Zeynep Zafer

Zeynep Zafer (Zeynep Ibrahimova) was born in 1958 in the village of Kornitsa (Bulgaria).

When she was 15 years old she witnessed a bloody violence act caused by the attempts of the  the communist regime to assimilate by force the Pomaks (Bulgarian speaking Muslims). During the same night she was evicted from her village together with her mother and her younger brother. In the 1970s and 1980s she and her family were persecuted and evicted in different villages all over the country but never allowed to turn back to their native village.

Because of the resettlements she was compelled to finish her high education in Professional School Center for  Mechanizers (schools with lowest status) after two years of interruption.

In 1980 she enrolled at Shumen University to study Bulgarian Philology as she explained “to be able to describe the violence against the Muslims in Bulgaria and how they experienced it”. In 1982 she was forced to leave the University because she refused to change her Muslim name for Bulgarian one.

In 1985 she made an attempt illegally to leave the country in order to inform the world public about the violence and atrocities against Muslims which the communist regime tried to hide and officially denied. Together with other five persons they succeeded to cross illegally the border and to arrive in Bucharest where they were arrested in front of the Turkish embassy and turned back to Bulgaria. As a result of this action she was sentenced to two years imprisonment in the women’s prison in Sliven followed by two years deportation in the village of Botevo, Mihailovgrad district (at present Montana).

After coming out of the prison Zeynep was involved in illegal dissident movement and became member of the Independent Society for Protection of Human Right founded on 16th of January 1988 by Iliya Minev. She was appointed person in charge for Varna district and was very active in the preparation of the protests of the Turks against the assimilatory policy of the communist regime. She announced a hunger strike in support of the dissident poet Petar Manolov. She worked for organizing the resistance of the Turks in North – East Bulgaria and their involvement in human rights organizations. 

In January 1989 Zeynep was invited to the meeting of the French president François Mitterrand with Bulgarian dissidents but the State Security arrested her again. At the beginning of February 1989 she and her family were forcibly evicted from Bulgaria and settled in Turkey. 

 After the democratic changes in Bulgaria in 1992 she was allowed to graduate from Shumen University.

Zeynep Zafer (first right) with founders of Bulgarian Philology at Ankara University Leman Ergench (first in the middle) and Hayrie Memova-Suleymanova (second from left to right), 1997

After her permanent settlement in Turkey at the beginning of the 1990s her scientific carrier started in the newly established Department of Bulgarian Language and Literature of Ankara University. In 1999 she founded the Department of Russian Language and Literature at the “Gazi” University (also in Ankara). After 2010 she turn back to Ankara University and became professor at the Department of Bulgarian Language in the Faculty of Slavic Philology. 

Zeynep Zafer with her undergraduate students at “Gazi” University, 2005

Her scientific interests are in the area of Russian literature, Bulgarian literature, the literature of Muslim societies, translation theory and practice. She has written books and papers about Anton Chekhov, Yordan Yovkov, Ivan Vazov and others, translations from Bulgarian and Turkish languages. In the recent years her research interest is directed to the problems of the violent assimilation, forced resettlements of Turks and Pomaks from Bulgaria and the struggle of the Muslim minorities against the totalitarian Zhivkov’s regime, emigrant literature and the reception of Bulgarian literature in Turkey.

In 2015 Zeynep Zafer together with Vihren Chernokozhev published the anthology “When deprived me of my name” in which texts were collected concerning the experience of the Muslims as victims of the ethnic cleansing in 1989.


Zafer Z. Türkçe-Bulgarca Sözlük, Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, Ankara 2018.

 Zafer Z. Yeni Bir Bakış Açısıyla İvan Vazov, Her Dilde Yayıncılık, Ankara 2009.

 Zafer Z. Anton Çehov’un Öykü Sanatı, Cem Yayınevi, İstanbul 2002.

Zafer Z. Bılgarskata politicheska i propagadna literatura v Turtsiya i “V imeto na naroda” na Mitka Grıbçeva, İçinde: Gloria Bibliospherae. Nişkata na Ariadna, Za bukvite – O pismeneh, Sofya, 2016, s. 382-393.

– Zafer Z. İzdatelskata politika na Republika Turtsiya i prevodite ot ruski na Nihal Yalaza Taluy, İçinde: Rakla s kulturni kodove, Faber, Veliko Tırnovo, 2016, s. 449-462.

– Zafer Z. Bılgariya sled prevrata na 9.IX.1944 v dopiskite na turskiya jurnalist i publitsist M. N. Deliorman, İçinde: Multikulturniyat çovek, Gutenberg, Sofya, 2016, s. 397-414.

– Zafer Z. Drugiyat v tvorçestvoto na Yovkov, İçinde: Nie sısedite drugite, Balkanite, Univertsitetsko izdatelstvo “Episkop Konstantin Preslavski”, Şumen, 2011, s. 71-80.

 Zafer Z. Tvorçestvo Grigoriya Petrova v Turtsii, İçinde: Rusistika. Yazık, kommunikatsiya, literatura, kultura. Univertsitetsko izdatelstvo “Episkop Konstantin Preslavski”, Şumen 2009, s. 328-340.  

 Zafer Z. Otnoşenieto na Ali Haydar Taner kım bılgarskata prosveta i kultura (Ali Haydar Taner’in Bulgar Eğitimi ve Bulgar Kültürüne Olan Yaklaşımı), İçinde: Bılgaristiçni prouçvaniya, 11, Veliko Tırnovo 2007, s. 124-129. 


The “Turkish Wing” of the Independent Society of Human Rights Protection, Balkanistic Forum, 2019, 3, pp. 91-127

Спомен за травмите. Разговор със Зейнеп Зафер, К, 18.02.2019

Зейнеп Ибрахимова: “Помня студа и страха, които бяха сковали всичко – и пътищата, и душите ни”