I met the most interesting woman today. At least, that’s how I see it after we talked for a bit. It started with my having to pay for my Turkish language class, actually a conversation class to get my speaking and listening on the same level as my grammar. So I went to the language institute to pay the bill to Ayse, who turned out to be rather elderly. She asked what I did for a living, and when I mentioned that as a journalist one of my favourite topics is ‘women’s lives’, she gave me a book she herself wrote on the lives of Turkish women in the last century. I leafed through the book a bit, and in her introduction she wrote about how she was so disappointed that, every time she travelled to Europe, she noticed that Europeans had a totally wrong image of Turkish women. This pushed her to write the book, and it is exactly my reason for writing about women’s lives here: to try and help reduce prejudice against Turkish women. We talked more, and soon she mentioned Atatürk. Then she mentioned that she grew up in Kuzguncuk, one of the nicest neighbourhoods in my own part of the city, Üsküdar. Ayse was born and raised there, in a house that is now, she said, on the heritage list. A big house, sixteen rooms. She lived there with quite a large family, including her uncle. Her uncle, who was a soldier, was studying in the same class in military school as Atatürk himself. “My uncle and Atatürk”, said Ayse, “were best friends.” Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to talk much longer, I had somewhere else to go. But tonight I will start reading Ayse’s book. She dedicated it to Atatürk, the man who is, amazingly enough, in some pictures of her childhood. The book, ‘Turkish women, a phenomenal metamorphosis’, starts with the role that women played in the war of independence, right after the first world war. I didn’t want to be so rude as to ask Ayse’s age, but this book must be about her life. After reading it, I will contact her and ask her to have a longer talk with me. She must have such an interesting woman’s life to share.
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Podiumbouwer Maaike van Kempen made this website.