the story of Nezihe Muhiddin
The Sin of Being a Woman is the story of a remarkable individual who fought an uphill battle against prejudice, convention and authority.
The film resurrects and honours the memory of Nezihe Muhiddin and her quest to seek equal rights for women at a time when women were considered second class citizens.
It tells the story of a woman that the establishment has erased from history books and would prefer to remain forgotten.
At the age of 19, Nezihe Muhiddin began to write pro women’s rights articles. She went on to establish the first – and to date only – women’s political party in Turkey’s modern Republican era. She devoted her energy to fight for the right of women to vote and be elected to office.
Her life-long struggle meant she became the target of physical threats, ostracisation and lawsuits. She was forgotten, abandoned and died alone in a mental health facility.
The Sin of Being a Woman is the inspiring story of a feminist who fought against all the odds. The film reveals the fight for equality that women faced in Turkey’s late Ottoman and early Republican years.
WHO IS NEZIHE?
Nezihe Muhiddin was born in Istanbul at the end of the 19th Century. At this time, Istanbul was the political, cultural and economical capital of the Ottoman Empire (now modern day Turkey).
Nezihe was born into an unusually open-minded family in a place where traditional conservative customs dictated a woman’s place in society. Her relatively progressive family strongly influenced her development as a feminist. As a child, she listened in on conversations between women discussing taboo subjects, such as the injustices that women face.
She never accepted herself as a second class citizen and even as a young child, she vowed to prove to the world that women are equal to men.
Nezihe's family provided a formal education for her at home. She studied Persian, Arabic, German and French during her childhood. She strongly believed that truth can be found in science and at the age of 19, she became a science teacher. She wrote a famous newspaper article at this age on the subject of sending children to Europe for a better education. She strongly advocated a Western (secular) education over the traditional system into which she was born. Science was not her only passion. Nezihe was also a keen sportsperson, which was extremely unusual for girls of her era; she enjoyed horse-riding, swimming and kayaking, much to the displeasure of her male peers. She certainly was not a typical child for her time.
Nezihe began to write for a highly influential women’s magazine, Hanımlara Mahsus Gazete. It was a publication written by women, for women. The main objective of the magazine was to promote education for women and to press for an agenda of equality. The magazine was an important vehicle for Nezihe’s message to her female peers. Her articles were clear: women were not to be treated as second-class citizens. For example, she called for equal pay, an issue which persists to the present day across the globe.
Her ideas were ridiculed by the press and the male-dominated government. She faced threats, lawsuits and sheer indignation throughout her years as an activist.
She went on to establish the first - and to date only - women’s political party in Turkey’s modern Republican era. She devoted her energy to fight for the right of women to vote and be elected to office. In 1934, women in Turkey were granted the right to vote and other political rights that Nezihe had bravely and ferociously fought for since 1908.
That was her only solace as she died alone in hospital in 1958.