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Turkey digging in at Gallipoli... again


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#1 Eceabat

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 01:37 PM

Hi Pals,

This is the thread I hoped I would never have to open. Over the past week, Turkish bulldozers have cleared soil and undergrowth to a width of up the three metres and to a depth of up to one metre either side of the road running along the Second Ridge in the Anzac sector.

As a result of this, large quantities of human remains have been unearthed and then removed by Turkish officials. There has been no attempt to preserve, identify or even find out whether they are the remains of Allied or Turkish soldiers. Relics from the campaign have been destroyed and parts of trenches filled in with rubble or ploughed through.

I have been told by senior Australian officials that they had no prior knowledge of this work and had in fact been categorically told that no excavation work would take place in this region as part of Turkish work to put a layer of new asphalt on the existing road bed.

So, three years after an Australian Senate inquiry found road works at Anzac Cove had caused serious damage to historical sites on the iconic World War 1 battlefield, Turkish bulldozers have again ploughed their way through the heritage shared by Turkey, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Again, truck loads of spoil from the excavations have been removed.

The Turkish authorities are also carrying out a massive project near the head of Gully Ravine, putting new car parks and memorials on top of Fusilier Bluff that will cover 10,000 square metres. Again, traces from the campaign, including two mine craters, are to be destroyed.

I did a television interview for Australian state television today, tried to put the put the case why this site was important and why it should be left untouched. Soon after filming this, Turkish paramilitary Gendarmes arrived and demanded the tape be handed over by the crew. That didn't happen but filming stopped.

I have just been told that a full page article in Turkey's leading daily paper, including input from Turkish historians Sahin Aldogan, Haluk Oral and myself, detailing what has happened at ANZAC and Gully Ravine has just been pulled. No reason given.

As I write this, I have also just been told by a Turkish friend who was out near Lone Pine and who had also been interviewed for the Australian TV piece, that where a large quantity of human remains had been found there are now National Park workers digging feverishly, uncovering yet more remains to be hidden from prying press eyes. The work was being overseen by the Park director himself, who abused my friend for being a traitor and helping foreigners.

Australian officials were informed of this situation last Monday and did apparently manage to have the work halted Wednesday. By this time, the graders had cut through an area running from below Pine Ridge to 400 metres short of Chunuk Bair. For those who have never been here, that is far more than the area of the old front lines. The CWGC was also immediately informed of the human remains that were found and their location, though as I said, this site is now being cleared.

Three and a half years ago, in the wake of the Anzac Cove road fiasco, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand agreed to set up a committee of historians and archaeologists to conduct a complete survey of the Ariburnu battlefields. It was also agreed that no major work would be done till this committee completed its study.

That committee has not yet started its work. While Australia named its representatives to the committee in 2005, Turkish officials appear to have little interest and Australia officials have told me Turkey has repeatedly stalled the plan. And the digging goes on.

So many people have tried to raise awareness as to the issues of battlefield preservation and careful planning and even the need for battlefields archaeology here in Turkey, with absolutely no success at all. I really felt we may have achieved something in 2005, how wrong I was.

Bill Sellars



#2 Eceabat

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 01:52 PM

For what it is worth, I am posting a couple of photos. One is of Krimizi Sirt, the Turkish side of Johnstone's Jolly, while the second is a view looking down from Baby 700. As can be see, the work carried out will really, really improve traffic flow and safety, the justification given by Turkish authorities for the excavations.

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#3 ShirlD

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 02:13 PM

I am reading this just before going to bed, and am so dumbfounded I am not sure I can express what I feel in coherent and diplomatic words.
The most distressing aspect of all of this seems to be the cavalier manner in which this is happening, when there is supposed to be mutual respect and respect for those who died on the Gallipoli peninsula battlefields. This is not honouring the memories of our ancestors or leaving our sons safe in the arms of another country. I had better stop.

Thank you Bill for alerting us to what is happening.

Shirley

edited

#4 Paul Reed

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 02:32 PM

Bill, this is very sad news indeed.

#5 steve morse

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 03:07 PM

After visiting such a beautifully preserved area only a few weeks ago, I am saddened to hear what is going on.
Although after seeing human remains on show in Museums, I was doubtful as to whether the Turks really bothered about the battlefield or the dead.
steve m


#6 burlington

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 04:50 PM

I have seen this as well. Obviously a traffic control measure.

It appears that 100's of coaches descend on the peninsula in the holiday period and the new road is designed to help traffic flow.



#7 Eceabat

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 06:18 PM

"I have seen this as well. Obviously a traffic control measure.

It appears that 100's of coaches descend on the peninsula in the holiday period and the new road is designed to help traffic flow."


I can't say this is really the case. The newly laid asphalt follows the exact line of the old road. It is in no way wider. The damage was done some weeks after the asphalt was laid. The clearing of the undergrowth and the digging on either side of the road does not improve traffic control unless fear of falling off the road itself into a ditch up to a metre deep can control speeding vehicles.

In fact, in some ways the road is now even less safe than before. Previously, there was a verge in many areas where vehicles could pull over to when visitors wanted to stop and visit a particular cemetery or memorial. This verge no longer exists, except in that road workers have piled some rubble at the edge of some areas of the road and covered it with loose gravel into which a vehicle's wheel and even a boot will sink.

When the new asphalt was laid, it was done in a series of layers, raising the actual road bed by up to 60 centimetres (yes, I measured it) from the old level. Added to the deep grading at either side of the road and any vehicle that strays too far from the edge risks toppling over.

This indeed happened two weeks ago in the Soganlidere region, where the Dardanelles road turns inland below the village of Kilitbahir. A fully laden bus, carrying families of Turkish defence force personnel, slid to the edge of the road and rolled over on its side. Twenty-seven people needed medical attention, with 14 of them being hospitalised, at least two in a serious condition. The road at Soganlidere has recently been relaid with additional asphalt, raising its level above that of the old road bed. In the past six months there have been at least two other instances of buses sliding off the road and rolling due to the high level of the road. I should say that the raising of the road level on Second Ridge is more extreme than in any other area of the peninsula that I have seen.

It should also be remembered that the road on Second Ridge is limited to one way traffic, and has been so for a number of years. As such, the road did not need widening, just repairing.

I cannot see how making a road more dangerous can improve traffic management. Even more, I cannot see how digging wide trenches either side of the road, damaging historically important sites, and disinterring the remains of those who fell in this area, can improve the understanding of the campaign or how its shows respect to the fallen.

A couple of hours ago, I was informed by a very reliable witness that the remains of at least three soldiers had been dug up and removed from a site some 50 metres from the Long Pine Cemetery. This total was reached by counting skulls. Those remains were removed by road workers, under instruction from a senior National Park official, not an archaeologist in sight. The final low point was that the remains were loaded into a large plastic garbage bag.

I could say that it can't get worse than that, but long and sad experience has proved me wrong in the past.

Bill

PS, Burlington. Sorry if this reply seems terse, it has been a truly bloody awful day.

#8 burlington

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 06:41 PM

Don't worry Bill.

I only go by what I was told on site.

Have a better day tomorrow!

Martin

#9 Andrew P

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 12:11 AM

This is terrible Bill. Thanks for keeping us informed as I haven't heard anything in the media over here yet.

Regards
Andrew

#10 grantmal

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 12:38 AM

Heard you on ABC radio's AM program this morning, Bill. Bad news indeed. Thanks for your fight to protect the integrity of the battlefields - more power to you.

Grant

#11 Auimfo

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 12:42 AM

Thanks for the info Bill - I'm still totally stunned that this could be allowed to happen AGAIN. I've emailed you privately.

Heard you speaking to Neil Mitchell on the radio - nicely done.

Cheers,
Tim.

#12 Fedelmar

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 12:48 AM

Well done on the heads up Bill ...

One would have thought that after the last time they would have been aware of the fallout.

I am sent emails to everyone in my address book ... the more people that know the more power our voice gains.

Lest We Forget!!!

#13 Eceabat

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 04:07 PM

Just a note from the sidelines of the debate over the road issue at Second Ridge.

Turkey’s ambassador to Australia, Murat Ersavci, told Australian media on Monday that he had spoken to the governor of Canakkale province who told him there were no new roadworks, just dangerous potholes being repaired.

Funny that, given on Monday Turkey’s largest daily newspaper quoted the said same governor as saying a full four kilometers of asphalt had been laid on the road leading to Chunuk Bair.

The ambassador went on to say: "There are definitely no new roadworks in the area at all. Somebody has been digging at the side of the road, digging things up. Somebody is trying to provoke this."

Well, wrong on count one but he was on the money when he said someone “has been digging at the side of the road, digging things up”. Whoever that person or persons were happened to be using graders belonging to the Turkish State Road Authority. Rules me out then, I can’t drive.

As to “Somebody is trying to provoke this” if the ambassador means telling the truth about the situation I’ll cop to that one, but the blame should be spread around, with three Turkish historians, Sahin Aldogan, Gursel Goncu and Haluk Oral roundly condemning the damage done on Second Ridge in an article in a national daily newspaper here in Turkey.

The ambassador also said “I feel really offended when somebody comes up and says these Turks don't know history”. If the ambassador meant “these” Turks as in the Turkish people he is reading into statements meaning that is not there. However, if by saying “these Turks don't know history” he means the Turkish state officials who planned and oversaw the excavation work on Second Ridge, something in direct contravention of an agreement with the Turkish and Australian governments, he has hit the nail on the head.

In the interview the ambassador said his great uncle was killed at Gallipoli. Maybe before dismissing out of hand the reports of damage to the area and defending the work with false statements, maybe he should be wondering if it was his great uncle who was disinterred by Turkish graders.

Bill



#14 Ozzie

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 04:23 PM

His words, mate, are a bit like a certain head of a certain club over here, trying to down play the destruction!
Thankfully, there are some in Turkey who are standing up and bringing us the news, some who dare the government's wrath!

What ever happened to the agreement that the remains would be honoured?
The remains, no matter what nationality.

Attaturks words have been shamed by the present Turkish authorities who have allowed this to happen!

Those heroes that 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.


It seems that the tourism dollar is stronger than the promise of Attaturk, he that the Turkish tourists flock to pay homage to, on the Gallipoli Penisular.

Attaturk must be turning in his grave at the betrayal of his words.

Kim




#15 chrisharley9

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 04:39 PM

Bill

if there is anything I can do to help from here in Blighty do let me know

Just make sure you & the Mrs take care

Chris

#16 Jonathan Saunders

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 04:47 PM

Thanks for your detailed report Bill. It makes very sad reading.

Make sure you and Sahin, your wife, and the others take care of yourselves.

Best regards,

Jonathan S

#17 59165

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 04:51 PM

This is really,I dunno what to say.S*it!
I cant believe they'd do this when its probably meant to improve the tourist traps & that those same tourists may have had their own folks bulldozed out or over.
It speaks volumes that the gits who ordered this have since lied about what they are actually doing & that they are defiling (my word) Turkish remains too!
Bunch of ****** **** ** *** **** *****

#18 chrisharley9

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 04:53 PM

Political Section:
Address: Turkish Embassy, 43 Belgrave Square, London, SW1X 8PA
Telephone: 020 7393 0202 - Fax: 020 7393 0066
Email: turkish.emb@btclick.com

Should anyone like to contact the Turkish embassy over this matter the details are above

Chris

#19 Thales

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 06:46 PM

If enough people care and act, we can get this sort of thing stopped. The legacy of the sacrifice of those in WW1 is that we can have our democratic say which is why in addition to proudly being a member of this forum, I am also an active supporter of Amnesty International.

Amnesty encourage people to write letters to the appropriate authorities in cases of human rights abuse and as Chris suggests above this is one way in which we can attempt to bring about change with regard to recent upsetting events in the Gallipoli peninsula. Letter writing can be extremely effective e.g. the recent stay of execution of Troy Davis in USA – no offence intended to those in USA by the way.

I would suggest (in the case of those living in UK) writing to the Turkish Ambassador in London and the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ankara. The details are:

His Excellency Mr Mehmet Yigit Alpogan, The Ambassador of Turkey
Embassy of the Republic of Turkey
43 Belgrave Square
LONDON
SW1X 8PA

[Form of address in the letter: either Excellency or Dear Mr Ambassador]

Mr Ali Babacan
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Balgat
ANKARA
Turkey 06100

[Form of address in the letter: Dear Mr Babacan]

It would be presumptuous for me to lay down the content of this letter, but as a suggestion for those with no prior experience in such matters:

Be courteous no matter how incensed you feel
Write in your normal style – no high flown language necessary
Try to avoid being long winded

The format usually followed is three paragraphs:
• State the problem (ample information here from Bill’s postings)
• State why it affects you (e.g. ‘I am a former serving officer in HM Forces with a father who fought in Gallipoli in 1915. He had a very high regard for his Turkish opponents and I feel strongly that the remains of the fallen on both side should not be treated in this way…..’)
• Say what you want done about it. (e.g. ‘I would like an assurance that your officials will abide by undertakings given to the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand three years ago not to carry out excavations on a battlefield prior to survey by historians and archaeologists’. )

Turkey are aspiring members of the EU and I am sure if everybody who reads this thread writes as recommended the message will get home. At worst we can have the consolation of knowing we have done at least something for those who did so much for us.

John


#20 chrisharley9

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 06:56 PM

John

thanks for your input

For the Aussie/Kiwis reading this thread why not try contacting your government and the Turkish embassies in those countries

Chris

#21 Fedelmar

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 11:46 PM

I am so concerned about Bill and the others involved in this and it really makes you realise how far away they are.

Thoughts and prayers for the safety of you all.

Blessings
Sandra

#22 59165

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 11:56 PM

If anybody can,Mr.Ali Babacan.
I'm hoping he doesn't have 40 thieves in his vicinity.
Thanks John ,for the addies.
Emails sent,letters to London on the way as soon as I'm back.

#23 Krithia

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Posted 28 October 2008 - 12:12 AM

It was only two weeks ago we were standing on the old frontline at Fusilier Bluff where the ploughed fields still show the mine craters of that period. To think that these are under threat of being covered by tons of concrete to facilitate a modern car park is sickening. This is no memorial to the fallen of both sides as bulldozers are posed to cut through the bones of our ancestors (I have also heard that Gully Ravine itself is under threat and bulldozers are there too). If there is a need to build a car-park (which I doubt) place it away from the old frontline trenches as there is ample room on the Nuri Yamut approach road. It is worth mentioning that this precise area is riddled with mine galleries and almost certainly there is danger from unexploded mines - Park your car with care!

I have always understood, rightly or wrongly, that the Gallipoli National Park authority’s responsibility was to help preserve the Gallipoli Peninsula rather than seemingly lending a hand in its destruction. At Anzac, Bill is not exaggerating the height of the road which is almost comical in its proportions. Why they are cutting away a verge that is impossible to put a vehicle on only makes me think they are widening the road, thus destroying the trenches that run along both sides of the Second Ridge road. We already have a car park over “Turkish Quinn’s”, Souvenir stalls on the “Chessboard”, a Public Toilet by “Dead Man’s Ridge” and "Anzac Cove" remains covered by the road excavation from the preious year. Our heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives are probably rolling in their graves.

I don't know what to say, I am heartbroken to continue to hear about this aimless wrecking of the battlefield. We thought that the dumping of rubbish and human excrement in the old trenches at Helles and the trucks emptying tons of plastic bags down the cliff faces onto the beaches and sea was bad enough. It seems to get worst as the years go by.

I hope that Bill, Sahin, Haluk and friends can make a difference, if only to halt the work before more damage is done. Why can we not have an authority that can balance an understanding of tourism and development with battlefield conservation/preservation?

#24 Wesley

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Posted 28 October 2008 - 12:24 AM

Bill – I cannot find words to express my feelings, but I thank you for bringing the situation to the attention of the forum.

My very best wishes to you and Serpil – take care and be safe.


#25 Fedelmar

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Posted 28 October 2008 - 12:43 AM

http://www.thewest.c...ontentID=104889


News report from Western Australian newspapers.


Bright Blessings
Sandra