Uneasy lies the head
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Uneasy lies the head

Kemal Dervis, the new mega-minister of the Turkish economy and former World Bank vice-president, talks about the Turkish economy and the growing sense of imminent change in his country.

Kemal Dervis

Kemal Dervis, the new mega-minister of the Turkish economy, has an ancestor whose body is buried on an Aegean island, and whose head rests in the famous Ottoman-period graveyard at Karacaahmet in Istanbul. He was, historian Murat Bardakci tells us, Halil Hamid Pasa (1736-58) who was brought in as sadrazam (chief minister) by the sultan to tackle difficult economic and international problems.

Hamid took radical steps, earning a reputation as a reformer. But he stepped on many toes, including, it seems, those of the sultan himself.

After three years he was fired and sent as governor to Mecca, the Ottoman equivalent of Siberia. He never got there. When his ship reached the island of Bozcaada, in the north Aegean, he was taken off board, strangled and beheaded. His body was buried on the island.

His head was put into a goatskin filled with honey, one of the most antiseptic of nature's products, and sent to Istanbul for the sultan's inspection.

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