- Alcohol at Gallipoli banned -
ALCOHOL will be banned from ANZAC Day ceremonies at Gallipoli this month
in a new security measure imposed by the Turkish Government.
ANZAC Day organisers expect only half the usual number of pilgrims this year as jitters over the war, terrorism and the lethal pneumonia epidemic sway thousands of Australians to cancel their trips.
But as Australian diplomats press Turkey to beef up security for fear of a Bali-style attack, the Turks seem to be dreading a different menace: the drunken Aussie yobbo.
"This year, for our security personnel it is very important, this problem of alcohol in ANZAC Cove," a spokesman for the local Canakkale Municipal Council, Tunca Yugnut, said. "They will say `no alcohol please, you don`t drink alcohol in the ceremony`."
ANZAC Cove at Gallipoli, Commemorative Site & Sphinx
Australian ambassador Jonathan Philp confirmed alcohol would be banned from sale on the Gallipoli peninsula during the two-day commemoration on April 24-25.
"It`s not just about drinking, it`s about starting fires and camping in graveyards that is just inappropriate behaviour," Mr Philp said. "There were a number of reports last year about drunken Australians."
Australian and Turkish officials deny the ban has any Muslim connotations, insisting it is merely a matter of respecting the soldiers sacrificed in the 1915 campaign.
Guvan Pinar, manager of the Down Under travel agency in nearby Eceabat, says some Australian pilgrims have "a tendency to drink as much beer as possible".
"I don`t understand why the moment they arrive here they start drinking so much beer," he said. "Some of them take plastic bags filled with cans of beer and go to the cemetery and drink until they wait for the dawn service.
"Even though it is an Australian burial ground it is also an important place for Turkish martyrs. It is a sacred place."
To young Australian backpackers visiting the Gallipoli battlefields yesterday, the new drinking ban seemed "fair enough".
"You`ve got to show a bit of respect," said Gerard McMahon, 20, of Melbourne. "You don`t need to drink to have a sense of occasion."
His brother Greg, 25, was not worried about the war raging on Turkey`s southern border.
"Tourism is so central to the Turkish economy it was pretty much guaranteed we`d be looked after," he said. "Over here no one even realises Australia`s in (the Iraq war)."
Canakkale council`s Mr Yugnuk says Turkish government, police and military officials are working closely with Australian officials to ensure public safety.
But Mr Yugnuk later revealed that military police had told him security would be upgraded because "the Australian embassy has asked for extra and special security".
"We wait for our visitors and are very happy to see them in our cities," he said. "We wanted 8000 to 10,000 people for this year but I think only 4000 to 5000 will visit because 50 per cent have cancelled."
Fearing the effect of a tourist boycott on their fragile economy, Turkish travel agents are marketing this year`s ANZAC Day commemoration as a week-long "peace festival" to capitalise on the strong anti-war sentiment in Australia.
"It is awful what we see every day on TV, people dying (in Iraq), but we have to show a good example to the world," Mr Araz said. "We want to show the world that 88 years ago people were killing each other, but now a lot of Turkish people have married Australians and that is very good."
As tour companies worked to persuade Australian and New Zealand tourists that Turkey was safe, the "Aussie" bars and hostels that have mushroomed around Gallipoli seemed deserted yesterday.
A tattered Australian flag whipped in the icy wind outside the empty Boomerang Pub, where homesick Aussies can order meat pies and Vegemite on toast.
The pub`s owner, Mesut Ercel, sees no need to hire his own security guards for this year`s ANZAC Day influx.
"I am ready, everything is okay," he said. "(There will be) only Australian and New Zealand people in my bar. I know everyone -- all the drivers, all the passengers, all the companies."
Mr Ercel said the police and paramilitary jandarma had promised to control people entering the Gallipoli peninsula on ANZAC Day but would not patrol in the pub.
"I have a mobile phone and the police are my very good friends," he said. "We are like an island here. Everyone`s safe, the police will control all the time, controlling the beach and the road."
Bernina Gezici, an Australian who runs TJ`s Tours and Hostel with her Turkish husband Ilhami, said Turkish authorities had stepped up security for ANZAC Day when the Kurd terrorist group PKK threatened to target tourist areas three years ago.
"The peninsula itself is a military zone so there`s already security in place no matter what," she said. "We`re in a little town and the police station is exactly opposite our hotel. I don`t feel there`s anything to stress about."
Despite the assurances, some Australians have elected to beat the ANZAC Day crowds.
"I wouldn`t have come over on ANZAC Day," Gael Crowe, of Geelong, said yesterday. "It`s more the terrorist threat than the Iraqi situation that makes me anxious. We`re trying to avoid big collections of people."
Her daughter, Penny Dyson, who is teaching in London, agreed she would have "second thoughts" about an ANZAC Day visit, although "the vibe here has been very welcoming and friendly so it will probably be fine".
The Department of Foreign Affairs warns Australians in Turkey to exercise a "high degree of caution" and says travellers should check its website www.dfat.gov.au for daily travel warnings.
by News Interactive
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