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Women in Modern Turkish History – International Women’s Day

In Turkish history and culture women has a special place. Not only as mothers, which is one of the most sacred titles, but also as the head of household. As a matter of fact, there is an old Turkish saying which points out to the importance of women in Turkish culture, which goes like “At, avrat, pusat (horse, wife, weapon)” but not essentially in that order.

In this day and age, even though there are lots of news coming from all around the world about violence against women, the place of women in society remains fundamental. One cannot just say housewife and a turn a blind eye to the work they are doing for the household. In fact, there is a cute little story about where the word hanım comes from. Hanım means lady, wife, missus. And for future reference about the story Khan is Han in Turkish.

The founder and the emperor of Mongolian Emperor Genghis Khan, held a meeting with all the Khans around the empire and in that meeting he also had his wife Börte Khatun. When it was time to introduce her to the other Khans, he says “I am the Han above all Hans, and this is my Han(Han’ım), Börte”. And it is told that, this is the story of the word “hanım we use with respect, from Mongolian Empire to this very day.

Therefore, we wanted to talk about important female figures in Turkish history, emphasising the meaning and the importance of the date, March 8th International Women’s Day.

Sabiha Gökçen – First Female Fighter Pilot

Not only in Turkey but Sabiha Gökçen’s name is in the World’s History books as the first woman war pilot. She is also Atatürk’s, the founder of Turkish Republic, stepdaughter. With the surname act went in effect in 1934, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk gave her the surname Gökçen. She is specialized in fighter airplanes and bomber aircrafts. Isn’t that amazing to have a Turkish woman in history who has 8 thousand flight time while we are living in some parts in the world women just got the right to drive a car?

Satı Kadın – Turkish Member of Parliament 

In the official sources her name is Hatı Çırpan, after the constitutional amendments in December, 5 1934 women in Turkey got the right to be elected as a member of parliament, in 1935 Satı Kadın was one of the 18 women who got in to Turkish Grand National Assembly. Atatürk met her in one of his country side visits and he got amazed by her thoughts and suggested her to be a candidate in the Assembly.

Fun fact about Turkey and its parliament, Turkey gave women the right to elect and to be elected before these counties; France (1945), Italy (1946), Japan (1945), Switzerland (1971).

Halide Edib Adıvar – Novelist, Thinker, Member of National Forces

Starting from the Ottoman Empire era, Halide Edib Adıvar is one of the female precursors of women movement, the birth of the idea of nationalism. In modern Turkey she is known as “a novelist”; she wrote about and took part in the process of Turkey’s modernization. She has an important role in Turkish War of Independence; she left the luxury life in Istanbul and moved to Ankara with her husband Adnan Bey and joined the movement as “Corporal Halide”.

Halide Edip Adivar

In a demonstration during the Turkish War of Independence.

She should be known as the leader of the women’s movement, nationalist thinker, member of national forces and democrat Halide Hanım.

Latife Hanım – The first First Lady

The first First Lady of the Turkish Republic, and had an important role with the constitutional amendments about women’s right to vote and stand for election. She was being obstinate with Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkey because even though he wanted women to have equal rights as men, he was not taking kindly to the thought of his wife being in the parliament. Latife Hanım and Atatürk’s marriage came to an end in 1925, summer and what she left to us is determined steps towards gender equality.

Mustafa Kemal Pasha and Latife Hanım (far right) with her family in early 1923.

Sertab Erener – Turkish Artist, Singer, Eurovision 2013 Winner

Sertab Erener is one of the most famous modern day Turkish singers known around the world. She represented Turkey in Eurovision in 2013 and returned her home with the first place prize and as a celebration of her success F16 jets were waiting for her. She proved that Turkey is not just all about goblet drums and shrill pipes. When you listen to her singing it feels like a choir of angels are singing.

Kırmızılı Kadın / The Woman in Red

Year 2013, May 28th. Government wants to bring down the Gezi Park in Taksim, İstanbul and plans to build a mall over it. Environmentalist youth gathers together and protest against. And suddenly everything gets out of control; everyone in Istanbul, and eventually across Turkey gets together, regardless of what they believe, what language they speak or which ethnicity they belong to and they make a great example of resistance and protest. Now known as The Woman in Red, epitomised the iconic statement of these protests; with her red summer dress, she stands still against a police man with a gas mask pouring pepper spray to her face, she becomes the icon of this democratic movement and becomes the embodiment of the modern Turkish Republic for that moment.

and the Hardworking Women all around Turkey

From the smallest village to the biggest city, every woman has ever lived in these lands, we can only be grateful and make it up to them by carrying on their legacy and contributions further forward towards an equal society where women can flourish.

In addition to all these, women working the fields, women who works to take care of their family or just to make use of their spare time and weave rugs and carpets, woman who makes börek to feed, women who keeps enriching Turkish culture with following Turkish traditions, women who tries to make not only Turkey but the whole world more beautiful and enlightened with their unrelenting participation in Education, Arts, Science, Engineering and more. This is a day not to celebrate the superiority of women but to recognise the contribution of women to Humanity and ensuring a level playing field.

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