The Young Turk Revolution of 1908 helped transform the time-honored Ottoman petitioning system. The reinstatement of parliamentary life, the reintroduction of the suspended constitution of 1876, and the lifting of the ban on the press and political action all generated profound political and social changes. Subjects’ petitions reflected these changes vividly and in often surprising detail. As the sultan became a figurehead with little actual power, petitions which hitherto had been addressed to the sultan either directly or through the grand vizier and had requested his benevolence and mercy, while also granting him much needed legitimacy, now began to be sent instead to the Council of State (Şura-yı Devlet), the parliament, and various government ministries. Their content changed as well, as will be shown in this article through an analysis of dozens of petitions from Ottoman Palestine. Petitions now sought to obtain political rights and ensure civil equity and constitutional rights. In focusing on rights, the rule of law, and the deficiencies of the former system, the petitions echoed changes in popular discourse and mirrored the transformation from justice as a sultanic prerogative to constitutional and civil law.
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