President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan highlighted Turkey’s determination to preserve peace as he commemorated the martyrs who lost their lives in Çanakkale in a statement released on the occasion of the 105th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign.
“We remember the heroism of our soldiers who defended our land and flag and the sacrifices of our nation on the 105th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign and wish God’s mercy upon our sacred martyrs and veterans,” Erdoğan said in the statement.
The president described the spirit of Gallipoli as being united even in the most difficult circumstances against occupation to ensure independence by believing in success.
“We are determined to maintain this struggle until peace and humanitarian values replace war, terrorism and violence despite all hardship,” Erdoğan said, adding that he reiterates his call for peace to the world.
Last month, Turkey marked the 105th anniversary of March 18, 1915, a day celebrated as Çanakkale Victory and Martyrs’ Day.
The poignant day marks the cataclysmic, monthslong violence of the Gallipoli Campaign when Ottoman forces suffered huge losses defending Turkish shores in northwestern Çanakkale province from the invading Allies in World War I.
The campaign, although catastrophic for the Turkish side, ultimately made history as the last great victory of the ailing empire and in a way, the first step into the birth of another country: the Republic of Turkey. It was this chapter of the war where the republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk proved his mettle as a leader to create a new Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
The anniversary is a patriotic event and for years, was marked with large-scale events in Çanakkale attended by the country’s leaders. This year, however, the events were low-key due to coronavirus fears. Apart from a group of local officials, few people turned out for the event. A small crowd gathered at a square in Çanakkale for a wreath-laying ceremony, while events which usually conclude with visits to the graves of fallen soldiers were canceled.
Australians have also paid tributes to their fallen troops of World War I from their own homes due to the lockdown enforced to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Normally drawing crowds of thousands, this year’s Anzac Day ceremonies on Saturday were only attended by officials, while citizens watched on television and many stood in their driveways at dawn to pay tribute.
Many Australians also took to social media to pay tribute to their ancestors.
Anzac Day, observed annually on April 25, is a national day of remembrance for soldiers of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) who fought and died during the Battle of Çanakkale in World War I.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed an empty auditorium at the Australian War Memorial in the capital Canberra on Saturday morning.
“This year, our Anzac Day traditions have been interrupted. But not for the first time. On Anzac Day 1919, the first after the Great War, there were no city marches or parades for the returning veterans, because Australians were battling the Spanish flu pandemic,” he said.
“Here in Canberra, on this day 75 years ago and in the midst of war, our then-Prime Minister John Curtin called for every citizen to give equal measure of devotion, what our servicemen and women give every day.”
“This Anzac Day, it’s been passed to us. And so together, with faith in each other, and guided by the lives and examples of those who’ve gone before, we grasp that torch and we raise it high again lighting up the Anzac dawn. Lest we forget,” the prime minister said.
Many survivors and their descendants also travel to Turkey on Anzac Day to mark the sacrifices and friendship that has developed between the nations since World War I.
The Battle of Çanakkale took place in the northwestern Turkish province of Çanakkale’s Gelibolu (Gallipoli) district in 1915 and marked a turnaround in favor of the Turks against the Allied forces.
Tens of thousands of Turkish nationals and soldiers died, along with tens of thousands of Europeans – around 7,000-8,000 Australians and nearly 3,000 New Zealanders.