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First woman on banknote in Turkey

October 14, 2008

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ISTANBUL: Turkey’s central bank has been criticised by secularists for choosing a previously obscure Ottoman writer as the first woman to adorn the country’s banknotes.

Critics say the choice of Fatma Aliye, believed to be Turkey’s first female novelist, represents a surrender to religious conservative forces and a snub to others who fought for women’s rights.

Aliye, who died in 1936 and was the daughter of a senior Ottoman bureaucrat and historian, is among several historical figures who will appear on the notes from January. The notes are being minted to mark the inauguration of a fresh currency to replace the existing New Turkish Lira.

A central bank-appointed committee also chose a mathematician, a composer, an architect and a 13th-century Sufi mystic in a departure from the established practice of notes carrying political figures.

But the committee has been accused of bowing to pressure from the ruling Islamist-leaning Justice and Development party (AKP) in choosing Aliye and overlooking Halide Edip Adivar, a writer and feminist icon who fought beside Ataturk.

Mustafa Ozyurek, an MP for the secularist Republican People’s party, described Aliye as a “dubious personality” of whom most Turks had never heard.

Aliye, born in 1862, will appear on the new 50-lira note.

—Dawn/Guardian News Service