Speech Delivered by HE Ambassador Selçuk Ünal on the Special screening of “Ertuğrul-Kainan 1890”. It is a joint production of Turkey and Japan.
Esteemed Ambassador Kenjiro Monji, Madame Monji,
Honorable Senators and Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to join Ambassador Monji in welcoming you at tonight’s screening of “Ertuğrul-Kainan 1890”. It is a joint production of Turkey and Japan.
Turkey and Japan have cordial ties. Our political, economic and cultural relations have been developing. Japan continues its huge investments in Turkey - 3rd Bosphorus Bridge being the last one. Japanese tourists and decades long archaelogical excavations are other friendly bonds. Having served in the UN twice, I should also mention that Turkey and Japan are the only two countries who take part in the Western Group and the Asian Group at the same time.
Both the main link is humanitarian.
Both Embassies worked hard to bring this film to Canada and contributed to its succesful screenings. I would like to thank all of the staff in all of our missions for their great efforts. This is the last joint screening in Canada. Even though not on the exact dates, the first screening on 19 June in Toronto on the anniversary of the sinking of Kainan, second was in Vancouver on 18 September on the anniversary of the accident, third was in Montreal on 24 September, and we are now herein Ottawa – on the anniversary of its setting sail from Yokohama to Kobe.
The arrival of the Ottoman Frigate “Ertuğrul” in Japan in 1890, bringing the honors and gifts from Sultan Abdulhamit II to the Emperor Meiji was the beginning of our formal relations.
The hospitality and assistance shown by the Japanese Government and the people of Japan to “Ertuğrul”s survivors after the tragic accident in which the frigate sunk on her return trip off the shore of Kushimoto was a meaningful cornerstone of our relationship. This unique beginning is an event of our joint history which bring tears to our eyes and warms our hearts.
The film also makes a reference to the rescue of Japanese people by a Turkish Airlines plane during Iran-Iraq war. Those two incidents remind us the humanitarian roots and symbol of friendship between the two nations.
However, these were not the only incidents related to a vessel. Out of the context of the film, there was another ship. This time a Japanese ship called “Heymeymoro” (Shining Sun). Its story goes back to the First War. There were more than 20.000 prisoners of war who remained in Russia after the war. Some of them have become under the Japanese responsibility area. When Ottomans approached, Japan agreed to transport them from Vladivostok to Turkey. The cost was 48.000 British Pounds which was transferred to the British by the Turkish authorities immediately. Due to the reluctance of Britain, it took almost 2 years to transfer it to the Japanese ship company – Katsuva. The journey of 1.030 persons in Heymeymoro started on 23 February 1921. 12 of them were Japanese – wives of the 12 Turks. Turkish flag was raised to Heymeymoro. The captain was Lieutenant Colonel Çamora and the crew was all Japanese soldiers including officers.
After 20.000 kms with a shared meal consisting of 50 gr-sliced fish, bread, rice and tea, they reached to the Mediterranean on 3 April 1921 after a 45 day-journey. They came very close to the Turkish Straits on April 5th where they were stopped by the Greek navy while the Greek attacks in Anatolia were continuing. The Greek navy requested the POWs to be transferred to them since they were thinking that they will join the independence war in Anatolia. Captain Çomora refused. Let me summarize his words: “This a Japanese ship. My orders is to take them home safely under a Protocol signed by all Allied Powers. If you want to take them, you have take us first.”
Then another epic journey started. The Turks and the Japanese crew were towed with the ship to the Greek port of Pire, Athens. Under worsening health conditions they were kept there for months with a decreasing amount of food and water. Captain Çomora and the Greek authorities continued their position until 6 August 1921 where 395 sick and elderly Turks were transferred to Istanbul. The ship, the crew and the remaining Turks on board were sent to Italy to be kept there until the end of the war. On their way to the island of Azinore 15 Turks died. There were casualties from the Japanese crew as well. Captain Çomora was instructed to return to Japan. While leaving them there, after eight and half months, he delivered a meaningful speech to the 620 Turks. And I wish summarize and quote: “I was honoured to meet you and witness your endurance during this journey. Your resilience showed that you are member of a great nation and you have every right to survive from here to eternity. Because, you want to live in peace and freedom. That is why, you have to survive and tell it to the rest of the world. I am sorry for not being able to take you to your home and leave you on this deserted island. I hope you will all reach to your country soon. I salute the members of the Turkish Nation.”
The remaining party lost other members to wild natural conditions on the island. And only after the end of the war they reached to Anatolia on 25 July 1921 - one and a half years after their departure with “Heymeymoro”. The name of the Turkish vessel taking them home was, as Captain Çomora guessed, “Hope” (Ümit). The ones who returned owe their lives to the bravery of Captain Çomora and the friendship between our two nations.
So today, we salute all those brave men and women who took in the three incidents as members of the two great nations.
I would like to thank the Government of Japan, Turkish Ministry of Culture and the Turkish Airlines of which its representatives are with us today for their support to “Ertuğrul-Kainan 1890”.
Thank you for being with us tonight.
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