Sabiha Gokcen

Sabiha Gokcen

Sabiha Gokcen was a Turkish aviator. She was the world's first female fighter pilot, aged 23.

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Others such as Marie Marvingt and Evgeniya Shakhovskaya preceded her as military pilots in other roles, but not as fighter pilots and without military academy enrollment. She was an orphan, and one of the thirteen adopted children of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

She is recognized as the first female combat pilot by The Guinness Book of World Records and was selected as the only female pilot for the poster of "The 20 Greatest Aviators in History" published by the United States Air Force in 1996.

According to official Turkish sources and interviews with Sabiha Gökçen, she was the daughter of Mustafa Izzet Bey and Hayriye Han?m, both of whom were of Bosniak origin. During Atatürk's visit to Bursa in 1925, Sabiha, who was only twelve years old, asked for permission to talk with Atatürk and expressed her wish to study at a boarding school. After learning her story and about her miserable living conditions, Atatürk decided to adopt her and asked Sabiha's brother for permission to take her to the Çankaya Presidential Residence in Ankara, where Sabiha would live with Atatürk's other adoptive daughters, Zehra, Afet and Rukiye. Sabiha attended the Çankaya Primary School in Ankara and the Üsküdar American Academy in Istanbul.

In February 2004 an article in the newspaper Agos, headlined "The Secret of Sabiha Hatun", contained an interview with Hripsime Sebilciyan, a former resident of Gaziantep, who claimed to be Gökçen's niece and that Gökçen herself was of Armenian ancestry. Mustafa Kemal had also adopted Gökçen, who was in an orphanage shortly after the Armenian Genocide. According to Turkish-Armenian linguist Pars Tu?lac?, who deemed Sebilciyan's claim false, Gökçen herself found out about her Armenian roots while in Ankara, when members of her family contacted her from Beirut. It is claimed that Gökçen visited her Armenian relatives in Beirut and had four brothers, Sarkis, Bo?os, Haçik and Hovhannes.

However, along with Turkish sources and interviews with Sabiha, her adopted sister Ülkü Adatepe, also in an interview, disputed these claims and reiterated that Sabiha and her both parents, Mustafa ?zzet Bey and Hayriye Han?m, were of Bosniak ancestry.

After the introduction of the Surname Law, Atatürk gave her the family name Gökçen on 19 December 1934. 'Gök' means sky in Turkish and Gökçen means 'belonging or relating to the sky'. However, she was not an aviator at that time, and it was only six months later that Sabiha developed a passion for flying.

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