By YASEMIN TALAT
ANZAC Day is a time to commemorate the Johnnies and the Mehmets, with Australians and Turkish Australians coming together to remember their forefathers this Anzac Day.
President of the Turkish Sub-Branch of the Victorian RSL, Ramazan Altintas, said it was an important time for the Turkish community in Australia to come together with their fellow Australians and remember the lives lost at war and the mateship formed between the Johnnies and the Mehmets.
“This is a time where we can honour, remember, and a time for us all to reflect with pride on our history and values that unite us as Australians and Turks,” Mr Altintas said.
“Anzac Day for Turks is not only the day of their proud victory against all odds to reassert their right to nationhood, but also their admiration for the valorous troops of ANZAC they encountered in the test of fire,” he said.
“Anzac Day for Australians is the day of pride for an identity proven without doubt and the merit of a nationhood forged in battle.”
“Yes the Johnnies and the Mehmets fought against each other in 1915, however the conduct of friendship and comradeship was existent among them all.”
This year marks the 99th anniversary since the World War I battle of Gallipoli commenced on 25 April 1915.
As part of the commemoration the Turkish members of the Turkish Sub-branch of the Victorian RSL, as well as Turkish members from RSLs across Victoria and the wider Turkish community will join the Anzac March and ceremony.
The Melbourne Turkish Community Centre and the Turkish Sub-Branch of the Victorian RSL will also host a commemorative evening to mark the anniversary.
“The Johnnies and the Mehmets portrayed a sense of duty and courage that continue to inspire us,” Mr Altintas said.
“Their stories of sacrifice and service illuminate the highest virtues of the human spirits.”
Next year, Mr Altintas, with the help and support of the Australian and Turkish governments, is hoping to erect an Australian and Turkish friendship memorial sculpture at the Shrine of Remembrance to mark the 100th anniversary of WWI, Anzac Day and to pay tribute to all the soldiers and their bravery.
“Anzac Day is always going to be, for each Turk and Aussie, a day to prove to a friend and foe that those who have fallen in 1915 have confirmed our right to survive as nations,” Mr Altintas said.
“May they rest in peace as their ideals continue to be upheld by each and every new Turkish and Australian generation.”
The then Turkish president and Gallipoli veteran Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s 1934 tribute commemorating the loss of Anzac and Turkish soldiers at Gallipoli:
“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 now here in this country of ours …
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away the 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.”