INTERVIEW - ARMIN ŠETIĆ
"The fall of the Empire begins when the corrupt Pashas take control and when women are completely withdrawn from politics!"
AfW: Where did the interest of a seventeen-year-old to studying the period of Ottoman history, the era of transformation, with particular reference to the role of women in that period?
Armin: Before I was inspired to write my first book, I did a lot of research and study on the history of the Ottoman Empire, and I was particularly interested in women's rule at a time when the empire was at its peak. I have always enjoyed reading about courageous, strong women who have made their place in the world and have forever written down their names in world history with their works. I was particularly intrigued by the life of imperial women, such as the mothers of the sultanas, the women of the sultanas and the sisters of the sultans, their everyday life, the splendor and elegance in which they lived and the wealth they possessed. Especially when exploring the life of Mahpeyker Kosem Sultana, it was inconceivable for a woman to be a regent, a sultanate governor to her minor son, to convene divans or meetings, to make important and decisive decisions, or rather to run the state very successfully.
AfW: Your first book is called "Gazia." What is the book talking about and did you want to produce a provocation by the name itself, since it is a title for the honorary title given to distinguished military leaders?
Armin: Exactly, Gazia was the honorary title of successful military leader, but ghazi also means conqueror, someone who fights for himself and for his ideals, so considering that the life of each sultan was a daily struggle for dominance and survival I decided to emphasize endurance and the fearlessness of such successful women who have dealt with all the prejudices and stereotypes carried by the patriarchal times in which they lived. Gazia tells of an Ottoman princess, her name is Sarasahuban Hatidze Safiya Sultana, she was the daughter of Sultan Mehmed III and a Toscan noblewoman. Her mother, outraged by her life in the harem, when she found out she was pregnant, fearing for the child's life especially if she gave birth to a boy, decided to escape from the harem and return to her native Florence where she remarried and still gave birth to a daughter, Princess Elizabeth. After several years, the Sultan, having learned that he had a daughter with a runaway slave, sent an army to find her and return her to Istanbul, and then the story of my Sultan, who converted from Islam to Catholicism, married a Pasha Damat Ibrahim and decided to influence Ottoman politics.
AfW: You have already prepared us in the foreword of the Gazia zhat we will hear incomprehensible things. Did you want to tell us that it is inconceivable that the Ottoman Empire was more advanced than many European countries, or is it inconceivable that in our country it was justified or unjustified to think of that time as a time when women did not had rights and had little freedom, while you claim that in the Ottoman Empire, women had great freedom?
Armin: Considering that Sultan Murat IV and Valide Kosem the Sultans viewed from their balconies at Topkapi Palace the first intercontinental flight in 1631 by Hezafern Ahmet Celebi, while in Europe, where science was run by the church, it would be closed or burned like many scientists, then, we must say that in the Ottoman Empire, scientists enjoyed the freedom of their creation. Of course in rural areas, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I have to be self-critical and start from my own country, since in every family men took the lead and the woman did not have that much freedom, although there were certain women who knew how to fight to dominate a man, especially women of higher standing such as women of Begs, Pashas, or Sultans. The expression of this freedom, especially with the sultans, was their way of dressing, where, in the dresses of the deep neckline, characteristic of the 17th century, covered with a transparent veil, exposed faces emerged before pastures. They wanted their wardrobe, the extremely expensive materials of which their dresses were made, to show the importance of their word in the diplomacy of the Ottoman Empire.
AfW: How do you look at the position of women today in BiH society?
Armin: A difficult question. Even though women have achieved the same rights today as men, there are still prejudices and stereotypes that our society pulls from the past, from some patriarchal time about women's capabilities, especially in politics, without being aware that women are much better and more successful politicians than men. We need as many women as possible in political functions, because I find that women are much braver and more nimble than men on the political scene.
AfW: Although Gazia recently saw the light of day, you already worked hard on a new book. Can you tell us a little more ?
Armin: My second book is a novel about our last Bosnian queen, Mara Tomasević. I have been following Queen Mara's life since the fall of the Bosnian Kingdom until her death in the Ottoman Empire. Delighted with the courage and sacrifice of this woman for the country she once ruled, I follow her life in Dubrovnik, meetings with the most famous Croatian artists of the time, how she took care of her own financial situation and how, then living in a convent near Split, going to Budapest to the palace of Matija Korvina and the final journey to Constantinople into the Ottoman Empire where he would spend the rest of his life.
AfW: Since both of your books are about women, the position and role of women in particular periods of history, how much of your books will reach to the readers and who Armin actually addresses, what population?
Armin: My books are addressed to everyone, I want to inspire both women and men to believe in themselves, that the world is theirs, that they need to use their abilities to achieve certain goals, and I hope that in my books I manage to dispel prejudice about women and their freedom.
AfW: When you compare women in the Ottoman Empire and women today, what would you single out as an advantage and what a disadvantage, were they braver, more combative, more persistent than they are today, despite their lower levels of equality?
Armin: A very good question, I would say that in one difficult patriarchal time when a man was the center of attention, women in the Ottoman Empire were more combative and in a difficult way, they wanted to educate, read, and build an enviable reputation in the society. At the time, they were not allowed to express their opinions as publicly as many women today may be, but unfortunately they often avoid learning to do so. We must dispel fears of our own opinion, no woman in the 21st century should be subordinate to a man, past the time of the sultans with harems, where several hundred women lived, whose main task was to give birth to a male child. We need to work even more to educate women about her rights, first of all the right to choose, and to protect women in society.
AfW: How much do you follow the socio-political developments in our country and the world?
Armin: I follow socio-political developments, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I like to be informed about what is happening in my social environment, because that way I build an opinion on certain problems that we faced.
AfW: Do you think it would be much better if we had more women in decision-making places?
Armin: Of course we would. I often think that we are on the verge of collapse precisely because for centuries men have been prone to conflict and war. Women are much more intelligent than men, and this has proven itself throughout history, because of that a woman is often satanized, portrayed as an incapacitated being, and if we would had more women in decision-making places I am sure we would have lived in better a social order where everyone would exercise their rights.
AfW: Why don't we have more women in decision-making places? Who is it?
Armin: Most because of our society, unfortunately, we still live in Bosnia and Herzegovina in one of the last patriarchal times, where the main player in the society is a man, where people are still separated by national and religious affiliation. Women are often imposed how to live, women are prone to condemnation by the community, the rate of violence against women is still high in our country, these are just some of the problems that we need to address and protect women from such things.
I'm Armin Šetić, born on November 19, 2002. I am a student at the IV High School of Ilidža. Last year I published my first novel "Gazia," which tells of the rule of women, the Sultan, in the Ottoman Empire during the 17th century. I research, read, and write about powerful and dominant women in history who have successfully ruled the states.