralty and future Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a major architect of the failed attempt take Istanbul by way of the Dardanelles.
The Dardanelles is less than 4 miles (6 km) wide at its widest point and is only 340 feet (100 m) deep at its deepest.
Seven months passed before the Ottomans were able to push the British and ANZAC forces back to sea, ending the Gallipoli Campaign.
On May 25, each side organized a truce that allowed them to bury their dead and in this case, help an enemy soldier who was still alive.
After burying the dead, Ottoman and ANZAC soldiers take time to sit and speak with each other.
From Gallipoli and the Anzaks, a page that includes descriptions and photos from each battle location:
After May 19 the Anzac soldiers began to see the Turks as fellow sufferers and respect for their courage and prowess grew Within days of the attack the air was heavy with the smell of rotting corpses. A truce was arranged on May 24 to allow both sides to bury their dead. Captain Aubrey Herbert met and accompanied Turkish officers up the ridge from the beach to a plateau. He found the sight between the trenches and in the gullies ‘indescribable.' So awful was the stench that a Turkish Red Crescent official gave him antiseptic wool with scent to put over his nose. A Turkish officer said to Herbert:
At this spectacle even the most gentle must feel savage, and the most savage must weep.
Continuing on up the ridge, Herbert saw for himself the full effect of the Anzac bullets:
They [Turkish dead] fill the myrtle-grown gullies. One saw the result of machine-gun fire very clearly: entire companies annihilated – not wounded, but killed, their heads doubled under them with the impetus of their rush and both hands clasping their bayonets. It was as if God had breathed in their faces …
[Aubrey Herbert, Mons, Anzac and Kut, Hutchinson & Co, 1930]
Despite the tragedy of war, the humanity displayed during the truce and bravery by each side–English-speaking Allies and Turkish-speaking Ottomans–have resulted in mutual respect between Australia and Turkey that has persisted for 100 years.
ANZAC Cove in Turkey | Atatürk Park in Australia
Why was Gallipoli (English title) or Çanakkale (Turkish title) important for Turkish people?
NOTE: There is no Turkish national holiday that celebrates the Ottoman Empire victory at Gallipoli
Gallipoli was important for Turks because the Ottoman Sultanate had been considered the "Sick Man of Europe" for the previous 50 years.
What happened to Mustafa Kemal, the hero of Gallipoli?
20 years after Gallipoli, 15 years after the Turkish War of Independence, and 12 years after the creation of the modern Republic of Turkey, Kemal introduced surnames to Turkey in 1935 and took the last name Atatürk, which means "Father of the Turks."
Atatürk's Reforms were a series of political, legal, cultural, social, and economic policy changes that were designed to transform an Islamic empire into into a secular, modern nation-state.
Mustafa Kemal modernized and secularized the country by studying Western governments and adapting their structure for the people of Turkey. He believed that modernization necessarily entailed Westernization, and he established a policy of state secularism, with a constitution that separated the government from religion.
Atatürk replaced the Arabic alphabet with a Latin one, introduced the Gregorian calendar and urged people to dress in Western clothes. He industrialized the nation, establishing state-owned factories around the country as well as a railway network. And a multitude of new laws established legal equality between the sexes. Mustafa removed women’s veiling laws and gave women the right to vote.
Although he believed he was advancing the country, not all of Atatürk’s reforms were warmly received. His policy of state secularism was particularly controversial, and he was accused of decimating important cultural traditions.
Mustafa Kemal was married briefly from 1923 to 1925, and although he never fathered children, he adopted 12 daughters and one son.
He died from cirrhosis of the liver on November 10, 1938.
Find articles under
Life, Politics, and Adventure - or use the search feature below!