Today marks the 104th anniversary of the Çanakkale victory where Ottoman Turkish troops managed to stave off occupying forces during World War I, a move that delayed the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and contributed to patriotic fervor that sparked the post-WWI fight for independence.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be the highest-ranking official to attend the commemoration ceremonies in Çanakkale, the northwestern province where an eponymous waterway known as the Dardanelles, was the only obstacle for the Allied forces that set their sights on then capital Istanbul.
The day is officially known as March 18 Çanakkale Victory and Martyrs Day, when all fallen soldiers and civilians died in wars, terror attacks and counter-terrorism operations are remembered. The remembrance events culminate in a national park where cemeteries for thousands of the fallen are located in Çanakkale, and traditionally, a military parade is held.
Issuing a written statement on Sunday on the occasion, President Erdoğan said that as descendants of Çanakkale's martyrs, Turkish people would never compromise their independence, future and freedom. "We are strongly opposed to treacherous plans against our nation, and we work tirelessly with all of our citizens; man, woman, young and old, shoulder to shoulder, to build a bright future," Erdoğan said. He stressed the Çanakkale Victory was a glorious victory that brought to heel the most advanced militaries of the era. "The Turkish nation, commemorates the 104th anniversary of the Çanakkale Victory with great pride and excitement, and once again remembers each and every hero with respect and gratitude, first and foremost Gazi Mustafa Kemal, who entrusted these lands to us, on the occasion of March 18 Martyrs' Day," he added, referring to the Republic of Turkey's founder and first president who was a senior commander during the Çanakkale campaign.
The events leading up to the momentous battle started in February 1915 when Britain and France decided to launch the Gallipoli (Gelibolu) Campaign to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war as quickly as possible by reaching and capturing its capital. They started their attack on March 18, but the waters were filled with a network of mines laid by Ottoman vessels. On April 25, allied soldiers landed on the shores of the Gelibolu Peninsula. The troops were there part of a plan to open the Çanakkale Strait on Turkey's Aegean coast to Allied fleets, allowing them to threaten the Ottoman capital. The Allied forces, however, encountered strong and courageous resistance from the Turks, and the campaign turned out to be a costly failure. Tens of thousands of Turkish nationals and soldiers died, along with tens of thousands of Europeans, plus around 7,000-8,000 Australians and nearly 3,000 New Zealanders, referred to collectively as the Anzac troops. Victory against the Allied forces boosted the morale of the Turkish side, which then went on to wage a war of independence between 1919 and 1922, and eventually formed a republic in 1923 from the ashes of the old empire.