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494 SERTEL, Sabiha (born Nazmi) (1895–1968) Turkish feminist, journalist, writer and activist. Sabiha Sertel was born Sabiha Nazmi (?) in 1895 in Selanik (Thessaloniki). She was the sixth and last child in the family of customs official Nazmi (1851–1920) and housewife Atiye (1872–1945). The city in which she was born and raised had an impact on her intellectual formation by virtue of being a center of social opposition , containing cultural plurality and western lifestyles. Her family is associated with a certain religious community known as Dönme (converted). This was a Jewish sect which, having been expelled from Spain, settled in the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century and converted to Islam in the seventeenth century. Dönme had their own schools, hospitals, clubs and community houses. Sabiha attended Dönme elementary and junior high schools (1902–1908). Terakki Mektebi (The Progress School), the high school that she attended from 1908 to 1911, was founded on positivist principles, as the name implies. As a result of their education there, female students adopted a positivist—even secularist —view and cast aside their veils. Since women were not entitled to university education , Sabiha and her friends founded the Tefeyyüz Cemiyeti (Progressive Society), collecting fees from students to pay university professors to teach them law, philosophy , sociology and economics. At around the age of sixteen, using the name Sabiha Nazmi, Sabiha published essays in the journals Genç Kalemler (Young writers) and Yeni Felsefe (New philosophy). In these essays, she focused on education, women’s rights and revolution, as well as criticizing hegemonic interprepations of sharia law. She and her future husband, Mehmet Zekeriya Sertel (1890–1980), met through reading each other’s writings in Yeni Felsefe. Sabiha admired Mehmet Zekeriya Sertel’s analysis of women’s issues and he, after reading her article “Osmanlı Cemiyetinde Kadın” (Woman in Ottoman society , published in Yeni Felsefe and recipient of the journal’s ‘best article of the year’ award in 1911), asked Sabiha Nazmi to marry him, although he knew her only through her writing. The proposal—made by one intellectual to another—appealed to Nazmi, who had no desire to be a traditional housewife and who had always resented her 495 father’s attitude towards her mother, even as a child. (At the age of seven, Sabiha had declared that she would never be a servant to any husband.) Sabiha Nazmi’s family strongly objected to their daughter’s marriage to Mehmet Zekeriya Sertel, a Muslim Turk, but following the surrender of Thessaloniki to the Greeks, her family emigrated to Istanbul in 1913 and here, becoming less rigid in their attitudes, they allowed Sabiha Nazmi to marry Mehmet Zekeriya (1915). The marriage of a girl to a man outside the converted community was an event that appeared in the press. In 1917, the couple’s first daughter Sevim (1917–2003) was born. (Sevim would spend her later life in the USA working as journalist.) In 1919, Mehmet Zekeriya Sertel established the periodical Büyük Mecmua (The great periodical), but was soon imprisoned for his articles condemning the occupation of Istanbul by the Western powers after World War I. Sabiha Sertel took over as editor of Büyük Mecmua, which became the journal of the resistance movement against the occupation. She wrote several articles for the journal under the name of Sabiha Zekeriya, arguing for the increased participation of women in public life and equal rights for women, as well as addressing issues of women’s education and political representation. This period of her life reveals a liberal equal rights feminism influenced by Enlightenment thought. Her feminism was also dominated by patriotic and nationalist ideas. In 1919, Sabiha Sertel received a college scholarship and went to New York with her husband and daughter. While studying sociology at Columbia University, she became acquainted with Marxist classics that had a profound impact on her later ideas—particularly August Bebel’s Women and Socialism (1879). During her years in the United States as a student, she established a Turkish community society, the Türk Teavün Cemiyeti (Turkish Mutual Help Association), and collected considerable donations for the ‘Turkish Liberation’ War. She also worked to inform workers about labor unions. A woman leading a group of men was a novel experience, both for her and for the workers. On 1 November 1922 (the day the sultanate was abolished in Turkey), the Sertels had a second daughter, Yıldız. They returned to Turkey in...


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