Sabiha Gokcen

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Sabiha Gökçen (center, in uniform) 1938 together with Hans-Joachim Herrmann (left)

Sabiha Gökçen (born March 22, 1913 in Bursa , † March 22, 2001 in Ankara ) was one of the first Turkish female pilots and the first female fighter pilot in the world. She was one of eight adopted children of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk .


Gökçen was born as the daughter of the Vilayet chief scribe Hafız Mustafa İzzet, who had been exiled by Sultan Abdülhamid II . Sabiha lost her father during elementary school, but was able to continue her education thanks to support from her siblings.

She first met Ataturk in Bursa at the age of twelve. She told him that she wanted to go to high school. After Ataturk found out about her miserable living conditions, he adopted her and made it possible for her to attend the Çankaya primary school in Ankara and later the Üsküdar girls' college in Istanbul .

Ataturk gave her the surname "Gökçen" on December 19, 1934, which means "heavenly" in Turkish. She was briefly married to an Air Force major who died in 1943.

Controversial ancestry

In February 2004, journalist Hrant Dink published a documented article in the Armenian weekly newspaper in Turkey "AGOS" entitled "The Secret of Sabiha Hatun". A former resident of Gaziantep City , Hripsime Sebilciyan Gazalyan, said she was Gökçen's niece, implying Armenian ancestry. She said that her family Gökçen 1915 during the Armenian genocide have lost, then to Urfa had been placed in an orphanage and then adopted by Ataturk. Ataturk's adopted daughter, Ülkü Adatepe (1932–2012), denied this claim. According to Adatepe, Sabiha's mother, Hayriye Hanım, was an ethnic Bosniak . The very notion that Gökçen could have been an Armenian caused a great stir in Turkey and led to racist public statements.


Female pilot career

In 1935 her pilot training began at the Turkish civil flight school in Ankara . At the end of her flight training, she and seven male pilots were sent to the Soviet Union for further training . In 1936 she completed her first solo flight. In 1936 she joined the Turkish Air Force at the Eskişehir Military Aviation School, where she was trained as a military pilot. Parachuting was also part of her military flying training, since at that time, when airplanes did not yet have ejector seats, jumping with a parachute was the only way to escape from a crashing machine.

Gökçen flew their first missions in the summer of 1937 and spring 1938 during the suppression of the Dersim uprising . They supported the advance of the Turkish ground troops by bombing the positions of the Kurds .

In July 1938, she visited the capitals of the Balkan states on an effective advertising flight .

In Ataturk's handwritten will from 1938, Sabiha Gökçen received 600 Turkish Lira from dividends on shares held by Ataturk, totaling 2,800 Turkish Lira. In addition, she was given enough money to buy a house.

In 1951 she also took part in the Korean War . She was a member of the 1st Air Force Regiment in Eskişehir . For special bravery, which she repeatedly demonstrated in her numerous missions, she was awarded the highest order of aviation and she was promoted to the rank of major .

Gökçen was the head of fighter pilot training for the Turkish Air Force. She finished her active military aviation service in 1955 and then devoted herself entirely to pilot training in her profession. After that she flew in an aerobatic team until 1964 , in which she demonstrated her extraordinary flying skills. A total of 22 different types of aircraft , both turboprops and jets , Sabiha Gökçen flew their flying career over.

Political activity

Gökçen worked for Kemalism throughout her adult life . After Ataturk's death, she wrote poems in his honor and wrote an autobiography. At the end of her life, she spoke out against political Islam .


While she was still alive in January 2001, the second Istanbul airport in the Asia Minor part of the city was named after her.

Gökçen's training as a military pilot served several symbolic functions. On the one hand, she represents the teaching pattern of a modern Turkish woman who was free to choose any profession. On the other hand, because of her progressiveness, she became a figure of integration in the still young Turkish republic, especially for ethnic Turkish women. As a representative of the majority ethnic group and the affluent upper class, her role as an instrument for the oppression of minorities , especially Kurds, is also mentioned in research today . Hans-Lukas Kieser therefore emphasizes the questionable nature of the “Sabiha Gökçen myth”. As a “modern” Turkish woman , Sabiha Gökçen dropped bombs on Alevi Kurds and generally understood Turkish women as the daughter of a soldier nation.

Web links

Commons : Sabiha Gökçen  - collection of images, videos and audio files
  • Sabiha Gokcen biography Sabiha Gökçens Biography, Hargrave Pioneers of Aviation (English)
  • Eagle Biography Sabiha Gökçen Sabiha Gökçens Biography, US Air University, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base Montgomery, Alabama (English)
  • NTV Ataturk'ün manevi kızı yaşamını yitirdi (Ataturk's adopted daughter is dead), Sabiha Gökçen's biography and statements of some Turkish politicians on the occasion of her death (Turkish)


  • Ali Akyüz: Sabiha Gökçen - Göklerin Efsanevi Kızı / The Legendary Girl Of The Skies . Cinema Guild, New York, NY 2003, ISBN 0-7815-1084-8 (DVD / VHS).

Individual evidence

  1. The first Turkish female pilot to receive a flight license was Bedriye Tahir Gökmen in 1933 (GND 1170170226 ).
  2. a b c d e f g Pelin Turgut: Sabiha Gokcen . In: The Independent . March 24, 2001, p. 7 .
  3. Robert Mahoney: Bad Blood in Turkey - Nationalist lawyers take aim as an Armenian-Turkish editor treads on sensitive topics (PDF; 242 kB), Committee to Protect Journalists , 2006. Retrieved May 8, 2013
  4. Hrant Dink: "Sabiha Hatun'un Sırrı", Agos (February 6, 2004)
  5. “Sabiha Gökçen or Hatun Sebilciyan?” (In English), Hürriyet , February 21, 2004. Retrieved January 31, 2012
  6. Ersin Kalkan: “Sabiha Gökçen mi Hatun Sebilciyan mı?” (In Turkish), Hürriyet , February 21, 2004. Retrieved January 31, 2012
  7. Hüseyin Tekin: “Sabiha Gökçen tartışmasında kim ne yazdı” (in Turkish), Hürriyet , February 28, 2004. Retrieved January 31, 2012
  8. Tabitha Morgan: "Turkish heroine's roots spark row" (in English), BBC News , February 29, 2004. Accessed 31 January 2012
  9. Mutlu Koser: "İşte soyağacı" (in Turkish), Hürriyet , February 23, 2004. Retrieved January 31, 2012
  10. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor: "2004 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Turkey" . "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" . US State Department , February 28, 2005. Retrieved July 25, 2008. "In February, the Hurriyet newspaper's publication of a report that Sabiha Gokcen - an adopted daughter of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who was the country's first female pilot- -was of Armenian descent drew a number of racist public statements. The Turkish General Staff issued a statement criticizing the reports on Gokcen's Armenian ancestry as "a claim that abuses national values ​​and feelings" while the Turkish Air Association called the report "an insult" to Gokcen and to Ataturk. "
  11. Chris Kutschera: Le Mouvement National Kurde . Flammarion, Paris 1979, p. 125 .
  12. ^ Hans-Lukas Kieser: Loser of the post-Ottoman order. P. 400, in: Dominik J. Schaller, Rupen Boyadjian, Vivianne Berg, Hanno Schultz (eds.): Expropriated. Expelled. Murdered. Contributions to genocide research . Chronos Verlag, Zurich 2004, ISBN 3-0340-0642-X
  13. ^ Gary Leiser: The Turkish Air Force, 1939-1945: The Rise of a Minor Power . In: Middle Eastern Studies . tape 26 , no. 3 , July 1990, p. 383-395, p. 383 , JSTOR : 4283380 .
  14. ^ A b Robert Olson: The Kurdish Rebellions of Sheikh Said (1925), Mt. Ararat (1930), and Dersim (1937–1938): Their Impact on the Development of the Turkish Air Force and on Kurdish and Turkish Nationalism . In: The World of Islam, New Series . tape 40 , no. 1 , March 2000, p. 67-94, p. 90 , JSTOR : 1571104 .
  15. ^ Robert Olson: The Kurdish Rebellions of Sheikh Said (1925), Mt. Ararat (1930), and Dersim (1937-8): Their Impact on the Development of the Turkish Air Force and on Kurdish and Turkish Nationalism . In: The World of Islam, New Series . tape 40 , no. 1 , March 2000, p. 67-94, p. 91 , JSTOR : 1571104 .
  16. Hans-Lukas Kieser: Review by A. Altinay: The Myth of the Military-Nation , H-Soz-u-Kult from 2006.