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Australia, New Zealand commemorate ANZAC Day
April 26, 2015, 2:04 pm

The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Battle of Gallipoli or the Battle of Çanakkale in Turkish was a military campaign during World War I that began on 25 April, 1915 on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, between the Allied forces on one side and Ottoman troops supported by Germany on the other.

The campaign cost the lives of around 131,000 soldiers, of whom 45,000 were Allied soldiers and 86,000 were from the Turkish side. The death toll included about 25,000 British military personnel, 10,000 from France and 11,400 members from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC).
This year ceremonies, marking the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign, were held at Gallipoli, as well as in UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Turkey hosted leaders of countries that fought it during World War I at a ceremony on Gallipoli to honor those killed in the battle. Though the Battle of Gallipoli ended with very little tactical gains for both sides, the battle played a significant role in shaping the national consciousness of both modern Turkey and in Australia and New Zealand where the day is commemorated as ANZAC Day.

In Turkey, the Gallipoli ceremonies were held on the same day as centenary commemorations for the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. The juxtaposition of the dates of the Armenian killings and Gallipoli campaign has led to Armenians accusing Turkey of shifting the main Gallipoli commemoration event forwards by one day to deliberately overshadow Yerevan ceremonies.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in the dying years of the Ottoman Empire. Armenia says some 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a campaign of genocide by the Ottoman authorities during World War I. But Turkey has always rejected the term genocide, while acknowledging that massacres occurred, it maintains that many of the dead were killed in clashes during World War One, and that many ethnic Turks also suffered in the conflict.

Several world leaders, including French President Francois Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin, opted to attend the events in the Armenian capital Yerevan, forsaking the ceremonies at Gallipoli. Speaking at a commemoration ceremony Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan accused Turkey of "trying to divert world attention" from the Yerevan commemorations. He added, "I am grateful to all those who are here to once again confirm your commitment to human values, to say that nothing is forgotten, that after 100 years we remember."

In his address, French President Francois Hollande said: "We will never forget the tragedies that your people have endured." France has been a strong advocate of recognizing the killings as genocide and President Hollande has pushed for a law to punish genocide denial.

Russian President Vladimir Putin described the killings as "one of the most tragic disasters in the history of humankind" which "shook the whole world". "There cannot be any justification for mass murder of people," he said. "Today we mourn together with the Armenian people."

Meanwhile, at the commemoration in Gallipoli, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he believed the "message of peace" delivered from Gallipoli was important. "I repeat once more on behalf of all — before the memory of hundreds of thousands of young men lying in this small peninsula — our determination to work to let peace and prosperity prevail in the world," he told the ceremony.

Thousands from Australia and New Zealand were in Turkey for the 100th anniversary along with Princes Charles and Harry and a large number of international dignitaries. Speaking at a pre-dawn service at Gallipoli, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that Australian troops who fought there the "founding heroes" of their country. Mr. Abbott said that the soldiers "were as good as they could be in their time - now let us be as good as we can be in our time".

Paying tribute to his country's armed forces, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said that his country has rarely been seen as aggressors - but that is exactly how they were seen by Ottoman Turks in 1915. He said that Gallipoli had become a by-word for the best characteristics of Australians and New Zealanders "especially when they work side by side in the face of adversity".

A quotation by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - the founder of the Republic of Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire - was also read at the service.
"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."


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