~ Gallipoli tours teach Muslims Turkish 'were martyrs'.
~ Turkish visitor numbers to site soaring.
~ Possibility Gallipoli may be made Islamic sacred site.
ISLAMIC fundamentalists are running tours to Gallipoli to teach Muslims that the Turkish dead were martyrs for Allah.
Tour operators say the trips are subsidised by religious and political groups who want Turkey to become a Muslim state.
"The people taking these tours are not proper guides, licensed by the Government," complained a tour guide on Gallipoli, who refused to be named for security reasons.
"Some are from religious colleges and are teaching that Turkish soldiers were helped by miracles - that Allah was responsible. It's rubbish."
Turkish visitors to Gallipoli have soared from several thousand annually 20 years ago to two million.
Australian War Memorial senior historian Ashley Elkins said unlicensed guides preached a Muslim version of Gallipoli that played down the role of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish general at Gallipoli who was hated by some Muslims extremists for creating a Turkish republic that is secular, not religious.
"Some of these guides are even claiming Ataturk ran away from the battlefield," he said.
There has been a growing interest in Gallipoli from the Turkish Government, which makes all school children visit the site.
Bigger monuments have been built to honour the dead Turks, including three mock cemeteries.
Australian National University historian Bill Gammage warns in an essay published this month that these monuments are less focused on Ataturk and "reflect a growing feeling for the Turkish dead as martyrs to Islam".
"In remembering its martyrs, Islam might make Gallipoli a sacred site," he said.
Turks this week welcomed Australians as always at Gallipoli, but some asked pointed questions of tourists.
A Turkish visitor at the Chunuk Bair memorial to New Zealanders, dwarfed by a huge statue of Ataturk, interrupted my guide yesterday to ask me why Australians had come to Gallipoli to fight, and why we were always so eager to please Britain.
And a Turkish interpreter for a Herald Sun journalist was asked by a Turkish woman why foreigners were there when their soldiers had killed so many Turks.
Gallipoli casualties (KIA)
~ Turkey 86,692
~ Britain 21,255
~ Australia 8,709
~ New Zealand 2,701
Click to view image: '45187-GallipoliLanding.jpg'
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