The Battle of Gallipoli, a hundred years later.

An edited version of this blog was published in The Kashmir Reader

It comes as a surprise to be tied to things so far back

Nazim Hikmet a revered modern Turkish poet writes in his epic “Human Landscapes from my country”.

Hundred years have passed since the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915-16 which had pitted Ottoman Empire against the Allied powers the triple entente i.e the Russian Empire, the British Empire and the French Empire. It lasted almost nine months resulting in the deaths of estimated 300,000 deaths on the both sides. This significant event basically led to the Turkish consciousness which resulted in the establishment of the Turkish Republic a decade later.

There are many lessons to learn from the episode of this historical event which has becoming a turning point. Australia and New Zealand commemorate this day as the ‘ANZAC Day’ a tribute to the soldiers that laid their lives during the war. It evoked a political consciousness in the two nations which has united the people in a memory to remember a historical standpoint. It is similarly reflected in the Turkish memory as well. Canakkale Martyrs’ war memorial commemorates the slain 250,000 Turks who defended the Gallipoli from the attack of the Allied Powers. One of the other great legacy from the Battle of Gallipoli is that it forms the basis of the declaration of the Turkish Republic. This came true due to the ability of one of the famous military leaders during the campaign: Staff Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal who led the Ottoman army in its famous battle with Bayonets against an armed ANZAC army.

Mustafa Kemal a decade later became the founder of the Turkish Republic. His legacy of “Peace at Home, Peace in the World’ is a cornerstone of global diplomacy. Mustafa Kemal a visionary created a new perspective which ceased the animosity with the countries that had threatened to take over Istanbul.

Thus the magnanimity and integrity of acknowledging that war has no winners because of the cost of human lives it takes for one to achieve a military feat. This proved to be a balm to the public memory of the peoples’ of different countries that were involved. That it is important to remember that sacrifices rather than ‘Who won the war?’.

If we look into the history such heavy losses of life have always led to betterment between countries. A legacy of bloodshed and war has throughout history been an essential part of the public memory. This public memory doesn’t appreciate reconciliation with the ‘enemy’ to dissipate conflicts.

There are many examples around the world where the bitter memory of history lingers creating a thaw in the relationships between nations. In South Asia where the Partition of British India gave birth to two new nations in 1947 after a bloody separation that resulted in deaths and displacement to the millions of people. The bitter memory failed to extinguish even after four wars and six decades. Home to one third of the world’s population, both India and Pakistan have failed to create a new beginning as in the words of the famous Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali, “My memory comes in the way of your history.”

If India and Pakistan take forth the lessons from the chivalrous approach to the Gallipoli campaign’s legacy and apply to their respective countries there’s a great chance that the South Asian region would achieve long lasting peace.

If they remember the loss as universal rather than person it could have a rippling effect on the people. Separation from your homeland to a different land is painful for all those who had to migrate. The pain itself should unite the people of India and Pakistan to reconcile with the realities. The negative approach has not only devastated Kashmir, a beautiful landlocked region with war but also affects the progress of both these countries.

Like in the case of East and West Germany that were separated through Berlin Wall, came together to create new beginnings while remembering the history not as a baggage but as a reminder of what was lost.

The brotherhood and friendship that has been the lasting legacy of the Gallipoli war can also form the basis in other conflict zones of the world such as Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria, Libya etc.

Application of such an approach can be a key to opening room for dialogue rather than arming the conflicts with weapons. If Turkey, Australia and New Zealand have formed this tight-knitted friendship based on the universality of grief, so can the other countries to enter new beginnings.

War has never been beautiful, however the romanticisation of warriors and their battles be. It is brutal and to stop its brutality one needs to consider that the humanity is at stake.

Like Ataturk said, “There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…” which is inscribe at the ANZAC cove. There’s no difference between the bloodied bodies of children. Blood has the same colour. So, let’s embrace each other to start new beginnings of lasting peace and brotherhood.


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