Dear President Erdogan,
I’m writing in response to statements you made during a recent political rally. During your passionate speech, you mentioned that anyone from Australia that visits Turkey with ill intent will be sent back in coffins like our grandfathers. This was of course a reference to the Ottoman victory over an extremely hastily and disjointed attempt at invading coastline in the Dardanelles during World War 1. The fact that you think we would visit our fallen with ill intent to the Turkish nation and its people is laughable, but I’m not surprised in the slightest to hear such comments from you.
I won’t even fault you for having pride in the military prowess of your forefathers. This is a perfectly natural thing to do and national pride in the military feats of warriors past – as we know here in Australia – is a significant factor in forging and maintaining a national identity. We take great pride in our forefathers, some of whom were responsible for the last great cavalry charge in history. If you’re unfamiliar with the history to which I refer, I’m happy to explain. Following the failed attempt in the Dardanelles, the British forces re-grouped and mounted their offensive on the Ottoman Empire’s southern edge and the Palestine offensive swung into full gear. The British, unable to penetrate the well-entrenched Ottoman forces at Gaza, needed a new approach and enlisted the aid of a few Anzacs. Among these ANZACS were the men of the Light horse Divisions who were promptly mobilised for an attack on the Ottoman held town of Beersheba.
On the late afternoon of the 31st of October 1917:
“Victorian men of the 4th and New South Wales men of the 12th Australian Light Horse Regiments moved through the Wadi Abu Sha’ai and formed up behind a ridge and astride a track known as the “W” road. They were six and a half kilometres outside Beersheba. Three kilometres south-west of their position, the 11th Light Horse Regiment were ordered to follow the 4th and 12th in reserve’. Prior to stepping off, the troops were addressed by Brigadier-General Grant who told them: “Men, you are fighting for water. There’s no water between this side of Beersheba and Esani. Use your bayonets as swords. I wish you best of luck.” And with that, the charge commenced at a gentle walk”.
From there they charged the well-prepared Ottoman defences. The charge picked up pace as did the Ottoman machine gun fire but as the men of the Light Horse Division charged through Ottoman lines, the brutal hand to hand fighting ensued. The Ottoman’s who didn’t surrender were carved like Turkeys and our grandfathers – whose memory you see fit to desecrate – laid waste to the mighty forces of your ancestors. Better men than yourself. I see you left that scene out of the footage you showed the audiences during your election rallies.
Now to be clear, a miniscule amount of us like to boast about victories that we did not have a hand in. We don’t even boast about those that we did. We find it obnoxious. But in light of your refusal to apologise to us, I feel no reservations about reminding you that it was ANZAC blades and fists that delivered the crippling blow which hastened and ensured the end of the mighty, 600-year-old Ottoman Empire.
I remind you that most Australians are happy to treat foes of the past with the admiration they deserve, if not for their ideologies and intent, then for their grit and determination on the battlefield in defence of their people. I hold no ill will to the people for the people of Turkey and certainly not for those who live among us here in Australia. Mustafa Kemal Attaturk shared this exact sentiment of admiration for former enemies by assuring Australians that our sons “are now laying in the soil of a friendly country, therefore rest in peace”. Kemal Attaturk was one of the finest exemplars of what a national leader should be and forged a legacy that has carried his name and will carry his name long after the Erdogans of the world are dead and buried. And this brings me to why I do not feel the slightest bit of rage towards you Mr. President. Because you’re a passing phase. A man who silences his people because you can’t stand up to scrutiny. Who detains teenage kids who tear down posters of you. A man who uses diplomatic action to silence a poet in another country who dared poke fun at you. A weak man. Nay, a sick man.
I, nor any of my fellow Australians have a thing to fear from you. I see the opposition and animosity towards you growing and the manner in which you exercise such little prudence in managing the discontent both in your own nation and abroad.
You can’t silence us. You can’t punish us. And you sure as hell can’t ‘make me pay’ for anything.
I’ll leave you with the words from The Spectator’s President Erdogan Offensive Poem winner, Boris Johnson:
There was a young fellow from Ankara
Who was a terrific wankerer
Till he sowed his wild oats
With the help of a goat
But he didn’t even stop to thankera.
A fearless ANZAC.