Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Modern Times


On Monday, Turkey lost one of her most prominent daughters. Dr. Türkan Saylan dedicated her life to the treatment of lepers patients, and the education of girls in under-developed parts of Turkey, where the traditional place of girls is their homes. She was probably the most influential activist, and grassroots organizer. The NGO she founded, "The Society to Support Modern Life," provided scholarships to girls and women throughout their education, as well as organized advertisement and education campaigns to change the traditional position of the women in the Turkish society. All the deaths are tragic, but the deaths of the people who will be remembered by the positive impacts on those who continue to live, are the ones that one should aspire. Her description of a "modern woman" is perhaps the best description of her legacy which I print in Turkish and English:


‘Çağdaş kadın, kendi kararlarını kendisi veren, mutlaka ekonomik bağımsızlığını kazanmış, yani kendi geçimini kendisi temin eden, evlenmeye veya ayrılmaya kendi özgür iradesiyle karar verebilen, kocası tarafından aşağılanmayan, dayak yemeyen, çocuklarının önünde küçük düşürülmeyen kadındır.’

`A Modern Woman is one who takes her own decisions, one who has gained her economical independence, one that takes the decision of marriage and divorce by her own free will, one who is not humiliated by her wife, one who is not beaten by him in front of her children.´

Unfortunately, this description of the modern woman does not resonate in religious/conservative circles. No matter how much they talk about the morality they get from their religious way of thinking, some religious/conservative newspapers have libeled her, during the last stages of her fight with cancer. The Islamist/conservative government was involved in this also, as she was questioned by judges investigating an alleged organization perpetrating plans for a military coup against the government. She was involved in anti-government/pro-secularist meetings before the elections, but made her case clear by declaring "I am neither for a coup, nor for sharia."

Let me commemorate her achievements, and her legacy with this picture of her, from her days as a young doctor. It reads "There is much needed for hapiness" Helping others, and achieving your goals is one of those. And through these, she achieved happiness and greatness in her deathbed.

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