Melek Hanum

Melek Hanum

Melek Hanum (18141873) met Kibrisli Mehemet (Mehmed) Pasha, in Paris, and they were married upon returning to Istanbul. She accompanied him to various postings in Palestine and Serbia and shared with him the frustrations of the arbitrary periodic dismissals that characterized late Ottoman politics. Her sensationalist account of life in Turkey contains details of political intrigue and corruption and demonstrates the influence and mobility available to women in the official households of the Ottoman elite. During Mehmed Pasha’s absence, Melek Hanim concocted a plan to replace her sickly son with another child in the event of his expected death. Although her own son survived, one of her co-conspirators killed another, and the ensuing scandal resulted in her divorce. She spent the rest of her life trying to exact vengeance upon her ex-husband and attempting to gain access to the property she viewed as legitimately her own. After several setbacks, she and two of her children finally fled to Paris. Thirty Years in the Harem was written during her impoverished exile there, and is highly critical of Islam and of Ottoman society. Her vitriolic account is seen by some as proof of Ottoman women’s political influence, and by others as self-serving and scandalous.


Thirty Years in the Harem
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Thirty Years in the Harem

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