BIO: Yavuz Aykan is a historian of early modern Ottoman Empire with a particular focus on the Islamic law and social practices. He earned his PhD from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris (2012), under the direction of Gilles Veinstein. He was postdoctoral researcher at Humboldt University in Berlin and at the Centre for Advanced Study, Law as Culture Program in Bonn. At present he is a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Nantes, France.


ABSTRACT: This paper explores the judicial authority of the Ottoman provincial governor (vâli) of the Diyarbekir province in early eighteenth century. It focuses on the legal procedural relationship between the governor and the qadis of both the city of Amid, the provincial capital, and the city of Harput, one of the sub-districts of the province. Central to my inquiry is the role of the Provincial Council (Divân-ı Amid) headed by the governor played in the administration of justice and how it handled local petitions to the governor. My research is based on the information found in court records (sicils) of Amid and Harput.     


Copies of commandments (buyuruldus) issued by the governor and petition letters (arzuhals) as found in the court records of Harput indicate that the governor systematically pushed the qadis and local notables (ayâns) to respond to injustices committed in Harput. These documents reveal that the governor became involved in the process of law enforcement primarily by instructing the qadi of Harput to file specific types of lawsuits in the presence of an agent (mübaşir) representing the governor. In the case of petitions, the governor could ask the qadi to review cases (in the form of trial de novo) that had already been decided by the latter.


Contrary to what has been argued in recent Ottoman historiography, I argue that this crystallization of the siyasa power of the provincial governor did not stem from a judicial hierarchy in the Ottoman legal structures that positioned the governor above the qadi. My paper rather sheds light on the institutionalization of a form of mazalim justice administered both by the qadi and the governor at provincial level in the context of the rapid changes that took place in the political economy of the Empire in the 17th and the 18th centuries. In doing so, my paper characterizes the judicial division of labor between the governor and the qadi and defines their respective responsibilities in mazalim procedure in the eighteenth-century Ottoman context.