Commemorated on the 57th anniversary of her passing on Jan. 9, 1964, Halide Edip Adivar was a literary giant as the author of the first war novel in Turkish literature, as well as one of Anadolu Agency’s founders.
Born in 1884, Halide Edip spent her childhood at her grandparents’ house, which later became an inspiration for one of her acclaimed works, House with Wisteria: Memoirs of Turkey Old and New.
Adivar attended the American College for Girls in Istanbul in 1893 but was later forced to drop out and was home-schooled by private tutors on topics including Arabic, English, French and music.
Encouraged by her English teacher, she translated Mother, by John Abbot, into Turkish, for which she would be awarded the Order of Charity by Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II.
In 1899, she returned to the American college and graduated in 1901. In the same year, she married her mathematics teacher Salih Zeki and had two children.
Halide Edip began to write under the pseudonym Halide Salih for the Tanin newspaper, founded by poet Tevfik Fikret, who was also a foundational name in modern Turkish poetry, and continued to write for other publications.
Receiving threats due to her articles, the young woman departed to Egypt after fearing for her life during an uprising in 1909, but returned to Istanbul later that year.
Continuing her writing, she decided to divorce Salih Zeki the next year for wanting to take a second wife. Later, in 1917, she married Adnan Adivar.
At the instruction of the then-education minister, she started teaching at schools for girls and served as an inspector for private schools. In this period, her observations in the Istanbul suburbs inspired her to write the novel Sinekli Bakkal, later published in London under the title The Clown and His Daughter.
She was influenced by the writings of such figures as Turkish writer and sociologist Ziya Gokalp and prominent politician Yusuf Akcura during this period.
As the Balkan Wars raged in 1912-1913, she established the first women’s association in a bid to boost female participation in social life and education.
She then went to Syria to organize and open schools in Beirut and Damascus upon the proposal of Cemal Pasa.
In 1917, she wrote her first theater play and taught Western literature at Istanbul University in 1918-1919.
After the city of Izmir on the Aegean coast was occupied on May 15, 1919 by Greek forces, Adivar took part in rallies in Istanbul against the occupation. Her speech at Sultan Ahmet Square drew wide acclaim. With her fierce writings, she helped establish a resistance.
Founding Anadolu Agency
In this period, Adivar played a key role in Turkey’s War of Independence, smuggling weapons to Anatolia while Istanbul was under occupation before joining the resistance herself in 1920 along with her husband.
Speaking to Yunus Nadi Bey, a Turkish journalist and politician, Adivar broached the idea of founding the country’s first news agency.
At her urging, the two agreed to name it Anadolu (Anatolia) Agency, an outlet to tell the story of Turkey’s just struggle to expel the occupying forces.
As Istanbul, the seat of the Ottoman Empire, was under occupation, they were convinced that this would be the best name for the agency as the country’s salvation depended on Anatolia.
On April 6, 1920, Anadolu Agency was officially established at the instructions of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the Republic of Turkey.
While contributing to Yunus Nadi’s Istanbul daily Hakimiyet-i Milliye, Adivar also translated foreign newspapers and became the director of the Ankara branch of the Red Crescent (Kizilay).
During Turkey’s War of Independence in the 1921 Battle of Sakarya, she became a corporal and wrote reports about the oppression and harm the Greek army inflicted on Turks before their withdrawal from the Anatolian territory.
After being promoted to sergeant, she wrote classic works such as Atesten Gomlek, Vurun Kahpeye, and Daga Cikan Kurt.
Following the declaration of the republic, Adivar continued her life as a writer and contributed to many newspapers and magazines.
After the Progressive Republican Party (Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Firkasi) — co-founded by her husband, Adnan Adivar — was shut down by the government of Prime Minister Ismet Inonu, she left Turkey in 1925 amid the emerging political disagreements.
She lived abroad until 1939 and lectured at universities and conferences in Britain, France, and the U.S. In 1935, she went to India to support the campaign to establish Camia-i Milliye, a university for Muslims.
In 1940, she returned to teaching English literature at Istanbul University, and in 1950 was elected as a lawmaker of the Democrat Party. However, she resigned four years later due to political disagreements and returned to her literary career.
On Jan. 9, 1964, she passed away at age 82 and was buried in Istanbul, leaving behind a legacy of dozens of works for future generations.
Peyami Safa, a leading Turkish writer of the period, called Adivar the “only Turkish war novelist,” and acclaimed poet Necip Fazil Kisakurek spoke highly of her unique works.
During her lifetime, Halide Edip Adivar also translated both George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Shakespeare’s Hamlet into Turkish.
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