“Seferberlik” – being at war

It’s difficult to be in Turkey at the moment and not be consumed by the commemorative events taking place to mark 100 years since the Battle of Gallipoli in Çanakkale.

The first attack of the infamous peninsula occurred on 3 November 1914, and it lasted until 9 January 1916.

The attack wasn’t one just on the Gallipoli peninsula, of course: it was against the Ottoman Empire, a crumbling governing body which was to live its final days.

Under the Allies’ plans, a successful conquest would result in a distribution of its land. For that, capturing the Dardanelles and allowing a smooth pathway to Istanbul (the capital of the Ottomans) was vital.

It was on this day, March 8, 100 years ago, the foundations of one of the vital victories of the sea battle was laid. The battleship “Nusret” was laying mines at Erenköy Bay at Gallipoli. 10 days later, on March 18, three British warships were to hit the mines, causing two to sink and the third one to be significantly damaged.

The Turks were victorious in the sea battle; the land battle was to be a much longer one, with severe consequences for all sides.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of young Turkish men were getting ready to head to war.

This photo below was taken in Istanbul in 1915, before these men were deployed to the mission in Gallipoli.


The five were to be one of the 213,882 casualties suffered on the Turkish side of the bloody battle.

These are just the official figures, and doesn’t include the number of soldiers who returned from the war but suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for the rest of their lives.

It doesn’t include the nurses, the doctors, the cooks, the postmen.

The women – wives, sisters, mothers – of the soldiers, who, despite being far from the battlefields, were tasked with knitting socks and gloves, beanies and scarves, anything they could, to keep their loved ones warm.

It doesn’t include the countless thousands who served to protect the young boys battling on the front line.

Turks often say a generation was lost in this war.

It really is a tragedy that echoes the plot of a movie: there wasn’t a single household of Turks who hadn’t been affected by this war.

A war they did not want. A war they did not start.

And, as we enter into the main period where commemorative events of the Battle of Gallipoli from all sides will reach their peak, it’s hard not to look at that picture of the five men and feel a deep sense of sadness.


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