Blog 22 21/12/2015 Halide Edip Adıvar: Turkish Feminist and Intellect.

Posted in on 21 December, 2015 in News

Halide Edip Adıvar: Turkish Feminist and Intellect.

Halide early photo

Halide Edip Adıvar was a woman of enormous influence during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of the modern Turkish Republic. The daughter of Mehmet Edip Bey, private treasurer of Sultan Abdulhamit II, and Fatma Berifem Hanım, she was born in 1884 in Istanbul. Her mother died when she was young. She was educated by private tutors at home in a period when most girls were not educated. After receiving private lessons where she studied European and Ottoman literature, religion, philosophy, sociology, English, French and Arabic, she briefly learned Greek when she attended a Greek school in Constantinople. From 1899-1901, she was sent to the American Girls College in Üsküdar, Istanbul and became the first Muslim to have graduated from this school. After her graduation, Halide Edip married the mathematician and astromomer, Salih Rıza Bey, who was the mathematics teacher at her college. They had two sons – Ayetullah and Hikmetullah. After the war between Russia and Japan, Halide Edip named her son “Hasan Hikmetullah Togo” out of respect to the famous Japanese Commander Togo Heihachiro, who gained victory on behalf of the “Orient” against Russia, one of the Western powers.

Halide with veilHalide Edip grew up surrounded by intellects. Her father’s house was a magnet for intellectual activity at the time and it would have a profound effect on her. In 1908, she began writing articles on education for  newspaper journals such as Tanin, Aşiyan, Resimli Kitap and Demet. After publishing “The Future of Turkish Women originally written in English in the National journal, Halide Edip drew attention to Isabel Fry, who, as a reformer, dedicated herself to the education of children. Halide Edip’s correspondence with Isabel Fry began a lifelong friendship and provided her with contact to many prominent figures among English Feminists.

Following “The Young Turks Revolution” in 1908, the “31 March Case,” known as the rebellion of anti-revolutionists, Halide Edip and her two sons to took refuge in Egypt along with many other supporters of the revolution. She travelled from Egypt and visited Isabel Fry in England,  met prominent intellectuals of the period such as Bertrand Russell and published her travel notes in the Akşam journal. Her husband Salih Zeki decided to take a second wife and asked her to remain his first wife. This incident became a turning point in her life and she divorced him. Despite this sudden separation, Salih Zeki turned into a lifelong obsession for her. Mina Urgan, who was Halide Edip‟s student in the 1960s, recounts in her memoir that despite the pains Salih Zeki had caused her, she always talked passionately about him.

One day, she told me: you will hear the gossips that Halide Edip made love with this guy or that guy. All is lie! I loved one man in my life. That “man” grew tired of me six months later and cheated on me. I knew everything and accepted it. As long as I could see and touch him”

After the tragic end of her marriage, she dedicated herself to education. She worked as a teacher and became involved with the new intellectual environment which gathered under the banner of Pan-Turkism.

During the period following 1910, in order to find a solution to the worsening political conditions of the Russian Empire, the Ottoman intellectuals grew interested in the project of Pan-Turkism created by the Russian Turks, which aimed to connect all the Turkic peoples in the world.  Ziya Gökalp and Yusuf Akçura were the leading supporters of this movement. Ziya Gökalp, in particular, was an important figure not only for Turkish Nationalism but also for Turkish Feminism as he argued that feminisim was an important part of Turkish life.  The intellectual atmosphere focusing on the Turkish culture affected many intellectuals including Halide Edip. She became interested in the newly emerging perspective on Turkishness, the idea of Turanism and the ideal to unite all the Turan races under one flag and country. In her memoirs, Halide Edip admits that the influence of Ziya Gökalp‟s nationalist views can be sensed in her first novels.

Halide Edip Adivar and Adnan Adivar

Halide Edip Adivar and Adnan Adivar

Halide Edip was the first female member of the Turkish Hearth Community (Türk Ocağı Cemiyeti). Soon after the foundation of the Turkish Hearth, a journal named Türk Yurdu, which advocated the Turkish values of the pre-Islamic period, began to be published. She lectured and wrote articles on a variety of issues from current politics to economic struggles. These lectures and articles provided her to become one of the leading names for Turkish nationalism. She was sent to Syria, in charge of the investigation of the schools and orphanages, by Cemal Pasha who was one of the leaders of the Union and Progress Committee (İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti). The following year, nearly seven years after she divorced Salih Zeki Bey, she married Dr. Adnan, who was a renowned professor of medicine. Dr. Adnan Adıvar was also one of the members of the Union and Progress Committee and a close family friend. By this time, the couple became even more involved in the activities of nationalists.

After 1918, Halide Edip turned into an even more prominent figure with her passionate public speeches. After the occupation of Izmir by the Greek army on May 16, 1919, she delivered a speech at a rally in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, and at a mass meeting in Fatih. At the Fatih meeting, Edip addressed the public as follows:

“Muslims! Turks! The Turk and the Muslims are now experiencing their darkest day. Night, a dark night. But there is no night without morning in life. Tomorrow we will create a glittering morning, tearing this terrible night. Women! We have now no tools such as cannons, guns; but a greater and a stronger weapon, we have; Hak and Allah. Guns and cannons may be lost, but Hak and Allah are everlasting. We, with our men, ask for the strongest, most intelligent, most courageous cabinet from our own heart that will represent us the best”.

Halide in Sultanhamet

Halide protests in Sultanahmet after the Greek Army occupies Smyrna.

When the Allies occupied Istanbul in 1920, she fled to Anatolia with her family and joined the national struggle. The Ottoman court in Istanbul blacklisted her and sentenced her to death. Following the cease fire, Halide Edip accepted the peace offering of President Woodrow Wilson with excitement and became the member of Wilson Principles Committee, a political network that connected the nationalists in Turkey to the American Government. Although she became a defender of American sovereignty at first, she later changed her mind.

During the War of Independence, Edip  served as a nurse to the military units and worked as press agent for Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. For much of that time, she was a trusted member  of  Mustafa Kemal’s immediate circle,  sharing the highs and lows of his successes. Her memoirs of this period are a great insight into the struggles the Turks faced against the Greeks and later in gaining recognition by the international powers.  In recognition of her military services, she was promoted to the rank of sergeant. Dr. Adnan Adıvar was among the intellectuals within Atatürk‟s circle and he became the first Minister of Health in Ankara between the years 1920-1921.

Ataturk and Halide 1823

The end of war led to many changes in the country. In 1923, the Turkish Republic was founded and the National Assembly (TBMM) abolished the caliphate in order to separate religion from state affairs. In parallel with the efforts to create a new political structure, an attempt to democracy within the control of the state, was launched. Dr. Adıvar became the general secretary of the first opposition party named Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Fırkası founded with the permission of Atatürk. The Şeyh Sait Rebellion in 1925 brought the end of the party. On 5 July, the Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Fırkası was charged with using religion for political purposes and closed by cabinet decision. The Adıvars went to Europe and America in a form of voluntarily exile. Although Halide Edip was admitted as a member of the women‟s organization that aimed at establishing a lobby for the right to elect and be elected for women, these efforts did not have a positive result before she left Turkey with her husband.  After the death of Mustafa Kemal, the Adıvars returned to the country. Halide Edip was appointed as a professor to the English Language and Literature Department of Istanbul University. In 1949, the Democrat Party was founded and with the general elections in the same year, through which 61 members of the Democratic Party entered the parliament, Turkey passed into a multi-party system.

Halide Edib 1

The Democratic Party came to power with a large majority in 1950 and in the elections of the same year, Halide Edip was elected as an independent deputy from İzmir. She was one of the three women, among the four hundred and ninety-one men, in the National Assembly (Keskin-Kozat 1997). The Democrat Party used her as a symbol of a new period in the Turkish political system. By using Halide Edip‟s voluntary exile in 1920, the party gave the message that they were against the authoritarianism of the single party regime. Yet, Halide Edip, ever the thinker, soon realised that the Democrat Party was only after power and she lost interest in the party, becaming critical of the government in her speeches. She published her Farewell to Politics (Siyasi Vedaname) and resigned in 1954. She then dedicated herself to writing and to her responsibilities at the university. After Dr. Adnan Adıvar‟s death on 1 July 1955, she began to lead a secluded life. Halide Edip Adıvar passed away in 1964. She will be remembered as an early voice of feminism and reform in Turkish Life.

Halide in later life

Halide in later life

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