Ashley Kalagian Blunt

In 1969, an Anzac veteran visiting Gallipoli fell into conversation with a retired Turkish school teacher. The teacher had with him a guidebook featuring a quote from Şükrü Kaya, the former head of the Ottoman Directorate for the Settlement of Tribes and Immigrants. The quote came from a 1953 interview Kaya gave, in which he recalled a 1934 speech he made on behalf of Mustafa Kemal, a sentimental entreaty to Anzac mothers to ‘wipe away’ their tears. The teacher shared Kemal’s supposed words with the Australian visitor, who returned to Brisbane and passed them on to Alan J. Campbell, a Gallipoli veteran. Campbell, who was involved in the creation of a Gallipoli memorial in Brisbane, contacted the Turkish Historical Society to verify the quote. They could only confirm Kaya’s 1953 interview, but this was considered good enough. In this convoluted way, ‘the most iconic refrain of Anzac Day’ ended up on the memorial’s plaque, attributed to Kemal, with one addition. Campbell invented the now well-worn line about ‘the Johnnies and the Mehmets [lying] side by side’.

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In 2019, the Spanish government exhumed the remains of General Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen memorial to relocate them, bringing the controversial dictator alive in national debate in a way he hadn’t been for decades. Franco’s wasn’t the only body to resurface in Spain. Of the 170,000 non-combatants – innocent people – murdered during the Spanish Civil War of 1936–38, 115,000 were killed behind nationalist lines, then buried under decades of silence. In recent years, however, the people of Spain have begun unearthing mass graves, ordering DNA tests in search of lost relatives, and hotly arguing the historical and cultural narratives of Franco’s dictatorship.

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