These days, the whole of Turkey is remembering and celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Çanakkale (Gallipoli) Campaign of World War I. In this major battle, the British-led Allied forces spent most of 1915 attempting to gain control of the Dardanelles, the waterway leading to Istanbul from the Aegean Sea. Out-numbered and under-equipped, the Ottoman army fiercely and victoriously defended their homeland, and by early January of 1916, the last of the Allied units had abandoned their positions. Çanakkale could not be passed.
Rightly so, this event is a source of great pride for Turkish citizens. The Turkish people tenaciously rallied around their homeland and their flag. Legends were forged, heroes were born, and the underpinnings of the modern Turkish Republic were set. But all of this came at great cost: by the end of the battle, each side had suffered nearly 200,000 casualties, with more than 50,000 Ottoman soldiers having given their lives.
Nowhere in Turkey was this sacrifice felt as widely, perhaps, as it was in Bursa. Bursa lost more soldiers in this battle than any other Turkish province. The official numbers indicate that 3,737 Bursa soldiers gave their lives in Battle of Çanakkale, with unofficial estimates much, much higher (see, for example, this article in Bursa Hakimiyet or this article in Bursa’da Zaman). The number of names on Bursa’s temporary battle memorial outside the Nilüfer city hall last week was 3,544. “This number is nowhere near accurate,” my friend Şerif told me as we stood together staring at the long list of names. “Many, many more of Bursa’s soldiers died than this.” Indeed, Bursa’s sacrifice was great.
So, as Turkish people everywhere commemorate the 100th anniversary of this important battle, The Best of Bursa remembers the brave Bursalılar who 100 years ago gave their lives to prove the cry, “Çanakkale geçilmez!”
By the way, much has been written about the Çanakkale Battle. If you’re interested learning a bit about it, I recommend starting with the Wikipedia article on the subject as it is brief yet informative.