Great Women In Islamic History: Döndü Hatun Of Iraq

Good evening from the Editorial Team of ProMosaik e.V.,
we would like to thank MintPress for publishing this article tonight. It is part of our collection of articles about female rulers in Muslim history, based on the research by the Turkish writer Bahriye 

Thanks a lot to you all for reading and sharing!!
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi – ProMosaik e.V. 

A statue of the conquering warlord Timur, riding a horse with one arm outstretched in a regal pose, photographed in  Amir Timur Square in Uzbekistan on April 29, 2013. The events that Timur and his armies set in motion eventually led to the rulership of Döndü Hatun in Baghdad and the Djelâyir state of the medieval Middle East. (Flickr / Fang-Yu Lin)

A statue of the conquering warlord Timur, riding a horse with one arm outstretched in a regal pose, 
photographed in Amir
Timur Square in Uzbekistan on April 29, 2013. The events that Timur and 
his armies set in motion eventually led to the rulership of Döndü Hatun
in Baghdad and the Djelâyir state of the medieval Middle East. (Flickr / Fang-Yu Lin)

See also Introduction: A Forgotten Study Of Female Political Power In Islamic History and Sultan Sati Bey Khan Of The Mongols.

Döndü Hatun Of The Djelâyir State 

In the history of the Djelayir, originally a branch of the Mongol
race who later became Turkish in the lands of Turkestan and Kipchak, we
also see a woman sovereign enthroned. The sources about Döndü Hatun’s
life are very few unfortunately but, at the beginning of the chapter,
author Bahriye Üçok summarizes the foundation and development of the
Djelayir state.

The history of this state is connected to Hasan the Great, who we have already met in connection with our discussion of Sati Bey Hatun’s
accession to the Ilhanid throne. He established an independent state in
Baghdad, following prolonged struggles with Hasan the Small and other
emirs (1340). Hasan the Great, who added Iraq and Iran to his
territories and married Dilşad Hatun, the widow of Ebu Said, almost
became the inheritor of the Ilhanid Empire.

His son and successor Üveys (1356) took Azerbaijan and Tabriz from
the Golden Horde; he also added Mosul and Diyarbakır to his lands. His
son Hüseyin, who took his place in 776/1374-5, engaged in a war with the
Muzafferids and the Karakoyunlu, but later ceased hostilities with the
Karakoyunlu upon their request for peace.

Of Hüseyin’s two brothers, Sultan Ahmet took Azerbaijan and Iraq, and
Bayezid was left with the so-called Iraq-i Adjem. When Bayezid fell a
prisoner to Ahmed in 785-6/1383-5 and was blinded, all the above
mentioned lands were united under Ahmed’s rule. But his tyrannical rule
made his subjects desperate. In the end they invited Timur, then
extending his empire westwards, to Baghdad as a saviour.

Upon Timur’s conquest of North Iran, Armenia, Van, Diyarbakır and
Baghdad, Sultan Ahmed sought refuge in the court of Berkok, the Mamluk
Sultan of Egypt. After his return, Timur was still there and this time
Ahmet had to search for refuge at the court of the Ottoman Sultan
 Bayezid. In this way, Ahmet, the ruler of Djelayir, fought Timur’s
armies several times, until the latter’s death in 1405.
Ahmet returned to Baghdad once more in 1405-6, severed his ties with
Kara Yusuf, his old ally, and raided Azerbaijan, but he and several of
his children fell prisoner to Kara Yusuf. At this time, Döndü Hatun
lived in Baghdad as the wife of Shah Veled, Sultan Ahmet’s nephew.

Döndü Hatun’s ancestry is not sure. Some show her as the daughter of
Hüseyin, the third Sultan, others as Üveys’s daughter. Moreover, in
another source she is mentioned as the daughter of Hasan the Great and
Dilşad Hatun, the widow of Ebu Said Bahadir Khan. Important sources and
studies are unanimous in declaring Döndü Hatun as the daughter of
Hüseyin, son of Üveys.

Hüseyin was killed by his brother Ahmet after a reign of eight years.
Döndü Hatun had inherited her father’s beauty. For a time she was
married to the Egyptian ruler Melik Zahir Berkok. After her return to
Baghdad, she was given in marriage by her uncle, Sultan Ahmet, to her
cousin Shah Veled. When Sultan Ahmet’s eventful life came to an end,
Shah Veled followed him as the ruler of the country, according to some

In comparison with Sati Bey, Döndü Hatun took initiative to take over
the power. Her husband Shah Veled was in fact murdered 6 months later
upon her instigation.
After the Turkoman Emir Kara Yusuf had Sultan Ahmed murdered in
1410-1, he sent his son Shah Mohammed at the head of an army to capture
Baghdad. During the siege of Baghdad by the Karakoyunlu, Mâhmud bin Shah
Veled, Döndü Hatun’s stepson, defended the city for more than a year.
During the fighting, the rumour that Sultan Ahmet was not dead but was
actually hiding in Baghdad, spread through the city.

On the other hand, Bahshayish, who had been appointed governor of
Baghdad before Ahmed’s Tabriz campaign, was presumptuous enough to ask
for the hand of Döndü Hatun’s daughter. But he was beheaded during the
wedding ceremony, again upon Döndü Hatun’s instigation.
When Shah Muhammed finally surrounded the Dervaze gate of Baghdad,
Döndü Hatun realized that the city could not be held any longer and that
the conviction about Sultan Ahmed’s murder was widely held, so she
resorted to a new ruse: she declared that Ahmed was coming out of
hiding, and that the city should prepare itself for the coming

Döndü Hatun took advantage of the preoccupation of the population
with the decoration of the city and escaped with her six children
unnoticed to Vâsıt. This was the beginning of Karakoyunlu rule in
Baghdad, when dissatisfied elements in the population were put to death.
For sure she was the most cruel ruling woman we can find in Üçok’s

In the meantime, Döndü Hatun had moved from Vâsıt to Shuster. Some
chroniclers say that she poisoned her stepson Shah Mahmud, who had led
the defence of Baghdad for more than a year, in Shuster, others write
that he reigned together with Döndü Sultan for a period. In any case,
the Djelayir dynasty made extensive efforts to hold on to Vâsıt, Basra
and Shuster. She also took advantage of the youth of Shah Veled’s
children, and ruled as she pleased.
Although Döndü Hatun lost Baghdad to the Karakoyunlu attack, she managed to hold on to Huzistan by recognizing the suzerainty
of Shahruh, Timur’s son. Döndü Hatun sent emissaries and precious gifts
to Shahruh and declared her wish to become his vassal, upon which
Shahruh received them well and sent them back with gifts of his own.

But this was not enough to her. She murdered her stepson Sultan
Mahmud who ruled together with her to become the only undisputed
sovereign for three years. She had her name mentioned in prayers and had
coins minted in her name and thus legalized her de facto sovereignty.
All we know of her life is her thirst for power she tried to quench with tricks, intrigues, war and murder.

The sources differ about her date of death between 1415-19, but for
the author she must have been lived until 1419. The fact that Üveys, her
son by Shah Veled, came to the throne in 1419 confirms this.
In fact, it was Döndü Hatun who brought the collapsing Djelayir state
under a single ruler; her son succeeded in recapturing Baghdad and the
Djelayir State continued for thirteen years more after Döndü Hatun’s