Speech Delivered By H.e. Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu At The Inauguration Of The Monument For Martyr Colonel Atilla Altıkat In Canada
September 20, 2012 - Ottawa
Dear family and friends of the late Colonel Altıkat,
Dear Colleague, the Honorable John Baird,
Your Excellencies, Dear Guests,
This is a profoundly moving moment for me. By unveiling this monument, we pay tribute to the late Colonel Altıkat here on the spot where he fell victim to terrorism on 27 August 1982. In Altıkat’s person, this monument is also dedicated to the memory of all diplomats and public servants who have fallen during foreign service. Unfortunately, as most recently seen in Libya, the threat to the currently serving members of the diplomatic community remains as real as ever. When Minister Bair and I were determining the date of this ceremony we had no idea that it would be right after another deadly attack on the diplomats of an ally, the US. This monument joins in the condemnation of terrorism and bears witness to the enduring principles of peace, freedom and co-existence shared by Turkey and Canada as well as others.
The vibrant community of Turkish Canadians have good reason to rejoice with dignity even on this sad occasion. They have been commemorating solemnly among themselves 27 August for some years now. This date however is not only significant for them, but also for the broader Canadian society which saw the first international terrorist attack on its soil thirty years ago.
I appreciate the untiring efforts particularly of the Council of Turkish Canadians - the CTC - and the larger Canadian Turkish community in making this monument possible. They have successfully communicated the idea to the Canadian authorities and receiving their consent and support for this cause. Turkish Canadians are productive and active members of their adopted home here in Canada and constitute a strong link between our two countries.
I would also like to thank the Canadian authorities for their willingness to host this monument. It will constitute an important part of the joint Turkish-Canadian memory. It will bring closer spiritually our two nations who share the painful memory of the attack on Altıkat that took place 30 years ago. But beyond this, the monument also encapsulates our countries’ joint stand against terrorism, for peace, freedom and coexistence.
The monument itself achieves to successfully reflect the underlying themes - eternity, remembrance and solidarity. I would like to congratulate and thank the sculptor and his team, who have provided us with this beautiful monument which is in harmony with the background while providing food for thought in a subtle, yet effective way.
What can we say about the Turkish Military Attaché, the late Colonel Altıkat, on whose personal memory this monument was constructed? I understand that he was a fine officer. In Canada, his duty was diplomatic and peaceful. It encapsulated improving the already excellent relations between our two countries and nations.
Colonel Altıkat was an air force pilot and had a successful military career, serving in key Air Commands. His record bore the coveted inscription: “zero errors”. Colonel Altikat and his family knew that the life of an air force pilot had its risky side. But they hardly expected him to be shot down in a cowardly act while on diplomatic mission.
Colonel Altıkat was a skilled teacher. During his career he taught many to defend their country with valour and dignity. His students still serve at high ranks in the Turkish Air Force.
Last, but not the least, Colonel Altıkat was a good husband and a caring father. He had left behind a wife and children aged 17 and 4. They are with us today. They had the incredible courage to radically rearrange their lives after the attack, taking strength from their friends both in Turkey and I am very pleased to say, here in Canada.
I am honoured that his family are with us today. Their presence gives us strength. We offer them our sympathy and continuing solidarity.
I know Mrs. Altıkat and his children speak English but with your indulgence, my dear friend John, I would like to express myself in our mother tongue:
“Ayla hanım, Sevgili Göker ve Zeynep. Bu vesileyle sizlere en samimi taziye dileklerimi sunar, Allah’ın rahmetinin merhumun üstünden eksik olmamasını dilerim. Bizim kültürümüzde şehitler ölmez. Eminim onun ruhu şu an bizimledir. Büyük Acınızı paylaşmamıza izin verdiğiniz için de ayrıca teşekkür ederim. Ayrıca yıllarca metaneli duruşunuz için de Türk milleti adına tesekkür ederim. Dünyanın değişik yerlerinde hayatlarını vermiş şehitlerimiz hiç bir zaman unutulmayacaktır."
Thank you. Their pain and ours will, of course, be significantly lessened when the Canadian authorities are able to conclude the investigation on the slaying of Colonel Altıkat by finding the murderer and any possible instigators.
I am glad that Ambassador Rafet Akgünay could also join us for this trip. Most of the work for the monument was done during his posting in Ottawa. I wish him good retirement, although he can't retire in full sense, and success in the academic work that he has taken up since.
Turkish Ambassadors know very well: when I travel abroad, my standing instruction to them is to include into my programme a visit to the last resting place of our fallen wherever they may lie. The presence of their remains and, as in the case of Colonel Altıkat, their memory in a foreign, albeit friendly, soil, actually helps consolidates our relations with that specific country. Lastly I was in Myanmar. I visited the cemetery where some of the 5,000 Turkish soldiers have died while there were prisoner of war. I am confident that this monument will serve such a purpose between our two countries, Turkey and Canada.
Dear Minister, Dear guests,
Canada is situated in a much more peaceful geography than Turkey. However, Canada and Canadian armed forces are no stranger to seeing their soldiers and public servants make the ultimate sacrifice in putting their own lives into harm’s way for international peace and security. General, I want to thank you dor your efforts. Canada actively participates in military and humanitarian missions and operations around the globe. Let me underline that we remember with fondness Canada’s exemplary peacekeeping in Cyprus in UNICYP, which I believe was one of the longest overseas commitments in which Canada had ever participated.
Canadian and Turkish soldiers today to serve in many international operations, including inAfghanistan. We observe Canadian servicemen and servicewomen on the ground in Afghanistan and appreciate their courage and valour. I understand Canadians have over 160 fatal casualties in Afghanistan and other places. We feel your loss as our loss. I would like to take this opportunity to remember the casualties of our nations in international missions and operations.
Terrorism continues to pose a real and serious threat to our representatives abroad, as well as our countries. Only last week, we learnt with grief about the cowardly terrorist attack that claimed the lives of the US Ambassador in Benghazi and three of his staff. We strongly condemned this terrorist act on the U.S. Ambassador which also targeted the security and stability of Libya. Let me convey once again our condolences to the people and government of the USA.
Terrorism is not a new challenge. Its modus operandi may be constantly changing, but the nature of the threat is something the international community has been familiar with for quite some time.
While the Turkish diplomats have been targets of extremist Armenian groups in the past, we know very well that terrorism is a broad international threat that cannot be associated with any ethnic religious or political group. The right to life and security are sacred; and terrorism infringes on these most fundamental human rights.
While all of our countries are confronted by the threat of terrorism, it is a non-spoken reality that sometimes we have varying threat perceptions and national priorities vis-à-vis terrorist organizations and offenders. We cannot be complacent against any particular terrorist organization, irrespective of national threat perceptions or priorities. No country is immune from this threat and we cannot prevail against terrorism unless we collaborate ans show solidarity with each other.
Our strong joint stand against terrorism will serve to deter and bring to justice perpetrators who threaten the very values that Turkey and Canada cherish.
To conclude, I would like to pay once more a tribute to the memory of the late Colonel Altıkat and in his person to all those fallen to whom this monument is dedicated.
We have come to pay our respects to your memory. You should know that your sacrifice was not in vain. You will remain in the collective memory of our great nations, as fresh as the first day you have fallen. Your memory will provide additional bricks and cement to consolidate the friendship of the Turkish and Canadian nations.
Rest in peace...
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