The Imperial Reform Edict (Ottoman Turkish: ? ?, Islâhat Hatt-? Hümâyûnu; Modern Turkish: Islâhat Fermân?) was a February 18, 1856 edict of the Ottoman government and part of the Tanzimat reforms. The decree from Sultan Abdülmecid I promised equality in education, government appointments, and administration of justice to all regardless of creed. The decree is often seen as a result of the influence of France and Britain, which assisted the Ottoman Empire against the Russians during the Crimean War (1853-1856) and the Treaty of Paris (1856) which ended the war.
Hatt-? Hümayun was a promise by the Sultan to his citizens, subjects. Sultan promised to be held responsible for the constitution of the "Provincial Councils" and "Communal Councils" and the fairness of this process and the results. In matters concerning all the subjects of the State (related with Hatt-? Hümayun), the spiritual leader of every congregation, along with its official appointed for one year by the government, will participate in the negotiations of `Meclisi Valay-i Ahkam-i Adliyye', a law court established in 1837 to deal with cases of high officials. Sultan also promised (personal judge of fairness) the freedom of voting in the councils.
These goals are promised by the Sultan and the final consideration is in him; in meaning Hatt-? Hümayun is the Sultan's ideas.
Hatt-? Hümayun "unites all the previous reforms" (beginning with Edict of Gülhane) and applies previous reform to all the subjects of the Empire, without distinction of class or religion, for the security of their persons and property and the preservation of their honor.
Hatt-? Hümayun did not release the government from its previous obligations; spiritual immunities (Christian millets or other non-Muslim protectorates). Regarding these responsibilities review process established under each millet such that they form a commission composed ad hoc of members of its own body to give formulate (discuss) and submit the reforms required by the progress of Ottoman civilization.
Hatt-? Hümayun granted that all forms of religion freely worshiped, no subject hindered in the exercise of the religion, nor be in any way annoyed. No one shall be compelled to change their religion.
Hatt-? Hümayun brought accountability, such that the Patriarchs, Metropolitans, Archbishops, Bishops, and Rabbis began to take an oath on their entrance into office according to a form agreed upon (content of the oath is verified by the state), which they will be responsible for honoring their oath. In to build trust (prevent bribery); the income of these people (in public work) is replaced by fixed revenues of the Patriarchs and heads of communities, and by the allocation of allowances and salaries equitably proportioned to the importance, the rank, and the dignity of the different members of the clergy.
Hatt-? Hümayun granted the full freedom of the repair, according to their original plan, of buildings set apart for religious worship, for schools, for hospitals, and for cemeteries; if these activities are performed at "non-mixed communities" under the towns, small boroughs and villages. To prevent the destruction of historical architectures, and keep track of public investments the plans of these different buildings, in case of their new erection, must, after having been approved by the Patriarchs or heads of communities, be submitted to Imperial order, or make known its observations upon them within a certain time.
Hatt-? Hümayun granted that each community have equal power on the repair according to the original plan of the buildings for religious worship, schools, hospitals, and cemeteries; only if these activities are performed at "mixed communities" of the towns, small boroughs and villages. The authorities (decision making) in mixed populations use imperial system to pronounce a sovereign decision (imperial system visioned as a buffer).
Hatt-? Hümayun granted the government the responsibility of the formation of roads and canals to increase the facilities of communication and the sources of the wealth.
Hatt-? Hümayun granted the organization of new Code to determine how the works of public utility can be supported (raised from private and special taxes levied in the provinces). These funds could only be used to benefit of the establishment of ways of communication by land and sea.
Hatt-? Hümayun granted that all the subjects, without distinction, shall be received into the Civil and Military Schools. Every community is authorized to establish Public Schools of Science, Art, and Industry. However, in these public schools the methods of instruction and the choice of professors in schools of this class shall be under the control of a "Mixed Council of Public Instruction (Council of Public Instruction)" (Education ministry).
Hatt-? Hümayun granted that all commercial, correctional, and criminal suits between Muslims and Christian or other non-Muslim subjects, or between Christians or other non-Muslims of different sects, shall be referred to "mixed tribunals". The proceedings were in public. The parties were confronted. Production of witnesses was granted which the testimonies were accepted upon an oath. Suits relating to civil affairs publicly tried. Civil affairs resolved before the Mixed Provincial Councils with the Governor and Judge.
Hatt-? Hümayun granted that there will be formulation of the new Codes; penal, correctional, and commercial laws, and rules of procedure and they were translated and published in all the languages.
Hatt-? Hümayun granted that the reform of the penitentiary (houses of detention, punishment, or correction) and other establishments. Activities had to reconcile the rights of humanity and with those of justice. Corporal punishment is abolished administered.
Hatt-? Hümayun granted that police organization (policies and regulations) can not deny the guarantees for the safety of person and property. After the revision (defines a commission) officers are responsible. The police force was organized in capital, provincial towns and in the rural districts in separate organizations.
Although the goal of the Hatt-? Hümayun was to bring equality among Ottoman citizens, the process was perceived more as one intended to please Europe. The biggest change was the Ottoman State's acceptance of the notion of "minorities". Previously, Muslim government organizations (civil and military schools) begin to accept non-Muslim citizens. The official state language principle (Ottoman Turkish for written communication) was broken, and the Empire became a multi-language system. Patriarchates began to administer justice on the state level, which could be said to weaken the judicial sovereignty of the State.
Some rules were cheered by the Non-Muslims
Some rules were not cheered by the Non-Muslims
Hatt-? Hümayun in bringing equality among (millet), created a discontent to the Armenian Patriarchate. Before the Hatt-? Hümayun Armenian Patriarch was not only the spiritual leader of the community, but its secular leader (all Armenians, Armenian nation) as well. The Armenians ("Armenian nationals") wanted to abolish oppression by the nobility, and draw up a new `National Regulation', which limited the powers of Patriarch whose jurisdiction was extended to 50 regions and could at will dismiss the Bishops. Finally the Council accepted the draft regulation on May 24, 1860, and presented it to the Babiali. The Babiali ratified it with some minor changes, with a firman on March 17, 1863, and made it effective. In 1863 the Armenian National Constitution (Ottoman Turkish:"Nizâmnâme-i Millet-i Ermeniyân") was Ottoman Empire approved form of the "Code of Regulations" composed of 150 articles drafted by the "Armenian intelligentsia", which defined the powers of Patriarch (position in Ottoman Millet) and newly formed "Armenian National Assembly". Armenian Patriarch with the sharing of his powers with the Armenian National Assembly and limitations brought by Armenian National Constitution perceived the changes as erosion of its community.
During the fall of the Ottoman Empire, foreign powers often influenced the government by means of foreign loans and aid as well as exploitation of the millet system and its groups of Jewish and Christian minorities.
Selim Deringil, Bogazici University
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