Stephens, David: ‘”Johnnies and Mehmets”: Kemal Ataturk’s “quote” is an Anzac confidence trick

David Stephens

“Johnnies and Mehmets”: Kemal Ataturk’s “quote” is an Anzac confidence trick‘, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 April 2017

Edited version of David Stephens and Burcin Cakir’s chapter 7 of The Honest History Book. The words attributed to Ataturk, commencing ‘Those heroes that shed their blood’ are ‘lovely words, whether in English translation or Turkish. Yet there is no strong evidence Ataturk ever said or wrote them. Their invention and promotion says far more about politics and diplomacy than it does about remembrance.’

The article summarises the evidence to support the proposition that the Ataturk words are essentially a confidence trick, foisted by Turks onto gullible Australians. There is no strong evidence that Ataturk ever said or wrote the words and the key clause about equal Johnnies and Mehmets was invented by an Australian in 1978.

The “Those heroes” words (with Brisbane-added equal Johnnies and Mehmets) have brought comfort to many people – rather like the stories of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny – but our yearning for comfort has been abused. The words are essentially a confidence trick, and the people most taken in are the bright-eyed children who are pushed forward every Anzac season to recite what they have been told are the words of the great Ataturk.

Also on other Fairfax websites and in hard copy Canberra Times slightly edited. A Greek translation appears in O Kosmos, 26 April 2017 (page 2, page 3).

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