Afife Jale

Tiyatro Oyuncusu

24 Temmuz, 1941

Theatre actress (B.1902, Kadıköy / Istanbul – D.24 July 1941, Bakırköy / Istanbul). Afife Jale is the “first Muslim Turkish woman” to appear on the theatre stage. She is granddaughter of Dr. Sait Pasha and daughter of a middle class family. While studying in Istanbul Girls Industrial School in 1918, she won the entrance exam of Darülbedayi (City Theatres). Afife Jale who started acting in the years when Muslim woman were not welcome on the stage was one of the five girls to be accepted to Darülbedayi as a student. Her other friends quit theatre because of not being able to appear on the stage; Afife on the contrary continued all rehearsals regularly and continuously for one year. Nevertheless her father was also against her being an actress and regarded this profession as ethically problematic.

When Eliza Binemeciyan who acted in the play called “Yamalar” of Hüseyin Suat staged in 1920 left the group and went to Paris, Afife Jale appeared on the stage replacing her in Apollon Theatre in Kadıköy. Because of Afife, who played the role of Emel using the nickname “Jale”, police came to the theatre and warned the administrators of the theatre not to let her act onstage. But Afife Jale again appeared on the stage one week later in the play “Tatlı Sır”. Upon this, police attempted to arrest Afife. Actress Kınar Hanım took her to the backyard of the theatre. After a while during the play “Odalık” in which she was acting police raided the theatre. Afife this time was taken out through the engine room and taken to the house of Monsieur Sireç, owner of Apollon Theatre. Meanwhile she was arrested on the street and taken to police office. She was pushed around there. She was also outcast by her family. Her father kicked her out of the house saying “I don’t have a daughter named Afife”. Meanwhile an order of the Ministry of Internal Affairs made the municipality send a notification letter to Darülbedayi Executive Board on the 27th of February 1921. The letter informed that Muslim Turkish women could not appear on the stage under any condition.

Afife Jale upon this notification was taken out of the paid cadre of theatre. But theatre was a passion for her and nothing else was interesting for her. She defined the first night of her acting career as “The first night in which I became happy during my life” to author Refik Ahmet Sevengil after six years. She started to have strong headaches. Staying away from theatre harmed her weak nerves. She sought for escape in the drugs. Morphine injections done by a Syrian pharmacist created an addiction in her, so she became a morphine addict. 

Afife Jale after some years went on a tour in Anatolia with Burhanettin Tepsi Campaign. She acted in Kadıköy with the new theatre group. Later she held representations with Milli Sahne of Fikret Şadi in various cities. Turkish women could first appear on the stage after 1923 upon the order of Atatürk. Actresses such as Seniye (in Burhanettin Tepsi Group), Şaziye Moral (at Yeni Sahne), Münire / Neyire Neyyir, Bedia Muvahhit, Huriye and Hikmet (at Milli Sahne) followed Afife Jale and appeared on stage.

Strong headaches because of her troubles, her decreasing health quality and her drug addiction caused her to quit theatre against her will. In 1929 she married the tambour player Selahattin Pınar she met in Hafız Burhan concert in Kuşdili flatlands in 1928 and they had happy days. They wrote poems. Selahattin Pınar played and Afife listened to him. However their happy days did not last for long. Afife Jale could not live without theatre but also not quit drugs. Selahattin Pınar was shattered one day when he witnessed that his wife injected morphine to her veins. He gave much effort to return Afife to life. But he failed and they divorced in 1935. Selahattin Pınar composed for her songs titled “Nereden Sevdim O Zalim Kadını” and “Huysuz ve Tatlı Kadın”:

Afife Jale spent last years of her life in Bakırköy Psychological and Neurological Diseases Hospital and passed away there at the age of 39. Author Hüseyin Suat, in the first night she appeared on the stage, kissed her forehead and told her; “We needed a sacrifice in our scene and you are that sacrificer”. In the following years Nezihe Araz wrote a theatre play for Afife Jale and said following things as a cue of Jale: “Do not remember me with pity, but with reflection, love and embracing me. As long as theatre exists, I also exist. ”This play was staged in Ankara State Theatre. Şahin Kaygun adapted it to cinema with the movie “Afife Jale” .The play titled Afife Jale written by Nezihe Araz was staged in Istanbul in the season of 1987-88. In 1997, “Afife Jale Theatre Prize” was established which was granted each year to people in various branches. Beşiktaş Municipality opened a theatre in Ortaköy Cultural Center and named it as Afife Jale Sahnesi in 1998. 

REFERENCE:  Baha Dürder - M. Nihat Özön / Türk Tiyatrosu An¬siklopedisi (1967), İslâm Ansiklopedisi (1941-1967), Meydan Larousse Ansiklopedisi (1969-1973), Sevda Şener / Türk Tiyatrosunda Ahlâk, Kültür, Ekonomi Sorunları (1971), Metin And / Tanzimat ve İstibdat Döneminde Türk Tiyatrosu 1839-1908 (1972),  Nezihe Araz / “Afife Jale” (oyun, 1987), Metin And / Türk Tiyatrosu Tarihi (1991), Aydın Çalışlar/ Tiyatro Ansiklopedisi (1995), İhsan Işık / Ünlü Sanatçılar - Ünlü Kadınlar  (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 5 ve 6, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013), Bahar Çuhadar / Cumhuriyetin 91’inci yılında 91 sembol kadın (, 30 Ekim 2014).


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