Two Constitutional Movements:
The Young Turks Revolution of 1908:
The Young Turk Revolution (July 1908) of the Ottoman Empire was the restoration of the Ottoman constitution of 1876 and ushering a multi-party politics in two stage electoral system (electoral law) under the Ottoman parliament by the Young Turks movement. Sultan Sultan Abdul Hamid II more than 3 decades earlier in 1876 established the constitutional monarchy, First Constitutional Era, only to last for two years before suspended. On 24 July 1908, Sultan Abdul Hamid II capitulated and announced the restoration, which establish the Second Constitutional Era
Once underground organizations (named committee, group, etc.) established (declared) their parties. Among them "Committee of Union and Progress" (CUP), and "Freedom and Accord Party" also known as the Liberal Union or Liberal Entente (LU) were major parties. There were smaller parties such as Ottoman Socialist Party. On the other end of the spectrum were the ethnic parties which included; People's Federative Party (Bulgarian Section), Bulgarian Constitutional Clubs, Jewish Social Democratic Labour Party in Palestine (Poale Zion), Al-Fatat, and Armenians organized under Armenakan, Hunchakian and Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). ARF, previously outlawed, became the main representative of the Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire, replacing the pre-1908 Armenian elite, which had been composed of merchants, artisans, and clerics who had seen their future in obtaining more privileges within the boundaries of the state's version of Ottomanism.
See also: Decline and modernization of the Ottoman Empire (1828-1908)
Countering the conservative politics of Abdulhamid's reign was the amount of social reform that occurred during this time period. The development of a more liberal environment in Turkey strengthened the culture, and also provided the grounds for the later rebellion. Abdulhamid's political circle was close-knit and ever changing. When the sultan abandoned the previous politics from 1876, he suspended the Ottoman Parliament in 1878. This left a very small group of individuals able to partake in politics in the Ottoman Empire.
In order to preserve the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, many Turks felt a need for modernization of the country. However, Abdulhamid's method of rule was not in line with the developing nation. The origins of the revolution lie in the organization of two political factions. Neither agreed with Abdulhamid's reign, but each had separate interests. The Liberals were the upper class groups in the Ottoman Empire, and desired a more relaxed form of government with little economic interference. They also pushed for more autonomy of the different ethnic groups, which became popular among foreigners in the empire. In a slightly lower class formed a different group- the Unionists. Members were of working class, and foremost wanted a secular government. These two groups initially formed out of the same intent- to return to the old constitution, but cultural differences divided them.
Members of the military tradition, military officers, among the Young Turks revolted. The defense of their shrinking state had become a matter of intense professional pride which caused to raise their arms against their state. The event that triggered the Revolution was a meeting in the Baltic port of Reval between the king of England and the tsar of Russia in June 1908. Though these imperial powers had experienced relatively few major conflicts between them over the previous hundred years, an underlying rivalry, otherwise known as "the Great Game", had exacerbated the situation to such an extent that resolution was sought. Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 brought shaky British-Russian relations to the forefront by solidifying boundaries that identified their respective control in Persia (eastern border of the Empire) and Afghanistan. Military officers fearing the meeting was a prelude to the partition of Macedonia, Army units in the Balkans mutinied against Sultan Abdülhamid II. A desire to preserve the state, not destroy it, motivated the revolutionaries.
The revolt began in mid-April (date is wrong) 1908 under Young Turk leadership. That year the Third Army in Macedonia marched against Constantinople. Major Ahmed Niyazi, fearing discovery of his political moves by an investigatory committee sent from the capital, decamped from Resen on July 3, 1908, with 200 followers demanding restoration of the constitution. The sultan's attempt to suppress this uprising failed due to the popularity of the movement among the troops themselves. Rebellion spread rapidly due to the ideology of Ottomanism.
On July 24, sultan Abdul Hamid II capitulated and announced restoration of the 1876 constitution. On July 23, pressure from these organizations caused Abdulhamid to return to the old 1876 constitution, and relinquish his power.
See also: Second Constitutional Era
The Ottoman general election, 1908 was put in effect during November and December of 1908. On the seventeeth of December, the Committee of Union Progress, a unionist organization, took majority in the parliament. Senate of the Ottoman Empire reconvened for the first time in over 30 years on December 17 1908 with the living members from the first constitutional area. Chamber of Deputies first session was on 30 January 1909. These developments caused a gradual creation of a new governing elite. In some communities, such as the Jewish (cf. Jews in Islamic Europe and North Africa and History of the Jews in Turkey), reformist groups emulating the Young Turks ousted the conservative ruling elite and replaced them with a new reformist one.
While the Young Turk Revolution had promised organizational improvement, once instituted, the government at first proved itself rather disorganized and ineffectual. Although these working-class citizens had little knowledge of how to control a government, they imposed their ideas on the Ottoman Empire. A small Liberalist victory, Kamil Pasha was appointed as the Grand Vizer. Kamil Pasha was a Liberal supporter and an ally to England. His policies helped to maintain balance between the Committee of Union Progress and the Liberals. Kâmil Pasha (5 August 1908 - 14 February 1909) and removed him from power. Mehmed Kâmil Paşa served again (29 October 1912 - 23 January 1913).
The Sultan maintained his symbolic position, and in April 1909 attempted to seize power (Ottoman countercoup of 1909) by stirring populist sentiment throughout the Empire. The Sultan's bid for a return to power gained traction when he promised to restore the caliphate, eliminate secular policies, and restore the sharia-based legal system. On 13 April 1909 Army units revolted, joined by masses of theological students and turbaned clerics shouting, "We want Sharia", and moving to restore the Sultan's absolute power. The 31 March Incident, on April 24, 1909 reversed the actions and restore the parliament by the Hareket Ordusu commanded by Mahmud Shevket Pasha. The deposition of Sultan Abdul Hamid II in favor of Mehmed V followed.
The Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1906
The Persian Constitutional Revolution or Iranian Constitutional Revolution (Persian: مشروطیت Mashrūtiyyat, or انقلاب مشروطه Enghelāb-e Mashrūteh) (also known as the Constitutional Revolution of Iran) took place between 1905 and 1907. The revolution led to the establishment of a parliament in Persia (Iran) during the Qajar Dynasty.
The Revolution opened the way for cataclysmic change in Persia, heralding the modern era. It saw a period of unprecedented debate in a burgeoning press. The revolution created new opportunities and opened up seemingly boundless possibilities for Persia's future. Many different groups fought to shape the course of the Revolution, and all sections of society were ultimately to be in some way changed by it. The old order, which Nasser-al-Din Shah Qajar had struggled for so long to sustain, finally died, to be replaced by new institutions, new forms of expression, and a new social and political order.
The system of constitutional monarchy created by the decree of Mozaffar ad-Din Shah that was established in Persia as a result of the Revolution ultimately came to an end in 1925 with the dissolution of the Qajar dynasty and the ascension of Reza Shah Pahlavi to the throne.
The movement did not end with the Revolution but was followed by the Constitutionalist movement of Gilan.
With the first provision (the fundamental law) signed by Muzzafir al-Din just days before his death, Iran saw legislative reform vital to their goal of independence from British and Russian imperialism. The three main groups of the coalition seeking a constitution were the bazaar merchants, ulama, and a small faction of radical reformers. These groups shared the goal of ending royal corruption and stopping the dominance of foreign powers. Revolutionaries argued that role of the shah was once again being used to keep the Shah, Qajar, and the other aristocrats wealthy at the expense of surrendering the country's resources and economy. They argued that whilst Iran's oil industry was sold to the British, tax advantages on import/export and manufactured textiles destroyed Iran's economy formerly supported by bazaar merchants. Muzzafir al-Din accumulated a fortune in foreign debt while selling off assets to repay the interest, instead of investing in Iran. This rift founded Iran's constitutional revolt. The fundamental law gave the elected legislature a final approval over all loans, concession, and budget. Further power was diverted from the shah with the supplementary fundamental law passed a few days later giving power over appointing ministers, and later a committee of mujtahids was introduced to confirm new laws abide by the shari'ah. Despite the ulama's best efforts towards independence from external dominance, in 1907 Britain and Russia capitalized on Iran's weak government and signed the entente which divided Iran among the two leaving a neutral zone in the center of the country. The end of this constitutional period came when members of the Majlis in the remaining neutral zone of Tehran dissolved under the issue of equal rights for non-Muslims, Russia then invaded Tehran and captured the city. While Iran did gain a constitution, the goal of Iranian independence was not achieved by the revolts.
Weakness and extravagance continued during the brief reign of Mozaffar ad-Din Shah (1896-1907). He often relied on his chancellor to manage his decentralized state. His dire financial situation caused him to sign many concessions to foreign powers, on an expanding list of trade items ranging from weapons to tobacco. The established noble classes, religious authorities, and educated elite began to demand a curb on royal authority and the establishment of the rule of law as their concern over foreign, and especially Russian, influence grew.
He had also taken out several major loans from Russia and Britain to pay for his extravagant lifestyle and the costs of the central government. In 1900 the Shah financed a royal tour of Europe by borrowing 22 million rubles from Russia. Iranian customs receipts served as collateral.
Bast at British Embassy, 1906
In 1905 protests broke out over the collection of Persia tariffs to pay back the Russian loan for Mozaffar ad-Din Shah's royal tour. In December 1905, two Persian merchants were punished in Tehran for charging exorbitant prices. They were bastinadoed (a humiliating and very painful punishment where the soles of one's feet are caned) in public. An uprising of the merchant class in Tehran ensued, with merchants closing the bazaar. The clergy following suit as a result of the alliance formed in the 1892 Tobacco Rebellion.
The two protesting groups sought sanctuary in a mosque in Tehran, but the government violated this sanctuary and entered the mosque and dispersed the group. This violation of the sanctity of the mosque created an even larger movement which sought refuge in a shrine outside Tehran. On January 12, 1906 the Shah capitulated to the demonstrators agreeing to dismiss his prime minister and to surrender power to a new "house of justice," (the forerunner to the parliament). The Basti (protesters who take sanctuary in mosques) returned from the mosque in triumph, riding royal carriages and being hailed by a jubilant crowd.
In a scuffle in early 1906 the Government killed a seyyed (descendant of the prophet Muhhamed). A more deadly skirmish followed a short time later when Cossacks killed 22 protesters and injured 100. Bazaar again closed and the Ulama went on strike, a large number of them taking sanctuary in the holy city Qom. Many merchants went to the British embassy which agreed to offer protection to Basti in the grounds of their legation.
Creation of the constitution
Main article: Persian Constitution of 1906
In the summer of 1906 approximately 12,000 men camped out in the gardens of the British Embassy. Many gave speeches, many more listened, in what has been called a `vast open-air school of political science` studying constitutionalism. It is here that the demand for a majles (parliament; also means gathering in Persian; pronounced "Madj-less") was born, the goal of which was to limit the power of the Shah. In August 1906, Mozaffar ad-Din Shah agreed to allow a parliament, and in the fall, the first elections were held. In all, 156 members were elected, with an overwhelming majority coming from Tehran and the merchant class.
October 1906 marked the first meeting of the majles, who immediately gave themselves the right to make a constitution, thereby becoming a Constitutional Assembly. The Shah was getting old and sick, and attending the inauguration of the parliament was one of his last acts as king. Mozaffar ad-Din Shah's son Muhammed Ali, however, was not privy to constitutionalism. Therefore they had to work fast, and by December 31, 1906 the Shah signed the constitution, modeled primarily from the Belgian Constitution. The Shah was from there on "under the rule of law, and the crown became a divine gift given to the Shah by the people." Mozaffar ad-Din Shah died five days later.
Execution of "Constitutional Imperial Government" followers by Cossack soldiers, Tabriz, Iran
Within the decade following the establishment of the new majles a number of critical events took place. Many of these events can be viewed as a continuation of the struggle between the constitutionalists and the Shahs of Persia, many of whom were backed by foreign powers against the majles.
The following January Shah Muhammad Ali, the 6th Qajar Shah, came to power. He moved to "exploit the divisions within the ranks of the reformers" and eliminate the Majles. In August 1907 an Anglo-Russian agreement divided Iran into a Russian zone in the North and a British zone in the South. The British switched their support to Shah, abandoning the Constitutionalists.
Persia tried to keep free from Russian influence through resistance via the majles to the Shah's policies.
Majles brought in Morgan Shuster to reform treasury against initial desires of Russia and the Shah. Russia expelled him.
Reza Shah seized power and curtailed the power of the Majles.