Ever since Wikipedia linked to it, my review of the memoirs of the Turkish writer Halide Edip Adıvar (henceforth, Halide) has become one of my most often read posts. Yesterday, a reader left this comment at the said post: "HEA was a fascist manner [sic] neglecting the Armenocide 1915/16 with about one and a half million victims".
I will ignore the reader's absurd rhetoric that Halide was a fascist. Instead, I will respond to the claim that she neglected the Ottoman Armenians. First, I don't know what she was expected to have done with respect to the Armenians. She was primarily a writer and teacher and consequently, the positions she held in the Ottoman Government were along the lines of education and humanitarian work. Second, and quite contrary to the reader's claim, Halide was painfully aware of the happenings in Anatolia and wrote about them at every suitable occasion.
Let us read some passages from the 1st volume of her memoirs in Turkish, Mor Salkımlı Ev ("House with purple wisteria"; 1996 edition). In 1916 Halide was sent to Palestine and Lebanon to establish schools. At that time, the world was at war and the Ottomans were desperately trying to retain their rapidly weakening control over the Middle East. At Beersheba, she ran into an extraordinary nurse at a hospital. (All translations mine.)
Her round white face, despite the suffering and pain surrounding her, hadn't lost its freshness; her light brown eyes were radiating strongly and she was speaking a dialect of Turkish not unfamiliar to us. Her name was nurse Anna. She was a daughter of a Protestant Armenian family. The natural anger on both sides* arising from the mutual spilling of blood did not exist in her. In those days, it was not possible to come across an Armenian citizen who could see the deeper causes behind these catastrophies as much as she did.Later on, she worked at Ayin Tura, an orphanage (in Jerusalem?) where Turkish, Armenian and Kurdish children stayed. Apparently, Ayin Tura was in the habit of giving the Armenian children Moslem names so that they could be taken into the orphanage, which was otherwise strictly for Moslems.
*Presumably the Turks and the Armenians.
I had long and difficult arguments with the late Cemal Pasha concerning the orphanage. I opposed to the practice of giving Turkish or Moslem names to the Armenian children.Eventually, Halide appears to have been satisfied with the assurance given by Cemal Pasha, the Ottoman administrator, that no religious education was given in the orphanage and that the Armenian children were not being forced to become Moslem.
One day, 2 Kurdish children with bandages on their heads came to see her.
-We want permission to go to Damascus.Halide wrote that only a few other incidents in her life had satisfied her as much as the work she had done at Ayin Tura.
-Why do you want to go there?
-We will kill the Armenians.
-Armenians killed our parents. The Armenian kids here are beating us everyday.
-Those who killed your parents were not the kids here. Besides, someone else killed their parents. Now tell me how you got injured on your heads.
They wouldn’t tell me. I sent them to the hospital. Two months later, the same children were working together and being friends with the Armenian kids at the weaving looms.
After an especially favorite meal, the kids would sometimes break into singing a longing Anatolian song...The Armenian kids were especially talented in music and the band that they formed the majority of was a success story of which the orphanage was proud.Halide also had Armenian friends. In Istanbul, one of them was the musician priest Komitas Vartabet (or Vartapet) (1869-1935). He used to give concerts at a cultural organization called the Türk Ocağı (Turkish Hearth).
...Komitas was a product of our country. For years, he had collected not only tunes of the old Gregorian music, but also Anatolian folk songs...Komitas would also come to my house and play and sing for hours. These visits continued even during the period when the Armenians and Turks were at each other's throats.Halide notes that it was the Türk Ocağı that saved Komitas from getting exiled in 1915.
Obviously, my commenter has not read any of Halide's writings and is mostly ignorant of history. So now, let me give him/her a piece of my mind. If you want to criticize Halide Edip Adıvar, or anyone else, do it by all means. But, first, learn the facts and stick to them. And don’t come to this blog to spread half-baked ideas and hatred.