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Sunday, 22 July 2007

Kemal Ataturk's memory dominates crucial election

Turkey votes today on what is characterised in the press as a vote between the supporters of the secular state founded by Ataturk and those who would want a more 'Islamic' Turkey. I suspect the realities are far more complex than that.

I've always had a soft spot for Ataturk - not only because he was a heavy-drinking chain-smoking visionary who would cause fainting fits of shock amongst our ninnyish brigades of health fascists. No, it was the speech he made to honour the memory of the Turkish and Allied dead at Gallipoli, today engraved on a memorial at Anzac Cove:
Those heroes who 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 here in this country of ours… You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away 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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