The Ottoman Revival
The administrative system imposed by the Turks was typical of
that found elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire. Tripolitania, as all
three historic regions were collectively designated, became a
Turkish vilayet (province) under a wali (governor
general) appointed by the sultan. The province was composed of
four sanjaks (subprovinces), each administered by a mutasarrif
(lieutenant governor) responsible to the governor general. These
subprovinces were each divided into about fifteen districts.
Executive officers from the governor general downward were Turks.
The mutasarrif was in some cases assisted by an advisory
council and, at the lower levels, Turkish officials relied on
aid and counsel from the tribal shaykhs. Administrative districts
below the subprovincial level corresponded to the tribal areas
that remained the focus of the Arabs' identification.
Although the system was logical and appeared efficient on paper,
it was never consistently applied throughout the country. The
Turks encountered strong local opposition through the 1850s and
showed little interest in implementing Ottoman control over Fezzan
and the interior of Cyrenaica. In 1879 Cyrenaica was separated
from Tripolitania, its mutasarrif reporting thereafter
directly to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). After the 1908
reform of the Ottoman government, both were entitled to send representatives
to the Turkish parliament.
In an effort to provide the country with a tax base, the Turks
attempted unsuccessfully to stimulate agriculture. However, in
general, nineteenth-century Ottoman rule was characterized by
corruption, revolt, and repression. The region was a backwater
province in a decaying empire that had been dubbed the "sick man
Data as of 1987