Turkish national heroine (B.1857, Erzurum – D.1955, Erzurum). She was born in Çeperler village of Pasinler district of Erzurum. She put her mark on history by fighting heroically in defending theAziziye Bastion during Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), which is known as the ‘93 War. She joined the war leaving her little son and 3-month-old daughter at home. At that time, she was a very young woman who was in her twenties and got married just three years ago.
Those were the dark days of the Russo-Turkish War. As their village was invaded by the Russian soldiers fifteen days before, she and her family immigrated to Erzurum. Turkish army had been fighting in many front lines. The war was continuing at Gazi Osman Pasha’s command in the western front, as for the eastern front, it was continuing at Ahmed Muhtar Pasha’s command. Russians, whose aim was to seize Erzurum, planned to occupy the Aziziye Bastion, which was in Top Mountain, 10 km northeast of the city, through a sudden attack. For this purpose, with the help of the Armenian villagers who spoke Turkish, they stepped into action secretly, and caught a few Turkish soldiers defending the Aziziye Bastion while they were fast asleep. They attacked at the night of 8-9 November of 1877, and killed the guards asleep. Thus, the Russian soldiers, without any resistance, seized the Aziziye Bastion. Among those soldiers, only one of them survived. That soldier informed the commander of Erzurum Front Line, Ahmed Muhtar Pasha, of this situation. Thereon, Ahmed Muhtar Pasha appealed to the people of Erzurum for help.
In that morning, instead of morning azan, “Muscovy entered Aziziye Bastion” utterance was heard from the minarets. After this news came out, the people of Erzurum, both women and men, knowing that they were going to die, started to run towards the Aziziye Bastion with whatever they got in their hands, some of them had guns, and some of them had axe, scythe, pickaxe, spade, stick or stone.
During that time, Nene Hatun, whose man was fighting at the front line, was a young woman who was only twenty years old. After breastfeeding her 3-month-old daughter who was swaddled, and telling her son, who was a little older than her daughter, that “The one who gave you to me is Allah (god). And I entrust you to him,” she said goodbye to her children, and took the rifle of her brother, who came back from the front line wounded and then died, and joined the ones who were running towards the Aziziye Bastion. When they reached the bastion, the ones who were on the front were martyred due to the cross fire of Russians. The ones who were at the back, instead of retreating, rushed forward more determinedly and quickly, broke down the iron doors and entered, and a close combat started. The Russian soldiers, who were bearing perfect arms, could hold on only for half an hour against the people who were carrying axes, scythes, and sticks. The bastion was recaptured by killing about 2300 Russian soldiers. As for Turkish people, around 1000 of them were martyred.
The treatment of the ones who remained alive immediately started. Nene Hatun was also among the wounded ones. However, she did not mind her wounds, also forgot her baby. She tried to stanch the blood of the other people, and dressed their wounds. Nene Hatun was recognized, respected, and liked in such an environment. Her struggle for the protection of the motherland, which started that night, continued until the enemy was chased away from Erzurum. She became a legend in every inch of Erzurum by carrying armory, being a nurse for the wounded ones, cooking, and handing out water. For the victory of Ahmed Muhtar Pasha, the contribution of Nene Hatun and the other civilians who shared her love of the country was great.
In another story, it is told that Nene Hatun’s father, brother and brother-in-law joined the front line, and when she heard that the Turks were slaughtered, she decided to fight and joined the front line leaving her children behind. She saw the dead bodies of her father, brother and brother-in-law on the front line and came back home. She also saw that her 3-month-old daughter was killed by the Armenian soldiers. Then, she killed seventeen Armenian soldiers. After the war, she led a dignified life befitting a national heroine.
In later years, Nene Hatun, whose son was martyred in the Gallipoli Campaign, could not join the front line when The Turkish War of Independence as she was getting older. In 1954, with the efforts of the army general Nurettin Baransel, she was given the title of “3. Ordunun Nenesi” (the grand mum of the third army) and put on a small salary.
In 1955, a few months before her death, she was chosen as the “mother of the year” by the Turkish Women’s Union. During the NATO maneuvers in Erzurum, an American general officer, Ridgway, visited this great person and kissed her hand. She said to this general officer that, “I did what was needed at that time. Although I’m old now, I will do the same thing if it is needed. I have the strength and excitement for doing the same thing far better.” She lived until she was 98 years old as a symbol of heroism and motherhood. She died of pneumonia on the 22nd of May, 1955. The mausoleum of Nene Hatun, who became a symbol of the women in war, is in the Aziziye Bastion.
REFERENCE: Meydan Larousse Ansiklopedisi (1969-73), Büyük Larusse Ansiklopedisi (1986), Ana Britannica Ansiklopedisi (1992), Grolier İnternational Americana Encyclopedia (1993), Görsel Büyük Genel Kültür Ansiklopedisi (1999), İhsan Işık / Ünlü Kadınlar (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 4, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013).