Harems 'prepared women for life', says Turkey’s first lady Emine Erdoğan

The presidential couple have been known to cause controversy with their views on women

Turkey’s first lady has praised harems for "preparing women for life" in a speech to Ottoman sultans in Ankara.

Emine Erdoğan was speaking in the country’s capital when she made the remarks, which were picked up by the Turkish media.

She said: “The harem was a school for members of the Ottoman dynasty and an educational establishment for preparing women for life,”according to  Deutsche Welle

Harems are generally associated with concubines, servants and powerful men with multiple beautiful partners, among other things.

However, in the Ottoman period - which lasted from 1299 to 1923 - Sultan's harems also followed strict rules, and women in them would receive an education. Some women would live in them for many years and become quite powerful members of the court. 

Mrs Erdoğan and her husband – Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are known for promoting the values of the Ottoman Empire and Islamic principles.

Her comments came just a day after the president sparked protests in the country for saying “a woman is above all else a mother” in a speech -delivered on International Women’s Day, as reported in the Guardian

His speech, delivered to an audience in Ankara, featured numerous references from the Qur’an and claimed the capitalist system is “enslaving women”. He also said: “You cannot free women by destroying the notion of family”.

Mr Erdoğan has a history of espousing his views on the role of women, in May 2012 he suggested abortions were akin to “air strikes on civilians” and in December 2014 he described birth control as a form of treason