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18 Mart Şehitleri Anma Günü ve Çanakkale Deniz Savaşları'nın 98nci Yıldönümü Töreni Açış Konuşması , 17.03.2013

Address by
Ms. Gülseren Çelik

On the Occasion of the Turkish Martyrs’ Commemoration Day and
the 98th Anniversary of the Canakkale Naval Battles

Good Afternoon I wish to warmly welcome you all to Turkish Martyrs’ Commemoration Day and the 98th Anniversary of the Canakkale Naval Battles Ceremony

Please allow me to acknowledge ,
- The Honourable David Andrew ELLIOTT, Representing the Honourable Barry O’Farrell, Premier of NSW,
-Mr Andrew Pettrie Mayor of Wollahara,
-Darren Mitchell, Director of NSW Veterans’ Affairs,
-Brad Manera, Chief Executive Officer of Anzac Memorial
-Mr. Chris Perrin, NSW RSL Chief Executive Officer,
- Presidents of Various Turkish Associations
-Distinguished Members of the Australian Turkish Community
-Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation for your valuable attendance to this commemoration day ceremony which marks one of the most important turning points in the Turkish history.

As we lead up to the centenary of the Canakkale Battles , which is referred to as The Gallipoli Campaign in Australia, we want our Australian friends to learn more about the battles from the Turkish perspective, the struggle to build a nation from its ashes. As part of this last year we invited Prof. Mete Tuncoku from the 18 March University to visit Sydney Canberra, Melbourne and Wellington. He shared the memoirs and letters of the Turkish soldiers focusing on the humanitarian aspect of the war.

This year we intended to have Associate Prof. Dr.Serhat Guvenc who was going to speak about what I thought would be most interesting to our Australian audience the naval aspect of the battles.

However as Muzaffer bey explained, unfortunately Associate Professor Serhat Guvenc had to postpone his coming to Australia due to a family emergency. He will start his programme from Canberra. I once again apologize for this change to our program.

Dr. Vecihi Basarın from Deakin University and Mr. Harvey Broadbent from Macquarie University have kindly accepted our invitation to address us today. I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to our speakers Dr. Basarın and Mr. Broadbent who made today’s conference possible.

I also would like to thank to our host, the Australian National Maritime Museum. They generously opened their doors for the event and made us feel home at home.
Last but not the least, I would like to thank to Mr. Muzaffer Orel, the Coordinator of the Turkish Chapter of the Auburn RSL Sub Branch and the distinguished members of the Turkish chapter for their cooperation and of course to the Auburn RSL Branch itself for their support.

Distinguished Guests,
The Ottoman Empire who was drained by decades of continous wars and uprisings reluctantly joined the Central Powers to form the Triple Alliance with the signing of the August 1914 Turco-German Alliance. The main objective of the Ottoman Empire in the Caucasus was the recovery of its territories in Eastern Anatolia lost during the Russo- Turkish war of 1877-1878, in particular Artvin,Ardahan,Kars and the port of Batum.

The Gallipoli campaign of 1915 was an Allied attempt to knock Ottoman Turkey out of World War I and reopen a supply route to Russia. The initial plan, proposed by British Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, called for an Allied fleet mostly British to force the Dardanelles Strait and then to steam to Istanbul to dictate peace terms. They began the campaign convinced that the Dardanelles would fall in one month.

It was on 18 March 1915 that Allies gave a start to their massive naval offensive in the Dardanelles against Turkish fortifications but were defeated, in the end of the day leaving heavy casualties behind. This great victory of the Turkish forces defending their homeland over the invadors marked a turning point in Dardanelles battles and was a source of inspiration for the final victory.

Today, the 18th of March, has a dual meaning for the Turkish nation. The 18th of March on the one hand marks the victory of the Canakkale Naval Battles, on the other hand reminds us how many Turkish soldiers lost their lives in one of the bloodiest war in the human history.

Unfortunately, the Turkish side’s casualties amounted 250.000, 77 thousands of which were killed during the Gallipoli invasion. That is why the 18th of March, which represents both heavy loss and victory, was chosen as the Turkish Martyr’s Commemoration Day on which all the martyrs of the Turkish nation are to be remembered. In Turkey those who loose their lives for their country are regarded as Martyr’s be it on the battle field or otherwise.

Ottoman Empire's casualties in WW 1 were enormous. Nearly a quarter of the population perished - approximately 5 million out of population of 21 million.
Among the 5 million, we know that only 770,000 were military casualties killed in action and other causes.

So we are gathered here today to remember with deep gratitude and respect the founder of our Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, his fellow soldiers and all the heroes of the Turkish nation who sacrificed their lives for their nation throughout the history.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Although each war has winners and losers the tragedy which is experienced in the war is always common. In the Canakkale/Gallipoli Battle we were on the winning side. The Australians, the New Zealanders and the others in the Allied Forces were on the losing side. However, the tragedy, sacrifice and the grief were common. In our view, there is no difference between the sorrow of the Turkish or Australian mothers. Therefore, today, we also remember with deep respect the ANZAC soldiers who lost their lives in the battlefields of Canakkale.

Out of this understanding we have been able to create a unique friendship between the two peoples based on both the realities of history and the will of building a better and peaceful future.

Within 98 years, Canakkale which used to be the battlefield between our nations has become a holy city for Australians and New Zealanders.

We are delighted to host thousands of Aussies and Kiwis in Canakkale every year on ANZAC day to commemorate the sacrifices of their ancestors. Today, we are here in Sydney, to commemorate the Turkish martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the Turkish nation. I cannot imagine a better example of reciprocity in terms of friendship between our two nations.

As we approach 2015, the centenary of 1915, I would like to reiterate the importance of will and determination to move this unique friendship further, which is based on the dignity of our ancestors.

Before concluding my words, I would like to pay, once more, my respect, to all Turkish martyrs who sacrificed their lives for their nation all around the world.

Thank You.