This online memorial was created in loving memory of Iskender Kazaz, whose life story is told throughout this memorial website. Please sign Iskender's guest book and let us know you came to visit. We will remember Iskender forever.
With each memory we meet again with those we love
… for the heart never forgets.
Someone from my generation has passed away. The death of a sibling is a difficult thing to come to terms with. The loss of an older brother takes away someone who has always been an important part of your life when you were growing up. For all that brothers sometimes fight, there is a bond between them that is unique and very special; when a sibling dies, a part of us dies too.
I want to share the memory of my brother, Iskender, so that together we may acknowledge and share both our joy in the gift that his life was to us, and the pain that his passing brings. In sharing the joy and the pain together, may we lessen the pain and remember more clearly the joy.
So, how will I remember my brother? Well, that’s easy – he was just that, my older brother. Although he was taken from us long before his time, I know he has influenced everyone who has ever known him in a way that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Iskender was just like that; when you met him, you couldn’t help feeling he was someone special, different, passionate about everything that he got involved in, and who gave one hundred percent of himself. He read and was proud of his collection of nearly two thousand books. Iskender was a unique human being – and he will live on in every one of us who ever knew him, partly because of his achievements and interactions with others, but mostly just because he was Iskender. As brothers, friends and partners go, he really was pretty special.
He was born right after World War II, in 1947, in Prizren, Kosova, to Surur and Veli Kazaz, of a family that identified themes as Turks in a region where the majority were Albanians. At age 4, in 1952, he became a political refuge along with my parents and me, four months old, by escaping from communist Yugoslavia to Turkey. He was a great out-of-the-box thinker and fervent Turkish patriot, believing staunchly in Kemal Ataturk’s vision of Turkey. Iskender was also an extremely spiritual human being. He believed in the Sufi philosophy of God within the Turkish Islamic tradition. In his later years, he was also passionate about Masonic philosophy, very happy to be part of it and researched and shared with others the deeper meaning of it. He made his living as an Attorney in Istanbul, and was a proud member of the Istanbul Bar Association for over 30 years. I recall seeing a large wreath adorned with white carnations from the Bar at his funeral and thinking what a wonderful gesture from an organization that Iskender strongly associated himself with.
My brother, when he was young, was seriously into physics. He was particularly fascinated by rockets.
There is a poem that speaks to his feeling and qualities when he was in high school in Ankara at Gazi Lisesi, one of the best in the country at that time.
“You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don't.
You have wings.
Learn to use them and fly.”
So he did fly. He started a rocket club – unheard of at that time –built rockets, fired them in tests, and saw them eventually soar up to two kilometers. Because he was asking so many questions, his physics teacher knew about his after-school rocket club activities. One day in class, while covering the earth’s atmosphere and the friction that causes the burning of all objects entering through the atmosphere, my brother asked his teacher, a prescient question. What if we covered the entering object with coke oven tiles that stand high temperatures, wouldn’t that prevent them from burning in the reentry? That was too much for his physics teacher, who told him that it was ludicrous and to shut up and sit down. Furthermore, the physics teacher told my parents that he was goofing around in school and after school was playing with a bunch of dangerous stuff and being a bum. That was the last of the rocket club that he founded and the tests. A few decades later, history showed us that like-minded people in America were thinking the same way and covered the nose and wings of the space shuttle with heat tiles.
After Iskender’s journey of flying was sadly ended by his physics teacher, he joined in another journey, influenced by the teachings of his literature teacher, Nihal Atsiz, in the early years of the Cold War. Young Iskender had always been a proud and staunch Turkish patriot. With his teacher’s influence, it was a short distance to extend his patriotism to encompass nationalistic ideals. During the Cold War, Turkey was in the front lines and paid a heavy price – losing a bright generation-and-a-half through turbulent political times. Upon graduating from high school, my brother wanted to make a difference in the life of the nation; he now had political ambitions. He entered law school and became a lawyer. Hence, he became a member of the Bar Association that held and staunchly protected its principles in the life of modern Turkey.
In his private life, he tried not to take himself too seriously, but he always felt deeply about his philosophy of life. He was a talented artist, who expressed his worldview through his paintings. Some of his paintings reveal his deep spiritualism and understanding of the universe. His 1998 painting, titled “We All Came From It,” is a good example. His spiritual values are reflected in these two poems:
Hak cihâna doludur
Kimseler Hakk'ı bilmez
Onu sen senden iste
Ol senden ayrı olmaz
Rızka benimdir dersin
Niçün yalan söylersin
Hiç sen dediğin olmaz
Alıret yavlak ırakdır
Doğruluk key yarakdır
Ayrılık sarp firakdır
Hiç giden geri gelmez
Dünyaya gelen göçer
Bir bir şerbetin içer
Bu bir köprüdür geçer
Câhiller onu bilmez
Gelin tanış olalım
İşi kolay kılalım
Dünya kimseye kalmaz
Yûnus sözün anlarsan
Sana iyi dirlik gerek
Bunda kimseye kalmaz.
― Yunus Emre
God permeates the whole wide world.
Yet His truth is revealed to none.
You better seek Him in yourself.
You and He aren't apart-you're one.
The other world lies beyond sight.
Here on earth we must live upright.
Exile is torment, pain, and blight.
No one comes back once he is gone.
Come, let us all be friends for once,
Let us make life easy on us,
Let us be lovers and loved ones,
The earth shall be left to no one.
To you, what Yunus says is clear,
Its meaning is in your heart's ear:
We should all live the good life here,
Because nobody will live on.
Do you know what you are?
You are a manuscript oƒ a divine letter.
You are a mirror reflecting a noble face.
This universe is not outside of you.
Look inside yourself;
everything that you want,
you are already that.
During his life journey, my brother Iskender made a difference in the life of the nation just as he wanted. Iskender became one of the founding members of the Adalet Partisi, (Justice Party), led by Süleyman Demirel, who served six times as prime minister. Later, he became one of the founding members of and a very active participant in the Dogru Yol Partisi (DYP) Along the way, he also became a board member of the Petrol Office Turkey's leading fuel products distribution and lubricants company.
He cared about the environment, again deeply and passionately. He became the president of Turkiye Cevre Koruma Dernegi then later became the president of Anadolu Çevre Korumacıları Asamblesi, both important environmental organizations. In short, he tried to make the best of his journey.
He also cared about the Kazaz family’s heritage and our Sipahi roots. Genealogy became yet another of his passions. The Sipahis in the Ottoman Empire traditionally were recruited among landowners of Turkish origin in provinces that did not have a large Turkish population. Kosova, which was in the province of Rumeli, was included. A rivalry between the Jannisaries, who controlled the central bureaucracy of the empire and had a lot of political influence, and the Sipahis, who controlled the provincial bureaucracy and had the power of the army, prevented them from cooperating against the House of Osman. Through Iskender’s relentless research, using a sort of reverse engineering technique, he was able to step-by-step reveal our family roots going back to 13th century Anatolia, to the Karesiogulları or Karas Bey principality. Recently, he had started to write the family history and, sadly, left it unfinished at Page 35, just like his own life story.
My brother was the loving husband of Sevinc, and raised two wonderful sons, Bilge Kaan and Ulug Can. He also left behind the newest member of his family, Merve, a beautiful person and his daughter-in-law-to-be. On Sunday, August 17, he was unexpectedly struck by a massive stroke and passed away a week later, on August 24, 2014. To his family, my brother Iskender will always be remembered as a loving son to our dad, devoted husband to his wife, proud father to his sons, a fantastic uncle to my daughter and brother-in-law to my wife. His quiet wisdom, hidden behind his boisterous persona, will be greatly missed. To his friends and colleagues, their memory will always be just the sort of person you know you can rely on, if ever you need to. This is his legacy; it is how we shall all remember Iskender in the years to come. His stroke may have taken him from us early – but it will never rob us of his memory.
Seni seviyorum agabey.
“Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I, you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we still are. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was; there is unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you. For an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner: All is well.”
― Henry Scott Holland
“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.”