light gazing, ışığa bakmak

Monday, June 8, 2015

a sultanate of women (2)

"If a slave girl presented to become a resident of the Grand Seraglio were determined satisfactory by the guards and the Valide Sultana, she would be stripped of her Christian name, renamed something Arabic that reflected some of her physical characteristics, converted to Islam, and trained in palace etiquette and Islamic culture. At this point she became an odalisque. This term for harem women derives from the Arabic
word for "room," oda, and is literally translated woman of the room. This new label merely implied that the girl was a slave in the Sultan's service, not that she was no longer a slave.

The most beautiful or talented odalisques received more training to become the sultan's concubines; they learned to dance, recite poetry, play musical instruments, and master the erotic arts. Those odalisques who were not converted into concubines may have been given by the Sultan to one of his pashas, or they
may have been assigned as servants to the Valide Sultana, the Sultan's wives (kadins), his daughters, or the chief eunuchs. Not every odalisque remained at the harem. If, for example, she was not talented or ended up expressing undesirable qualities, an odalisque would be returned and re-sold as a slave at
the market.

The status of  concubine was not, however, the height of a harem woman's career. She may have become a "cabinet minister," being placed in charge of an oda within the harem. She may have served as mistress of the robes, keeper of baths, keeper of jewels, reader of the Koran, keeper of the storerooms, mistress of sherbets, head of table service, and so on. This hierarchy of work assignments was paralleled by a sexual hierarchy in which women climbed to higher rankings according to how much of the Sultan's favor they were able to curry.' The Sultan could sexually engage whatever woman he chose, no matter her status within the harem, but it was not until she became one of his favorites, a status labeled ikbal, that she would be given her own apartment away from the odalisque dormitories, a barge, a carriage, and her own slaves. Only at this point would her relationship with the Sultan become public information. An ikbal advanced to the next level when she gave birth to the Sultan's child, thus becoming a kadin or haseki sultana.

Finally, a haseki sultana took on the most coveted of positions within the harem hierarchy, Valide Sultana, if the child she produced with the Sultan was a boy and became the successor Sultan.  The harem women were all tied inextricably to the Sultan under whose authority they were placed into the Grand Seraglio; the Valide Sultana was the only woman who could remain in the harem when the crown changed hands. All the other women were relocated to the Old Palace, called the Palace of the Unwanted Ones or the House of Tears, and their old apartments in the harem were torn down and replaced to be filled by the new Sultan's women.

from here.

"All four parties represented in Turkish parliament, except the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), have increased the number of their women deputies, thus labeling the 25th term of parliament as one with the highest number of women deputies in Turkey’s history of democracy."

from here.

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