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Vasfiye Özkoçak

Vasfiye Özkoçak

First woman legal correspondent of Turkey
"What makes somebody a human is justice."

Date of Birth: 1923

Place of Birth: Zile, Tokat

Date of Death: 13/03/2014 2014

Place of Death:

Burial Site: Karacaahmet Cemetery, Istanbul

Topics

Gallery

Vasfiye Özkoçak Vasfiye Özkoçak

Fields of Activity

Press
"One day my university teacher Burhan Felek called me to work at the Cumhuriyet newspaper. That's how I started to work as a reporter in 1952. The men working there were surprised at first.
They talked among themselves, saying things like, 'She is a young girl. What is she doing here among all these men? She should be at home.' Others said, 'It doesn't matter, she won't be able to take it and will quit in a few days,' or 'She probably came to find a husband; she'll find one soon and leave.' They went on thinking that way for years! Even if that's what they thought, I simply could not find the time to get married because of my job. I had totally embraced my life as a journalist.
On one of the early days in my employment they said, "National Education Association is having a meeting and you'll be covering it." I went to the address given me. It was all men of course, and no one there looked like an administrator or teacher or education professional! It turned out it wasn't the National Education Association, it was the Congress of Porters.
They weren't going to let me in. I introduced myself saying, 'I am a journalist from the newspaper Cumhuriyet assigned to cover your meeting.' They looked quite puzzled and said, 'That's impossible.' I said, 'I have a job to do' and went inside anyway. But there was a fight going on in the meeting room, big burly men duking it out. I got caught in the middle.
With great difficulty I wrote the report, pictures were taken, the job was done. I told the newspaper I'd gotten the story and was coming back. They said, 'Don't come back yet, you have to stay till the very end.' By the time I got back to the newspaper office that evening, my whole body was red and swollen. It was so stressful even hives had broken out. I learned later they knew very well there is always fighting at the porters' congress meetings. They had sent me there on purpose just to make me quit! I lived through lots of those kinds of situations in the early days. There were moments I was really scared, but I never let on. I would not allow their wishes that I would quit to come true. I found out via one of my friends from those days that in a meeting five years ago several people, including Feyyaz Toker, had said: "No matter what we do we can't get her to quit."
There was no difference between male job and female job. Every day everyone's assignment was written in a notebook. Each of us looked at the notebook, signed our names, took the assignment and went on our way. I worked very hard not to have the fellows say, "Oh, she was a woman, she just couldn't succeed." At first I covered business affairs, police incidents, politics; and then from 1955 to 1993 I worked as a legal correspondent. I am someone who values justice, and for that reason I did legal reporting very gladly.
Justice is humanity's grounding, humanity's foundation. What makes someone a human is a sense of justice. One day journalist Cevat Fehmi Başkut said to me, "Since you've become the legal correspondent, now what's being written is not just stories, it's actual news." The right wingers regarded me as a leftist; the leftists saw me as a right winger. I was a journalist, I did my job. Even if I found that the one in the wrong had been my father, I still would have reported it objectively.
It is impossible to compare yesterday and today; to compare those times with these times. In our era everything was restricted and conditions were difficult. There were no women in journalism or in the press business. Now the number of women in the press profession has increased, so the difficulty of being the only woman is over. We used to have to write for hours by hand. Now our reports go straight from home, we don't even have to go in to the newspaper office. The current generation, utilizing the innovations brought by age and technology, realizes the potentials for which we prepared the way.
(Vasfiye Özkoçak)

Awards

Burhan Felek Press Service Award

21. Turkey Journalism Achivement Award

Memberships

Journalists Association of Turkey

Journalists Federation of Turkey

Turkey Union of Journalists

Journalists Social Aid Foundation

Education

University of İstanbul, Department of Geography, Istanbul

University of İstanbul, Institute of Journalism, Istanbul

Contributions to Society

Türkiye Gazeteciler Cemiyeti (Journalists Association of Turkey), founding member

Türkiye Gazeteciler Federasyonu (Journalists Federation of Turkey), founding member

Türkiye Gazeteciler Sendikası (Turkey Union of Journalists), founding member

Gazeteciler Sosyal Yardımlaşma Vakfı (Journalists Social Aid Foundation), founding member, President

Family and Friends

  • Mother: Rabia Özkoçak
  • Father: İbrahim Özkoçak (officer)
  • Sisters: Afife Özkoçak, Arife Özkoçak
  • Grandfather: Kösekatip Mehmet Efendi (pedagogue)
  • Friends: Eleni Küreman (press photograph), Burhan Felek (journalist, writer, ), Cevat Fehmi Başkut (journalist), Apdi İpekçi (journalist), Doğan Nadi (journalist), Yaşar Kemal (writer)

Commemorative Projects

Biography of Vasfiye Özkoçak

Süleyman Boyoğlu, Vasfiye Abla- Gazetecilikte 56 yıl, İstanbul, 2008.

Memory Exibition

Exhibition Vasfiye Özkoçak, University of İstanbul, Faculty of Communication, 2009

Vasfiye Özkoçak Archive

Vasfiye Özkoçak Archive of Newspaper Milliyet http://gazetearsivi.milliyet.com.tr/Vasfiye%20%C3%96zko%C3%A7ak/

Further Reading

Sources

Quoted Sources
Source for Visual Images

Translation into English: Selçuk Şatana, Istanbul, Turkey
Editing: Judith Cederblom, Seattle, Washington, USA

©2012 Meral Akkent
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