Turkey: Koç High School, Istanbul

Elif Aköz, a teacher at the Koç High School in Istanbul, contacted us to say that one of her students – İlayda Kabatepe – was the great-great granddaughter of an officer in the Turkish army who was killed at Gallipoli. She wanted to interview her grandfather about this and offered to translate the interview into English for us.  The result went far beyond our expectations and is shown here.

The interview raised some interesting questions.

Your family name, Kabatepe, is a place on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Is this just a coincidence?

No. In 1934 the Surname Law was passed in Turkey. This required all families to take a new surname. The reason for this was to put the Ottoman Empire behind them and focus on their Turkish history.  My great-grandfather decided to take the name Kabatepe because this was where his father had been killed. Mustafa Kemal was given the name Atatürk (meaning’Father of the Turks’) at this time.  Nowadays a married woman may use her maiden name, if she wishes, by the decision of the court.

In the video we see that the documents are in the Ottoman script. Can people still read this today in Turkey?

My grandfather Erdal Kabatepe cannot read Ottoman since he was born after the foundation of the Republic but his father Ahmet Naci could read Ottoman. Ali Faik and Mevlut Fevzi could not read modern Turkish since there was no modern Turkish at the time. The law changing from Ottoman to the modern Turkish alphabet was passed in the Parliament on 1st of November, 1928.  At that time they could understand the Ottoman language because it was mainly Turkish, but with many Arabic and Persian words, which we do not use anymore. The Turkish Language Revolution took place in 1932 and the language was simplified and the old foreign-origin words were changed to Turkish words, or new ones made up if necessary.

Can you explain what is the ‘tughra’ on Major Ali Faik’s commission document?

The ‘Tughra’ is the seal or signature of a sultan (Padishah). When Ali Faik was promoted to major the promotion certificate was sealed by the Padishah, Sultan Reshad.