Turkey’s politicization of Gallipoli hurts national legacy

The Turkish government’s move this year to invite political leaders from around the world to commemorate World War I’s Gallipoli Campaign on April 24-25, a date chosen to compete with Armenia’s centennial commemoration of what they consider a genocide, has only served to politicize the Gallipoli legacy, which should be a source of pride for the Turkish nation. President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan has invited more than 100 heads of state and prime ministers for

The Turkish governmentand#39s move this year to invite political leaders from around the world to commemorate World War Iand#39s Gallipoli Campaign on April 24-25, a date chosen to compete with Armeniaand#39s centennial commemoration of what they consider a genocide, has only served to politicize the Gallipoli legacy, which should be a source of pride for the Turkish nation.

President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan has invited more than 100 heads of state and prime ministers for the Gallipoli commemorations this year but only about 50 have confirmed their attendance.

Turkey traditionally commemorates its fallen soldiers in the Gallipoli Campaign — also known as the Battle of andCcedilanakkale — on March 18.

Only two years ago, then-President Abdullah Ganduumll marked the 98th anniversary of the battle on that date. No one in Turkey at the time suggested that it should be remembered on April 24.

Turkey has commemorated the battle — one of the bloodiest of World War I — on March 18 to coincide with the day Britain started its bombardment of the Dardanelles.

ErdoIan said last week that participants will include the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand, whose forces sustained great losses while fighting against the Ottoman army during the 1915-1916 campaign and who regularly attend commemoration ceremonies in Turkey, as well as heads of state and prominent dignitaries from other countries.

The change in date of this yearand#39s commemorations has been widely perceived as a crude attempt to distract attention from Armenian commemorations of the 1915 massacres and forced deportations which decimated the Ottoman Armenian population, which Armenians — who consider the events of 1915 to constitute genocide — commemorate on April 24. andldquoThe game TR govand#39t is playing with Gallipoli andndash politicising it to compete with Armenian Genocide commemorations andndash is utterly disgusting, IMO [in my opinion],andrdquo Alex Christie-Miller, an Istanbul-based journalist working for The Times, Newsweek Europe and the Christian Science Monitor, posted on his Twitter account on March 19.

ErdoIan also invited Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan to the Gallipoli commemorations. Foreign Minister Mevlanduumlt andCcedilavuIoIlu said in January that Turks and Armenians fought together at Gallipoli and that is why Turkey has extended the invitation to Sarksyan.

The Armenian president immediately rejected the invitation by ErdoIan in an open letter, stressing that the invitation itself shows that Turkey continues to pursue its andldquodenial policyandrdquo of the Armenian andldquoenocide.andrdquo Joost Lagendijk, a former Green Party deputy in the European Parliament who also served as the co-chairman of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, also criticized Turkeyand#39s move to commemorate the Gallipoli Campaign on the same day as the Armenian commemorations, calling it a andldquoshameless and all-too-transparent effortandrdquo to try and distract attention from the Armenian andldquoenocideandrdquo in his Todayand#39s Zaman column on March 17.

Lagendijk said that shifting the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign to the same day andldquowonand#39t work and it will unnecessarily discredit Turkey.andrdquo

Turkeyand#39s move also offended Turkish citizens of Armenian descent.

Speaking to Agos andshy– a Turkish-Armenian weekly formerly edited by murder victim Hrant Dink — after ErdoIanand#39s invitation, many Turkish citizens of Armenian descent reacted strongly to ErdoIanand#39s invitation to Sarksyan, calling it a andldquojokeandrdquo and an andldquoill-manneredandrdquo act, and further criticizing it as a andldquopolitical maneuverandrdquo Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center (RSC), an independent think tank in Yerevan, said the timing of the Gallipoli invitation could not have been worse. In an email to Sundayand#39s Zaman in late January, Giragosian stated that ErdoIanand#39s move had triggered an intense negative reaction in Armenia and tended to confirm the perception of Turkey as an andldquoinsincere and unreliable interlocutorandrdquo

Following Turkeyand#39s invitation, Sarksyan made a statement on Feb.

16 announcing that he had recalled the peace protocols that aim to normalize ties and establish diplomatic relations with Turkey from the Armenian parliament, saying that andldquothe Turkish government distorts the spirit and letter of the protocols, and continues its policy of setting preconditions.andrdquo

During a conference in Yerevan this past week, Sarksyan said that withdrawing the peace protocols from parliament does not mean that Armenia is closing the window for normalization with Turkey.

andldquoThey were recalled from parliament, but I did not kill off those protocols. andhellip This does not mean that we are closing the window for rapprochement with Turkey,andrdquo Sarksyan said.

Armenia is preparing a large-scale commemoration of the 1915 events on April 24 and has invited a number of leaders from around the world. French President Franandccedilois Hollande and US President Barack Obama are among those invited.

Armenians commemorate the mass killings every April 24 and Yerevan often uses the anniversary as an opportunity to lobby Western countries to acknowledge that the killings constitute genocide. Ankara denies claims that the events of 1915 amount to genocide, arguing that both Turks and Armenians were killed when Armenians revolted against the Ottoman Empire during World War I in collaboration with the Russian army, which was then invading Eastern Anatolia

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman