Turkish Gallipoli memorials refurbishment takes out Ataturk’s apocryphal ‘Those heroes’ words – for now at least

Update 18 June 2017: our considered view on all of this, including three options for what to do next – addressed to President Erdogan.

Update 18 June 2017: Yahoo 7; Courier Mail; Stuff Co NZ; Daily Mail; News Limited; West Australian; Michael Smith News.

Update 17 June 2017: story picked up by New Zealand Herald.

Update 16 June 2017, 2.30 pm: Paul Daley in Guardian Australia considers what might be behind the damage to the memorial: ‘Turkish Islamist push may be to blame for removal of Atatürk inscription at Anzac Cove’. Comment from Resident Judge blog.

Australians who travel to Gallipoli have got used to admiring the Ataturk Memorial at Ari Burnu. Since 1985, they have seen the memorial looking like this, bearing words that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is alleged to have said or written in 1934 or thereabouts.*

ariburnu-01a(Turkish government tourism site)

Since around 19 May, however, the famous memorial has looked like this.

DCKfNwQUQAAJFxA(The Gallipoli Artist)

Destruction. No inscription. No Ataturk bust. Tracks of heavy equipment. What had happened, we – and others around the world – wondered? We checked with the office of the Minister for the Centenary of Anzac, Dan Tehan, who is Australia’s point man with the Turkish government regarding the Gallipoli precinct. After some hours this response came back from the Minister:

The Turkish Government have advised the Department of Veterans’ Affairs they are undertaking refurbishment work on Turkish memorials on the Gallipoli Peninsula. No Australian memorials or cemeteries are affected by this work. The Australian Government is grateful for the work of the Turkish Government in ensuring the Peninsula remains in good condition and is cared for in perpetuity.

We are still intrigued and are investigating further. Watch this space.

The words that were there – and are still on the Ataturk Memorial in Canberra and in many other places around the world – are these:

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 far away 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

* There is no strong evidence that Ataturk ever said or wrote these words. See the material under our thumbnail ‘Talking Turkey‘ as well as chapter 7 of The Honest History Book.

16 June 2017 updated


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