Next month hundreds of New Zealanders will face the pre-dawn chill on Gallipoli Peninsula to commemorate Anzac Day.

It will mark the 101st anniversary of the fateful landing on rugged Turkish soil, where 2779 New Zealanders lost their lives in nine months of conflict. In time New Zealand soldiers came to respect their Ottoman rivals, who fought tenaciously in defence of their homeland.

The famous Turkish commander Mustafa Kemal - later Ataturk, the country's founding president - who led the Ottoman counterattack to recapture Chunuk Bair from the invasion force, paid a remarkable tribute to the Allied casualties.

"They have become our sons as well," Ataturk remarked.


When New Zealanders head to Gallipoli for April 25 ceremonies, they will be in a country moving rapidly away from Ataturk's secular vision.

Last weekend the Government seized control of Istanbul's largest newspaper.

Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, critics are locked up, journalists jailed and authorities given free rein to crack down on dissent.

Once on track to be a model Muslim democracy, freedom has been shelved in modern Turkey.

It is not the country where so many New Zealanders were embraced as "our sons" and a nation with which it once seemed we shared some common values.

If Turkey slides further into authoritarian rule, then tragically fewer New Zealanders may be willing to visit the Gallipoli memorials to honour the fallen men.