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Battle of Çanakkale/Gallipoli: What Erdogan remarks on Kashmir mean

Erdogan has compared Kashmir to Çanakkale — the World War I battle that built several national identities.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: February 18, 2020 9:57:37 am
Many Australian soldiers are buried in Lone Pine Cemetery in Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula. (The New York Times)

On Monday, India issued a strong demarche to Turkey over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments in Pakistan on Friday, in the course of which he criticised India’s policy in Jammu and Kashmir, and compared the “struggle” of Kashmiris with that of Turkey during World War I.

WHAT ERDOGAN SAID: Addressing a joint session of Pakistan’s Parliament in Islamabad, Erdogan spoke of the “much-envied Turkey-Pakistan brotherhood” which, he said, was “strengthened by history and reinforced by historical events”. He referred to “the year 1915, [when, as]… Turkish soldiers defend[ed] the Dardanelles Strait…, a rally took place […] 6,000 kilometres” away in Lahore, which was led by Allama Iqbal.

Erdogan went on to say that what happened in Turkey during World War I was now happening in Kashmir. “Events that happened a hundred years ago in Çanakkale in Turkey are being repeated in Indian occupied Kashmir and Turkey will continue to raise its voice against the oppression. Today, the issue of Kashmir is as close to us as it is to you [Pakistanis],” Erdogan said, according to a detailed report in the Pakistani daily Dawn.

THE GALLIPOLI CAMPAIGN: The Battle of Çanakkale, also known as the Gallipoli campaign or the Dardanelles campaign, is considered to be one of the bloodiest of World War I, during which the Ottoman army faced off against the Allied forces, leading to the slaughter of tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides.

In March 1915, with the war in Europe stalemated in the trenches, Winston Churchill, then Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty, devised a plan to take control of the Dardanelles, the strategic strait connecting the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, and thus reach Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) at the mouth of the Bosporus. By taking Constantinople, the Allies hoped to break the Turks, who had recently entered the war on the side of the Germany.

The Allies carried out heavy naval bombardment of Turkish forts along the shores of the Dardanelles, and when that failed, followed up with what was the biggest amphibious landing in military history at the time. However, what the British and their allies had hoped would be the turning point in the war ended up as a catastrophe. In the nine months upto January 1916, when the Allies called off the campaign and evacuated, more than 40,000 British soldiers had been killed, along with 8,000 Australians. On the Turkish side, some 60,000 had perished.

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LEGACY OF THE BATTLE: The battle resulted in a demotion for Churchill and the emergence on the Turkish side of the young military hero, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. But the legacy of Gallipoli goes far beyond its military aspects — the event is today one of the central pillars of the modern Turkish identity. The campaign is also seen to have seeded Australian and New Zealand national consciousness — April 25, anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, is observed as ANZAC Day, the day of national remembrance for the war dead.

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