Author: Dr. Can Erimtan is an independent scholar residing in İstanbul, with a wide interest in the politics, history and culture of the Balkans and the Greater Middle East. He tweets at @theerimtanangle
Earlier this month an outspoken critic of Turkey’s current government led by the overtly Islamic AKP party gave a memorable speech, organized by the Istanbul Cultural College.
At the advanced age of 99, Muazzez İlmiye Cig is still a bright, active and even internet-savvy woman who takes an active part in the social and cultural life of the nation. Born in 1914, in the western Anatolian city of Bursa into a Tatar family that had migrated to Turkey from the Crimea, Cig has today acquired a particular notoriety as a vocal defendant of Atatürk’s legacy, speaking up for women’s rights and holding those in power to account by means of sending off acerbic letters.
After attending Ankara University’s Faculty of Languages and History-Geography, as a student of the Hittitologist Hans Güterbock, Cig spent 33 years researching and studying the ancient civilizations of the Near East as Turkey’s first Sumerologist. In the course of her prolific life, retiring in 1972, she has published 13 individual books and countless scholarly articles. As a self-proclaimed product of the Kemalist Revolution and defender of the position of Turkish secularism, she has been more than outspoken over the past ten years as Turkey has slowly settled into its current post-Kemalist phase.