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Khatun was “an Azerbaijani Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi”

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Portrait of Sara Khatun in the late 1400s, a diplomat and mother of Aq Qoyunlu leader Uzun Hassan. (Photo: theapricity.com)

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During the Renaissance, it was not common for women to be politically active. However, two women were known to be ahead of their times, Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi and Sara Khatun. Both women wielded considerable influence over the Ottoman Turkish sultans. Both women were involved in diplomatic affairs. And both women had influential men in their lives, whom they greatly influenced.

Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi managed to smuggle hundreds of Jews out of lands controlled by the Inquisition to the Ottoman Empire and also oversaw the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Spanish. She rescued Jewish captives, constructed synagogues and yeshivas, and was a major philanthropist. As the head of the banking empire, she contributed greatly to enriching Ottoman Turkey to such a great level that she would be awarded with the province of Tiberius.  

Jane Gerber, author of “The Jews of Spain,” noted that between 1391 and the fifteenth century, a significant number of Jews immigrated to the Holy Land: “Entire family groups banded together and rented ships and made their way to Eretz Yisrael. Most of these Jews would settle in Jerusalem, Safed, Hebron and Tiberius.”

Thanks to Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi’s contributions to the Ottoman state, these Jews would receive backing from the Ottoman authorities, thus creating a precedent that later on the Zionist Movement was able to follow. Several hundred years before Theodore Herzl, a Jewish woman was working to return Jews to Israel under the protection of the Ottoman Empire.   

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Sara Khatun came to have great political influence during the reign of her son Uzun Hassan, the mighty ruler of the Azerbaijani state of Agqoyunlu. She was a skilful diplomat and headed embassies for the purpose of regulating disputed issues. Sara Khatun was well-known in the west, and foreign ambassadors frequently took advantage of her influence over her son.

For example, in 1473 Josaphat Barbaro was sent from Venice to the court of Uzun Hasan with the instructions “Meet the ruler’s mother, assure her of respect and present gifts…” in order to persuade her to an “enterprise” beneficial to Venice (war with the Ottoman Empire). 

She aided in the reconciliation of Uzun Hasan and her other son Jahangir, who had challenged Uzun-Hasan’s rule. Sara Khatun was also sent to negotiate with the Timurid ruler Abu Said. She had also traveled to the Mamluk Sultanate, in an attempt to solve Jahangir’s problems. Sara Khatun’s negotiations with the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II were particularly successful. Negotiations with Mehmed II took place in 1461, during Mehmed II’s Anatolian campaign. The Ottoman army captured Sinop and headed towards Trebizond. Fearing that Mehmed was planning an attack on the Aq Qoyunlu, Uzun-Hasan sent his mother to negotiate, accompanied by many sheikhs and princes from the region and expensive gifts.

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According to Ottoman historians Tursun Beg and Sadeddin Efendi, Sara Khatun met with the influential Grand Vizier Mahmud Pasha at night and begged him for assistance.

Mahmud Pasha Responded positively to her request and arranged for her to meet with Mehmed. According to historian Steven Runciman, Mehmed treated Sara Khatun well because his plans at the time were limited to capturing the Black Sea coast. As a result, Mahmud Pasha accepted the proposals of Sara Khatun for peace. During the negotiations, she referred to Mehmed as “my son”, while he referred to her as “mother”.

Similarly, Fariz Ismailzade, the executive vice rector of Ada University, stated in an exclusive interview that Sara Khatun has a similar status in Azerbaijan:

“She is a very popular figure in Azerbaijani history. She is known as the first woman diplomat, who has negotiated many international treaties and agreements for the Agqoyunlu state. Azerbaijan is the first Muslim country to grant women voting rights and full suffrage. Sara Khatun symbolizes this. She was the mother of Uzan Hassan in the fifteenth century in a Turcoman Azerbaijani state in the area of the South Caucasus, Iran and Iraq. It was a very large state.”

According to Ismailzade, “They were engaged in many diplomatic activities with neighboring countries in the Ottoman Empire and others. In these endeavors, Sara Khatun helped her son a lot. She was a charismatic politician, smart lady, skilled diplomat and smart negotiator. Her role in the development of women’s rights is very important.”

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights.  She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings at the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”  

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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