Fellow-Citizens and Guarantors—The Arapkirlis Legally Settle in Kasap ƒlyas

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The majority of people who came to Kasap ƒlyas from outside Istanbul in the 1880s and 1890s came without holding legal travel documents. Therefore, if they wanted to be officially registered in the mahalle or to obtain regular travel documents when they left the neighborhood (they needed to have, as
we saw, either the pusula to move within Istanbul or the mürur tezkeresi for moving over longer distances), they had to have a sponsor/guarantor. Somebody the muhtar knew and trusted had to witness and authenticate that person’s statement of identity. Put another way, the presence of a guarantor was necessary for the migrants in order to legalize their residence in the capital. The identity of the guarantors who put their signature in the muhtar’s books is therefore significant for tracing eventual networks of solidarity and patronage linking residents of Kasap ƒlyas to newcomers.
It appears that the identity-guaranteeing signature of these kefils was in fact nothing but a sort of subsidiary procedure that allowed for the bypassing of the passport laws. The Arapkirlis of our neighborhood had arrived in Istanbul thanks to the help of a network of primary relationships that provided them with a place to live (mostly in and around the Ispanakçı Viranesi) and a job (for the largest number, the ambulant vending of fresh fruits and vegetables). What they lacked were the official travel documents, and therefore the certificate of official residence in Istanbul, signed by the local head-
man of a mahalle. But this was really no problem. For there always seems to have been in the mahalle a fellow citizen from Arapkir ready to act as a legal sponsor/guarantor and a muhtar complacent enough to accept this sponsorship and to produce the necessary residence certificate. Basically the Arapkirbased regional network of support that provided both housing and work to the newcomers was at work to secure official papers as well. In a way, this three-tiered support and solidarity system for rural migrants is not fundamentally different from that which functioned in republican Turkey and that
helped many groups of rural migrants in a metropolis like Istanbul.60
Every time the muhtar of Kasap ƒlyas gave an Arapkirli one of these certificates, the local kefil was asked to stamp with his own seal (mühür) the relevant page of the muhtar’s notebook.61 All of these were obviously cases of people leaving the neighborhood, because only those people who had moved
to the neighborhood without the required official documentation would need the presence and the seal of a guarantor in order to obtain the pusula when they left Kasap ƒlyas. There were no less than 190 cases of people who left the mahalle and were recorded as such in the muhtar’s notebooks, in the 1885–1895 period. More than two thirds of these records are accompanied by the seal of the guarantor. The material state of the documents, however, have allowed for the decipherment of 79 of the kefil seals only, and we shall try to have a closer look at them.
First of all, the muhtar of Kasap ƒlyas personally knew most of these guarantors. On top of their seals in his notebook the muhtar often jotted down a remark that designated these kefils in terms that are indicative of a certain degree of familiarity. “The guarantor is Ali,” or “the guarantor is Yusuf, from the coffeehouse,” is the most frequent type of remark. The muhtar did not care to give any detailed information on the identity of these persons, their occupation, or their whereabouts within the neighborhood.62
There was no need for it, since he knew them well and trusted them. The muhtar acted therefore, in a sense, as a guarantor for these guarantors.
Among the 79 legible guarantor seals in the notebooks of the muhtar of Kasap ƒlyas, some names appear much more frequently than a random distribution of guarantorships among the residents could ever warrant. For instance, the name of Kahveci Ibrahim (Ibrahim the coffeehouse keeper) occurs no less than thirteen times in the muhtar’s notebooks. Kahveci Arapkirli Yusuf (Yusuf the coffeehouse keeper from Arapkir) appears as guarantor in twelve instances. The name of Süleyman Kâhya appears six times, that of Halil Kâhya four, and that of Bekir three times. Therefore only two people (Ibrahim and Yusuf), two coffeehouse owners (or perhaps managers), had signed as guarantors in more than one third of the cases, and almost half the guarantor seals belonged to just five people. As to the remaining fourty one legible seals, none appears more than twice.
Some of these kefils can easily be traced within the neighborhood. In 1885, there were three coffeehouses in the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle.63 Like most of the coffeehouses in Istanbul at the time, these were simple single-story wooden buildings with few amenities inside. The small local coffeehouses
situated in the residential neighborhoods of Istanbul could not compare with the larger and more showy ones in the central and commercial areas of the city. A dirt floor, a stove in the middle, some kitchen utensils in one corner, perhaps a few chairs and low tables, and some wooden benches (peykes) along the walls were the lot of most of them. They were frequented exclusively by men.64 Two of the coffeehouses were situated on the mahalle’s main thoroughfare. The first was at 29 Samatya Street and the other at 40 Samatya Street. The third was on the seaside, across from the landing of the Davudpaœa wharf, and was known as the Wharf coffeehouse (Iskele Kahvesi).
The proprietor of the coffeehouse at 29 Samatya Street was one Hayri a™a who was living in the house just next to the coffeehouse, at 29B Samatya Street. The name of Hayri a™a, who was born in Istanbul in 1843, however, occurs only once as a guarantor in the muhtar’s notebooks. As to the coffeeshop
at 40 Samatya Street, it belonged to Ibrahim, precisely the Ibrahim whose name appeared as sponsor no less than thirteen times in the muhtar’s notebooks. Ibrahim, the coffeehouse owner, had been born in Divri™i in 1840 and was living with his wife and daughter at 6 Horasancı Street, one of the small
streets situated between the public bath and the Davudpaœa wharf. Süleyman Kâhya, whose name appears six times as guarantor, was living in Kasap ƒlyas as well. He had been born in Arapkir in 1844, was a warden of the guild of street porters (hammallar kethüdası) and was living in 1885 with his two wives and his son in a house at 23 Davudpaœa Wharf Street. As to Yusuf, his name does not appear among the residents of the mahalle in 1885. He might simply have been working in one of the coffeehouses of the neighborhood. One thing we know about him, however, is that he was also an Arapkirli, and that the muhtar of Kasap ƒlyas trusted him as well.65
These three Arapkirlis living in 1885 in Kasap ƒlyas (Kahveci Ibrahim, Kahveci Yusuf, and Süleyman Kâhya) had signed as guarantors in the muhtar’s notebooks for thirty one different people between 1885 and 1895. These thirty one people were all Arapkirlis. Clearly, they had sponsored thirty one
of their fellow-citizens who had come to Istanbul without the necessary legal documents.
Obviously, in 1885, Kasap ƒlyas did not only have immigrants from Arapkir (see table 3.1). There were many people from other parts of the empire who came without a proper mürur tezkeresi and who needed a guarantor after having settled in the mahalle. It is only the Arapkirlis, however, who were sponsored exclusively by their own fellow-citizens already established in the neighborhood. For none of those who had come from various areas of Rumelia (the European parts of the empire), for instance, was there such a well-established configuration of solidarity and sponsorship based on geographic proximity. These Rumelia-born people were, after the Arapkirlis, the largest single group of provincials living in Kasap ƒlyas and made up more than 10 percent of its population. The sheer quantity of co-locals migrating to Istanbul was apparently not sufficient to create such a permanent solidarity
network. Except for the Arapkirlis, the equivalent of such a strong pattern of regionalism and favoritism is discernible for no other group living in the mahalle in the second half of the nineteenth century.
The Arapkirlis living in the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle were systematically acting as sponsors/guarantors for their fellow-citizens who were newly coming to the capital and were helping them to acquire legal residence. As we saw, this pattern of solidarity was not new. In 1885, it had been operating for at
least a century and had been perpetuated generation after generation. The tradition of migration had, in time, created its own mechanisms of attraction and particular avenues for integration. This snowballing effect had indeed been in operation ever since Ispanakçızâde Mustafa Paœa, the Ottoman provincial governor of the 1760s, brought from Arapkir servants to work in his konak in the capital. After the Tanzimat, the system became effective not only for securing housing and employment for the newcomers but also for getting them legal residence papers.
The two kahvecis and the warden of street-porters from Arapkir, for instance, were settled there for a long time and were well-known in the neighborhood. They too had also been sponsored by other fellow-citizens. It is likely that these two coffeehouses in the mahalle owned or run by Ibrahim and Yusuf, the two well-established Arapkirlis, were not only ordinary locales for the recreation of fellow villagers in Istanbul. They also served a real professional need, bringing together co-locals from Arapkir and thus creating a kind of soft guild solidarity by promoting the exchange and dissemination of information on employment and business opportunities. Thus, these coffeehouses (and their owners or managers) were an important link in the chain of migration of Arapkirlis.

Clientelistic relations and networks may also have appeared in Kasap ƒlyas, leading to inequalities and positions of local power.66 Those that had helped their co-locals in the initial process of settlement may have attained positions of power vis-à-vis those who became clients. Under conditions of urban life, solidarity relations with kin or with co-locals may well have been transformed into relations of power. In a single little mahalle, though, the stakes were too small and, besides, the data do not allow us to follow closely the spatial and social trajectory of all Arapkirli migrants.
As to the muhtar of Kasap ƒlyas, he was perfectly aware of the existence of this regional solidarity network. He knew well the insuperable practical difficulties involved in the full implemention of the very stringent migration regulations. What could he then do but give the required legal backing to
whole sequences of Arapkirlis’ mutual sponsorships? At the end of the nine-teenth century, Osman Efendi filled the post of muhtar of Kasap ƒlyas for almost twenty-five years (see the appendix). Knowing full well that the Arapkirlis were bypassing the law, he often felt the need to put down in
writing a sort of a posteriori justification for the certificates he kept giving to those who left the neighborhood.
On April 30, 1888, for instance, Ali bin Sadullah, a native of Divri™i, left the mahalle with a regular residence certificate signed by the muhtar Osman Efendi, who noted that “he had lost his Certificate of Passage (mürur tezkeresi).”67 In 1889, when Ismail bin Ali, who was a native of Arapkir and a professional woodchopper was leaving the neighborhood, Osman Efendi took note of the fact that “…he had come from his village a couple of years ago, and he is now returning to his village….”68 The same year our muhtar took note that Sadık bin Mehmed, a native of Arguvan, “…had come from his province six years ago, had not registered and is now leaving for Izmir….”69
Another Arapkirli might have a justification such as, “…he had come three years ago, but had lost his documents of identity….”70 Needless to say, the guarantors in all of these cases were either one of the two coffeehouse keepers, Ibrahim and Yusuf, or Süleyman Kâhya the warden of the guild of street-
porters. All three, as we saw, were Arapkirlis.
Whether, in this solidarity network of fellow-citizens from Arapkir, kinship also had its role to play unfortunately cannot be documented. The muhtar’s notebooks contain only information on the birthplaces of the migrants and on their last addresses within the neighborhood, and nothing on their kin relationship, if any. There were a few cases of a whole Arapkirli family being sponsored by a co-local living in the mahalle. But no more is known on the proximity of the sponsors and his protégés. Among the birthplaces of migrants, however, not only districts but precise villages of birth are very fre-
quently referred to. In fifteen out of the thirty-one cases of sponsorship bearing the seal of Ibrahim, Yusuf, and Süleyman Kâhya, the precise village of origin of the migrant is mentioned in the record. Saldak and Bostancık (villages situated within the district of Arapkir) are the two recognizable village names.
As to the local addresses of the Arapkirlis who applied to the muhtar for a certificate, their pattern of settlement within the mahalle was pretty much as expected. Before they left Kasap ƒlyas, about half of them were living in Ispanakçi Viranesi. The other half were residents of Helvacı and Davudpaœa
Iskelesi Streets, two of the narrow and winding alleys that went from Samatya Street to the Davudpaœa wharf. None of them resided on Samatya Street itself or on Çavuœzade Street or on Yokuœçeœme Street, the two streets that went north from it. These were considered, as we shall see, the more prestigious parts of the neighborhood, the “upper mahalle.”


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