First Official Brothel in the Ottoman Empire Was Opened During the Reign of Abdul Hamid II
One of the least-known facts about the reign of Abdul Hamid II is that it is when the first official brothel in the Ottoman Empire was opened. And it was opened upon a letter of instruction by the Caliph Abdul Hamid II himself. There is no doubt that prostitution was among the principal factors behind the moral decline of the Ottoman society, laying the groundwork for the Empire's fall. Abdul Hamid II, as a person, is a respected figure for the Turkish nation, he was a valuable sultan. However, knowing historical facts is crucial so that right steps and measures can be taken to safeguard the future of our country.
With a letter of instruction by Abdul Hamid II in 1884, the first brothel was opened on Abanoz Street, and was followed by other brothels in Zürefa Street. The brothels that are still active today in Zürefa Street were opened during Abdul Hamid II's rule. In a short period of time, the number of brothels in Galata alone reached a hundred.
The situation became so grim that at one point, ships started to bring patrons for brothels from Europe and Russia to Istanbul. Most of the time, an important duty of the tour guides would be taking the patrons to Zürefa Street.
According to Ottoman archives, during this time, 2,125 prostitutes operated with official licenses; however, the number of those without official licenses was much higher. Brothels were not only in Galata and Karaköy, but also in Üsküdar. Bursa and Izmir also had their own brothels. Furthermore, during the reign of Abdul Hamid II, prostitutes were also brought from Poland, Romania, Austria and Galicia. Indeed, the said countries were looking for ways to fight the adultery in the Ottoman Empire.
During the rule of Abdul Hamid II, prostitution became so widespread, Samuel Cohen, Secretary of the Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women, wrote the following grim lines about the situation:
Behind the line of docks there runs a long street called Galata Street. ... Most of the alleys were dedicated to brothels. I thought that the sights I witnessed in Rio de Janeiro were bad, but these brothels in Constantinople beggar description. The inmates of the brothel are seated on low stools or on boxes or on low couches, with almost nothing on in the way of clothes. … Some stood at the doors or walked about in the rooms in a semi-naked condition, others had dressed themselves somewhat and were walking about the streets paying visits to other houses. … In the vicinity of these houses are cafes and drinking saloons, and in almost every one, gambling is going on incessantly. … Everything appears as free and as licentious as possible. There are no hindrances and no difficulties from the authorities. … At one house in particular where the performance commences near midnight and goes on till 4.30 in the morning, the scenes are really disgraceful.
The opening of brothels upon the instruction of Abdul Hamid II, in a way, turned the Ottoman Empire into a center of prostitution in a short amount of time and adultery spread like wildfire. This allowed the British deep state to achieve its goal to a large extent, which was morally degenerating the Ottoman Empire in order to hasten up its destruction.