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Cultural event or propaganda? Battle of Gallipoli re-enactment raises eyebrows in Switzerland

A student re-enactment of Turkey’s 1915 Battle of Gallipoli staged in Switzerland has raised concerns over the use of Swiss schools for Turkish propaganda.

The performance, held in the village of Uttwil in front of Turkish dignitaries and the diaspora, was first flagged this weekend by Swiss paper SonnstagsBlick. The scene at the heart of the controversy is one of school children exchanging fire with mock bayonets on a stage dominated by a giant portrait of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, flanked by the Swiss and Turkish flags.

The re-enactment in Switzerland was perceived as an effort to promote nationalist Turkish propaganda among the expat community.

The Gallipoli Campaign of 1915-16, also known Dardanelles Campaign, was an unsuccessful attempt by the Allied Powers to control the sea route from Europe to Russia during the First World War. Untested troops from Australia and New Zealand, former British colonies, met fierce resistance from Turks fighting to defend the Ottoman Empire. This bloody episode is at the heart of major annual commemorative celebrations in Turkey.

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has glorified Ottoman heritage at the expense of secular symbols and narratives in recent years.

Erdogan, who has been in power since 2003 and survived a coup attempt in 2016, called for snap presidential and parliamentary elections this year.

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