The exact location of the world’s first women’s shelter is unknown, but historic data suggest that one was founded in the Ottoman capital of Istanbul in the late 17th century and remained in service until the mid-19th century. Ottoman women escaping from violence from their fathers or husbands took shelter in the Hatunlar or Hatuniye convents, also known as the Karılar dervish convent, where they learned various art forms and survived independent of men. About 100 women aged between 16 and 80 lived in the Hatuniye shelter.
I’ve got to admit that I was guilty of thinking women’s shelters were a 20th century, western European invention. The more I learn, the worse educated I feel (although apparently I’m not the only one under this misconception).
“I am not an advocate of women rights,” said Sedes, but she was impressed by the existence of such an organization centuries ago. “There is a misperception that everything starts in the West. But we see that the Ottomans also had similar institutions. The difference between the West and us is that we do not know how to claim our historical heritage,” she said.