Afife Jale

Afife Jale (1902 – July 24, 1941) was a Turkish stage actress, best known as the first Muslim theatre actress in Turkey.

She was born 1902 as Afife in Istanbul to Hidayet and his wife Methiye. She had a sister Behiye and a brother Salâh.

Afife was studying at the Girls Industry School in Istanbul; however, she wanted to be an actress. In the Ottoman Empire, Muslim Turkish women were not allowed to play on stage by a decree of the Ministry of the Interior. Only non-Muslim women of Greek, Armenian, or Jewish minorities were eligible for being cast.

Afife’s father was against a theatre career of her because he considered it unsound. For this reason, she ran away from her parent’s house. She entered as a trainee the theatre of the newly established city conservatory (Ottoman Turkish: Darülbedayi‎). The Conservatory had opened up a course to train Muslim women actresses with the rationale to play for women audience only.

Afife debuted on stage in 1920, acting as “Emel” in the theatre play “Yamalar” written by Hüseyin Suat. The role had become vacant as the Armenian Eliza Binemeciyan had gone abroad. She took the stage name Jale for this play, and was called from then on as Afife Jale. Performing at “Apollon Theatre” in Kadıköy, Afife Jale became the first ever Muslim Turkish stage actress in the country. She had to be hidden at least twice by her non-Muslim co-actors during police raids in the middle of the play. The management of the conservatory was warned of the restriction that led to her discharge from the theatre in 1921. She then played in some other theatre companies under various stage names.

She found herself in financial trouble, and began suffering acute headache. She became addicted to morphineafter her doctor applied a morphine based therapy to her.

In 1923, Mustafa Kemal, the founder of the newly proclaimed Republic, lifted the Ottoman-era ban on stage acting by Muslim women. This led to the end of Afife’s fears. She joined the theatre again, and toured in Anatolia. However, her drug addiction caused the worsening of her health that ultimately led to her retirement from the theatre. /Gjithqka Nga Pak


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