Crimean Tatars: New Crimean Tatar Women’s Journal Highlights Revival Of Reformist Islam
A Crimean Tatar journal for women launched this week represents the latest development in a trend that has attracted relatively little attention: the revival especially among the Tatars and other Muslim groups in Russia of the principles of reformist Islam promoted more than a century ago by Ismail Bey Gaspirali, the Jadidist editor of “Tercuman.”
On Thursday, March 4, staff of a new Crimean Tatar women’s journal, “Arzy” (“Longing”) formally presented the first issue to the Supreme Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, a date chosen because on March 3,1906, Gaspirali launched under the editorship of his daughter Shefika the first such journal, “Alem-i Nisvan” (“Woman’s World”).
That journal, those involved with the new one said, promoted women’s equality and freedom, and the new magazine, which initially will be distributed only to schools and libraries but will ultimately be available for subscription, they say, will continue to promote the same ends.
Remzi Ilyasov, deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejli and a longtime backer of the new project, was explicit about this continuity. He said that the launch of “Arzy” represents “a striving to revive the journal published by Ismail Bey Gaspirali” who promoted through his writings and such publications the liberalization of his own and other Islamic societies.
The earlier journal was published in both Crimean Tatar and Russian, Ilyasov continued, and appeared “not only in Crimea but also in Russia, Turkestan, Egypt, India and even in Japan.” And the impact of the liberal ideas about the status of women in Islamic societies helps to explain the large number of activist Crimean Tatar women.
In the last century, he pointed out, “there have been many women who, like Shefika Gaspiral firmly stood up for the defense of human rights,” including such well-known activists of the Crimean Tatar national movement as “Ayshe Saitmuratova, Sabrie Seutova,Vedzhie Kashka, Zampira Asanova, Vasfie Khairova, and Safina Jemilev.”
(Ilyasov noted that the biographies of these and other Crimean Tatar women, many of whom were inspired by “Adem-i Nisvan,” can be found in a book by the editor of the new magazine, Lentara Khalilova, entitled “Vatanyn sadyk kyyzlary” (in Crimean Tatar; “The True Daughters of Crimea”).
At the presentation, Khalilova noted that “Alem-i Nisvan” was intended to “unite not only Crimean Tatar women but also women of the entire Turkic world.” As a result, those involved in the new publication have set themselves “the ambitious task” not only of reviving a journal but restoring those creative groups that existed before the Crimean Tatars were deported.
Those involved with the new publication pointed out that “on the pages [of its predecessor,] the following themes were treated: the rule of shariat and government structures for women, news and reports on the education of children and homemaking, publications on the themes of morality,” among other things.
But it is the figure of the editor of the editor of “Alem-i Nisvan” who clearly inspires those who are launching the new publication. Born in Bakchisaray in Crimea, Shefika Gaspiral became “a leader of the Turkic women of all Russia.” She was a member of the Crimean delegation to and became a leader of the All-Russian Muslim Congress in Moscow in May 1917.
After the Kurultay government in Crimea was overthrown, Shefika Gaspiral fled to Baku where she worked as an educator and became the wife of Nasib Yusufbeyli, prime minister of independent Azerbaijan in 1919-1920. Then, when his regime was overthrown and he was executed, she emigrated to Turkey where she organized an orphanage.
Gaspiral continued to play a leading role in the Crimean Tatar diaspora, and in 1930, she founded the Union of Crimean Tatar Women, a model for Crimean Tatar women and one that shows that among the Tatars, many widespread assumptions about the subordinate and marginalized position of women are Window on Eurasia: New Crimean Tatar Women’s Journal Highlights Revival of Reformist Islam in that Nation