Atatürk and Bektashi Fathers


One night we were invited to Çankaya villa. The conductor of our Turkish Fasıl group Hafız Yaşar Okur, Zühtü Bardakoğlu, Violinist Mehmet Rıza, Ud player Şevki, singer Abdülhalik and I arrived at the Çankaya villa.

Atatürk had not entered the dining room yet. The two strangers were attracting attention. One of them was slim, the other was younger and a little fat with beard and moustache. Those days beard and moustache were not in fashion and they were wearing tuxedos. And their behaviours were strange. We were informed before the official invitations that tuxedos and evening jackets were to be worn rather than our daily garments. They were talking to Atatürk’s private doctor Ragıp.

The other guests came in their daily garments. Obviously it was understood that they were strangers. After we had entered the presence of Atatürk they were introduced to Atatürk. We learned that one of these two is the Sheik of Kiltibahir Bektashi Dergah (Dervish convent) Haydar Naki Dede. And the other is the Sheik of Çamlıca Dergah Ali Nutki Dede. They had a friendship with Atatürk’s private doctor Ragıp. Ragıp and Atatürk touched Bektashies when they were having a conversation. Thus Ragıp told Atatürk that one of these two Sheiks was very good making conversation, the other had graduated from Galatasaray high school and was also a poet. Atatürk wanted to know them. Therefore they had been invited to Ankara.

Atatürk showed them places next to him at the table. We started to play music. After a few songs Atatürk asked Father Ali Nutki.

- What are the specialities of Bektashi Mysticism?

Father Ali Nutki replied:

- The life of a society which was established a hundred years ago. Owing to not allowing to eat and drink together with the ladies in a society in the past, Hacı Bektash had set up a society in which resembled today’s under the name of mysticism.

- What are the specialities of this society?

Atatürk asked Haydar Naki this time.

Father Haydar:

- The brother members of the Bektashi come to the dervish lodge on special days of the week and sit around the Baba (Father) in the evening. The ladies led by the oldest lady member sit opposite to the Father and eat and drink from the table in front of them. This meeting continues with music, poems, merry making.

It can be easily understood by his expression that he was not satisfied with these answers.

- Ther is talk about a saki (cupbearer). What is that?

- It is the most important subject of the Bektashi dinners.

Bektashis drink raki with closed glasses which means the amount of the raki cannot be seen. Everybody has to drink raki from the same cup. There is a connection between the Father and the cupbearer who bears the glass from hand to hand. An empty glass or a glass with less raki is given to persons who seem to be a little drunk by the signal of the Father.

According to our rules nobody can refuse this. The meeting continues joyfully and friendly till the morning.


- You had told about poetry and humour. Please give us some examples.

They sang their special song that we knew before.

Atatürk appreciated these and we continued to play to Turkish music.

When we were singing a song, Atatürk stopped us and asked Father Ali Nutki .

- It has been told this song and the novel of “Father Nur” describes your private life. Is that true?

- Sir, it must be a joke of Yakup Kadri. He spent his life calmly with his friends and disciples after closing the Dervish convent he is always complaining that he spends his life in complete calm.

Atatürk ordered one of the employees.

- Invite Yakup Kadri.

Half an hour later Yakup Kadri attended the party. He was surprised when he saw Father Ali Nutk.

Many songs were sung.

Atatürk told Yakup Kadri “I think the novel you have written hurts Father Ali Nutki but het is not right to be hurt. I wish my life would be a subject of a novel written by an author as great as you. I would be proud of it rather than hurt.

The polite words of Atatürk made the people there feel appreciated and the meeting ended in this nice atmosphere.