THE END

SACIDE ENDER BASKAYA

A child of privilege, she dedicated her life to helping the less fortunate—in spite of the dangers

ADNAN R. KHAN April 14 2008
THE END

SACIDE ENDER BASKAYA

A child of privilege, she dedicated her life to helping the less fortunate—in spite of the dangers

ADNAN R. KHAN April 14 2008

SACIDE ENDER BASKAYA

1958-2008

A child of privilege, she dedicated her life to helping the less fortunate—in spite of the dangers

THE END

Sacide Ender Baskaya was born on Feb. 1,1958, in Ankara, the second of Semha and Kenan Kayi’s three daughters. A spirited girl, Ender, who went by her middle name, meaning “one of a kind” in Turkish, was rebellious and extroverted, easily angered but just as easily moved to tears. Part of a well-to-do industrialist family, she grew up with opportunities many people in Turkey lacked at the time—a good education and a liberal family upbringing that valued equality between the sexes.

That family history left a deep impression on Ender in her adult life.

As did tragedy: her father died in a car accident when she was 10; her first husband, an alcoholic, was killed in a drunk-driving accident only weeks after their divorce 10 years ago.

While she remarried two years later, the death of her first husband was something Ender never forgot. “I think that’s why she was so tough,” says her younger sister, Fatosh Altug.

“But she was also a person who wanted to help people, which to me explains her first marriage.”

Ender finished university with a degree in agriculture. It was not her calling—it was her challenge, issued by her grandfather. “During her first year,” says Eser Ingle, her elder sister,

“he told her she would never finish, that it was a waste of time. He was a very direct man, a lot like Ender herself, ironically. She told him not only was she going to finish, but she would finish in agriculture, the same degree he had. And she did it.”

After meeting that challenge, Ender moved on to what really mattered to her: helping the less fortunate. She joined a Turkish aid organization in 1984, running development programs in Iran, Kosovo, and, for the last two years, Pakistan, helping victims of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. “She was a workaholic,” says Serna Genei, her colleague and friend at Support to Life in Islamabad, the agency with which Ender spent the last years of her career. “Her dedication was to working in the field. I told her maybe it was time she slowed down. She could run her programs without having to be on the ground. But Ender needed to be there, to make sure everything was done properly.”

That dedication to her work, in the face of difficult and often dangerous assignments, earned her the respect of family and friends. “I realized after she started working in areas like Kosovo and eastern Turkey how important it was to Ender to help people,” says Fatosh. “Danger didn’t matter to her.” A good friend and neighbour at the

home Ender and her husband maintained in Ankara, Selma Tascier, says one story in particular illustrates Ender’s character. In 2001, she was working for the Anatolian Development Foundation in eastern Turkey, visiting Kurdish villages and consulting with women in such areas as family planning. Ender had an amazing memory, and at one village follow-up meeting, she noticed a former participant was missing. Selma says that when Ender finally located the woman, who had been hiding, she saw right away that she was pregnant again,

after bearing at least six children. “In her typical way,” Selma says, “Ender told all the women, ‘The next time I come here, I want you all to bring your husbands to me so I can cut off their penises.’ You can’t imagine—this was a very conservative village. But that was Ender’s way.”

That “way” rarely got her into any serious trouble, though. It was what kept her going, although her family say that the wear and tear of spending more than two decades under often difficult conditions began to take its toll. Working in an increasingly volatile and unstable Pakistan was also hard. Says Ender’s mother Semha: “She was suffering physically from the stress, and I think she was also just burnt-out.” Making matters worse was the fact that, as Ender told colleagues, extremists in the area she operated in were unhappy with some of her work, including a project training women to set up their own businesses. “Everyone in her family wanted her to come home,” says Eser. “This was supposed to be her last project.”

In February, Ender returned from Kashmir to the relative safety of Islamabad to audit her NGO’s accounts. Her plan, says Fatosh, was to finish her current projects, apply for her pension in April— and after retirement, perhaps open a restaurant in Ankara. On March 15 at 8:45 p.m., while Ender and a Pakistani colleague were at the Luna Caprese restaurant—a popular spot for foreigners, and one of the few places in the Pakistani capital that served alcohol—a bomb blast, either from a device planted in the restaurant or lobbed over its wall, shattered what had up until then been a haven for journalists, aid workers and diplomats. Ender was killed instantly; 11 others were injured. “It was a rainy day at her funeral in Ankara,” says Selma. “But when it was over, the clouds broke and this beautiful rainbow suddenly appeared. Ender was such a giving person, she was always giving and giving, and I think this was her last gift to us.” Sacide Ender Baskaya was 50. BY AONAN R. KHAN

ADNAN R. KHAN