When “Mufide Ilhan” is called, I remember the following lines of Nazim Hikmet:
You should heed the life so much
To plant the olive tree in your seventy,
Not only for the upcoming generations.
While she was in the hospital, Mufide Ilhan was saying: “This was an untimely disease. I have a lot to do.” A few days before her death, she would attend the meeting of a woman candidate for parliament membership, by gathering all her strength and then she would answer “Notice, how better I feel now, because I attended the meeting.” to those people, who would say her that she would be tired, due to the event.
Turkey knew Mufide Ilhan as the “First Woman City Municipality Mayor in Turkey”. But it would not be enough to commemorate her only with this identification. The most conspicuous trait of Mufide Ilhan is her being a modern and intellectual “Turkish woman” who is full of love for Ataturk, who defended the attainments of the Republic with enthusiasm.
Mufide Ilhan was born in Istanbul in 1911. Her father Lieutenant Nazif Bey who was the brother of Marshal Fevzi Cakmak was a martyr in the Battle of Gallipoli. Her early childhood years were spent together with Lady Emine who was widowed at the age of eighteen and her sibling, in Istanbul. The pains of Istanbul under occupation, its darkened nights and the days she waited in ques in front of the bakery for the bread were etched to her memory. In Ankara, where she was attending primary school together with the children of Marshal; she never forgot the happiness she felt when she kissed Ataturk’s hand while she was in his presence.
She completed her secondary school education in Camlica Girls High School. Then, when she graduated from Teachers’ School and attained her diploma, she was a teacher, of the Republic.
She starts to work in Istanbul, right away. Then she gets married, she bears children; but neither she quits working; nor reading and learning – she works in Erzurum, Karakose, Kirklareli and Ankara. When they go to Berlin due to her husband’s job, she attends seminars on German and pedagogy and receives certificates. She takes care of Turkish children in Kabul during their stay in Afghanistan.
Her husband Dr. Faruk Ilhan is a member of a family from Mersin. In 1946, they settled to Mersin as a family. At those days, the Second World War was over and the regimes in Europe are being changed. With the establishment of Democrat Party in Turkey, multi-party system was started and an excitement of politics covered all over the country. First of all, Dr. Faruk Ilhan is offered to get involved in the politics, but he prefers to continue serving to his country as a doctor. When the same proposal is offered Mufide Ilhan, she accepts it; and she gets her rank in Democrat Party. This era was a tiring working period. Mufide Ilhan is an orator who has much influence on her audience with her enthusiastic speeches.
Democrat Party wins the general elections of 14 May 1950. And in the September month, there would be the local elections. At that time, the municipality mayors were chosen by the municipality assemblies, and among their own members. The modern men of the Mersin Municipality Assembly found Mufide Ilhan, who got the most votes, in the preferring session - worthy to be entitled as the Municipality Mayor.
This duty lasts for a year and Mufide Ilhan spends this period with working day and night. But when the force of the people trying to exploit her increases, she says: “You selected me, you can also dismiss me. But my soul was given by the God. Nobody can prevent me from serving my country, until I die.” and she gives her resignation. After some time, she leaves from her party.
After Mufide Ilhan left Democrat Party, she established an association named “Autonomy Support Association” in Mersin, together with friends who think like her and for a period, she published a magazine called “Struggle”. But at that time, her husband is appointed to Izmit and she, together with her children follow him. There she establishes the Izmit Branch of Turkish Women Union. She continues the association efforts there, after her husband’s appointment to Ankara. Also she assumes roles in the establishment of a private school and she tries to turn back to the politics again, as an independent candidate.
In 1967, Mufide Ilhan, loses her husband who supported her with tolerance, all through his life. Her children were already grown up and they had gone away from the home. Mufide Ilhan keeps her sadness inside and goes to the house of her youngest daughter, who is studying in Germany at that time. There, she refreshes her German, then upon passing the exam done by German Government, in the program to make Turkish children be prepared for the German schools, she starts to work as a teacher. When Mufide Ilhan did this start, she was sixty and she still wanted to serve the Turkish people. For ten years, not only does she educate children, but also she becomes a source of support for the families, regarding every issue. It always made her happy to find the chance to instill the love of Ataturk to the hearts of Turkish children abroad.
Between the years 1968-81, when she was in Germany, she would follow the events in Turkey closely and in order to tell about her ideas; she would write letters to people, who she thought would be influential. When she returns Turkey, she settles in Istanbul. Although with her friends’ proposal, she intends to be interested in politics again; this does not happen. But she still intends to do something. She starts to be interested in the associations again. At that time, in Istanbul, Mersin High School Graduates Association was founded. She becomes a member of this association. Thus, the era after 1985 was the period when she met with Mersin again and the epoch when the people of Mersin knew her.
In the autumn of 1995, Mufide Ilhan is ill when she comes to Mersin for an activity. But a park’s name being given after her name makes her so happy and her illness does not prevent her from making a fervent speech as always, in the park’s opening ceremony.
Mufide Ilhan dies on 28 January 1996, in Bodrum, together with her children and she is buried there.
A district and a primary school have been named
after Mufide Ilhan and a sculpture of her has been erected by Mersin
Metropolitan Municipality. Furthermore, she will be remembered by associating
the beautiful notions such as the human and patriotism; the requirements of
being a good person and citizen; the joy of living and being able to age by
keeping the youth…