Posted 01 January 2009 - 12:41 PM
I hope you will indulge me for yet another long winded posting but I have been asked on this forum and another to respond to a series of claims and allegations attacking my credibility regarding my comments and stance on developments on the Gallipoli battlefields and feel obliged to do so.
Given the subject of this posting, I am afraid that little is going to be added in the way of new information concerning the recent developments at Fusilier Bluff or Second Ridge, and as such, many readers may well choose to skip this offering. Don’t blame you, I found it distasteful to write. However, as has been pointed out, I am often the source of the reports on these developments and if my credibility is suspect, so too are these reports. Thus I feel that I should respond in this public forum to defend the credibility of these reports.
As has been pointed out in other postings here, the Senate inquiry was looking into the developments in the coastal region of the Anzac sector, and into the road work conducted there between February and April 2005. Apart from references regarding the need to preserve the area of Second Ridge, this inquiry touched upon that region in a limited way.
I had thought to respond, almost line by line, to the extracts posted on the Axis History Forum site Dogan Sahin, a member of that forum and this, from the minority report by the two Liberal senators from the 2005 Senate inquiry. However, these extracts, and the comments by Dogan, were removed by the moderator of that site (not at my request I assure you), who said that, “… in questioning the honesty of an individual by selective quoting of an inquiry that is itself tainted with the input of certain politicians, cuts too close to the bone in my view as character assassination”.
Not having copied each and every one of the extracts from that posting, I will limit my self to a few general observations, rather than a detailed, and probably boring, response.
Based on these few extracts, Dogan states that my credibility is undermined, and my postings here are lies. By extension, I suppose he must feel the photos accompanying these postings showing the damage caused by the excavation work are fake. That is his opinion, and he is welcome to it.
While it was stated that these extracts came from the inquiry’s minority report, in the cause of objectivity it would have been nice to see equal coverage given to the findings of the majority report, my verbal and written submissions to the inquiry, as well as other sources, some of which the indefatigable More Majorum has dredged up. Frankly, they cover much of the issue.
Just a little bit of effort by Dogan could have also unearthed a swathe of comments about the work on Second Ridge by Turkish historians and researchers, far more vitriolic than anything I have said. Some of these I have posted earlier (post 28). Others by noted experts on the campaign, such as Yetkin Iscen, Selim Meric and Gursel Akinguc, have appeared in local and national media and, as a professional translator, I am sure Dogan could provide an accurate rendering in English.
In the name of objectivity, for the reports carried by Australian ABC radio and television on October 27, in which the story of the damage to Second Ridge was covered, requests were made to the two most senior Turkish officials on the peninsula for interviews. The director of the national park refused the request while the Kaymakam (regional governor) refused to take the calls from the ABC field producer, my wife Serpil. Ample opportunity was given at the time for the Turkish officials to have their say and they rejected it. As an aside, I should say that Serpil is the ABC’s official representative in Turkey and has been for more than eight years.
Ah yes, the Liberal’s claim that the whole 2005 story was a beat up on my part in order to earn money. I did indeed receive payment for two stories related to the 2005 road works from the Sydney-based paper the Daily Telegraph. I was also paid some money by the Australian Nine network. However, let us be clear about this. At no time did I request payment for any of this nor negotiate any fee with either of these media outlets. Concerning the Telegraph, payments were transferred into my account without me being notified (the paper had my account details as I had previously carried out assignments for it). As to the Nine network, having accompanied the television crew for two days on the battlefields in March 2005, showing them where road work had been conducted, where historical sites had been damaged and having been interviewed by the reporter Peter Harvey, I was given some money, which I was told was the standard fee. I initially refused this fee but was told it had already been budgeted for and, as I had incurred expenses to be with the crew, including two taxi fares out to the battlefields, which amounted to more than $60, I accepted this money. I stress I had no idea that any money would be paid in advance, nor was the subject ever raised in the two days I spent with the crew.
During the time of the debate over the 2005 road works, I produced more than ten articles and gave more than 60 interviews. Apart from the instances referred to above, I received no payment. In three cases at least I was asked what my fee was to be interviewed, to which I said there was none, refusing all payment when it was mentioned in advance.
My detractors should note that I offered to fly to Australia to personally attend the 2005 Senate inquiry, at my own cost. This offer was made to the inquiry before the hearings but was not accepted. I agreed to a proposal that I go to Istanbul, a trip I was prepared to pay for out of my own pocket, to give evidence via a video link but it was later decided by the inquiry to interview me by phone.
I can assure you that the money I received from the two media outlets referred to above would not have come close to paying the airfare to Australia. Indeed, the money would have got me to Dubai or thereabouts from Istanbul. If, as has been suggested, I was only raising the issue of the damage at Anzac Cove to “gain financial benefit as well as journalistic benefit” I did a damn poor job of it, especially for one who has made his living as a journalist and writer for more than 20 years.
As far as journalistic benefit goes, I rather stumbled there too. I know of at least two cases of senior journalists or editors being contacted by officials of the then Australian government and being asked not to have dealings with me or print articles by me. Since 2005, I have not had a single article published in the Australian media, something that created a small but notable hole in my income.
Moving forward three years, the only article I have written about the 2008 road works was printed in a Turkish paper, the English language Turkish Daily News, in response to an ill informed opinion piece by Turkey’s ambassador to Australia, which was also printed in that paper and the Sydney Morning Herald (The SMH did not respond to my request to have my reply to the ambassador’s article printed in its august pages, score one for Turkish press freedom and objectivity). And guess what, I wasn’t paid for that one, nor for the dozen or so interviews I gave to Australian or Turkish media regarding the recent works on the peninsula.
But let’s also be fair here for a moment. I am a journalist and writer, that is how I have made my living almost all my adult life. Am I to refuse all payments for writing about or commenting on an issue that is close to my heart, only being paid for stories I am indifferent to (having recently completed a 1000 word article on the construction sector in Brunei, I can assure you there are stories I am most definitely indifferent to)
Dogan, you seem mightily offended that I have not responded to e-mails you have sent in the past and that this somehow puts my credibility at doubt. I am not going to go into this in detail here, as this is a personal matter, rather than one that need take up space here in a discussion on the damage done to the battlefields. As such, I will e-mail you privately, though I will say that it is up to me who I chose to write to and offer assistance to and who I do not. Given that you now consider I lack credibility, am a liar and someone with little or no knowledge of history, it is probably a good thing I did not provide you with the assistance you sought.
Now, as to how the historic battlefields of the Gallipoli peninsula should be managed.
There is a plan for the development and management of the historic sites of the Gallipoli peninsula, originally developed by the late and much lamented Professor Raci Bardemli and a group of experts. This plan incorporated the results of an international “concept” competition, held in 1998, in which Turkey called for submissions from local and foreign architects and planners for historically and environmentally sensitive proposals to develop the region and improve tourist access and facilities while having the minimum impact on the fabric of the terrain.
Among the principles laid down in the master plan were that all large buses would be banned from the battlefield area, with parking spaces to be provided at certain points at the edge of the national park and visitors transferred to minibuses. In this way, according to the plan, there would be no need for extensive new road works that could damage the historic landscape. (We’ve seen how well that one worked)
The plan also set out clearly the requirement that any construction work to be carried out should not, in any way, damage any trenches or sites dating from 1915, and that no developments whatsoever should be conducted at coastal areas used by the Allies during the landings of April or August. (I would direct visitors to the peninsula to the tourist complex, café and souvenir centre constructed at S Beach on Morto Bay in the Helles sector as well as to Bombasirti, Turkish Quinns on Second Ridge, now covered by a car park)
The plan required that, before any construction work was commenced, that a thorough study be carried out of the site by experts to determine whether the work would have any detrimental impact on the history of the area concerned. An example of how well this system is working is that, in early 2005, after initial excavation work had begun for the road widening at Anzac Cove, two historians were asked to accompany a state archaeologist to the site after reports human remains were uncovered. In a 15 minute visit, the experts said in their report that, in the limited time they had, they had not seen any human remains. However, their report also said that the work was damaging historically significant sites and should be halted immediately. Their report was ignored. My source for this was the two experts concerned.
I included the comments of one of those experts, Sahin Aldogan, who is know to some of you, in one of my written submissions to the inquiry, I repeat it here below in full.
“The studies that are conducted here are not according to international standards for battlefield archaeology,” Mr Aldogan said in an interview with me in early March. “Our main concern is that the battlefields are as little effected by the ongoing work as possible. This has not happened.”
Under the master plan, the national park authorities is to take advice from a committee of experts, including historians, who are to assess each proposed project and provide advice on whether it will cause damage to the historic fabric of the battlefields. In the case of the excavations on either side of the road along Second Ridge, this committee was not consulted and had no knowledge of the work.
Projects also have to be ratified by the provincial culture and heritage council before they can be implemented. In the case of the excavations on either side of the road along Second Ridge, this was not done.
The plan did include the construction of a new Turkish memorial in the Fusilier Bluff area. This was to be between 1000 to 2000 square metres at most. However, senior Turkish officials currently in positions of authority deemed this not monumental enough, and so its size was increased to the present 10,000 square metres.
Dogan also wrote that, “but in any case a group made up of historians, arhaelogists (sic), engineers etc. could have been formed and a formal report/suggestion could have been submitted,”.
Funny he should say that. In 2005, following the road work at Anzac Cove, it was agreed to establish a joint committee of Turkish and Australian historians, archaeologists and geographic experts to conduct a full survey of the battlefields in the Anzac sector. This was a proposal from Turkey and one that I fully applauded at the time and still support. Australia named its members to this committee in late 2005 or early 2006. Turkey has yet to finalise its delegates and to date no progress has been made in conducting this survey.
It was also agreed that no construction work or excavations would be carried out in the Anzac sector till such time as this committee tabled its findings. As we have seen, this has not been the case.
Indeed, as Dogan has written, it is easy to criticize. This is especially the case if there is much to be critical of. However, to say that I have never made any comment on how the battlefields should be better managed is ridiculous. In my evidence to the senate inquiry, in my writings and interviews and on this forum I have called for careful and sustainable development of the region with a minimal impact on the historic terrain. Most of all, I have supported and continue to support the principles of the original master plan, the agreed to but stalled joint historical and archaeological survey of the Anzac sector, suggest that such a survey be extended to include the other sectors of the battlefields and that all work be conducted in an manner sensitive to the environment and the topography.
I apologise to those readers who have had the patience to wade through all of this. I apologise as well if all this sounds too self justifying and self righteous. However, over the years I have become sick to my back teeth of attacks by an ill informed few who, without taking the trouble to properly research this issue, or who have private agendas of their own, seek to focus their enmity against my wife and myself, ignoring the fact that the comments we have made, the views that we hold, are shared by many here in Turkey as well as abroad.
The concerns of that many are to preserve the heritage of the Gallipoli battlefields, preserve the memory of those who served and died here and help, in some small way, preserve the legacy that has been handed down to us. It is a shame that there are not more people who share those concerns.