A Gallipoli story

A Gallipoli story

It was a few days ago that the 100th anniversary of what is called the “Gallipoli Campaign” in world literature was commemorated, when ten thousands of Anzac, British, French, Canadian, Irish, Nepalese, Indian and Senegalese soldiers fought on this land in 1915.

There were many films, documentaries and books (one of them by my dear novelist friend Buket Uzuner titled “Gallipoli: The Long White Cloud”) released for the anniversary, as well as hundreds of souvenirs...

A Gallipoli sardine brand is celebrating the centennial with its package.

This story is about the only woman industrialist in Gallipoli.

For Aygül Kemerli Ersoy, canned sardines are a family tradition. She is the niece of Alaeddin Kemerli, who was the pioneer in Turkey of fish conservation. After her father Selahattin Kemerli died, her mother took over the business and after her, Aygül Kemerli Ersoy.

Meanwhile, the staff, who pick the bones of the fish and put them in glass jars, are all women. They are the Amazons of Gallipoli.

I met Aygül Kemerli seven years ago in a meeting held for March 8 by the women entrepreneurs council of the Union of Chamber and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB). She was offering the anchovies to TOBB head Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu. She was complaining about the disappearing canned sardine sector in Gallipoli. Their golden days were over.

Because Gallipoli was a developing city, the canned goods factories that were located downtown could not modernize and were wiped away. Only three, including Aygül Kemerli’s, tried to survive. In those days, she was saying, “I am not after money; I want a history, a business since the 1920s, to live.”
As a woman entrepreneur, she knocked on every door to modernize her factory. 

This weekend, we met and Aygül Kemerli was eager to show their Gallipoli 100th year package.
Meanwhile, we talked about the sector. The other two factories were on the brink of closing while she had won the battle of surviving. She and her daughter, who is in her 20s, prepared a project and submitted it to the South Marmara Development Agency. The agency accepted their project involving the modernization of the factory. Thus, now, the Selahattin Kemerli factory has modern facilities.

She said, “We have come to the stage where we can produce thousands of canned goods a day in the most hygienic and most modern circumstances.”

Aygül Kemerli’s new target now is obtaining a registered designation of origin for the Gallipoli sardines. The Gallipoli sardines have a distinctive taste, different from those originating from the Aegean Sea, she said, due to the presence of the Çanakkale Strait.

“We have applied to the Turkish Patent Institute for the Gallipoli sardines. If we obtain the registered designation of origin, then it would be easier for us to export our goods,” Kemerli said.

I wanted you to know that in coming years, when you see the brand “Selahattin Kemerli-Gallipoli Canned Sardines” in world markets, that there is a determined woman entrepreneur behind it.