Memories of exile still haunt members of Ottoman dynasty
It was the evening of march 5, 1924, that a train set out from the Sirkeci Train Station in İstanbul and a boat raised its anchor at the dock just behind the train station.
Both were carrying members of the Ottoman dynasty to foreign lands after a decision taken two days previously by the newly established Turkish Parliament to exile them.
It was 89 years ago today that Parliament decided to abolish the caliphate and expel all members of the Ottoman family. The members of the Ottoman dynasty, which established a giant empire through their 600-year rule over five continents, were given hours to bid farewell to their homeland and left without any financial means to start new lives.
Most members of the family went through various hardships and were overwhelmed by feelings of homesickness while in exile.
Arzu Enver Eroğan, the great-granddaughter of Sultan Abdülmecid II, the last Ottoman caliph, and granddaughter of Enver Paşa, the defense minister and chief of staff of the Ottoman Empire during World War I and an important historic figure, is one of the members of the Ottoman family with whom Sunday’s Zaman spoke about the tragedies that her family was subjected to while in exile.
Eroğan’s father is the son of Princess Emine Naciye Sultan, the daughter of Sultan Abdülmecid. Her grandmother Naciye Sultan was married to Enver Paşa, who is her grandfather. “My father, aunts and grandmother lived in Nice with the caliph [Abdülmecit]. They had serious financial problems. Although they had been living in palaces before, they found themselves on the streets all of a sudden. They were penniless and were not ready to adapt to a life outside the palace. They were left without a homeland, without any financial means to support themselves and were exiled with a temporary French passport valid for one year,” she told Sunday’s Zaman.
Eroğan said some members of the Ottoman family worked as taxi drivers or cemetery guards in the countries that they were exiled to in order to support themselves, while some female members, such as Niloufer Farhat Begum Sahiba, chose to save themselves by marrying members of other royal families like those in India. She added that there were even some family members who died of hunger or committed suicide.
It was not only financial problems that made life hard for members of the Ottoman dynasty as they also had an eternal yearning for their homeland.
Eroğan said her grandmother Naciye Sultan suffered much due to homesickness and died of cancer five years after she was allowed to come to Turkey in 1952.
In 1952, Turkey allowed female members of the Ottoman family and their children to return to the country while the exile of male members was ended in 1974 by government decree.
Another hardship faced by the exiled members of the Ottoman family was the lack of sense of belonging to a place. “I call them [the exiled members of the family] a lost generation. They neither belonged to Turkey nor to Europe,” she said, adding that her father, Ali Enver, who returned to Turkey after men from the Ottoman dynasty were allowed to come back, left the country because he could not adapt to life in Turkey and went to Australia, where he lost his life.
When asked by Sunday’s Zaman whether she personally had any resentment for Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the nation’s founder, because he exiled her family, Eroğlu said she does not hold any resentment because he was establishing a new state and had to take certain steps to establish a new rule. She said she actually resents others who labeled her grandfathers “traitors” because they left the country.
Resan İris is yet another member of the Ottoman dynasty. Her father is the son of Sultan Murad V’s granddaughter, Fatma Sultan. When asked about the memories that she used to hear from her elders concerning the years of exile, İris said her father, along with her grandparents, moved to Budapest, Vienna and then Bulgaria after the parliamentary decision in 1924 to exile the Ottoman family.
“My father was 8 at the time. He used to say that he was happy to learn that they were leaving [Ortaköy] palace because he found life there boring,” she said, adding that life in foreign lands proved to be very difficult for her family.
“My father even faced the death penalty in Bulgaria over charges of being a spy during the revolution. He was jailed for seven-and-a-half years and was saved thanks to efforts of [former Prime Minister Adnan] Menderes and Atatürk’s wife, Latife Hanım. He was extradited to Turkey thanks to a prisoner swap,” she explained. After her father’s return to Turkey, İris said he always felt conflicted. “Sometimes he said he was a European, sometimes an Ottoman. There was always a conflict in him,” she told Sunday’s Zaman.
Kayıhan Osmanoğlu, the grandson of Sultan Abdülhamid II, is the first Ottoman şehzade (prince) to be born in Turkey after the exile. Unlike other members of the Ottoman dynasty, Osmanoğlu resents Atatürk for his decision to exile his family members.“The Ottoman family was even banned from using Turkish airspace,” he said, calling on the state authorities to take the necessary action to restore the dignity of the Ottoman family.
Another member of the Ottoman royal family, Bala Hodo, the great granddaughter of Sultan Mehmed V (Reşad), whose grandmother was among the exiled members of the family, said her grandmother had first gone to Egypt, Lebanon and then Hungary. “I heard from my mother that the reason why my grandmother moved to Hungary was due to her desire to be closer to Turkey. She was suffering from tuberculosis and used to say: ‘If I could drink a glass of water from my land, I might recover’,” Hodo said.
Her grandmother died at the age of 19 in Lebanon while still longing for her homeland.
Resource: Today’s Zaman