Panel 7d. Freedoms, Nationalism and Society in the Ottoman Empire

Chair: Professor Barbara Roberson, Salzburg University

Provincial Threat and Freedom of the Press: Sulayman Faydi’s ‘al-Iqaz’ in Basra, 1909
Annie Greene, University of Chicago

Following the restoration of the Ottoman constitution and parliament in 1908, the private press witnessed an explosion across the empire. Alongside the idea of more participatory government, came the idea of more people participating in the political, intellectual, and literary public that the press offered. Simultaneously, most of the press censorship was lifted, giving space for old and new journals alike to bask in the freedom of the limitation of absolutism in all of the empire’s languages. This rosy sentiment did not last long because the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) began to get involved in local politics in places in the empire where reformist individuals and institutions began to counter the CUP’s centralising policies. This paper is an examination into the freedom of the press in Ottoman Basra in 1909, where the relative freedom of the editor and newspaper-owner Sulayman Faydi was both an indication of specific tensions with the press and more general problems with corruption of ministers, the disconnect between the center and the provinces, and the clash between the CUP and other individual streams of reform outside of it. Faydi opened his ‘al-Iqaz’ (“Reveille”), a bilingual journal, in Basra in 1909, but several months later it was closed due to censorship. He petitioned Istanbul to reopen the journal, and upon success, wrote about the ordeal and published it in ‘al-Iqaz.’ To explore this moment of liberation and tyranny, I utilise Faydi’s memoirs, excerpts of ‘al-Iqaz,’ and memoranda from the Ottoman Archives.

Ottoman Empire as an International Society
Professor Barbara Roberson, Salzburg University

This paper explores the issues thrown up when considering the Ottoman Empire as an International Society. The results of research of scholars labeled the English School (ES) – Bull, Butterfield, Watson, Wight – argued that overtime the complexity of developments in Europe produced a society of states and through this emerged particular norms, values and institutions which later became global. The first issue is the idea that the complex manner within which the Ottoman Empire becomes constructed contributes to it ultimately being considered as an International Society. The view of the ES scholars was that the Empire was not part of European International Society. One observation is that the Empire had to be destroyed rather than disintegrating through a lack of belief in its purpose such was the glue that held it together. Secondly, if one pushes the ‘arrival of the Anarchical Society’ back to 1492, the Ottoman Empire loomed large in this period onwards. These 400 years were a stable period before Bull’s post Second World War analysis of the Anarchical Society. The enveloping of what becomes the very different provinces of the Empire and the manner in which each was treated and knitted together contributes to the idea of an evolving international society moving through very different contexts. Nonetheless, there has been considerable questioning of the focus of European International Society with regard to the outside world. The focus here is to elaborate on the case for the Ottoman Empire as an International Society and the later ramifications this has had.

Living Equally In The Empire Of Differences: Muslim And Non-Muslim Women In Trabzon
Aslı Deliktaş, Karadeniz Tecnichal University

Ottoman Empire had preserved its existence for approximately 600 years with its legal governance upon the individuals with different languages, religions and cultures living within its borders. The Ottoman Empire managed to last that long thanks to integrating these differences with tolerance. The understanding of human-centric equality and justice present in the Islamic law is the factor behind the policy of tolerance followed by the state. Islamic law and Ottoman regulations approach to the individuals as equal human beings, instead of following gender-based approaches. This approach can be observed during pre-modern times when Ottoman women were under more protection, compared to cultures with other legal systems. The protection with law and regulation brought freedom to access legal right and facilities. Both Muslim and non-Muslim women had no fear to face even their family members to get what is approved by the laws of the state and what is under guarantee within the lawful environment. Differences in terms of language, religion and culture are significant for the liberation of the justice, instead of becoming an obstacle before access to justice. This is at such an extend that non-Muslim women using community courts had also right to use Ottoman courts. This study discusses the status of Muslim and non-Muslim women whom were exploiting the law system in defining and liberating the social entities in the 17th Century Ottoman world. It also exemplifies that ethnical and religious differences were not posing an obstacle before the access to Ottoman justice with data presented with Judicial Records.

Living together in the quarters of a city: Non-Muslims in the kadiregisters of Trabzon in the second half of the 17th century
Kenan Inan, Karadeniz Tecnichal University

Ottoman Kadi registers are one of the most important sources for writing the social, economic and cultural history of the Ottoman Empire. The Kadi registers consist of not only orders from the Porte but also the details of disputes between local people brought before the court. In addition to that the kadi functioned like a notary public, so that many everyday contacts were also recorded. The court records, in terms of urban history, have contributed to a better understanding of various groups and institutions in the Ottoman society as well as the provincial life. From the time of its annexation in 1461 till the second half of the 17th century, Trabzon continued to be an important Ottoman city in the Black Sea region. The city continued to have a considerable amount of non-Muslim population in and around the city. Of course the problems of the 17th century were felt in Trabzon by every individual to some extent. In this paper we will try to find answers to some questions like; How far the non-Muslim community in Trabzon penetrated into the social and economic life of Trabzon? How did they get on with the implementations of the Ottoman administration? Were they free to use kadi court and how frequent they use the Kadi court? How did they live in the city’s quarters separate or door to door? We believe that the proposed paper will provide new data for better understanding of non-Muslims community’s living environment in an Ottoman city.

Liberty and freedom? A new look at the significance of the 1908 Young Turk Revolution on the practices of press censorship in the “Bilād al-Shām”
Till Grallert, Orient-Institut Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon

The last decades of Ottoman rule are often considered as two distinct periods divided by the Young Turk Revolution of July 1908 and marked by diametrically opposed approaches to liberty and the freedom of speech. Indeed, the number of newspapers published in Beirut and Damascus during the Hamidian era remained small and highly stable, while after the restoration of the constitution, the number of published titles exploded. But between 1908 and 1914 individual papers were rather short-lived. To explain these differences, many scholars recount the dominant narrative of Hamidian authoritarianism versus Young Turk liberalism. Based on the analysis of eight Beiruti and Damascene newspapers between 1875 and 1914, Ottoman laws, and files from the Ottoman archives, the proposed paper shows that while in July 1908 the Young Turks abolished the regulatory, and even repressive, press and printing laws and while article 12 of the constitution granted freedom of the press, none of the publishers of the new periodicals in Damascus and Beirut failed to obtain the now officially unnecessary permit for publication. Within a few months, the new regime began a new crackdown on an increasingly critical press and only one year after the revolution new regulations were promulgated that introduced a much stricter censorship regime than ever before. I therefore argue that these new regulations and their actual implementation were one of the major reasons for the plethora of short-lived papers and suggest that instead of two periods divided by the Young Turk revolution, one encounters an ever-accelerating expansion of the state and its institutions into society from the 1880s onwards with a short interruption of one year, if at all, between July 1908 and July 1909—both in legal theory and the implementation of press laws in the Ottoman ‘Bilād al-Shām’.

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