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First women’s shelter in Turkey: the Ottoman ladies’ tekke
1.       tunci
7149 posts
 21 Aug 2011 Sun 05:33 pm

First women’s shelter in Turkey: the Ottoman ladies’ tekke

21 August 2011, Sunday / SEVİM ŞENTÜRK , İSTANBUL

Hoca Hüsamettin Tekkesi served as a shelter for women during the last days of the Ottoman Empire

Last week there was much debate surrounding remarks made by Fatma Şahin, the minister for family and social policies, regarding women’s shelters.

Şahin has gone one step further for abused women, mentioning that there would be reforms implemented in the issue of women’s shelters. The most discussed of the minister’s statements was a change under consideration to a law which stipulates that shelters can be opened in cities/districts with a population of over 50.000. Şahin says this law will be amended and that shelters will without exception be established in every district and city with a population greater than 50,000.

In Turkey, where violence against women increases by the day, opening more women’s shelters is important, especially given that there are only 65 shelters for women in the entire country. Failing to do anything about the plight of women and even being unaware of this is a terrible shortcoming for the country, considering the fact that first women’s shelter in Turkey was opened the 18th century during the days of the Ottoman Empire. The name of this shelter was Hatuniye Dergahı, or women’s dervish convent.

An article by Gökçen Beyinli Dinç published in Turkish magazine Aktüel discusses the Hatuniye Dergahı, which was discovered by Fatma Sedes, an architect who was doing research for the Foundation for the Protection of Historical Heritage in Turkey at the time she came upon the building, after which it was restored by the municipality. Now as a result of Şahin’s statements regarding women’s shelters, the building, which was in disrepair until 2010, has gained the public’s attention.

The Hatuniye Dergahı in Eyüp was a women’s shelter in the Ottoman Empire for almost 100 years, helping women who were beaten or in a difficult situation. At the shelter women could learn a craft, and those who suffered from psychological disorders would be treated and rehabilitated. The shelter also acted as a nursing home for old women. It could host up to 100 women at any one time.

The exact date of the building’s construction is disputed because the building, constructed on a 2,000-square-meter piece of land just below the Pierre Loti café, used to be a Mevlevi tekke (dervish convent) before it became a women’s refuge. However, conflicting reports suggest this was the prayer house of the Bektashi in the 16th century. Yet, the story thought to be most reliable proposes that the building was built by Hoca Hüsamettin in the early 18th century and that it became a shelter for women later on. For this reason at the end of the restoration the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality named it Hoca Hüsamettin Tekkesi, after the prominent historical figure.

So, what was the tekke like before restoration and how is it now? According to the residents of the district there was only an old cemetery, a minaret and a house in ruins damaged by people digging for treasure. In the 1990s the area where the tekke was situated became a shantytown. As part of a restoration project that was begun in 2008 and finished in 2010, the cemetery was cleaned up, the garden landscaped and the tekke and masjid, a little mosque attached to the tekke, were restored. A well-kept place surrounded by fences, it is now used by the municipality for special events and activities. There are various trees in its garden and even an exhibition where flower motifs that were on the broken gravestones used for women during the Ottoman period are displayed.

According to research, the first women’s shelter was not founded during the Ottoman Empire. One can find information about the topic in author Fatma Aliye’s article titled “Meşahir-i Nisvan-ı İslamiyyeden biri: Fatma Bint-i Abbas” (One of the Famous Muslim Women: Fatma Bint-i Abbas), which was published in 1895 in the newspaper Mahsus. In the article Aliye states that Fatma Bint-i Abbas was the sheikh of Ribatü’l Bağdadiye tekke in the 13th century and that women who were divorced or helpless or sent away by their husbands were looked after in a tekke.

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