By Ayse Arman –
Meryem Uzerli catapulted to fame due to her role as Hurrem Sultan in the Turkish soap Muhteşem Yüzyıl (Magnificent Century). An Urdu dubbing of the show “Maira Sultan (My King) has captivated the Pakistani audience, who remain glued to the TV screens when the soap is on air. Hurrem has become a household name here.
Meryem, 31, won the Best Actress Award in 2012 for her immaculate depiction of a woman who tried everything to win the heart of Suleiman The Magnificent, the Turk king. Despite the fame and massive appreciation, Meryem left the drama series in 2013 and went to Germany. Another Turkish actress played her role in the last 4 episodes of the series.
Meryem says she suffered from “Burnout Syndrome” and had to split up from Can Ateş, her boyfriend, a notorious Turkish playboy, after she became pregnant and he forced her for an abortion.
Meryem is currently expecting her baby and undergoing therapy while living a quiet life in Germany. She gave a rare interview to Ayse Arman, a famous Turkish journalist often dubbed as the Oprah Winfrey of Turkey.
Berlin is live and kicking. People are on the streets. Some are dancing the tango at parks, some are sun-bathing on the lawn… Meryem is no longer Hurrem; she is not a star; she is not even famous. She is an ordinary woman at the age of 31. She took me to cafes and parks.
She showed me her house. And she told me about the three years she spent in Turkey. She told me with her limited Turkish, sometimes in German and sometimes in English… She doesn’t mean to upset anyone.
She only wants to tell her own story and turn a new page… I have always found her to be sincere. I’ve always found her to be real. Read her story and see what you’ll feel…
You made a hasty departure from Turkey on May. Together with you, we had a new concept called “burnout syndrome” in our lives. How is your treatment going? Does it continue?
Yes it does. But the hard days are over. I’m better now. I cut my hair. I coloured it darker. I turned back to my original self. I began to ride a bicycle again. My therapy sessions will continue till the end of this year.
What kind of treatment?
For the first 15 days, I was under doctor supervision. They first used chemical medicines to pull me together and this was followed by herbal medicine.
Whole Turkey is waiting for you to come back. Is there such an option?
Now. Next year maybe. Who knows? But it’s not possible for me to come back for Hurrem anymore.
You are one of the most loved foreigners who came to Turkey. Alex and you were the most loved ones ever. Did you know that you were loved this much?
I didn’t know. I take pleasure in hearing about this. I also loved them very much.
What do you think your secret was? Being sincere and being as you are?
I don’t know. There are no secrets. Maybe because I didn’t lie and I was honest.
Do you feel safer in Berlin?
At first not. When I was at the Clinic for treatment, for example, the door rang and it frightened me. I was saying, “They came from Turkey to take me back.” I was so confused. This is why I came to Germany. Yes there are many good doctors and hospitals in Turkey. But my mother tongue in German. My condition was so serious that someone needed to understand me.
After they made a statement about you like, “ She asked for more money” why didn’t you say, “No this is not about that!”
There were so many news about me! 10 different news every single day… And I was there lying on the bed; I had no strength to answer any of them.
Only Allah (God) can decide
Alright, we were both there and we were not responsible about protection. But at that point, I realized that it was not my call to decide who stays or who dies. I’m only a human being. Only Allah can decide that. I refused abortion. Yes, my baby will not have a father but it was not my decision. It was the other party’s decision. He did not see it fit for this life. I respect his choice. And my choice is to be a mother. I could not say goodbye to a soul that Allah has sent to me. This is what I devoutly believe in.
Is walking out on a soap opera not a bad name for an actress?
I should say so! I would never have done it if I didn’t have it. Also there were only four parts left. But I didn’t even have the strength to play those. I was that bad. Otherwise I had hold on for three years; I could wait for four more parts. But I couldn’t.
What kind of a woman are you here in Berlin?
I’m no longer Hurrem; I’m the old me, the old Meryem. I had to say goodbye to Hurrem. So I said my good byes. I could no longer look into the mirror and see Hurrem. So I changed my physical appearance as well.
Was Hurrem the act that affected you the most in your life?
What is the difference in living in Germany and living in Turkey?
Here is my home. My friends and my family… I know the streets of this city like the palm of my hand; I feel myself good. I’m not famous here; I’m like anyone. And this is comforting. I’m also not a star. I’m a free woman at the age of 31 who will be a mother six months later.
I WANT PEACE DURING PREGNANCY
Do the people in Germany know you are so popular in Turkey?
No. Some know that I’m acting in a soap opera. Some knows that I was taking part in a soap opera and I told some “I will show you the DVD” but I delayed. I’m living a real life. The life we have as stars is actually a virtual life…
Do you realize how hard it is to be a single mom?
Yes. Sometimes I’m afraid. But the beautiful things I will leave by god’s permission will be worth it. I hope to find someone to marry in the future.
Where do you want to raise your baby?
If our faith, understanding of life and morality were the same with Can, I could move to Turkey for the baby. But since it was not like that, I will probably live in Germany. I already bought a small apartment in Berlin with the money I earned from “Muhtesem.” When I found out that I was pregnant, I decided to but a bigger apartment. After this interview, there will be lots of news about me but I’ll not make a statement, because I want to have a peaceful pregnancy period. I cannot respond to everything. I know the truth and Allah knows the truth and He is just so it is enough for me. There was lots of negative energy. I don’t want any more.
Maybe someday you can come together and make peace…
Forgiving is very important in life. We must forgive all. Otherwise it would be a big burden for us. I will of course forgive Can in terms of energy but it is impossible to re-unite…
Is it true that you committed suicide?
At Antalya Television Awards night, I threw the award on the ground. I was like crazy.
Were you alone in your room?
No, Can was with me. I wanted to jump from the balcony because it seemed like the only way out but I understand now that I was sick and it was very wrong, a sin; I must trust in God.
So how did you come to this point?
My work life, my personal life… It was just one thing after the other. I could not handle what I went through; now I have faith …
Was it your private life that triggered everything?
No. I can’t hold one person responsible for what happened. It would be wrong. Since I came to Turkey, I have made a lot of mistakes. I could not make a warm home environment for myself. I did not get an apartment. I said “I will be okay at a hotel.” This was wrong for example. And I began working like a machine. The first season was tough because like in every soap opera, the working order and the team were not settled yet. Also even though I kept saying that I am Turkish, this is a culture and language I am unfamiliar with. Insomnia ruins one’s psychology. I am also a perfectionist about work. I don’t want to forget dialogues. I had to work till morning for something Turkish actors take care of only in half an hour. The second season was difficult also. Meral (Okay) got sick. During her sickness the script and locations kept changing. No one is to blame but we were wasted as a team. We had tough times. Also despite the fact that there were people around me, I was alone…
I LOOKED FOR TRUST
Did you not have friends?
I had and did not have. There was no true friendship or trust. Also I’m a sensitive person. I have such a character. May be that’s why I can act well sometimes. I can live the character I’m playing. Hurrem is a difficult character and actually she is very far from me. I am not saying, “She is strong and I am weak”; I also have strong sides but we are completely different women with Hurrem. It was not easy trying to be her. And I gave it all for Hurrem. Therefore, when I now see a Hurrem picture, I am a little bit shaken. I actually forgot about Meryem and lived like Hurrem for the last three years. In the last months, I could not find the strength to be her. This made me very tired, because inside I was empty. I am a woman and like everyone else I dreamed of someone that could complete me. I was very impressed with someone in Turkey; he did not even now about my feelings. Of course nothing happened. I was alone. Actually I looked for trust; someone I can rely on…
And you couldn’t…
Yes, I couldn’t. There are many women like me. There is an unbalanced energy about men-women relations. There is a weird sexual energy and it is difficult to be a woman and this is a general thing in the world. You can’t be relaxed. You can’t trust people. You don’t understand what people are thinking. People are not like what they appear to be. You always need to protect yourself. Here in Germany I have friends from all fractions but in Turkey there is a different system. You are either friends with the high society or with people sitting at the cafes of Cihangir. There is a caste system. All of these made me tired. It was difficult. I could not figure out the culture.
CAN IS NOT THE ONLY REASON
How did you meet Can Ates?
I was working with Nebahat Çehre you know. She introduced us…
I would like to ask. Do you still love him?
No. Because I loved a man who did not actually exist. It was like loving a painting. The back of it was empty. But of course, I loved him and it was painful. During our one-year long relationship, I gave everything to him. I forgot about me. He always came first. I fell in love with the wrong person.
But you are the one who chose that wrong man!
That’s right. So I’m not saying “It is all his fault.” I never would. He is not the only reason that I got sick. I met him on the third year of my stay in Turkey. And I was not strong psychologically and physically. I felt very small inside and when I met him, I did not even think, “Who is this guy? Is he a good person? Is he good for me?” I did not look into it. I did not ask. Someone came, “Are you crazy? You should have googled him first!” I was very surprized. They said, “He would make you sad. He is only a playboy who is after beautiful women.” But I don’t even think about googling the people I meet.
‘I don’t wish bad for anyone’
I will tell you everything as it is. But please soften it when you are telling it to people. My intention is not to upset anyone. But I also want people to know what I experienced. I really went through some tough things. I want to tell what happened in my soul once and for all and close this period.
I WAS VERY LONELY
We met two-three times. My conscience told me “Just be friends!” I sensed that his life was not for me. When we were sitting at the terrace of his apartment in Bebek, I told him, “Let’s only be friends!” Until then nothing happened between us. He said, “Okay okay don’t worry.” Then my studio-hotel routine started again and I went back to my old life. To my loneliness… Then he sent me a message: “Would you like to go to dinner?” and he adds, “as friends”… Maybe I should not have accepted the invitation but I was so lonely. At least there was someone who liked me and who took an interest in me. I stopped listening to my conscience and went along. And our relationship began. Then I fell in love. In Germany my doctor asked me: “Why did you fall in love with this man? Did you ever think? If you were in Germany, would you still love him?” I did not have an answer to that. In Germany probably I would not have fallen in love with him…
How did you relationship proceed?
In the beginning, Can was very positive. I thought, “Great. This man will give me strength. He will protect me emotionally.”
I ALWAYS SUPPORTED
Did it not happen like that?
No, the opposite happened. After a while, his energy fell down. I was with a depressive, troubled person with problems. And suddenly I was like a nurse. I was sad for him. I said, “Actually he is very sensitive. No one knows him. He is at a difficult point in his life. I should support him. He is in a lot of pain.” And I supported him a lot. I tried to bring him together psychologically. I helped him with a lot of things. But of course this was the truth: I was already weak. When I also had his troubled, I became weak. But I tried not to show it. My life was not important for him. He was into himself. We began living his life only. And after 11 months we had come to an end.
What about the pregnancy?…
We did not have such a plan. It was by accident.
But there is something called birth control …
I cannot take hormones so I cannot use those pills. So it was risky and not safe. I did not feel myself comfortable and safe because we were not married. We thought nothing would happen but it did.
Did you want a baby?
Not when I am not married with someone and I still had a career; I had to continue with Hurrem. So no.
THERE IS A MISTAKE
Did you want to marry him?
No. I don’t believe in marriage that much. It is difficult to find a faithful, god-fearing person; you need to be like soul mates.
He did not want to?
No he did not.
Because this would limit his freedom. He liked going out with me to nice restaurants and cafes. But that is it. At the end of the night, I would go to the hotel and he would go home…
Was this the relationship you had in mind?
Of course not. We eat dinner and have a good time. We are together and then we go separate ways. I did not even have a place of my own. I was a “guest” in this relationship. I am thinking: may be he did not have a relationship with me. He just hang out. But of course he was glad to be seen with me. He carried me around like a purse.
He appeared he did not like it but he actually enjoyed when journalists took our pictures. We went to a café one day. It was full of journalists. I was in shock asking the café owner whether there is a back exit. Can was very angry with me. He said, “We will walk only 100 meters, there is no need for back exit.” I realized then that he wanted to be seen…
I RAN LIKE A WOUNDED ANIMAL
You were also trying to lose weight right? Did this demand come from the soap opera?
No. They were happy with my weight and figure. Can was not. He said, “I don’t find you attractive. It will be nice if you slim a little.” He said that I should not misunderstand him and he is telling this for my good and that I used to be slimmer and all. When I was with him, I did not have any self-confidence. He didn’t like what I wore. Of course I hated myself because I was so weak and desperate. I tried to go into a diet because he asked me to and I lost weight. Going back and forth between the hotel and studio for two years was such a trauma; breaking up with him made me go back to it. I was very unhappy for five-six days but for one day we were happy. I accepted being unhappy for that one day of happiness. And this made me worn out. I had no light in my eyes. And I was burn out.
I WAS DEVASTATED
What about pregnancy?…
We had a big fight in Bodrum. We were on a boat. Someone’s birthday… He just left all of a sudden. He left me there alone with no money and I don’t know anyone there. I don’t know how to get a cab. I have a girlfriend with me who just came from Germany. She was very surprized also. Then I went back to Istanbul and went to my hotel room. Thanks to Allah, my friend Anna was with me because I felt very upset. I felt nothing had any meaning and I prayed. I said, “I need to leave here to get rid of this chaos.” Because I was feeling like everyone wants evil from me and everyone is using me. I ran away like a 5 year old, actually like a wounded animal… I ran to save my life…
But then your ex gave an interview like your “burnout syndrome” was due to working conditions…
This is how it happened. He called me. He asked about my health. He said, “A very close journalist friend called.” I said, “She is getting treatment and getting better.” Then I saw the interview. He talked about my bad working conditions and that I didn’t like the money I got and I fainted at the studio. Lies.
I WAS MISUNDERSTOOD
But you did have an interview to Antalya television about working conditions …
Yes. I said that soap operas are very long. But Halit said the same thing a year ago as well as Okan. Of course they can express themselves better. Sometimes I can be misunderstood due to my poor Turkish. This is what I will say: I ran away to save my life…
I DID NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO TAKE THE BABY’S LIFE
How did you learn that you were pregnant?
Can came three times after I turned back to Germany. He was not with me every weekend. When he last visited me, it was the 20th of June. He said, “What happened to you? Did you gain weight?” I said that I am swelling. I am not thinking about pregnancy. Zero. He said, “Take a pregnancy test.” I mocked him. But I bought one and I was pregnant. Yes, I was pregnant!
WE WERE SHOCKED
What was his reaction?
We were both shocked, looking at one another because we didn’t expect it. We took our bikes and went to the park. When we sat down, he said, “I already have two kids, I don’t want this child. I don’t accept it. You need to have abortion. This is also the best for you right?” I was silent. He continued, “Also you know if someone finds out it would be bad. You would be sued by the company. They would think that you quit the soap opera because of the pregnancy. No one would believe you. This baby would ruin everything. You must have an abortion!”
What did you say?
I said, “I understand your situation but I want to think about this more. I can’t decide now.” Because I did not say, “I will have an abortion” he was panicked more and more and he got aggressive.
MY CONSCIENCE SAID NO
We went to psychologist friend of mine. Can and I sat down and talked. I told them both there: “I cannot do it. My heart and my conscience say ‘no’. This may sound strange but a soul wants to come to this world. I am not God to decide that someone lives or dies, only God can decide that. So I will not kill him.” Can was angry. He said, “You are exaggerating, some women have 10 abortions.” Then he said, “You planned this all. Now I see you true face.” So we broke up…
IT WAS OVER THAT DAY
Did you not think that bringing a fatherless child to this world is not right?
Yes but I didn’t decide that the child should live without a father. That day Can told even worse things to me. It was like he was spitting on me. That day, he was over for me. I knew that I could never trust him again. I was accepting all the difficulties I might endure from now on. I could not kill this baby. God wanted this baby. This is my faith and destiny. And it is my decision. I expect nothing from no one.
You don’t see him since 20th of June?
No he didn’t come here. He didn’t ask for me. He just texted. He told that he will not respect this child and he saw my real face. It was wrong for a woman to do this if the father did not want. Such messages… The first week was hard. But then I was okay. My baby and I will continue our path as in our destiny…
I DON’T HAVE ANY EXPECTATIONS
So you had a difficult period. Do psychologists say that pregnancy will be even more difficult?
They asked me, “Why do you want this child?” Because some women want the child to bring the man back or so the man will love them more. We discussed all these. They were also convinced. I don’t have any expectations. I am 31 years old. There are no guarantees in life; we can die any minute. I will continue my life with my baby as in my destiny…
* Courtesy Hurriyet ** Translated from Turkish to English by Meral C. Ozyurt