Daley, Paul: Ataturk’s words about Anzacs shrouded in doubt

Daley, Paul

Ataturk’s “Johnnies and Mehmets” words about the Anzacs are shrouded in doubt‘, Guardian Australia, 20 April 2015 and updated

Examines the famous Ataturk words of 1934, drawing upon research by the Turkish scholar, Cengiz Ozakinci. Links to a research note on the Honest History site, which in turn includes links to sources. Update 27 April: Paul Daley’s material has been translated and republished in Turkey here and here. Some Australian comments are here.

There is no evidence, beyond the 1953 interview with [Ataturk’s minister Sukru] Kaya himself, that what we know as Ataturk’s purported “Johnnies and the Mehmets” words were ever written or spoken by the leader, Kaya or anyone else in 1934, 1931 or, indeed, any other time up until the Turkish president’s death in 1938. That hasn’t stopped countless other world leaders and officials speaking them countless times since.

It all comes back to 1953 and Kaya – who, as a public servant during the first world war, was strongly implicated in the Armenian genocide and later, as one of Ataturk’s ministers, in the massacre of Kurds at Dursim in the late 1930s.

History is always open to interpretation and debate. But good history is grounded in fact.

Until significant, non-circumstantial evidence to the contrary arises, the consolation to Anzac mothers so widely attributed to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1934 can only remain historically dubious.

It is testimony to the potency of Anzac mythology that it hasn’t been more fully tested until now.

UPDATE 12 June 2015: Honest History has received a letter from the Ataturk Society of America responding to the Ataturk material placed on our site. Honest History stands by our material and its sources. We have sent the Ataturk Society letter on to Cengiz Ozakinci.

 

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