Muazzez İlmiye Çığ

Muazzez İlmiye Çığ

What were your dreams?


I was appointed to Eskisehir as a teacher and my life standards were so good compared to those of the era. But still, I was expecting to attend university but this was impossible because I studied in the vocational school. In 1936, when the Faculty of Language, History and Geography was established and when the teachers who wanted to enroll there were accepted – I and my friend Hatice Kizilyay who thought like me enrolled the department of Hittitology and Sumerology, about which we did not hear anything previously, by taking into consideration all the hardships. My next dream was to graduate successfully from these departments where German professors were lecturing. In 1940, I graduated from the faculty and I was appointed to Istanbul Archaeology Museum. My next dream was to conserve and classify the tablets written in the alphabet that we call as Cuneiform which were unearthed in the excavations in Iraqi soils which was belonging to Ottoman Empire at that time – according to their topics and eras and place them in the cupboards by giving them numbers, until my retirement. When I was retired, I and my friend Hatice Kizilyay who was appointed to the museum together with me – had finished all these processes and we made the museum attain a beautiful archive comprising 74 thousand tablets. Thus the 2nd dream was actualized. 3rd dream was to write books towards people regarding the Sumerians, in line with Ataturk’s wish, with the knowledge accumulated until retirement. Thankfully, I fulfilled this dream of mine, by writing 22 books.


Who are the people that affected you most?


My Hittitology Lecturer Hans Gustav Guterbock, with whom our relationship all lifelong never ended. I wrote books, by learning him the copying technique. The second one: Prof. Samuel Noah Kramer. He came to the archive in 1950, in order to study Sumerian literary tablets. Together with him, I started to copy the Sumerian literary tablets. Since then, after my retirement, he came to the  museum 11 times and we studied together. I translated his book titled “History begins at Sumer” into Turkish. Until 1990, at which year he died, our connection continued. I learnt a lot from him. Despite these, who affected me most was Hatice Kizilyay, a close friend of mine, whom I got on well with; with whom our friendship started from Teachers’ School, and was followed in our teaching days and in our University studies and during the museum efforts. May she rest in peace.


Do you have a special message for the women?


Our women have progressed a lot since Ataturk. Today, we have successful women in education, science, art, media, trade and in politics, though in scant numbers. But in some state institutions, especially in the justice field, by forgetting that our women are secular; they used head-scarfs by rejecting their freedom not to wear it. Thus, they did not refrain from being slaves.

Our educated women work in many charity deeds. But, however, they do not react this. The indispensable part of democracy is to show one’s reaction. But this is not done. Hayrattin Karaca and I, showed our reaction with banners in our hands “Don’t let our soils be sold” in front of Turkish Grand National Assembly, in Ankara, while it was snowing over us. When we returned, we asked those who clapped and appreciated us “What did you do? For whom did we do this demonstration?” They kept silent and did not answer. Whereas, we aimed in our demonstration and we wanted people to send hundreds of letters to the Assembly.

This was not done. The letters I wrote for many artists, journalists or other high level persons, since 1980 were published in books named “My Citizenship Reactions” and “Get up from sleep”… I think that if at least one hundred persons like me wrote, what was wanted would have been achieved. In the recent years, village women rioted altogether regarding the issues related to their villages and they succeeded in getting “what they wanted” done. I envied them.


Let our women read and make the books be read by the people around themselves, regarding Ataturk. Let them show their reaction without fears. Let them enlighten the uneducated  women.


With my sincere respect and salutations, to everyone


12 August 2016