The Balkan Wars (1912-1913) and the First World War (1914-1918) were two major events that altered the social, cultural, and political structures of the late Ottoman Empire. With the collapse of the social categories – particularly ethnoreligious, age-and gender-based categories – the wartime government deployed new measures to police those who emerged as the "deviant" actors of the Ottoman society. Provincial cities like Konya became the new, relatively isolated spots where the state could rehabilitate such individuals into the community through proper intervention. However, the archival records from Konya as well as local and national newspapers, narrate the stories of Turkish-Muslim and Armenian-Christian girls escaping the orphanage and getting dismissed for their morally harmful effects on their peers, two Armenian girls getting caught at the train station as they were running Konya due to the harsh circumstances, and the so-called dangers surrounding young girls engaging in deviant intimacies and sexual practices. The representations of friendship and intimate bonds among the young girls of Konya who were initially placed there at the state's order to be disciplined and rehabilitated introduce the emergence of a "sisterhood trouble," meaning various forms of non-heteronormative bonding, friendship, and solidarity networks young girls created to navigate the harsh circumstances of war.
In this paper, I explore the notions and representations of friendship and sisterhood in the late Ottoman Empire between 1910 and 1923 by analyzing the experiences of orphans, prostitutes, homeless women, and women engaging in homoerotic intimacies. By using orphanage registrations, local and national newspapers, and state documents, the paper deploys a queer approach to the concept of "sisterhood" and argues that it functioned as a venue for ostracized young women of the wartime society who formed the sexually and socially deviant subcultures of Konya to establish their intimate bonds and a form of queer wartime solidarity that disrupted the ethnic, religious, and sexual boundaries imposed upon them. By following the lead of scholars offering a queer reading of friendship, such as Alan Bray, Anjali Arondekar, and Kathryn Babayan, this paper provides a queer reading of sisterhood as a troubling and non-heteronormative practice and space defying the Ottoman Empire's wartime sexual and nationalist politics.