Turkey commemorates 1915 Canakkale naval victory
Ceremonies to commemorate the deaths of the hundreds of thousands of Turkish men 'of all nationalities' who died 99 years ago today during the battle of the Dardanelles, were held across the country on Tuesday Anadolu Agency reported.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking at the main memorial service in Canakkale, the city overlooking the Dardanelles, where the naval battle took place, praised the unity among the Turks;
"Can you see a division between Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Circassians, Romas, or any other ethnic groups in martyrs' cemeteries?" he asked. "No. And their descendants cannot do such a divison either," he said.
In his speech, Erdogan stressed the impact the Canakkale victory had on the nation's mood.
"With pride and self-confidence inherited in Canakkale, we waged a war of Independence and saved our country," he said, referring to the independence war which was started in 1919.
The victory in the Dardanelles marked a turnaround in the fortunes of the Turks. The Ottoman empire had been steadily disintigrating since the beginning of its decline in the 18th century. The victory against the allied forces in the Dardanelles gave Turkey a massive moral boost, which enabled it to wage a war of independence and to eventually form a republic in 1923 from the ashes of the old empire.
The events leading up to the momentous battle, started in February 1915, when Britain and France decided to launch the Dardanelles campaign, in order to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war as quickly as possible by reaching and capturing its capital, Istanbul.
They started their attack on March 18, but the waters were filled with a network of mines laid by Ottoman vessels.
The mines sank HMS Irresistible, HMS Ocean and the French battleship Bouvet - a major defeat for the allied powers including Britain and France.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had said the philosophy behind the government's extensive reforms to improve the rights of Turkey's minorities lie embedded in the spirit of the Battle of the Dardanelles, where all of Turkey's ethnic groups fought side-by-side to protect the country.
Following the speech, Prime Minister Erdogan placed a wreath on the war memorial.