Oldest Ottoman to come home at last

Hugh Pope
Tuesday 21 July 1992 23:02

THE MAN who, in a different world, would be the Ottoman Sultan Orhan II has picked up his first Turkish passport, 68 years after he was sent into exile with pounds 2,000 in his pocket. Born an epoch ago in old Constantinople, Mehmed Orhan Osmanoglu now lives in a tiny apartment in Nice after a career as a ship-builder in Brazil, a Beirut-Damascus taxi driver, a cemetery attendant and an aide to King Zog of Albania.

Murat Bardakci, a reporter for the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and the author of a book, The Last Ottomans, said in a report that the tall, lonely-looking man had taken delivery of his passport in May. 'We've been getting phone calls all morning saying that he should be looked after. The trouble is he is 83, nearly blind and probably won't be able to come back,' Mr Bardakci said.

Orhan is the eldest male of the 100 or so surviving and mostly impoverished descendants of the 700-year-old tribe of Osman, scattered from the United States to Cairo since they were banished in 1924 by the young Turkish republic of Kemal Ataturk.

Turks show little desire to return to Ottoman rule, despite the latest nostalgic fad for Ottoman fashions and architecture and an ambitious foreign policy some have labelled 'neo-Ottoman'.

Most of the tribe now live in Turkey; they gather at the Istanbul home of a female 'sultan' or at the Kismet hotel, owned by another princess, on the Aegean coast. 'Museum pieces, really,' said one relative. 'I don't know much about Orhan but I suppose he just wants to be buried in one of the family cemeteries.'

The eldest 'son of Osman', stateless for decades, had nobly resisted applying for a passport from the republic until last year. 'He was angry with Turkey and anti-monarchists in general,' said Mr Bardakci. 'If anything, you could say he would have been a proletarian sultan.'

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