The Allies At Gallipoli: Defeat In 1915, Disgrace In 2015

The author of this essay, David Boyajian, is an Armenian American. He originally posted it at CounterCurrents, asking us to mirror it.

(See CounterCurrents article for full-sized image)

It would appear that we have yet another sad example of plus ça change…see if your country is among those willing to stand up to Turkey.

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April 25 will mark 100 years since the Allies – the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and France – made their ill-fated landing on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula during WW1. Having barely gotten off the beaches after months of fighting, the Allies withdrew in defeat leaving over 44,000 dead and 97,000 wounded.

As in recent years, thousands will flock from the Allied countries and elsewhere to Gallipoli for the Turkish-led April 24-25 commemorations. Numerous world dignitaries, including Australia’s and New Zealand’s prime ministers and Prince Charles, will also attend.

In April, the UK, Australia, and NZ hold Gallipoli remembrances on their own soil and elsewhere. And throughout the year, their citizens visit Gallipoli to pay tribute to the UK’s 21 thousand, Australia and NZ’s 11 thousand, and France’s 10 thousand dead. This is proper and honorable.

However, thronging to April’s sham commemoration staged in and by Turkey, a notorious human rights violator? Which had mistreated Allied POWs? Which today abuses its remaining Christians, as well as Alevis, Kurds, and Jews? Which also committed genocide and pillage against millions of indigenous Christian Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek civilians during the Gallipoli battle and for years afterward? And which arrogantly denies having done so?

The UK, Australia, and NZ themselves have made the Gallipoli ceremonies in Turkey something less than solemn. Smiling lottery winners receive tickets to the event. Youngsters vie to become Gallipoli “youth ambassadors” and win all-expense paid trips. Is Gallipoli the resting place of valorous Allied troops – or Disneyworld Turkey?

Turkey’s Gallipoli Charade

Westerners often do not understand Turkey. The Turkish government does not mourn the Allied dead any more than it cares about the victims of its genocides and the deliberately unmarked, mass graves in which they lie.

Turkey enjoys the spectacle of defeated foreigners trudging to Gallipoli. Indeed, Turkey holds a huge Gallipoli celebration the month before. This year, it displayed a victory banner 1915 meters long. Meanwhile, Turkey’s Defense Ministry has reportedly removed the names of non-Muslims from the list of its soldiers who died at Gallipoli.

2015’s Gallipoli attendees can anticipate a lecture by Turkey’s egomaniacal President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He just built himself a gaudy 1100-room palace for a reported $615 million. In 2013, Erdogan killed demonstrators in Gezi Square who were protesting his authoritarian rule, and regularly sues and jails journalists.

Genocide and Denial

The Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek genocides in Turkey were reported extensively at the time in Allied countries’ newspapers. France, Great Britain, and Russia issued Turkey this famous warning in May 1915: “The Allied governments … will hold personally responsible … all members of the Ottoman [Turkish] government and those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres.” Australian and New Zealand (Anzac) POWs, such as Captain Thomas Walter White, witnessed and later wrote about the genocides.

Winston Churchill termed them a “holocaust.” “Race extermination,” declared U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau in 1915. It was that extermination which first motivated Raphael Lemkin, the Polish Jewish lawyer who later coined the word “genocide.”

The parliaments of the European Union, Canada, France, Lebanon, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, and many others, as well as a U.N. sub-commission, the Vatican, and the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), have recognized the Armenian genocide. IAGS has also recognized the Assyrian and Greek genocides. In 1951, the U.S. referred to the Armenian “genocide” in a filing with the International Court of Justice (World Court).

But the governments of the UK (except for Scotland and Wales), Australia (except for New South Wales), and NZ refuse to acknowledge these genocides. They fear Turkey’s reaction. Contrast their gutlessness with the courage of Allied soldiers at Gallipoli.

By ignoring the Armenian genocide, New Zealand and Australia are “tacitly complicit in” genocide denial, says NZ writer and businessman Stephen Keys. “Is [Turkey] the sort of government we as New Zealanders are proud to stand alongside on April 25, 2015?” Officially, 2015 is “The Year of Turkey in Australia.” A more apt name: “The Year of Turkish and Australian Genocide Denials.”

France, on the other hand, has acknowledged the Armenian genocide despite Turkish threats. A large French delegation headed by President Hollande will be in Armenia on April 24 for the Genocide Centenary. On that day in 1915, Turkey arrested and murdered hundreds of Armenian intellectuals, doctors, priests, writers, and other community leaders as part of the genocide.

Turkish Bullies

Turkey enjoys bullying others over Gallipoli. Five years ago, it initially refused to issue visas to Australian and New Zealand archeologists who were to map Gallipoli’s battlefields. Turkey was angry that Bonnyrigg, a Sydney suburb, had allowed construction of a monument commemorating the Christian Assyrian genocide.

Two years back, Turkey threatened to ban New South Wales MPs from Gallipoli because NSW had recognized the Armenian genocide.

Afraid of further incurring Turkey’s wrath, earlier this year NSW installed – surreptitiously – a plaque in Sydney’s Hyde Park honoring the Turkish hero of Gallipoli, and later president, Kemal Atatürk. The plaque’s fine words, allegedly penned by him, are undoubtedly insincere and perhaps inauthentic. Moreover, this “hero” continued the evil deeds of his predecessors.

Ataturk, Genocide, and Hitler

Atatürk welcomed veteran genocidists, such as Abdülhalik Renda and Sükrü Kaya, into his new government. From 1919 to 1923, Atatürk’s forces murdered and expelled Christians who had survived the genocides.

In 1937, Atatürk directed the slaughter, sometimes using poison gas, of thousands of Alevi Kurdish civilians, including women and children, in the Dersim region. Among the victims were Armenians who had found shelter there.

Hitler admired Atatürk’s brutality. Atatürk was “the greatest man of the century,” the Führer told Turkey’s Milliyet newspaper in 1933, and “Turkey was our role model.” Indeed, in WW1, some German officers took part in the Armenian genocide.

Visitors to Gallipoli will bow before Atatürk’s statue unaware of his appalling record.

The Dead Speak

The Allies fought WW1 gallantly. Armenians from many countries were among them. Armenians even formed a special French Foreign Legion unit that fought with particular distinction. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians also served in Allied armies in WW2, while Turkey remained neutral and cozied up to Nazi Germany.

Beneath Gallipoli’s shores and hills, the courageous Allied dead surely whisper, ‘Please, honor our memories by going elsewhere in April, and shun Turkey’s victory dance on our graves and those of millions of Christian innocents.’

13 thoughts on “The Allies At Gallipoli: Defeat In 1915, Disgrace In 2015

  1. “… in WW1, some German officers took part in the Armenian genocide.”

    They did a great deal more than that — they organized it. In 1915, most of the planning and staff work in the Ottoman army was being done not by Turks but by German officers serving with them. Indeed, in his “History of the Armenian Genoicde,” Vahakn Dadrian noted that the chiefs of staff of the Ottoman High Command included Major General Bronsart von Schellendorff, who spoke of “the Armenian” as “just like the Jew, a parasite,” and who himself ordered that Armenians be deported through “severe” measures, and Lieutenant General Hans von Seeckt, later to become the architect of the post-World War I force that formed the nucleus of Hitler’s Wehrmacht. Commenting on the annihilation of the Armenians, Von Seeckt airily declared that “The requirements of the war made it necessary that Christian, sentimental, and political considerations simply vanish.” The presence of such men explains the “Prussian thoroughness put into the execution of (the Turks’) scheme,” making “the margin of ineffectiveness,” as the British historian Arnold Toynbee noted, “narrow. … In towns such as Zeitoun, … where we have sufficient testimony to cross-check the estimates presented, the clearance, by deportation or massacre, seems to have been practically complete.”

  2. Seems like we’re dealing with another shame-based culture vs guilt-based culture issue.

    A shame-based culture is more concerned with addressing external shame rather than internal guilt. They may feel no guilt at all, for all I know, but they’re obviously concerned with being shamed. As a result the efforts are not on acknowledgment and apology, but on trying to cover up stuff that would be perceived negatively by others.

    If a society doesn’t even acknowledge, much less apologize for, a historical atrocity then, well, that’s a good sign that’s they’ll end up doing the same thing again.

  3. The biggest mosque in Australia that I’ve seen is the Gallipoli mosque built about 20 years ago in a western Sydney suburb. It stares at you from a T-junction down a long main road. From the end of the long road, Silverwater Jail stares back at the mosque.
    Gallipoli mosque. I’ve sometimes wondered if they chose the name oblivious of Australian culture (Anzac Day, 25th April, is the biggest day of the year but out in Auburn, Sydney you wouldn’t think so ) or as an affront to the host culture. Then along came the infamous Ground Zero mosque, bigger than King Kong and more destructive. Who knows?

  4. This is a case of the Armenians being out manoeuvred by the Turkish Government. Armenians should have known that the clash with the centenary of the Gallipoli landing by the ANZAC forces would occur on 25 April. This day long established as a War Commemoration day in both Australia and New Zealand.
    The Armenians should have chosen a different date to spotlight their cause, that they didn’t was their mistake. Bit late whinging about it now.

    • It’s never too late to “whinge” about an atrocity. Never. As long as Turkey continues to deny an obvious genocide, as long as Turkey attempts to strong-arm other nations, Armenians can whinge on, and the timing is irrelevant.

  5. Baucent, the Armenian Genocide has always commemorated on April 24 because this was the date that the Turkish government rounded up their intellectuals and community leaders and murdered them. It has historically been considered the commencement date of the Armenian Genocide.

  6. “Wer errinert sich an die Armenier?” (Who remembers the Armenians?”) was Hitler’s rhetorical question in 1939, noting that the Turks had been “unpunished” by other nations for the “Vernichtung” (annihilation) of the Armenians and others. This observation pleased him, b/c he could then proceed with his other plans.

    For those who read German, see . I read the English translation provided, but the key sentences are *not* there. ???

    • Wikipedia pages get politically vandalized especially in cases like this where someone wants to cover something up. This may be evident from looking at the Changes log for the page, which should show if something was deleted.

  7. Dymphna,

    Thank you for Boyajian’s article, unfortunately few members of the general public will ever read it.
    Australians’ commemoration of the Gallipoli campaign is both misguided and ignorant. We should be outraged at the incompetence of the Allied strategists, particularly Churchill, the architect of the complete debacle, and disgusted with the ‘pilgrimage’ to Islamist Turkey. Unfortunately so much social and political capital has been invested in the Gallipoli myth that it seems impervious to reality.
    Like the Nazi genocide of the Roma, the Armenian genocide seems to have been forgotten.

    • This is *one* place where northern California can strut a feather (maybe two). St. Vartan’s Armenian Church in Oakland has, I believe, one of the largest congregations in the U.S. (

      Many Armenians who managed to survive made their way to the Central Valley of California (esp. near Fresno), William Saroyan’s family among them. But not everyone is suited to or has skills for the farming life, so a good number of the refugees stayed/returned to Oakland. There is an Armenian Festival every year at St. Vartan’s; one of my in-laws married at St. Vartan’s back in the ’90s.

      The Armenian Genocide is absolutely NOT forgotten in California. Anyone who has access to a newspaper or on-line news media hears about it each year in mid-spring. Hmm…just about the last third of the month of April (the commemoration moves a little bit so that it can be on the Friday or Saturday nearest the 24th, as I understood the information sheets at St. Vartan’s). There is a link on the homepage of St. Vartan’s with a flyer showing the several months of commemoration, education, and other events this year.

  8. An interesting article in Australian press today

    It quotes Bill Park Defence Studies Department senior lecturer from University of London’s Kings College and noted scholar of NATO strategy and Turkish affairs who speaking of changed Turkish attitudes since Obama’s mate Erdogan has been in power that we are now seeing unpleasant and offensive anti-Western remarks and of Anzac Day (April 25th) in particular the article quotes Park: In the past they [i.e. Turks] have been much more inclusive, the sort of statement in the past has been ‘we have all suffered — the British, Australian and the Turkish soldiers’ [an attitude initiated by Ataturk]. Now it’s much more ‘this was our victory over those people’ with only a slightly veiled implication that those people remain adversaries in some way.

  9. One of my buddies in my youth was Tommy Ishkanian (I was born in ’51 and bred in Los Angeles). I spent a good deal of time with him and knew his family well (they owned a market on Hillhurst or Vermont in the Los Feliz area). I knew of the Jewish genocide at an early age but nobody (including Tommy and other Armenians I knew) ever spoke a word about it (BTW, I don’t remember Danny Thomas drawing any attention to it either despite his very prominent position in the entertainment industry). 

    I think that speaks to two things:

    a) the Western powers, even in the 50s and 60s flushing Islam’s genocidal nature down the rabbit hole (I’m sure Diana West has some thoughts on this)

    b) the Armenian people’s general stoic and brave nature to not even appear the victim in any way.

    They are a hard-working, hospitable and friendly people. The fact and history of this evil needs to be shouted from the rooftops far and wide.

    Shame and damnation forever on BHO who promised to publicly recognize it then reneged.

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