Melek Hanim, an Ottoman woman of Greek, Armenian, and French heritage, met Kibrish ("the Cypriot") Mehmed Pasha, in Paris, and they were married upon returning to Istanbul. She accompanied him to various postings in Palestine and Serbia, and shared with him the frustrations of the arbitrary periodic dismissals that characterized late Ottoman politics. Her sensationalist account of life in Turkey contains details of political intrigue and corruption and demonstrates the influence and mobility available to women in the official households of the Ottoman elite. During Mehmed Pasha's absence, Melek Hanim concocted a plan to replace her sickly son with another child in the event of his expected death. Although her own son survived, one of her co-conspirators killed another, and the ensuing scandal resulted in her divorce. Melek Hanim found herself blamed for the murder, imprisoned, and exiled. She spent the rest of her life trying to exact vengeance upon her ex-husband, by attempting to gain access to property she viewed as legitimately her own. Meanwhile, Mehmed Pasha was thrice appointed Grand Vezir, and Melek Hanim joined forces with some of his political rivals to achieve her ends. After several setbacks, she and two of her children finally fled to Paris.
Thirty Years in the Harem, was written during her impoverished exile and was followed by a sequel, Six Years in Europe. Critical of Islam and of Ottoman society once she had lost her elevated position within it, Melek Hanim's vitriolic account is seen by some as proof of Ottoman women's political influence, and by others as self-serving and scandalous. Write your own review Only registered users can write reviews