Each time I see a picture of members of the Turkish Royal Family, I am astonished for two reasons. The first reason is that they are incredibly attractive looking people, just the way one imagines Royalty to be in fairy tales. The second reason is that we did not used to see or hear of the descendants of the majestic family. As paintings were forbidden or frowned upon during the Ottoman times, most of us do not have so many real images of the Sultans stuck in our head. Frankly I know what the Romanov family looks like better than what many of our Sultans looked like, simply because I have seen photos of the Romanov’s. This is one of the reasons, that to see the Sultan’s great grandchildren, in the flesh amazes me, each time. However silly it might sound I must admit that their beauty makes me feel proud.
As I had expressed in one of my previous articles on Princess Roxanne Kunter, the Ottoman Sultan’s procreated only with the most stunning ladies, who were part of the Harem, which explains their beautiful looks as a family. The sultans were probably also very good looking (see picture of the little Princes, of the same lineage) and incredibly powerful men. Western movies always make the Harem look like a place of detention, where women were held against their will. I’ve often found this interpretation odd. There is an American TV show called “The Bachelor” if you have seen it, you will realize how 15 women fight over the affection of an ordinary man just because, it is a competition and they become famous. The women of the Harem were competing over the attention of a possibly very good looking man, who happened to rule over a territory that extended to three continents, Asia, Europe and Africa. Should she bear his child, she would get a chance of being the mother of the next emperor. Now if anyone has caught an episode of the Bachelor, they will realize that women tend to be competitive around each other and controlling the man who is an object of desire for other women can be a great ego boost for ladies. Surely I do not advocate polygamy in this age and time but the misrepresentation of ancient Harem life, in western movies has often appalled me.
Nevertheless, the reason we never used to hear of the Royal family is because 155 member of the Imperial family were expulsed in 1924. This expulsion took place along with the renouncement of the Caliph title. The definition of the word Caliph according to the dictionary would be:
1. A spiritual leader of Islam, claiming succession from Muhammad.
2. Any of the former Muslim rulers of Baghdad (until 1258) and of the Ottoman Empire (from 1571 until 1924).
So the Ottoman family were considered successors of Muhammad thereby the leader of all the Islamic world. That is a very powerful title to be relinquished just like that. Although it might seem so now, at the time that was an essential move to establish a secular Turkish Republic. One cannot be the spiritual leader of the Islamic world and keep government issues separate from religious issues at the same time. Along with foundation of modern Turkey, Turks drifted away from Ottoman history. It took modern Turkey a long time after its formation, to become economically less dependant.
When I read quotes as the one below in the New York Times it astonishes me.
*“Turkey is seen increasingly in Washington as “running around the region doing things that are at cross-purposes to what the big powers in the region want,” said Steven A. Cook, a scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations. The question being asked, he said, is “How do we keep the Turks in their lane?”
Turkey’s rise as a regional power may seem sudden, but it has been evolving for years, since the end of the cold war, when the world was a simple alignment of black and white and Turkey, a Muslim democracy founded in 1923, was a junior partner in the American camp.”
“Cross purposes to what the big powers in the region want”, “How to keep Turks in their lane?” “Turkey’s rise as a regional power may seem sudden!”
Clearly those who wrote these lines have no idea about Turkish History and that it was not so long ago that Turks were not only the sole power of that region but they also ruled over the region while they were also accepted by all other nations in the area as a spiritual authority, successor of Muhammad.
So yes! Turks might be a rising power but that surely is nothing new, the leadership attribute is simply part of Turkish heritage. How to keep Turks in their lane would be something that many failed throughout history but maybe the American nation is too young to acknowledge, this. They know the modern state that has had economical weakness for decades and has been trying to unite with the E.U. for a long time.
Europe however remembers a different time. As American Journalist Timothy Sexton expresses in one of his articles Turks had been a strong power in the region for centuries.
**“Like most of the others, this crusade also ended with devastating losses by the Christian armies, this time during the battle of Nicopolis in 1396. After this victory, it looked for all the world like Europe was about to find itself becoming part of the Ottoman Empire.”
Americans are brilliant in observing change and keeping ahead even using it to their advantage. The world as we know it is changing and power is shifting yet again, as it has many times through out history. Turkish American relations have improved since that article was published in the New York Times and I believe the alliance will only get stronger.
Getting back to the subject of Ottoman Dynasty, after their expulsion in 1924, female members of the family were allowed to come back in 1952 and male members were allowed back in 1974. Conversely it is only lately that the Ottoman Dynasty members are becoming more known to the general public. Prince Osman Selaheddin Osmanoğlu has recently celebrated his 70. birthday. We all got to see the pictures of the youngest members of the Turkish Royal Family. The sweet little prince and princesses are amazingly attractive looking like the rest of the family. These little angel like creatures, are the living extension of our history as they are the great grand children of Fatih Sultan Süleyman who conquered Istanbul in 1453, thereby triggered the beginning of the renaissance era or Sultan Bayazid who gave refuge to the Jews who were expulsed from Spain by King Ferdinand. It gives me great pleasure to be able to hear about the current lives of members of a great part of our history. All the stories of Ottoman honor and glory that we grew up hearing about seem to be justified when we see the images of our scandal free, dignified Imperial family. Their poise screams Royalty. It’s kind of nice when we can put a face with the name, it is even better when the image matches the tales of pride.
I understand that for a long time they might have been perceived as a threat to the modern foundation. However, The Republic of Turkey is an established secular democracy now and the Royal Family represents our glorious history. We can look ahead, owning up to our established democratic system without denying our glorious past.
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