1770) Being In Turkey: Constant Surprises : Australian Ambassador To Turkey Jean Dunn

 This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians  Site © Click For Larger Image Jean Dunn, the Australian ambassador to Turkey, thinks that Turks and Australians have a lot in common: they work hard, they play hard; they like barbecues, of course; and they are both very deeply attached to their history.

The two nations' histories crossed paths at Gallipoli, the famous heroic battle of World War I. She says that the younger generation of her country finds its identity in the commemoration of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) -- ANZAC Day -- the anniversary of the first major battle fought by her homeland, remembered, as it is in Turkey, for the heavy loss of lives in 1915. Ambassador Dunn, as a mother of three, does not miss that much from her country because Ankara is very much like their capital, Canberra. During the interview she also points out that Australia is a country of immigrants, but she underlines the fact that everybody has intermarried and diluted their ethnic roots. She takes the topic of bilateral relations very seriously, but when it comes to her personal life she prefers to enjoy herself. She says this is one of the main characteristics of Australians: work hard, play hard.

"There are always constant surprises, and I enjoy it very much for that reason," says Ambassador Dunn, explaining her three years of experience in Turkey. When I ask what the biggest surprise was, she stops for a second and says, "rather than a surprise, something really, really pleasant," and continues: "After I came I understood the deep attachment the Turkish people have to the Battle of Gallipoli. I met many people who said 'my grandfather was injured in that war.' That was my biggest surprise -- I really valued it."

This battle is also very important for the Turkish people as it is one of the bravest moments in their history. It was fought in order to protect the homeland when the Ottoman Empire was on the verge of collapse. About 90,000 Turks died and twice that number injured. Many intellectuals, engineers, doctors and other professions were lost, causing the Republic of Turkey that rose out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire to embark on an extensive program of education and training.

Ambassador Dunn explains the importance of ANZAC Day, April 25, the day their soldiers landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915: "ANZAC Day is very, very important to Australia. April 25 is the landing of the ANZACs. And it happened not long after Australia gained its independence from the United Kingdom. It's the very beginning of our nation. Australians like to commemorate the sacrifice of their soldiers there -- their hardship, their bravery, their courage. It has become a very important place in our nation's identity. So 10-15,000 Australians came for the commemoration in April. They like to be exactly where things happened, to go to the cemeteries, to mix with Turkish people."

She says that this event keeps their embassy busy for at least two months every year: "So we have to prepare for that; we always have high-ranking visitors. Prime ministers and ministers come from Australia, and VIP representatives from the military. It is a very big event. It has to be organized in close cooperation with the Turkish government; the Turkish government is incredibly helpful. The event is televised live. School children and veterans are coming. To prepare for it is an enormous exercise," she says.

Maybe it is a surprise for the ambassador to discover the deep attachment of the Turkish people to this heroic battle. However for most Turks it will be a surprise to hear that not only the veterans of the war but also the young generation of Australia feels a deep attachment to ANZAC Day.

"Every year more and more people come to the ANZAC Day commemoration on April 25. There will be the 100th anniversary in the not too distant future. We know that we will have huge crowds. The great majority of them will be young people. It is a fact that young people can travel much more easily, but they are looking for an identity and looking for commemorating their soldiers who were so much a part of Australian history. It's really quite a remarkable phenomenon and young Turkish people go to ANZAC Day commemorations, too. It is a shared experience," she says.

More commonalities, including water shortages

Between Turkey and Australia there is an eight-hour time difference and it takes 20 hours to fly from one to the other. For some Turks Australia might be the place for a new beginning, because of its immigration policy.

But, according to Ambassador Dunn, there are many common factors between the two nations, to the extent that she doesn't miss that much from her country: "Ankara is very much like Canberra. We have lots of sunshine, beautiful summers and springs, and Ankara has that. And in Australia the geography looks a lot like Turkey too. So I feel at home. If I would like to go skiing, hiking, I can do that in Ankara. I don't miss these things. Australia has many citizens of Turkish origin. We have very high-quality Turkish food in Australia, and two of the very best restaurants in Australia are Turkish restaurants. We are very interested in food. However we don't have your very interesting caravanserais and bazaars. What I love in Turkey is the old archeology, the old Seljuk, Ottoman, Byzantium, Hittite and Roman heritage; we don't have them in Australia," she says and laughs, and turns into the ambassador again: "So I met that richness here. I like Turkish culture, I love Turkey. So there is nothing I miss from Australia, probably because it is interesting here," she says.

When we are talking about things shared by the two countries, Ambassador Dunn laughs and points out that both nations have a special liking for barbecues: "That is something that Australia and Turkey share: going outside and having a barbecue and picnics. Australians do it all the time."

Despite the geographical distance and apart from the historical connections, the ambassador underlines that Turkey is an important country for her homeland. "As a reflection, their embassy is quite big," she says.

"We think Turkey is a big country with a big population that is dynamic, becoming wealthy, absolutely modern. We think also that it is strategically important, because it is a crossroad to the Middle East and Europe and it has important relations with the US, as Australia has."

Ambassador Dunn also explains a feeling which might be shared by many diplomats serving in Turkey: "I read about Turkey before I came here. And I knew it was important to Australia because of the Gallipoli and ANZAC connection. I knew a little bit about Turkey from the Turkish community in Australia. But when I came here I learned a whole lot more; about the rich academic life, rich media, very interesting politics, the challenges Turkey has. Its foreign policy is conducted very well. So that was all that I didn't know and I learned about Turkey," she states.

The ambassador points out that Turkish immigrants to Australia have assimilated to Australian society very easily, "with no problems, no issues, and this shows that there is a communality between our cultures. Australia is a multicultural country, with 80 countries and 200 languages represented. I think Turkish people in Australia have a good sense of humor, like we do. Australians, like Turkish people, like sports -- you like football, we like cricket and rugby," she says.

I mention to her that I once read somewhere it would not be easy to live in Australia without a sense of humor. Ambassador Dunn laughs a lot: "I am sure there are some people who don't have a sense of humor. Generally Australians like to laugh, they like irony and jokes. We work hard and we play hard. I think it is true for Turkish people too." But, she adds: "I am not good at jokes. Australians often joke about themselves and sort of make fun of themselves. I don't know why do we do that, but we do."

While we are talking about similarities between the two countries, the subject of water scarcity comes onto the agenda. Ambassador Dunn says that her country is a dry country, and there are measures against wasting water: "First of all Australia is a dry country. We have civil water restrictions and everybody obeys them. For example you can wash your car once a week or [sometimes] never. When I went to Australia recently and rented a car, they gave me a dirty car and said, 'I'm sorry, we are not allowed to wash cars.' Showers, we have to have very short showers. It's limited to three minutes. The authorities can monitor it; they control how much water you use in a day. They cut it off in cases where the limit is passed," she says.

For some Turkish children Australia means the country of kangaroos and the home of the Tasmanian Devil -- a cartoon character, very naughty but at the same time extremely cute, with lots of brown hair, tiny legs and arms and very big eyes. When I ask Ms. Ambassador what Tasmanian Devil means for her, she is really surprised and thinks for a while, and she says that she did not know that it was a cartoon character: "Tasmania means an island which has a unique flora and fauna,

and there is an animal called the Tasmanian Devil which is not a devil. It is an animal you don't see very often. Australia is very unusual for the animals it has. Like kangaroos, you see huge colorful birds," she says.

When I mention to her that on the Internet some young Turks are talking about Australia as a "land of hope," that they are saying "one day I will be there," the ambassador says she can understand that: "I'm sure immigrants think that. Twenty-five percent of Australians are immigrants. If you work hard you have good job opportunities. You can give your children a good education. So I can understand why people think that."

Even before I finish the question "are there neighborhoods based on ethnicity?" she says "no" several times: "When we started our immigration program after World War II we were looking for people to work in our factories because Australia had a small labor force. So to make immigrating to Australia attractive we encouraged people to take Australian citizenship. That was a positive step towards becoming an Australian. Integration for us means everybody just mixes up. My daughter's best friend is half Indian, my son's best friend is Chinese, my stepfather is from the Czech Republic and my stepmother is from Indonesia … It is just common practice for these cultures to mix. It mostly happens with second generations. The first generation obviously has to learn the new language. Their culture has adapted … it is not a pressure on you [to be Australian], you wouldn't be just an immigrant and stay Turkish; you would be proud to be an Australian," she says.

Ambassador Dunn's family was one of the first newcomers to Australia in the 19th century. She has English, Irish and German origins. Her husband has German roots, too. They have three children; a 25-year-old son attending drama school, a 21-year-old daughter studying economics and a 17-year-old son who recently graduated from Bilkent University Preparatory School (BUPS), in Ankara.

Throughout the interview, as I talk to the ambassador, I find she is very serious and all my efforts to make her relax a little and take off the ambassador hat do not work, until it comes to personal matters. When we start to talk about Jean Dunn as a mother and an Australian, she makes one joke after another about herself: "Having three children doesn't keep me young, but I do a lot of exercise by running after them so I can stay energetic," or, "I like to ski but I am very bad at it," or, "You have to be an aborigine to use a boomerang, because it needs a special skill. You have to learn it when you are a child. We love it. We like the paintings on it. But if I throw it, it will hit you in the face."

Finally I realize what she means when she says, "we work hard and we play hard."


Readers Comment:

Sükrü Server Aya
Kemeralti cd. Karaköy ISTANBUL

The Office of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of T.R. - Ankara
Info cc: Office of the President of the Republic of Turkey - Ankara
" E-mail: Esteemed office of Foreign Minister of Australia

Subject: Request of necessary action and reply to conform with the Constitution Art. 40, relative to protection of my personal rights clarified in Articles 17 and 37 and warranted under Art.5, concerning a 'discriminatory and arbitrary handling of my visa application' by the Australian Embassy.

The Event: As a Turkish citizen born in 1930 (and who has traveled quite a bit in the world including Australia in 1989), I had made six months ago, a cruise reservation for a ship sailing out of Sydney on Nov.11,07, returning after two weeks and paid the down payment. I have completed the application forms kindly supplied on the internet by the Consulate, with my usual attention. Somewhere in the form, for visitors aged over 70, they were requesting a Doctor's health report and there was no other explanation. Accordingly, I applied to a hospital (founded in 1753 under strict supervision of the Ministry of Health and Directorate of Endowments where I was operated twice), passed a routine medical check up, and got the enclosed report which I attached to my application form. But two days later I was called by phone and told by the Embassy that this report is not acceptable and that I should provide a report given by a doctor appointed by them. I rejected the request as per attached FAX and asked, that either the visa be granted or passports returned. I believe that, this implementation of the Embassy, within the borders of Turkey, was a discriminatory and arbitrary execution, and lacks criteria such as "justice, equality, trust, respect and logic" injuring human dignity, just to permit boarding a ship in their country, because:

a. A country was giving her right of action and supervision, not to an institution or degree but to 'a person'

b. A foreign country, was able to deprive a Turkish citizen of his constitutional rights in his own country

c. Despite international 'prohibition of discrimination', a country could implement it in Turkey, without minding

d. The request is totally out of order and logic. If the application was to be made by a citizen in Van, was he to travel to Istanbul or Ankara (by spending extra time and money) to obtain a report from Doctor X for acceptance, when in his city he could get it from a University graduating doctors?

e. The request of visa is for an obligatory air-sea transfer. Since more than half of the cruise travelers are likely to be over 70s, one wonders if all these (with or without visa) will be required to present "health reports prepared by panel doctors". Otherwise the Consulate's request will be an open infringe of my travel freedom, if not a humiliating discrimination involving further legal rights of other related claims. Accordingly, even the Cruise Company can be questioned for scheduling voyage from a port hard to access, or why they have not notified in writing prior to selling tickets, such non logical requests which may concern most of their customers.

f. I declare that, if this is not a special treatment for Turkish citizens only, I take this as an open violation of human rights and that I intend to use the judicial means granted by the laws of Turkish Republic and Australia, and share my experience with others, if not urgently revised.

Since my last approach to the Consulate as per attached e-mail correspondence, has given no positive results I feel obligated to appeal to your offices.

RESULT: As a Turkish citizen, (whose father fought and uncle martyred at Canakkale), I hereby kindly inform that in case of insisting on this absurd and arbitrary treatment, (destroying all the beautiful memories I lived in Australia), and based on the "principle of reciprocation", I request that the Republic of Turkey appoints a Doctor in Australia and demand that Australian citizens past age 70, be refused entry into Turkey, unless they have a health report of said doctor. If this absurdity is not rectified in a very short time, holding my sharing of this experience with my internet friends, I hope that the respective Turkish and Australian authorities, will not obligate me to spread out this case further, greeting the Australian grandsons on the ANZAC day 25.4.2008, with a poster in my hand. My mental and physical health is fit to do that. What is important is not the loss of a cruise vacation or down payment or visa charge, but the ABSENCE OF RESPECT and the 'unjust treat of a human to another', which I have been subjected to , despite my age, social standing and "in my own country"! It is an unfortunate paradox that this actual experience contradicts the amicable interview made with esteemed ambassador for Turkey:


Sükrü Server Aya (A citizen of Turkey)

Attachment 1:
From: SS Aya
Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2007
To: 'xxx@dfat.gov.au'
Subject: RE: Two visa applications sent on June 12, 07 by YURTici Kargo [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Dear Miss Albut,
I appreciate your personal attention and understand that you have to follow the inflexible rules, made by those who do not necessarily live through the consequences. Since I have provided a valid official health report, I have no wish to ask for a special letter or to see any panel doctors, spending more time and money, for an arbitrary prolonged demand. Since this a matter of "PRINCIPLES", I am taking the liberty to request the attention of higher authorities, and will fax you next week to return the passports, "if" my objection bears no favourable results. Yours sincerely Sukru S. Aya

-----Original Message-----
From: xxx@dfat.gov.au
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2007
To: SS Aya
Subject: Re: Two visa applications sent on June 12, 07 by YURTic Kargo [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Dear Sir,

The visa officer has contacted to you on 14/06/07 over the phone and she explained that you have to go to our panel doctors.If you want to continue your proses let us know by phone or e-mail,then we will send your medical examination letter to your adress.If you want to withdrawing your application,please send a fax to us (with singniture). Regards

Nur Albut
Admin Assistant
Australian Embassy

"SS Aya" To 25/06/2007
Subject Two visa applications sent on June 12, 07 by YURTici Kargo Topic TRIM File Ref

To the esteemed Australian Consulate General - Ankara

In reference to above two visa applications, I shall be much pleased to receive a short information as regards when I may expect the passports back, with or without visas because of other travel arrangements I must make in the meantime. In the event of a refusal I shall be much obliged if you will kindly care to give a written explanation for the cause of refusal. Needless to say that in case of a refusal of any of the two applications, "both applications may be considered invalid", since none of us has any wish to travel alone for "a travel plan and reservation made for two", which will have to be cancelled with the Cruise Line for being unable to board their ship in Sydney. Since I have travelled much more than most others may estimate in the last sixty years of my life and I may be even considered as a globe trotter, I will certainly feel injured for my pride, for being refused a visa for the first time, in the last years of my life. I believe that I have fully complied with the written conditions indicated on the forms. Yours cordially Sukru S. Aya

Attachment 2

Attachment 3


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