May 5, 2014 By VA Kabeer

Latife Hanim: When Secrecies Unveil


Mustafa Kemal Pasha, known as the father of Turkey (Ataturk), (1881-1938) is advertised by the west-aping Muslim intellectuals the world over as their role-model. The demolition of Caliphate and Shareeat, The change of language for azan (from Arabic to Turkish), replacement of Tarboosh (The Turkish felt cap) with the standard European hat, measures for women’s ‘liberation’, including the proscription of purdah- radical ‘reforms’ he engineered after he donned the cloth of a ruler after having doffed the military uniform and earned the sobriquet Ghasi (brave soldier) of Islam, endeared him to the westerners and the exponents of colonial modernity.

Most people consider Ataturk’s reforms as nothing other than a façade for his fascist totalitarianism. The very foundation of Kemalism was belligerent Turkish nationalism bulwarked by the army, which ran a roughshod over the minorities, including the Kurds and their linguistic and cultural differences. He turned out to be a demi-god like Kim Ill-Sung of North Korea and Enver Hoxha of Albania. His statues came to unveiled all over Turkey. His name was included in the national song and children in Turkey were allowed to enter their classroom after they renewed their pledge to Ghazi Mustafa. Ataturk became an inviolate taboo in Turkey in lieu of the religious taboos he smashed to smithereens.

It was the installation of an idol carved out of a flesh and blood human. But the destiny of all idols did not leave his idols alone. The destiny of iconoclasm-an image being crumpled into fragments. A generation who were not fed on the brave, chivalric past of Ataturk, who were fortunate enough to get educated outside Turkey, came out to bravely question his legacy. The negative impacts of Ataturk’s political moves like the Kurdish-Armenian-Cyprus issues, and his stand on cultural symbols including purdah were subjected to intense critique. One needs to expose Ataturk the man by shedding all fabrics he donned or he was donned. Hence, the increasing demand for the declassification of the secret documents of his time.
But to consider Kemal Pasha as a man was seen by the Turkish Army as tantamount to desacralizing the father of the nation-for which many Turkish intellectuals had to face trail

Latife Hanım

Ipek Calisler, former journalist at the Cumhuriyet, the widely circulated Turkish newspaper, wrote a biography of Latife Hanim aka Latife Uşşaki, whom Kamal Pasha married and divorced. The book, titled eponymously, was a best seller and it caused the author much headache in the form of legal actions. On August 2006, the Public Prosecutor of Turkey submitted a charge sheet in the court accusing Ipek of having defamed the founder of Modern Turkey.

Latifa Ussaki’s marriage with Ataturk lasted two and a half years. Though short, their marital life was so eventful that Ipek Calisler could reconstruct a history from write-ups on Latife in the western press, interviews with her surviving relatives and rare, invaluable documents.
Lafife was born in a rich, mercantile family named Uşakizâde in Izmir. She graduated in law from Sorbonne University, Paris. A polyglot, she was an activist being at the forefront of the liberation struggle. Her villa was made the headquarters of the struggle, where he met Mustafa Kemal Pash in 1922, immediately after he liberated Izmir. Lafife had been a fan of Mustapha and the chivalric feats spread widely about him. She was also attracted to his vision for modernizing Turkey. Much before their marriage, Latife had taken over many of Kemal Pasha’s missions. She used to write the diplomatic missives to be sent to the English Navy.

Their wedding ceremony was a brazen violation of Turkish traditions. Without the intermediation of their parents, epitomizing the gender equality, they became spouses over a table when he handed her 10 dirham as dower (mahr).

Flouting traditional dress codes which prescribed purdha, she appeared in public with her husband, whom she called ‘Kamal’. She was a reliable political commander of her husband as well. Kamal Pasha was kept posted on the political developments in the world by Latife, a polyglot. As she had communication with foreign correspondents, she could collect foreign news for Kemal.

Ipek introduces Latife as the second most powerful personality in Turkey who stood for gender justice. She was instrumental in bringing around legislations such as the enfranchisement of Turkish women in 1930, sanctioning their rights to compete in municipal elections, sanctioning in 1934 women’s right to vote and compete in elections, abrogating polygyny and men’s unilateral divorce. When once rebels stormed into the palace to kill Kemal Pasha, she donned him in woman’s attire and saved him.

Ironically, Kemal Pasha did not allow her wife to compete in the Parliament. Ironically enough, he unilaterally divorced her. He enunciated the divorce statement thrice in the conventional way (known as triple talaq). The President thereafter lived with a woman named Fikriye, who was Mustafa’s lover while he was married to Latife

Secret Boxes

Before she dies, Latife wrote memoirs on her personal relationship with Kemal and the conflicts in their marital life, enclosed them in a secret box and handed them over to a bank. After her death in 1975, the bank handed over the box to the Turkish Historical Society. Ipek Calisler claims that a prominent historian in the society has read the memoirs before he died in 2005.

Work of Turkish Army Officer
Three decades before Ipek’s book was published, a former Turkish Army officer, who has not disclosed his name out of fear, had written a book titled ‘Icon Man’ which discloses the mystified life of Kamal Pasha. The book was a rejoinder to the Unique Man, an encomium on Kamal Pasha-which has been translated into many languages, including Arabic under the title Al-rajul assanam by Abdulla Abdul Rahman. The book sheds stark lights on the conflicts in the marital life of Mustafa Pasha and Latife Hanim.

Kemal Pasha, a patriarch with rough manners, is said to have lived in the palace in an inebriated state. His behavior was strange and crazy. Latife remembers her husband having insistently demanded to walk in the tramway, where horses were confined, at midnight. He was disturbed at the end of his life, furious as he was over Latife’s attempt to control his alcoholism and sexual perversion. They were fighting at that time.

The author says that Latife Hanim decided to separate from her husband, as she could not tolerate Kemal Pasha’s convoluted lifestyle with alcohol and women. It dawned on her that she was nothing less than a portrait hung on the wall with the caption: Latife Hanim, Republic’s President Kemal Pasha’s wife. She could continue her life in the palace. But there was the threat that the portrait would be hurled out of the window in the palace (Al-rajul assanam, Page 366)

The author says, citing Rida Nur (a Physician, author and politician, who is the founder of Grant National Assembly, who became rival of Kemal Pasha) that Kamal Pasha had had gonorrhea which he later transfused into his wife. “Latife Hanim was a chaste woman. Her disease was gonorrhea. It is most likely to have spread from her husband. Ali Fuad has known Kemal Pasha ever since they were students in the military college. He has ever since been an impotent.” (My Life and Memories p 1252-1253)

Latife was worried over Ataturk’s unnatural relationship with a boy named Vidad. Once even tried to take her sister Saife and when she objected his overtures, he shot her with his pistol.

The announcement that Kemal Pasha had divorced Latife came out as a ministerial statement. The divorce contravened the civil law which has stipulated that the divorce needed to be either bilaterally agreed upon or sanctioned by the Court. Kemal Pasha’s divorce did not respect either of these clauses.

After divorce, Mustafa Kamal sent Latife 50,000 lira, which did not accept. But her father Muammer Bey accepted certain privileges Gazhi has offered. Kemal received certain important documents with which he entrusted Latife. He threatened her not to disclose their secret life.

Documentary Film

A documentary film about Kamal Pasha titled Mustapha and directed by Gan Dundar was brought out in 2008, on the 85th anniversary of the Turkish republic. The film was also written by journalist Dundar with the sound track of Bosnian musician Goran Bregovic. The two-hour-long film which cost around 1 million Euro and nine months tries to deconstruct Kemal Pasha, the political icon, as a flesh and blood human being. This biopic which the director made with the help of Kemal Pasha’s diaries, write-ups and archival documents both inside and outside the country became a huge box office hit. Around 772,694 people watched the film which was released in 200 theatres in the very first week after its release.

Dundar liberates Turkey from the aura of an icon through the film. Dundar was alleged by the ultra-nationalists to be an agent of the secret forces which try to destroy Turkey. He was also alleged to play a second fiddle to the second republic movement. They argued for the same legal procedures against Dundar that were taken against the Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk. The second republic movement demands for a rereading of the Turkish history and the Ataturk tradition by releasing it from the sanctification process so that there can be a solution to the racial problems that beset the country

Posted in: Articles