Constitutionalizing Discretion: Emergency Powers in the Late Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey

February 28, 2019 12:15 PM - 1:30 PM

İdare-i örfiyye, an equivalent of the state of siege, appeared as a neologism in the 1876 Ottoman constitution. While the term referred to sultanic authority in the Ottoman-Islamic legal tradition, its definition was clearly inspired from the French “état de siège” in the 19th century. After briefly discussing how and why different legal references were combined to make it possible for the executive power to suspend the ordinary legal order under exceptional circumstances, this presentation will concentrate on the recurrent use of regimes of exception since the beginning of the Turkish Republic and argue that they have been intrinsic to the articulation of sovereignty and governance. Although the successive Turkish constitutions subjected emergency powers to parliamentary supervision, the executive power retained broad discretion over the state of emergency and other regimes of exception. Relying on a few case studies, the presentation will argue that emergency powers have been crucial in creating legal and physical spaces where arbitrary violence and the suppression of fundamental rights could be legitimized, and specific ethnic and social categories targeted.

About the Speaker

Noémi Lévy-Aksu is a teaching fellow at the London School of Economics, Department of International History. She received her Ph.D in history from the EHESS (Paris) in 2010. She worked as an assistant professor in history at Boğaziçi University (Istanbul) until 2017. Between 2016 and 2018, she was a British Academy Newton International Fellow at Birkbeck College, School of Law. She received a Graduate Diploma in Law in 2018.

Noémi Lévy-Aksu’s Ph.D dissertation on public order in late Ottoman Istanbul was published in French and Turkish. She has published several articles and book chapters on late Ottoman social, political and legal history and co-edited a volume on the aftermath of the Young Turk Revolution. Her current book project, at the intersection of law and history, focuses on martial law and regimes of exception in the late Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Besides her academic activities, she is involved in human rights advocacy and volunteer legal work with a special focus on Turkey.


Event Poster

Co-sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies (CNES)