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29 May 2009

2852) Turkish-Armenian Relations In Develi According To The Sharia Court Records

Instructor Mehmet SÜME
Abant Izzet Baysal University Gölköy / Bolu


Records which are accumulated by the courts are called Sharia Records. These records include the verdicts, orders and any kind of informative written documents of the courts. These documents were analyzed and verified by the judge and finally the summaries of these documents were recorded in the court register.1 Sharia records are important documents which shed light on the administrative and the functional structures of administrations.2 We can obtain a variety of information pertaining to the administrative, social and economical structures of any place we want to focus on, thanks to the Sharia Records. . .

In Book 42, H. 1312-1313 (AD 1894-1895) in the Develi Sharia Records, 45 out of 192 documents belong to non-Muslims. Four of these documents belong to Greeks who lived in the Aygösten Quarter, and the remaining 41 documents are of Armenians. The documents of Armenians are related to inheritance, trade exchanges and the appoint-

1 Pakalın M. Zeki, Osmanlı Tarih Deyimleri ve Terimleri Sözlüğü, v. III, Istanbul, 1983, p. 343
2 Akgündüz Ahmet, Şer’iye Sicilleri , v. I, İstanbul, 1998, p. 12-16

ment of people who will deal with their case in the court. These 192 documents recorded during a one-year period do not include any events of a conflict between Armenians and Turks. Furthermore, they provide us with examples of the good relations between Armenians and Turks. The main intention of this study is to exemplify “the art of living together” in Develi during the Ottoman Empire.


Non-Muslims were governed by the Ottoman State according to the millet system and were called zimmi.3 The millet system gave non-Muslims the right of religion and prayer and insured their living on their own properties.4 The lands were allocated to the different non-Muslim groups according to their religion and the people were referred to as a “nation.” Further, the Armenians were separated according to their religious sect as Gregorian, Protestant and Catholic.5

In the Develi Sharia Records, Book 42, individuals in most of the Armenian-related records are described as “Of the Armenian land of Teba-i Devleti Aliye” (a general term for the Ottoman subjects). Only in Items 178 and 179 are the individuals described as “Of the Protestant land of Teba-ı Devleti Aliye.” The places where the majority of Armenians lived and the sects to which they belonged were not mentioned in the records. However, the Armenians living in Develi were known to be Gregorian6.

Thus, the words “Armenian people” in the records refers to the Gregorian Armenians, which made up the majority of Armenians in Develi.

Another point is the missionary activities in the area. In 1860, a group of 20 people who were linked to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions came to Everek, which was the center of Develi. In

3 Pakalın M. Zeki, age, p 663
4 İlber Ortaylı, ““Osmanlı İmparatorluğunda Millet Sistemi”, Türkler, v.10, p.216
5 Gülnihal Bozkurt, Gayri Müslim Osmanlı Vatandaşlarının Hukuki Durumu, 1989, p.9
6 Şakir Batmaz, “1860-1870 Tarihli Amerikan Board Misyoner Teşkilatı Raporlarında Develi Everek”, Bütün Yönleriyle Develi I. Bilgi Şöleni, October 26-28, 2002, p. 727

the reports of the organization in 1861-1862, the activities in the region are explained; it was mentioned that the public had a positive attitude towards these activities. However, in the reports written in years 1863-1864, things changed; it was pointed out that their desired success did not come to fruition. After a four-year effort by this organization, only one person over the age of 60 chose to become Protestant and donate his belongings to the mission. It can be concluded that Protestantism did not appeal to the Armenians living in Develi because Develi was not mentioned in all the reports by the Board missionaries in the year 18647. Also, the fact that there was only one person referred to as Protestant in the record proves this point.


In the record number 42, there are documents indicating that Armenians used to take some cases to the Sharia Court when they had a case related to the appointment of their heirs and the distribution of their fortune.

a) In document 20 (dating back to H. 8 Şevval 1312, April 4, 1894) a woman called Hatun living in the Kilise Street took the case to the Sharia Court when the properties and animals she inherited from her father were distributed among her mother, Gülürad, and her brothers, Agop, Andiriyas and Egiya. She gave one of the judges Mumcuyan Ohannes Efendi the right to follow the case. 8

b) In document 12 (March 4, 1894), a woman called Serbenk who lived in Fenese Yukarı Street applied to the court dealing with issue of inheritance and reported that her husband, Tenviroğlu Serkiz, left the village and disappeared 1 year ago. Serbenk claimed that she and her son lived in poverty and asked for money which would be enough for them to make a living. After the witnesses verified the case, the judge decided to give them 2 kuruş from the money that Serkiz left.9

7 Şakir Batmaz, ibid, p. 727
8 Develi Şer’iye Sicili, 20/317
9 Develi Şer’iye Sicili, 68/364

c) According to Document H. 25 Zil-hicce 1312 (June 19, 1894), in the district of Kasapoğlu, the deceased Egiya’s son, Karabet, was the heir, and because he was still a junior at the time, his grandfather, Haci Bedros was appointed to act on his behalf by the Sharia Court. In this particular court case, the witnesses, who testified, were Karabet Efendi, who was a lawyer, Abdurrahman Efendi and Hasan bin Mustafa. As noted, Turks could be witnesses in Armenian related cases as well.10

d) In the document H. 15 Ramazan 1312 (March 10, 1894) Agop, Gurihiye’s daughter, was living in Fenese Street. When Gurihiye died, all her properties were inherited by her husband Agop, her mother Esteban and her daughter Ihserben. Therefore, Gurihiye’s grandmother and her father, Karabetoğlu Aziz, took the case to the Sharia Court dealing with this issue and gave the right to follow the case to one of the judges, Karabet Efendi, who was from Kayseri11. The witnesses of this case were the writer of the Sharia Court, Abdurrahman Efendi, Salih Efendi İbni Ömer and Hasan Bin Mustafa. This is another instance where three of the witnesses in the court dealing with Armenians were Turks.

e) In the document number 174, after Karabetoğlu Artin from Fenese Street died, someone was needed to protect the shares inherited by his son, Karabet, and his daughter, Serpuhi, who were not yet adults. Artin’s brother, Hacı Hecr, was elected as their guardian by the court. The goods which were inherited were later distributed among Artin’s heirs. The point that should be given attention to here is that this distribution was done in accordance with the Islamic Law. If we were to explain the highlights of the Islamic principles concerning inheritance, we would come up with these generalizations:

In cases of inheritance by the wife of the person who died, there are two situations:

1) If the person who died does not have any children, his wife will get one fourth of all his belongings.

10 Develi Şer’iye Sicili, 68/364
11 Develi Şer’iye Sicili, 15/310

2) If he has got children, his wife will get one eighth of his belongings.

In cases of inheritance by daughters, there are three situations:

1) If the daughter is the only heir, her share in the estate is half of the amount.
2) If the person who died does not have any sons and if the number of daughters is more then one, two-thirds of the estate is distributed among the daughters.
3) In the sharing of inheritance, each son gets double the share of a girl’s. 12

The justification and the explanation of these practices are available in the Islamic Ininheritance Law13. The reason why we provide you with this information is to give you an insight into the situation. According to this, Artin’s (mentioned above) estate was distributed as follows: The total amount of the estate was 12,810 kuruş. On subtracting the amount of money paid for court expenses and taxes, the remaining money was 12,562 kuruş. Artin’s wife Serpuhi inherited about 1571 kuruş, 10 para (old Turkish currency). Since he had children, the wife inherited about one-eighth of the whole estate. (This is relevant to the second item.) Kirkor, Ohannes, Heznun and Karabet, who were her sons, each get 2198 kuruş 14 para. Her daughters, Maryam and Hekeszar, get 1099 kuruş 7 para14. (This is relevant to the third item above. Namely, daughters get half the money the sons get.) Thus, a Christian family shared their fortune in accordance with the Islamic Laws in this example.

12 Hamza Aktan, Mukayeseli İslam Miras Hukuku, İstanbul, 1991, p.102,111
13 In the Islamic law of inheritance, the reasons why the male sibling of the family gets two shares while the female can get only one share and the husband gets one more than the wife have been explained in the following way in the Islamic Law. The males are responsible for the upkeeping of the family members and even his close relatives whenever the need arises. A married woman is not responsible for meeting her financial needs on her own even if she is involved in commercial activities and make a good earning, which is allowed. The husband must sustain the family. Hamza Aktan, age., p.109-110
14 Develi Şer’iye Sicili, 174/33


Armenians were described as “merchants15”, “shoes traders16” and “jewelers” in the records. Iin most of the Armenian records you find mention of shops. In the record H. 18 Rebiyü’l Evvel 1313 (September 6, 1895) number 105, a shop was mentioned which was worth 500 kuruş in the inheritance records of Hacı Egiya, the son of Ohannes who lived on Kilise Street. Also, it was recorded that there were shops which were opened with Kalaycı Agop and located in the Yogurt Bazaar. These shops were worth 4000 kuruş. These records support the fact that Armenians were active in commercial activities.

There are also examples of agricultural and cattle breeding activities
among Armenians:

a) In Record 42 H. 5 Zi’l Kade 1312 (April 30, 1894), in the inheritance records of Semhak Oğlu Karabet, from Tomarza, we came across 3 oxen worth 750 kuruş, a cow worth 100 kuruş, a donkey worth 50 kuruş and 11 sheep worth 400 kuruş. In the other records, it is very rare to find animals17.
b) In terms of the lands Armenians had, gardens were listed in the Köşkpınar, Mazakyeri, Kelmak, Bozburun, Çobanbağı, Kayabaşı and Körkuyu regions18.
Although there are instances of Armenians owning animals and farms, most of the time, Turks raised animals and owning farms19 while trade was mostly carried out by Armenians. Thus, the different needs in the society were met with the cooperation of Armenians and Turks together.

15 Develi Şer’iye Sicili, 52/348, 93/348
16 Develi Şer’iye Sicili, 146/5
17 Develi Şer’iye Sicili, 42/338
18 Develi Şer’iye Sicili, 173/32, The region mentioned in the document are mostly places where there are winyards.
19 Develi Şer’iye Sicili, 171/30, 172/31


Of the 16 districts mentioned in the record, Fenese, Tekuşa, Su, Kasapoğlu and Kilise were the districts where Armenians lived. Although some documents call it Fenese Islam District20, where there were two parts called “Aşağı Fenese” and “Yukarı Fenese”; the Armenians and Turks lived together in the district.21

In Record 65, H. 17 Zi’l Hicce 1312 (June 11, 1894), when Ahmet Kahya bin Osman died, his wife Ayşe applied to the court both on her behalf and the behalf of Hacı Osman,the son of Ayşe. Any cases which might be taken to the court by her step-daughters or their husbands were brought to the attention of Hüseyin Efendi from Cam-i Kebir Street, Hüseyin Efendi ibn Ömer and one of the lawyers, Karabet Efendi. In this case, an Armenian was the lawyer in the court case involving a Turk22.

In Record 178, H. 15 Şaban 1313 (February 1, 1895) Agop Oğlu Ohannes (the son of Ohannes) from Fenese District and Karabetoğlu Ohannes were each recorded to have a praying mat (seccade) worth relatively 50 and 25 kuruş.23 The keeping of the mats probably had various reasons – commercial, material value, etc. We wonder if another reason is the offering of the mat to the Turkish neighbours who visited them.

Another interesting piece of information we came across through the study is that Mehmet bin Mustafa from Serderemeke Karyesi and Kör Serkiz had a partnership to own a camel worth 350 kuruş. (Record 149)

Finally, in Record 93 (see Appendix), H. 25 Safer 1313 (August 17, 1895), Hacı Serkizoğlu, Hacı Kirkor and his son Karabet applied to the court and had Celal Efendi, the finance manager of town, appointed to act on his behalf to deal with all the money matters including the recovery of the loan once given to Tavil Yadim and his sons, who were of Greek origin. As a conclusion, this is the best example of the art of

20 Develi Şer’iye Sicili, 3/301
21 Document 4 is about Suleyman bin Mehmet from Fenese District, and document
12 is about Serbenk binti Hacı Nişan from Yukarı Fenese District.
22 Develi Şer’iye Sicili, 65/361
23 Develi Şer’iye Sicili, 178/37-191/50

living together in harmony. An Armenian officially appointed a Turk to represent himself to recover his money back from a Greek.


AKGÜNDÜZ Ahmet, Şer’iye Sicilleri, v.I-II, İstanbul, 1998
BATMAZ Şakir, “1860-1870 tarihli Amerikan Board Misyoner Teşkilatı Raporlarında Develi (Everek)”, Bütün Yönleriyle 1. Develi Bilgi Şöleni 26-28 Ekim 2002, p. 723-728
BOZKURT Gülnihal, Gayrimüslim Osmanlı Vatandaşlarının Hukuki Durumu, Ankara, 1989
DEVELI Şer’iye Sicili, Number 42, N. 42, National Library
ORTAYLI İlber, “Osmanlı İmparatorluğunda Millet Sistemi”, Türkler, v. 10, P.216-232
PAKALIN M. Zeki, Osmanlı Tarih Deyimleri ve Terimleri Sözlüğü, v.III


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