After the International Society for Performance Improvement Europe Middle East Africa (ISPI/EMEA) conference in Istanbul in October 2015, I took a tour to Troy. We started out when it was still dark in Istanbul.  I had taken a taxi from the Police Training Center, where I was staying to a hostel on a tiny dank street in the old town to wait for the mini-bus.  An inebriated Turk kindly made me a cup of coffee as I waited outside in the dark and as he and another Turk spoke in broken English to a couple of women who may have been staying there.  One by one, the mini-bus stopped at hotels to pick up passengers.  At one hotel, we watched the bell boy throw a bowl of bird feed to the pigeons who swept down in a cloud of gray, white, and black to eat their daily rations.

I wondered why everyone who entered the mini-bus were Australians.  All of them had been on various cruises and Turkey was their last stop before going home.  There were ten of us in the mini-bus.  It turned out that all of them were going to Gallipoli to commemorate the battle in which so many young Australian soldiers were killed.  Gallipoli was on the way to Troy and I was going to leave this group there and cross the Dardanelles on the ferry with another group, catch another mini-bus and drive down to Troy.  I had no idea that this was such an important event for Australians who “celebrate” it each April.  The Aussies talked about the 100-year commemoration this year in April 24, Anzac Day, a big big deal.  The Aussies spoke a bit about the importance of the war and how they felt betrayed by the British who put the young Aussie soldiers in the direct line of fire like fodder while they stayed back protected.  As one woman in the mini-van said, “The Australians did not speak to the British for a long time after that.”  The emotion in their voices showed how long they suffering of that battle had endured in the hearts and minds of their country and how the story had been passed down through the generations. 8,000 Aussies and 3,000 New Zealanders were killed, according to those in the mini-bus, in cold blood.  They said, and this sentiment was repeated at the 100 year commemoration, as I quote below, that the battle cemented the identity of the two young nations.

 I had seen Peter Weiss’s 1981 movie Gallipoli and watched the Aussies get mowed down while the Brits drank tea on the beach.  The British general used the Australians to open the path for their soldiers and willingly and knowingly allowed them to be slaughtered.  In the movie, the Australian commander was going to “reconsider” the order, but it was too late because the Brit had already given it.

The six hour drive was beautiful.  The sky was a clear blue and we passed town after town, sometimes going up hills through the fog, sometimes down into valleys.  The green lush farms looked as productive as the various factories we passed on our way.  We stopped for breakfast at one of those restaurants along the road that I think of when I remember Turkey and that I so love.  They always have buffets with a myriad of vegetables and wonderful bread and the aroma that permeates the air is full of spices and the smell of Turkish coffee and tea.

We finally arrive at the Dardanelles and followed the exquisitely blue waters for quite a while.  The large expanse seemed to reach to another world and indeed it does reach to another continent.  It is wider and fiercer than the Bosphorus which looks calm and tame in comparison.  When we arrived in Gallipoli we passed a graveyard and then went into town to have lunch at a restaurant on the square. The town along the water was small and served as a ferry port.  There were only a few small shops - grocery and supply stores and a few cheap souvenir shops.  We lunched together in a small restaurant next to the park that saddled up against the shore.   I ate deep fried sardines and French fries and flan for dessert.  Along the harbor, trenches were dug with bronze soldiers in fighting poses.  Men were selling T-shirts expressing the brotherhood between the Aussies who died and the Turks who died.  The Australian and Turkish flags flew together.  The entire sentiment was that all the soldiers all died together and hence formed a unity.  There was peace between the once fighting soldiers, a commonality in death.  As Attaturk said:

 “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 faraway 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.”

At the 100th year anniversary in Gallipoli on April 24, 2015, a few months earlier, Turkish dignitaries spoke.  Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, sought to underline the theme of reconciliation: “The sons of nations who fought each other on opposing sides 100 years ago will gather under the same roof to convey the message of peace and brotherhood to the world,” he said.

The prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand, Tony Abbott and John Key, along with the Irish president, Michael Higgins, will attended several of the ceremonies. Gallipoli “was, in a sense, the crucible in which our national identity was forged”, Abbott said in the run-up to the centenary, “but it left horrific scars. It was, in a critical sense, our nation’s baptism of fire – and 8,000 Australians didn’t come back.”

Prince Charles and Prince Harry also attended along with many more dignitaries because the Brits also lost men in the nine-month battle to win the peninsula, something like 29,000.  The allies did not win. 89,000 Ottoman Turks died fighting to save their country, and the bloody battles did not change the course of the war.

 How many dreams of these young men were lost during that battle and in all battles?  Having been in Iraq from 2008 to 2011, I saw the horrors of war although certainly not on the front lines, only its aftermath in the many grieving Iraqis whose loved ones had been killed.  How easy it is to kill dreams for power, might, and money of those who have climbed up the social ladder into positions where they can decide the destinies of the innocent.

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