Ottoman Land Code of 1858
The Ottoman Land Code of 1858 (recorded as 1274 in the Islamic Calendar) was the beginning of a systematic land reform programme during the Tanzimat (reform) period of the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the 19th century. This was followed by the 1873 land emancipation act.
Prior to 1858, land in Ottoman Syria, then a part of the Ottoman Empire since 1516, was cultivated or occupied mainly by peasants. Land ownership was regulated by people living on the land according to customs and traditions. Usually, land was communally owned by village residents, though land could be owned by individuals or families.
In 1858 the Ottoman Empire introduced The Ottoman Land Code of 1858, requiring land owners to register ownership. The reasons behind the law were twofold. (1) to increase tax revenue, and (2) to exercise greater state control over the area. Peasants, however, saw no need to register claims, for several reasons:
- land owners were subject to military service in the Ottoman Army
- general opposition to official regulations from the Ottoman Empire
- evasion of taxes and registration fees to the Ottoman Empire
The registration process itself was open to misregistration and manipulation. Land collectively owned by village residents ended up registered to one villager, and merchants and local Ottoman administrators took the opportunity to register large areas of land to their own name. The result was land that became the legal property of people who had never lived on the land, while the peasants, having lived there for generations, retained possession, but became tenants of absentee owners.
- Full text of the Ottoman Land Code, Translated by F. Ongley of the Receiver General's Office in British Cyprus
- Ottoman Land Registration Law as a Contributing Factor in the Israeli-Arab Conflict, Jon-Jay Tilsen, Congregation Beth El–Keser Israel (retrieved August 14, 2006)