Exiled Ottomans carry on legacy in Lebanon
Cagil M. Kasapoglu
TRIPOLI, Lebanon – Hürriyet Daily News
Friday, October 9, 2009
Though Ertuğrul Osmanoğlu, who died in September, may have been the last in line for the Ottoman throne, but descendents of the family live on in Lebanon. Asked about being an Ottoman descendent, Jour says, ‘It’s only the pride and the blood given me by my family that I’ve got now’
Shehzade Ertuğrul Osmanoğlu, the grandson of the 34th Ottoman ruler Abdülhamit II, may have been identified as the last senior member of the former Ottoman dynasty, but he certainly was not the “Last Ottoman,” since his relatives still carry Abdülhamit II’s legacy in Lebanon.
Following the Turkish Republic’s foundation, all members of Ottoman family were expelled from the new state. Had this not occurred, Ertuğrul Osmanoğlu, 97, who died last month, would have ruled as both Sultan and the Caliph of the Muslim world. However, after the expulsion, Ottomans settled in different parts of the world, just like İbrahim Jour’s Lebanese Ottoman ancestors.
“He was a fascinating and inspiring figure,” Jour said, referring to Osmanoğlu, whom he met in New York where Osmanoğlu was living before the latter moved back to Turkey in 1992. Interested in discovering his blood ties and his roots, Jour was told by Osmanoğlu about the harsher aspects of exile and the difficulties of starting a new life after losing the comforts of royalty.
Osmanoğlu’s tale of exile was also shared by Jour’s great-grandmother, Nemika Sultan, the daughter of Abdülhamit II’s first son, Mehmet Selim Paşa, Osmanoğlu’s uncle. After being expelled from Turkey, Nemika Sultan had to leave the royal prosperity of the palace and move first to France and then to Lebanon.
Jour is one of the younger Lebanese members of the Ottoman family, five generations removed from Abdülhamit II. He is related to the sultan through his mother Leyla Ethem Kenan, the granddaughter of Abdülhamit II’s third generation “kerime,” or daughter, Nemika Sultan.
Only blood, pride:
Asked about being an Ottoman descendent, the 26-year-old Jour said, “It’s only the pride and the blood given me by my family that I’ve got now,” during an interview at his residency in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon.
Gilded candlesticks and glorious chandeliers with glittering ashtrays placed next to Lebanese-style furniture perfectly reflected the blend of oriental and Ottoman designs in Jour’s living room. The wooden walls were ornamented with pictures of his Ottoman ancestors. Indeed, the largest and most splendid frames were reserved for Abdülhamit II and his first granddaughter Emine Nemika Esin.
Nemika Sultan, the first daughter of Abdülhamit II’s eldest son Shehzade Mehmet Selim Efendi, lived for a long period in the protected harem of Yıldız Palace, or Star Palace, in Istanbul. A year after the establishment of Turkish Republic, in 1924, the caliphate was also abolished by the founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
It was not a particularly smooth move for Nemika Sultan to leave the Yıldız Palace where her wedding with Damat Ali Kenan Bey, a successful soldier in the Ottoman Army, had been celebrated for days and nights.
“The ladies of the palace had four days to pack and leave the palace, whereas, for the Beys [male members of the family], they had only two,” said Leyla Kenan Hanım.
“She was expelled without even being given any time to take her belongings. She only had her diamond crown and her dress on, which she later sold to find a place to live in Paris,” Leyla Hanım said while displaying the pictures of her grandmother in humble dark clothes.
When Leyla Hanım visited Yıldız Palace for the first time, she was only 12, and her grandmother was living in a small flat located on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. Born and raised in Lebanon, Leyla Hanım’s first impressions of Abdülhamit II’s palace were characterized by sorrow rather than glory.
“At the entrance of the palace, I saw a large, glittering frame of my grandmother, Nemika Sultan, in her sublime clothes. But knowing that she was actually in her new poor residency with no single trace of her past richness was the most moving moment of my life,” Leyla Hanım said with eyes lowered in tears.
İbrahim Jour is now a successful doctor currently treating the residents of Beirut. He hoped that the next generation of Ottoman descendents would not only be well educated, but also interconnected through alternative means of communication.
“Although many members of the family live abroad, we are keen on keeping the family tradition alive and our ties tight with a secret group we created on Facebook!” said Jour, referring to the popular social network Web site.
© 2009 Hurriyet Daily News