Orphans and Destitute Children in the Late Ottoman Empire

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After the emergence of reform houses, the young were prohibited from even playing rowdy games, shouting, whistling, throwing snowballs, or sliding on wet grass or ice. As apparent from the harshness of the stance, belief that a modern state should both protect children from danger and protect society from dangerous children was becoming established in Ottoman administrative discourse and practice as well. Many of the reform houses, though giving priority to orphans and destitute children, were not reserved for them alone and provided care for children whose parents were indigent.

In fact, the institutional world of children was not one defined by rigid boundaries; the institutions created could not always accommodate their intended populations.

This was a world of poor, needy children in flux, some finding, or being forced into, institutional situations with others outside the doors of institutions. In , in his report to the sultan, grand vizier Saffet Pasha argued that hundreds of orphans of the Rumelian refugees, who had come to Istanbul as a result of the war, were forced into begging He claimed that before the Russian attack it was impossible to encounter a single beggar from Rumelia in the capital city So it was deemed necessary to guide them into a proper livelihood as quickly as possible, before their age became an impediment Following his report, two orders were given on 8 and 12 December for the collection of refugee orphans begging in the streets of Istanbul As a result, child beggars were collected and 34 of them were put into the reform house of Istanbul, while the rest were handed over to the Imperial Arsenal In this picture, the child, who was not liable for his conduct, was to be saved and normalized by a form of state interventionism.

The state claimed jurisdiction over children and assumed the right to intervene for purposes of providing protection and welfare.

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Therefore, the Ministry of the Interior sent orders to the provinces in order to prohibit the migration of the needy and poor inhabitants of these areas to other areas Here the emphasis was on the role of third parties adults in charge of these minors in corrupting the morals of children and leading them in anti-social directions. There are also examples of individuals sentenced for leading minors into begging, in compliance with the Law on Vagabonds and Suspected Persons Despite a series of official discussions, decisions, and orders to open such an institution for employing able-bodied adults, sheltering and providing for the crippled, as well as educating child beggars, the government did not manage to realize the project Yet, their stance regarding the security, sanitation and beauty of urban space was quite clear: a modern city meant the exclusion and incarceration of unattended children.

Yet, the fourth element constituting the population of these institutions was underage criminals. Each boy was provided with a jacket, a pair of trousers, and a fez for outdoor usage, in addition to indoor working clothes Art. In a sense, reformers imposed adult dress codes and behaviour in urban areas and even the basics of childhood — like playing games — were denied these children.

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Though immorality covered a wide array of behaviour, such as running away from home or associating with bad company, it clearly referred to sexual precocity. Lower-class girls were seen as targets of sexual predators; and that danger garnered special attention when those girls occupied public spaces spaces outside the home, school, or factory. Interestingly, the necessity of opening reform houses for girls was tied to the morality, order, and safety of the urban space, rather than affection and pity for the girls.

Girls were in danger because of their sexuality, while that same sexuality posed a corrupting threat to society in general. The reform houses would raise new generations of talented and skilled workers and ensure the rejuvenation of certain traditional urban arts and crafts. In other words, they would play a corrective role for the rehabilitation of the domestic economy. The decline of artisanal production, especially in the traditionally strong industries, was a very real concern for the administrative and intellectual elite of the Empire. We used to possess many workshops to respond our all sorts of needs.

Reform houses were to transform vagrant children into responsible and dependable workers.


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Some time ago, my friends and I began to learn how to cut and stitch shoes. I made the shoes and took the coin. While your newspaper reported on this matter in its thirteenth issue, your report in fact stated that I used a machine to do some of the stitching on those shoes.

New Texts Out Now: Nazan Maksudyan, Orphans and Destitute Children in the Late Ottoman Empire

That is not true — no machines at all are used in making that kind of shoe. Thus, your report made me sorry, because my prestige among my friends was being trampled upon. The formal education was limited to two hours a day of basic education in reading, writing, and arithmetic These institutions had proper workshops for trades, with an apprenticeship structure of teaching, wherein more advanced students taught less advanced ones As typical examples, the boys in Izmir were taught tailoring, shoe-making, rug weaving, cabinetmaking, and printing In Aleppo, boys were only trained in tailoring and shoe-making, in order to manufacture the uniforms and shoes of the municipal police It was also common to send boys and girls to ateliers or factories in the cities to be trained in specific trades.

In its later years, the orphanage provided for the needs of several governmental institutions and the local community The industrial orphanage of Kosovo also produced shoes and uniforms for officers and civil servants of the province Some of the industrial orphanages were specifically founded to supply labourers for large industrial complexes and factories. The boys in Ruse were trained to become blacksmiths and cartwrights for the provincial coach company, technicians for the new naval repair yard, sailors for the provincial steamship company, typesetters for the printing presses, and railroad employees on the Ruse-Varna line.

The girls in Ruse, for their part, worked for the cloth factory, producing fabric for the army.

Ottoman Children and Youth during World War I by Nazan Maksudyan - hiqukycona.tk

The broadcloth factory adjacent to the Sofia Orphanage was a profitable enterprise too, manufacturing 30, meters of broadcloth a year Those who were punished for misbehavior in the institution were also responsible for cleaning the toilets In line with recent developments in educating and employing orphans and destitute children in arts and crafts, the ordinance stressed the necessity of vocational training for the development and modernization of the country In fact, the pioneering educational reforms of the Tanzimat era were in the areas of technical-vocational, professional and informal public education The discourse around the institution was mostly centred on the modernization, beautification, and security of the cities and the progress, welfare, and self-sufficiency of the economy.

For that reason, the expertise the state relied on was that of provincial governors, municipal heads, police chiefs, and reform-minded statesmen, who played a significant role in the adaptation and implementation of European discourses on urban governance, as well as in problematizing not yet manifest juvenile delinquency. Yet, as an indirect but crucial outcome, the reformers wanted to make these children productive and useful in artisanal positions, as a means of re inclusion in the society.

The establishment of reform houses was considered not only as a means of solving a public order problem, but also represented a means of re-integration, of re-shaping the civil responsibility among those children who had either lost or never embraced it.


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Thus, the incarceration and education of vagrants and destitute children was conceived of from different angles: they were collected from the streets as unwanted, undesirable elements of urban life, for the reformers believed that they could recycle this excluded sector and generate beneficial results. Rothman and Jacques Donzelot have emphasized the institutionalization of children under disciplinary conditions.

Offices of a similar nature were also set up in other government departments. The translation chambers had a very significant function in the context of Tanzimat — the series of political, social, and institutional reforms that marked a gradual but conscious shift towards a Western outlook.

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They served as the most important institutional centers for the penetration of European ideas mainly through French and for the education of the most distinguished statesmen, thinkers, scholars and literary innovators of the time. Knopf, , p. Since there had been no preparation to ready the courts for prosecution, the execution of the law was postponed one year. The first juvenile courts were established in Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara and Trabzon and began work on 5 October Based on their research in the district in the year , the police also discovered that most of the beggars were orphans of refugee origin.

The sergeant also argued that each ship coming into the harbors of Istanbul was carrying a new boatload of beggars yeni bir dilenci kafilesi. In that sense, the dress code that is described here refers to boys' clothing. That's why the institution is also considered one of his achievements. For clerks of Justice or scribes, a three-year middle school was opened in along with the first school of translators of modern languages.

For training foremen or technicians, a School of Mining was opened in She has published several articles on the history of children and youth in the late Ottoman Empire. Her current research focuses on Ottoman children during the First World War. You can suggest to your library or institution to subscribe to the program OpenEdition Freemium for books. New citations to this author.

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New articles related to this author's research. Email address for updates. My profile My library Metrics Alerts. Sign in. Ottoman social history history of children and youth. Articles Cited by. Journal of Historical Sociology 21 4 , , International Journal of Middle East Studies 43 3 , , Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association 3 1 , , The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 2 3 , , Le Temps de l'histoire, , Articles 1—20 Show more.

Help Privacy Terms. Hearing the voiceless-seeing the invisible: orphans and destitute children as actors of social, economic, and political history in the late Ottoman Empire N Maksudyan.


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