Peace, brotherhood, shared humanity rise from Gallipoli’s hallowed ground
by Ayşe Şahin
ISTANBULApr 24, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Ayşe Şahin
Apr 24, 2015 12:00 am
Turkey is hosting world leaders to commemorate the centenary of the World War I Battle of Gallipoli, conveying messages of reconciliation. President Erdoğan, in a speech during the ceremony, highlighted the significance of unity in building peace while paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the battle
Thousands of Australians, New Zealanders and Turks and dozens of dignitaries from around the world have gathered on Turkey's Gallipoli Peninsula to mark the 100th anniversary of one of the bloodiest battles of World War I. With the aim of cementing peace between nations that were opponents 100 years ago, the events commemorating the centennial of the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli commenced with a Peace Summit in Istanbul on Thursday evening and extended to two days of commemorations in Çanakkale.
Gallipoli, once the stage of dreadful fighting that killed tens of thousands on both sides, is currently enjoying a scene of solidarity and unity under the umbrella of peace. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is hosting leaders of World War I participants – 17 presidents and five prime ministers – including Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key as well as the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, and his son Prince Harry.
Erdoğan delivered a speech on Friday in Çanakkale focusing on building peace, welfare and brotherhood in world. He said: The solution to terrorism, racism and Islamophobia is here," and that Turkey was ready for any cooperation to turn the 21st century into the century of peace. Paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the battle, Erdoğan also called on the world to take the necessary responsibility in order not to experience any war again anywhere in the world. Erdoğan also said 10,000 people are expected to attend the dawn service on April 25.
Turkey's Head of Religious Affairs Directorate Mehmet Görmez made the opening speech at the ceremony and prayed for the martyrs.
"Gallipoli is an example of the great pains suffered by humanity in the last century" Görmez said, and noted that humanity has suffered great pains for the past two centuries. He also prayed that people draw lessons from the deep pains experienced during World War I and to turn the world into a more habitable place where we can live in peace, tranquility and security.
Erdoğan and Prince Charles laid wreaths at a memorial for fallen Ottoman soldiers at Gallipoli before the ceremonies moved to the British memorial site. Charles said he felt honored to glorify the soldiers who fought with courage and lost their lives at Gallipoli. He also expressed regret over how losses during the two world wars perpetuate to trigger conflict and hatred among people. He said it was leaders' responsibility to work together to prevent hatred among communities.
Abbott also spoke at the event on Friday. He said: "Our forebears faced terrible trials, but the worst of times brought out the very best in them. Their perseverance, selflessness, courage and compassion came to define us as a nation." Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had spoken on Thursday at the Peace Summit in Istanbul, which was attended by Prince Charles, Abbott and the Qatari Emir Tamim al-Thani. "We will talk about peace through war on this meaningful centennial," Davutoğlu said during his speech. He continued: "We aimed for one thing while planning [the commemorations]. We have previously experienced bloody wars, but today is the day for building peace. Let us not generate a culture of anger and [instead] learn from these wars."
2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli, which served as a turning point in favor of the Ottomans fighting in World War I against the Allied Forces.
Commemorations are taking place around the world this week to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle, predominantly in Australia and Turkey, which suffered the brunt of the casualties.
The fallen from both the Ottomans and the Allies lie close together in separate cemeteries on the Gallipoli peninsula on the western edge of Turkey in what has long been seen as a powerful symbol of reconciliation.
Among the heads of state who attended the ceremonies are Britain's Prince Charles, President of Albania Bujar Nishani, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, President of Djibouti Omar Guelleh, Irish President Michal D. Higgins, President of Mali Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, Iraqi President Fuad Masum, Qatari Emir Tamim al-Thani, President of the Syrian National Coalition Khalid Khoja and President of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic. Three parliamentary chiefs, three deputy presidents, five prime ministers, two former presidents, 28 ministers, seven deputy ministers and five general secretaries of international organizations are also expected to attend the events. The commemorations will be covered by more than 400 international media outlets.
The leaders attended ceremonies throughout Friday at the beaches where the Allied troops launched their attacks only to meet fierce Ottoman resistance that lasted until the evacuation of the last Allied troops in January 1916 in what is widely regarded as a failed campaign.
On Saturday, the focus will be on the dawn services to remember the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who lost their lives thousands of miles from home in a sacrifice that helped forge a national consciousness in those nations and is still remembered as Anzac Day on April 25.
Thousands of Australians and New Zealanders have made the long journey to join the tributes to their forefathers, milling around the ferry docks where souvenir sellers offer scarves and T-shirts promoting the modern day friendship between the ex-foes.
"It means so much to come back and give them the respect [the troops] deserve," said Marjorie Stevens, 87, from Adelaide, Australia, who had been planning the long trip for 12 months.
"It's hard to keep back the tears and it's so important to keep the link to the past," she said.