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Yunus Nadi and Halide Edip: Laying foundations of Anadolu Agency

Halide Edip Adivar, Yunus Nadi Abalioglu conceived idea for Turkish news agency

Merve Berker   | 05.04.2021
Yunus Nadi and Halide Edip: Laying foundations of Anadolu Agency

ANKARA 

Exactly 101 years ago, a discussion between two Turkish intellectuals Halide Edip Adivar and Yunus Nadi Abalioglu at a train station conceived the idea of the Turkish global wire Anadolu Agency.

On the orders of the founding father of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the agency began its operation on April 6, 1920, to communicate the voice of Anatolia to the world.

Since its foundation, Anadolu Agency has worked to disseminate factual news across the globe with confidence, impartiality, professionalism and speed.

It currently operates in 13 languages and provides news to more than 6,000 subscribers from over 100 countries.

Before the birth of the Anadolu Agency, Turkey-Havas Reuter agency had started operation under Ottoman rule.

Following the defeat of the Empire in World War I and the occupation of Istanbul by the Allied Forces, Damat Ferid Pasha, the then de facto prime minister, agreed to set up the Turkey-Havas Reuter agency, which gave concessions to foreign journalists. The stories that they used to disseminate, were inimical to Turkey’s interests. Mustafa Kemal was disturbed because their stories were based on fabrications.

Realizing the importance of media, Mustafa Kemal had started thinking about the possibility of setting up a news agency, which would convey the voice of the War of Independence within the country and around the world.

Halide Edip Adivar

Born in 1884, Halide Edip spent her childhood at her grandparents' “purple panicle house”, which later became an inspiration for one of her acclaimed works, House with Wisteria: Memoirs of Turkey Old and New.

Adivar attended the American College for Girls in Istanbul in 1893 but was later forced to drop out and was home-schooled by private tutors in several languages including Arabic, English and French, and music.

Encouraged by her English teacher, she translated Mother by John Abbott into Turkish, for which she was awarded the Order of Charity by Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II.

In 1899, she returned to the American college and graduated in 1901. In the same year, she married her mathematics teacher Salih Zeki and subsequently had two children.

Halide Edip began to write under the pseudonym Halide Salih for the Tanin newspaper, founded by poet Tevfik Fikret, who was also a foundational name in modern Turkish poetry, and continued to write for other publications.

Receiving threats due to her articles, the young woman departed to Egypt fearing for her life during the March 31 uprising in 1909, but returned to Istanbul later that year.

Continuing her writing, she decided to divorce Salih Zeki the next year for wanting to take a second wife. Later, in 1917, she married Adnan Adivar.

At the instruction of the then-education minister, she started teaching at schools for girls and served as an inspector for private schools. In this period, her observations in the Istanbul suburbs inspired her to write the novel Sinekli Bakkal, later published in London under the title, The Clown and His Daughter.

She was influenced by the writings of such figures as Turkish writer and sociologist Ziya Gokalp and prominent politician Yusuf Akcura during this period.

As the Balkan Wars raged in 1912-1913, she established the first women's association in a bid to boost female participation in social life and education.

She then went to Syria to organize and open schools in Beirut and Damascus upon the proposal of Cemal Pasa.

In 1917, she wrote her first theater play and taught Western literature at Istanbul University in 1918-1919.

After the city of Izmir on the Aegean coast was occupied on May 15, 1919 by Greek forces, Adivar took part in rallies in Istanbul against the occupation. Her speech at Sultanahmet Square in the city drew wide acclaim. With her fierce writings, she helped establish a resistance.

In this period, Adivar played a key role in Turkey's War of Independence, smuggling weapons to Anatolia while Istanbul was under occupation before joining the resistance herself in 1920 along with her husband.

Yunus Nadi Abalioglu

The fifth child of Hadji Halil Efendi and Ayse Hanim, Yunus Nadi Abalioglu came to the world on July 1, 1879, in Mekri township of Aydin, whose present name is Fethiye.

Abalioglu, interested in reading from an early age, received a religious education, recitation and tajweed lessons from a special teacher.

He graduated from the Suleymaniye Madrasa in 1897 with a degree in law and continued his education at the Galatasaray Sultani and Istanbul Law School.

He began his journalism career by writing in the magazine Malumat as a student.

When he was a sophomore at the university, he was arrested in 1901 for founding an association against Abdulhamid II and sentenced to three years in prison at Mytilene Castle. He went to Fethiye and stayed there until the proclamation of the Constitution.

During exile, he married Nazime Hanim in Fethiye. He had four children: Nadir, Dogan, Nilufer, and Leyla.

Abalioglu, who was a member of the Union and Progress Society in 1908, came to Istanbul upon the proclamation of the Constitutional Monarchy. He was able to complete law school, which he left unfinished due to his conviction, only when he returned to Istanbul after the proclamation of the Constitution.

During this period, he also worked at the Ikdam and Tasvir-i Efkar newspapers.

In 1910, Abalioglu went to Salonika and became the editor-in-chief of Rumeli newspaper, the publication body of the society in Salonika, due to his close relationship with the Union and Progress Society.

He met Mustafa Kemal in Salonika, and was his compatriot in the War of Independence.

Communication between Mustafa Kemal and Abalioglu continued. Abalioglu exchanged letters with Mustafa Kemal, who served as an attache in Sofia and published Mustafa Kemal's thoughts under the headline "Steel ideas written in steel pencil" in the Daily Tasvir-i Efkar, where he was the editor-in-chief.

During April - August 1912, Abalioglu returned to Istanbul when the Balkan War began and entered the Ottoman Parliament as a deputy from Aydin province. He continued to write editorials and manage Tasvir-i Efkar.

During the war, the task of mobilizing the public to save Edirne was given to him by the Union and Progress and he carried out a successful campaign.

The name Kemal, whom Abalioglu had known from Salonika, began to spread through word of mouth among the people during the Gallipoli campaign. But the printing press had not published articles on his heroism nor had a single photograph of him been included.

Tasvir-i Efkar was the first Turkish newspaper to publish a photograph of Mustafa Kemal in Sofia.

With the dissolution of the Parliament of Deputies on Nov. 21, 1918, Abalioglu's term as a deputy came to an end.

He continued his professional life without breaking away from the world of press, politics, and thought.

He founded the New Day Newspaper, which will take on a prominent mission in the history of the Turkish press in Istanbul and Anatolia, and which began publishing Sept. 2, 1918.

That same year, he was elected deputy of Izmir in the last Ottoman Parliament and wrote in the New Day he supported the National Struggle Movement in Anatolia.

March 16, 1920, the day after the invasion of Istanbul, his newspaper was closed by the British forces, and he had to move to Anatolia.

Founding Anadolu Agency

The lack of an organization that would meet the need for promote the national cause at home and abroad and speed up the flow of news was felt during the period of the national struggle.

Anadolu Agency would respond to those needs. The idea of the agency was born in a conversation between Abalioglu and Adivar on April 1, 1920, in the Akhisar Station, the township of Geyve, passing from Istanbul to Ankara.

The name "Anadolu Agency" was liked by Abalioglu. Among Adivar's suggestions were "Turkish Agency" and "Ankara Agency".

The name was finalized a few days later.

They arrived in Ankara on the evening of April 1. "On April 4 or 5", at Mustafa Kemal's headquarters in the Agricultural School, talks on the agency began after dinner.

Abalioglu recounts that night years later in his writings:

"Then Anadolu Agency is mentioned, which Halide Edip Hanim and I decided to establish at the Akhisar Station. If [Mustafa Kemal] Pasha approves, it can start immediately. Pasha thought the idea was very good. On the other hand, Pasha wanted to see for himself the description of the first days of the news and articles to be written to be telegraphed to his hometown. So that there would be no opposition to the politics and mentality that followed."

It was decided that Pasha would announce the birth of Anadolu Agency. He would explain why such an agency was founded in Ankara. Pasha explained to the nation that the Agency will let everyone know around the country about what was happening, in those difficult times. “You will take the Agency’s word to the farthest corner of this country, no matter what,” he told people.

Abalioglu and Adivar began the operation. "We would collect all official, non-official, local and international news stories about the day, and release them twice a day," he said.

Adivar records in her memoir: "After remembering my many discussions with people during our journey and before, I immediately told Yunus Nadi Bey my idea about founding an agency. People did not understand the meaning of this national struggle, because they simply could not reach to any news about it, they are not informed."

Mentioning her discussion with Mustafa Kemal Pasha, Adivar writes that she and Abalioglu told him that they have thought of starting a news agency named Anadolu Agency.

"We proposed to send our publications to all provinces via telegraph service. And where it was not possible, we would paste posters on the walls and broadcast news in mosques. Along with this, we also needed to reach the English and French newspapers to circulate news around the world," she told Mustafa Kemal, as recorded in her memoir.

The first shift of the agency's employees was to translate relevant parts of foreign newspapers, separate telegrams brought by Mustafa Kemal Pasha's clerk Hayati Bey for Anadolu Agency and Hakimiyet-i Milliye newspaper, to help Mustafa Kemal's correspondence and to investigate possibilities for bringing the European newspapers from Istanbul.

Anadolu Agency was established on April 6, 1920. In the short period from April 6 - April 23, the Turkish Parliament convened. His work focused mainly on issues such as warning the public against internal and external false reports and incitements aimed at misleading the Turkish public and informing citizens about decisions and initiatives taken for national liberation in time.

Abalioglu also published his newspaper, New Day in Anatolia, from August 10, 1920, and continued to support the National Struggle in Anatolia.

The newspaper was published in Ankara until May 11, 1924.

Yunus Nadi died June 28, 1945, in Geneva, after a protracted illness. He was buried at the Edirnekapi Martyrs' Cemetery in Istanbul.

The veteran journalist wrote books: "Artemis", "Revolution and Inkilab-i Osmani (Ottoman Revolution)", and "49 hours in the Air with Graf Zeppelin".

On Jan. 9, 1964, Halide Edip also passed away at the age of 82 and was buried in Istanbul, leaving behind a legacy of dozens of works for future generations.

Peyami Safa, a leading Turkish writer of the period, called Adivar the "only Turkish war novelist," and acclaimed poet Necip Fazil Kisakurek spoke highly of her unique works.

During her lifetime, Halide Edip Adivar also translated both George Orwell's Animal Farm and Shakespeare's Hamlet into Turkish.

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