Suat Derviş

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Suat Derviş (1901-1972)

Suat Derviş was born in Istanbul in 1901 as the second daughter of physician İsmail Derviş, a professor at Darülfünûn’s Faculty of Medicine, and Hesna Hanım, descent of a distinguished family that used to serve in the imperial court. Her father İsmail Derviş was the son of famous chemist Müşir (Marshal) Derviş Paşa (1817-1878), one of the prominent scientists who had been among the first students sent to Europe for excellence by the Ottoman government. Her mother Hesna Hanım was the daughter of Kâmil Bey, the chief conductor in Sultan Abdülâziz’s mızıka-yı hümayûn orchestra. Suat Derviş stayed at home for her primary and secondary education, and became literate in French and German, and started working as a reporter in the journal Alemdar at a relatively young age. She interviewed Refet Pasha, the representative of the Ankara Government in 1922 and she also attended the Lausanne Peace Conference as a reporter.

In 1927, Suat and Hamiyet Derviş got enrolled in the Sternisches Conservatory in Berlin. In Berlin, Suat Derviş attended lectures in the Faculty of Letters in secret and briefly worked as a reporter in Germany for the newspapers of Scherl-Verlag, Mosse and Ullstein. During this period, Derviş frequently visited Turkey as well. In 1930, when a second experiment for an oppositional party under the name Free Republican Party (Serbest Cumhuriyet Fırkası) started in Turkey, she was among the members of Kadın Varlığı (Woman Existence), a foundation attached to Free Republican Party. She was also a candidate in the lists of the party for membership in the parliament, together with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s sister Makbule Atadan and Nezihe Muhittin. After her father’s death in 1932, Suat Derviş suffered serious economical problems. She came back to Turkey in 1933, and throughout the second half of 1930s she worked for journals such as Son Posta, Vatan, Cumhuriyet, Gece Postası, Tan, Haber and Son Telgraf. She published interviews and short articles. In 1936, she attended the Montreaux Conference as a reporter. In 1937, the left-wing journal Tan assigned Suat Derviş to cover the political struggles in Russia. Her trip to Russia made a deep impact on Suat Derviş’s literary career as she found herself deeply immersed in the theory and praxis of Socialist Realism.

Between 1940-1941, Suat Derviş published the socialist realist journal Yeni Edebiyat, together with Reşat Fuat Baraner, the son of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s maternal cousin, and the general secretary of the Turkish Communist Party, who later became her husband in 1941. Derviş experienced a short custody because of the journal’s political orientation, which had far reaching consequences: she miscarried her baby. In 1944, Suat Derviş published a booklet titled “Neden Sovyetler Birliği’nin Dostuyum?” (Why am I a Friend of the Soviet Union?), and she passed to a new stage in her career after the publication of this booklet. No publisher accepted her manuscripts until 1968, leaving her at the mercy of journals and friends that would to buy her work to put their own name on. Publishers rejected Suat Derviş; nobody dared to publish her books in the thirty-year period between 1939 and 1969. In this dark period, Derviş had to disguise herself under pen names such as Emine Hatip, Saadet Hatip, Süveyda H., Suzet Doli.

Following the demolition of the printing house of Tan by crowds chanting nationalist slogans on 4 December 1945, the pro-German government initiated a hunt aiming at leftist intellectuals. It is in this chaotic atmosphere that Reşat Fuat Baraner got sentenced to seven years nine months, and Suat Derviş got a penalty for eight months on the grounds of their political engagements with the Turkish Communist Party. In 1946, the Social Democrat Party, the Turkish Socialist Party and the Turkish Socialist Workers’ and Peasants’ Party were closed down by the government. In 1947, authorities charged renowned university professors such as Behice Boran, Niyazi Berkes, Pertev Naili Boratav, and Muzaffer Şerif, four high calibre scientists in their fields, with promoting leftism and ousted them from their posts. Members of anti-fascist circles, who openly criticize Nazism and Turkism became targets.

In 1951, Reşat Fuat Baraner was taken into custody again, and after the trials he received another seven-year sentence. When his trials finally began in 1953, Derviş left Turkey and went to France. When she came back to Turkey in 1963, she found herself in a similarly oppressive political grip but kept writing and burdening herself with the political problems of the country. She published her cult novel Fosforlu Cevriye (The Flourescent Cevriye) finally in book form in 1968, in the throes of student uprisings and fierce riots. There was now a generation engaged in political action for changing the world in Turkey. In response, there was also a conservatory uprising against this leftist will to transform. Within the rivalry between different political groups, an intriguing though quiescent friction was present, which toward 1970 started to assume a volatile political character.

Derviş lost her husband Reşat Fuat Baraner in August 1968, but tried to keep up writing until her health became a serious issue in 1970 when she experienced severe problems in both of her eyes. After a surgery in Moscow, and having had one of her eyes back in some capacity, Derviş established Revolutionary Women of Turkey Association (Türkiye Devrimci Kadınlar Derneği) together with Neriman Hikmet and some other friends. In 1970, Turkey was almost in a civil-war atmosphere beset by the clash between the Turkish right and left both of which had formed illegally armed paramilitary groups. On 12 March 1971, Armed Forces issued a memorandum accusing the politicians of not taking the necessary measures to prevent anarchy and fratricide, and toppled the government. Martial law was proclaimed in the eleven provinces and the police took hundreds of people into custody, including student leaders, intellectuals, journalists and acclaimed writers. Suat Derviş was among the persecuted. Even in her late years and in poor health, she had to deal with custodies, charges and political persecution. A year later, on 23 July 1972, she passed away in Istanbul.

Bibliography: Tatarlı, İ. (1983) “Ölümünün 10. Yıldönümünde Suat Derviş Üzerine Bir İnceleme”, Nesin Vakfı Edebiyat Yıllığı. İstanbul: Kardeşler Basımevi; 607-612. İleri,R. N. (1986) “Suat Derviş-Saadet Baraner”,Tarih veToplum (29); 17-18. Sezer,S. “Eğemedim Bu Kadının Başını” Radikal http://www.radikal.com.tr/ek_haber.php?ek=ktp&haberno=2675

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