Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has caused a diplomatic storm after criticising the role of the Anzacs in the allied invasion of Turkey.
The Gallipoli landing of 25 April 1915 is etched into the history of both Turkey and allied nations, with 165,000 Turks and 57,000 allies losing their lives in ensuing fighting. Turkey ultimately emerged victorious, warding off the threat of British occupation.
The Battle of Gallipoli – or Cannakale as it is known in Turkey – is commemorated on 25 April each year, and has until now been a time for mourners from all nations to come together in solemn remembrance of those who sacrificed their lives in defence of their respective lands.
President’s remarks in the wake of Christchurch
But all of that stands to change with the ill-chosen words of the outspoken Turkish President who – many believe foolishly – has opened fire not only on the Christchurch shooter, but on Australians and New Zealanders who have expressed anti-Islamic views.
Directing his words towards suspected terrorist Brenton Tarrant, Mr Erdogan told a rally of thousands:
“You heinously killed 50 of our siblings. You will pay for this.
“If New Zealand doesn’t make you pay, we know how to make you pay one way or another”.
The President called for the reinstatement of the death penalty and its infliction upon Tarrant.
He further suggested the Christchurch massacre is part of a wider attack on Muslim people, and that institutions in countries like Australia and New Zealand are ultimately responsible for what occurred.
“They are testing us from 16,500 kilometres away, from New Zealand with the messages they are giving from there”, he told the rally.
“This isn’t an individual act, this is organised”.
He then proceeded to issue a stern, offensive and hate-filled warning which is unhelpful to mending wounds and fostering relations between nations.
Directing his comments to Australian and New Zealand visitors who hold anti-Islamic views, the President warned:
“Your grandparents came here… and they returned in caskets.
“Have no doubt we will send you back like your grandfathers”.
The Australian Prime Minister has since summoned the Turkish Ambassador with a view to dealing with the situation.
Mr Morrison has made clear that he is “very offended” by Erdogan’s insensitive and provocative remarks.
“I don’t find these comments very helpful”, the PM told the media.
Ataturk would be turning in his grave
Erdogan’s hate-filled outburst is entirely at odds with the views of previous Turkish leaders, who have embraced the spirit of camaraderie between the formerly warring nations.
It is also inconsistent with the words and sentiments of the Turkish Commander at Gallipoli, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who famously stated in a tribute to the Anzacs:
“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.”