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Between Modernity and NationalismHalide Edip's Encounter with Gandhi's India$

Mushirul Hasan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780198063322

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198063322.001.0001

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(p.210) Appendix 1 Turkish Women; Armenian Brethren

(p.210) Appendix 1 Turkish Women; Armenian Brethren

Between Modernity and Nationalism
Oxford University Press

On Turkish Women

[I came across two of Halide's early essays. These were apparently passed on by Miss Dodd, a College teacher, to W.M. Ramsay, author of The Revolution in Constantinople and Turkey: A Diary, London, MCMIX. The essays deal with themes which were close to Halide's concerns.]

Before the Constitution women were of no importance; they were a neglected quantity, and, like other neglected elements, were supposed to have no right to stand up for themselves. Besides, it was generally supposed that there were few or no women who were able to speak for themselves, but today the contrary is proved.

Among the influences that were working during the last thirty years for liberty, the role of the Turkish women was considerable, although indirect. The influence which brought about our revolution was a revolt against the misdoings of the Government, and some of these specially appealed to women. Barbarous and secret cruelties crushed the life and spilt the best blood of Turkey's children. Constantinople was the most stricken city in the Empire. Eighty thousand were sent away from its gates into exile, misery, chains, and torture; some to death or even worse. These victims were mostly students, youths, anybody who had an independent spirit or talents, or who was known even to read a page of a foreign newspaper, or was supposed to have done so. There were also many, mostly from the middle class, the sturdy, the honest, the patient middle-class Turks. Now the mental attitude of the mothers and wives of these victims is easy to see. The majority of Turkish women in Constantinople, even those who hardly understand the meaning of liberty, are for the Constitution, which assures the lives of their (p.211) children and husbands, which lifts the horrible uncertainty and fear of having an unknown fate hanging over the heads of their beloved …. The generation of women who have already been the means of propagating large and liberal ideas are an educated minority. They are the fortunate few who were not morally maimed by some of the foolish and unworthy creatures who call themselves governesses. They are the women who had by chance fallen into good hands, or had been taught by their fathers or husbands. Naturally this minority understood that the salvation of a nation lies in the proper education of high-minded and patriotic women. They understood that the reason why Anglo-Saxons occupy so lofty a moral position in the world's civilization is their sacred ideas of womanhood and home. These women have worked silently, but knowingly, bringing up liberal-minded sons and patriotic daughters, building honest hearths where real comradeship dwells, where a man is encouraged to go on serving his country, although that service meant sometimes worse than death …. All that they ask for is a liberal education and a right to accompany their husbands and to become fit educators of the future generation. What they can do in future will be decided by the kind of instruction they will get. I am very glad to be able to address English-speaking women on behalf of all Turkish women. We are doing our best to place English influence and the English language foremost in our future schools for girls.

The actual cry of the Turkish woman to more civilized womanhood, especially to England and America, is this: ‘You go and teach the savage, you descend into slums. Come to this land where the most terrible want, the want of knowledge, exists. Come and help us to disperse the dark clouds of ignorance. We are working ever so hard to get away from the slavery of ignorance. The opening of schools by the English everywhere in Turkey would be welcomed by Turkish mothers. Simple, healthy, human teaching, such as Anglo-Saxons are able to give, is what we want. Give us living examples of your great serious women. But let the conditions be such that poorer classes may have it in their power to send their children to school. For we ask not luxury or grand institutions where comfort is found, but for simple teaching. More than for bread and water, more than any other want, we cry for knowledge and healthy Anglo-Saxon influence.’

I confess that it gave me intense pleasure to know that in their time of need the women of Turkey are looking for help to the women of England and America, and feel that the kind of liberty they desire is found among the Anglo-Saxons. The following address to the Armenians, which was published by the same lady after the terrible massacres which began at Adana on 14th April (p.212) of this year, shows the passionate patriotism and love for human kind that animates her and other women of the Young Turk party.

To My Armenian Brethren

It was a bloody nightmare of thirty long years! A black and horrible nightmare, whose wings of death, stretched over the bosom of our motherland, ceased not from tearing the hearts of her children. Wherever its shadow fell it reflected tears of blood. Now that tragedy of sorrow and carnage passes, but behold the places it has passed: thousands of extinguished hearths, ruined homes deserted, burnt ashes of once flourishing lands, heaps of bones of mutilated humanity!

My poor Armenian brethren, you are the greatest victims of the Hamidian nightmare. The fiery joy of my soul for our re-established liberty turns to ice in the face of your darkened, desolate lands, the sad fate of your homeless, motherless little ones! Our national joy falls in the dust with shame before this awful tragedy, reflected in the eyes of your bereaved women!

The ruins of Adana! O vast, bloody grave of my countrymen, you are a humiliation, not only to the Turks who caused it, but to the whole human race. My soul lies in the very dust for shame of kinship with the race that murdered you, while it moans and weeps in pain and sorrow for you all.

I come to you in the name of the murdered Young Turks, the heroes that are ever ready to die for the motherland, yet consider human life so sacred that they have shrunk from shedding the blood of their very enemies. I come from the graves of those martyred ones; I come humbly to pray for your forgiveness and your love! O believe me, my brethren, in me is the repentance and shame of the whole present and future Turkish race; I but re-echo the mourning of our beloved country for you all.

Now the world is yours, O great Ottoman nation! The new generation, inspired by such high and shining ideals as Niazi's and Enver's, such young and manly hearts that have died for justice and right with magnificent courage, it is they who uphold the honour of the Ottoman race at the edge of their swords. The same iron resolve that has swept away a bloody nightmare and upset a terrible throne, must wipe out the blood of our Armenian brethren, that reddens the hands of our people. March on, heroes! The Armenians are your first brothers-in-arms that have died for your cause and principles. The thirty thousand dead, the ruined land, the living country turned into a silent tomb, a murdered people of defenceless men, helpless women, innocent children, demand vengeance! If the murderers are not punished for those atrocities they have committed in the name of religion, the blood of our Armenian brethren will remain for ever a red stain on the name of the Young Turks.

(p.213) I see with great satisfaction that the Moslems of Egypt protest against the atrocities of Adana in the name of Islam. I am almost sure that my Egyptian brethren will equally help those that are left in misery and bereavement after the massacres that darken the sacred religion of Mohammed.