Ceremonies were held yesterday across the nation to mark Martyrs Day. March 18 is also celebrated as a victory on Gallipoli Day. Exactly 103 years ago yesterday, Ottoman soldiers deployed in the Gallipoli Strait succeeded in preventing a huge allied fleet from gaining access to the strategic channel. The allied fleet was attempting to pass through the strait before conquering Istanbul and pushing the Ottoman Empire out of World War I. The fleet's repeated attempts to pass through failed and on March 18, it gave up, forcing the military to attempt a landing. The landing and the succeeding months-long stalemate ended in early 1916 when the allied army gave up and withdrew.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the ceremony held at the Çanakkale March 18 Stadium and Martyrs Monument held yesterday. At the ceremony, he presented the latest developments concerning the ongoing Afrin operation before expressing his respects for the many martyrs that had given up their lives to protect their nation.
In a message his office released the day before, Erdoğan said the country remained proud and thankful for the soldiers who fought the Allied forces in Gallipoli and emerged as victors. He described the Gallipoli War as a legendary battle that made everyone stop and take notice of the courage and invincibility of the Turkish forces defending their own land. He said the victory in this battle had also inspired the later Independence War, from which Turkey emerged as an independent republic.
Also attending the ceremony in Çanakkale were Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, several ministers and diplomats and military representatives from New Zealand, the U.K. and Australia.
Yıldırım, speaking at the ceremony, said the Gallipoli Wars had started the reawakening of the nation that culminated in the following Independence War and Turkey had built on that spirit to reach the strength it has now.
Australia and New Zealand mark the Gallipoli War and the sacrifices made by their fallen soldiers on April 25 Anzac Day. The failure of the fleet to pass through the narrows had resulted in the planning and the execution of a landing, which took place on April 25, 1915.
The Gallipoli War was one of the few victories by the Ottoman Empire during World War I, which ended with an allied victory. Ottoman soldiers fought in many geographic locations, from Yemen to Africa, the Caucasus and many places across Europe during the war. Tens of thousands of martyrs' graves are dotted across the nation, lands that used to belong to the Ottoman Empire and Axis countries.
Only in Istanbul there are 13 cemeteries created to accommodate the fallen soldiers in various wars over the centuries.
According to the Defense Ministry figures compiled by Anadolu Agency (AA), there are Turkish martyrs' cemeteries in 34 countries, including Germany, Albania, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Greece, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kosovo, Lithuania, Libya, Malta, Myanmar, Northern Cyprus, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, South Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Yemen.
There are nine martyrs' cemeteries in Northern Cyprus, eight in Azerbaijan, seven in Ukraine, six in the Israel/Palestine region, four in Greece and three each in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Syria and Romania.