Symposium on Ottoman sultan stirs up controversy

Symposium on Ottoman sultan stirs up controversy

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Symposium on Ottoman sultan stirs up controversy

The historical period in question represented an era of great change and transformation at an important time, Çiçek says. AA photo

Republican Turkey represents neither an alternative nor an antithesis to the country’s Ottoman past, Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek said during a symposium about the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid I that coincided with the 150th anniversary of the end of his rule.

“It is impossible for us to reach anywhere by pitting the Ottoman [period] and the Republican [era] against each other. No one ought to make any attempts to exploit this issue by making the wrong references,” Çiçek said.

The “International Symposium on the Sultan Abdülmecid Period on the 150th Anniversary of his Death” was organized in Istanbul’s historical Dolmabahçe Palace by Parliament’s National Palaces Department Presidency.

The historical period under question represents an era of great change and transformation at an important time, Çiçek said.

“We can more accurately conduct our future debates [if] we base our opinions on healthy foundations and get them right. Make no mistake, 88 years have passed since the establishment of the Republic. The Republic is neither an alternative nor an antithesis of the Ottoman [period],” he said. Çiçek also expressed his gratitude for the statesmen, scientists, artists and people of culture who served the Turkish nation throughout the centuries, Anatolia news agency reported.

The parliamentary speaker later departed for the administrative offices of the Presidency of the National Palaces Department where he attended an exhibition entitled “Atatürk in the Press during his reign.”

Abdülmecid I (1823-1861) is best known for his enactment of the Tanzimat (Reorganization) reforms which were aimed at modernizing the empire, as well as for the Crimean War (1853-1856) against Russia in which France and Britain sided with the Ottoman Empire.

Symposium the target of criticism

Muharrem İnce, the group deputy president of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), criticized the symposium and questioned where the expensively prepared invitation cards had been printed and whether any tender bids had been issued for that purpose.

Orhan Osmanoğlu, a direct descendant of the late Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamit II (1842-1918) who was deposed in 1908, said they had indirectly received an invitation to the symposium.

“They called from the Dolmabahçe Palace and said there was going to be a symposium, but my father did not want to participate as he feared possible reactions. No official invitations were issued from Ankara,” Osmanoğlu told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Professor Afife Batur from the Istanbul Technical University (İTÜ) also said she had initially favored the idea of a symposium about Sultan Abdülmecid I. “When the invitation arrived, I was hoping it would be an academic symposium, but it was transformed into a political one,” Batur told the Daily News.

“Abdülmecid was a sultan far more Westernized and broad-minded than even those who pass as Ottomanists in our day. Unfortunately, however, this aspect of Sultan Abdülmecid will not be highlighted at the symposium,” she said.

Daily News reporter Vercihan Ziflioğlu contributed to this article.