J and I rolled out of İznik fairly early and following our well-established pattern of taking lesser roads whenever time and inclination permit we headed south over the mountains. The road switch-backed upwards through ancient olive groves with the occasional tantalising glimpse back to the town and the beautiful İznik lake – we’d enjoyed our visit.
On the road south we planned to pause and pay our respects at the monument at Dumlupınar. This area of rolling hills between the port city of Smyrna (İzmir) and Afyon marks the line at which Gazi Mustafa Kemal stopped the advance of the invading Greek army. It also marks the line from which he launched his audacious advance, in the height of the summer’s heat, which drove the invaders out of Turkey. The Gazi knew his stuff; by picking this debilitating season he reasoned, correctly, that the Greek army would be laid low with diarrhoea and intestinal infections and have no ‘stomach’ for fighting. It is the origin of the expression ‘Ataturk’s Revenge!’
Navigating by instinct and the ‘seat of our pants’, we found our way across country via un-signed byways until, silhouetted against the glare of the westering sun, we spotted the outline of a mighty ‘Mehmetçik’ atop his hill.
Dumlupınar is a town built on memories and around monuments – the young move away as soon as they are able there being little to keep them by way of earning a living or raising a family. It is a town with a population barely more that half that of Okçular. J and I stopped to relax and enjoy tea with a few of the locals who were delighted to have some foreigners take an interest in the not-so-distant history of the area.
Arriving at the monument gives considerable pause for thought. The whole is dominated by a mound topped by a huge statue of a Turkish soldier who appears to be guarding the graves of his fallen comrades that lie at his feet. Either side of the entrance arch are two life-like statues/tableaux – to the left a group of armed villagers and to the right Gazi Mustafa Kemal and two of his commanders. The gravestones in the cemetery provide an insight into Turkish cultural history because not a single one has a surname; each is an ‘oğlu’, a son of someone. Surnames would have to wait for a few years and the arrival of one of the many reforms instituted after the birth of the new republic. A private has no rank stated – eg, Mehmet, son of Ahmet from Malatya aged 59 years. Any with a rank will have it written, otherwise every stone is identical; simple and a stark reminder of the price paid by individuals, families and communities.
At the foot of the mound stands one of the most poignant of statues dedicated to a father and son. The son carries the body of his father who had left to fight in the Second Balkan War when the son was but a boy. They had not seen each other since until they met up on the battlefield of Dumlupınar where the father died from the wounds inflicted on him.
The older I get the stronger grows my conviction that there is no such thing as a just or justifiable war – all are waged for resources or trade routes; domination of one ‘tribe’ over another; and every one to profit one very small section of our distorted society. As our leaders ramp up the rhetoric and lies preparatory to an attack on Iran perhaps we should reflect that it will not be us, the people, who profit from conflict but it will be us who pay the price.
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü
ps It is worth noting that the price in Turkish lives commemorated at Dumlupınar is mirrored in Greek lives; and every one of the dead and maimed point their fingers at David Lloyd George whose arrogance, conceit and paranoid hatred of the Turks led to the pointless slaughter of the Turkish War of Independence.