Female Personnel Employment at the Ottoman Customs: Women Customs Guards (1901-1908)
Keywords: Ottoman customs, Ottoman Customs Administration, smuggling, female customs guard
At the beginning of the 1900s the Ottoman Customs Administration (Rüsûmât Emaneti) decided to employ female guards at the Ottoman land and coastal borders in Anatolia and Rumelia. Working as customs guard was the second work experience of Ottoman women at this job after their employment as guard at women's prisons. But, while female customs guard was a new experience for the Ottoman Customs it was at the same time obligation since it was identified that female passengers arriving from the coast and border customs were smuggling various restricted items like weapons, explosives, all kinds of written or printed documents containing political and the goods of which import or export were subject to authorization. Actually smuggling was known in the Ottoman Empire from the early period onwards. But women's involvement in smuggling increased from the end of the 19th century onwards. While the social and political conditions prepared the ground for this smuggling, the main reason for involvement of women or their use in smuggling was that customs guard who were mainly men were not allowed to check female passengers. For this reason Ottoman Customs Administration employed female customs guards to prevent female smugglers. This employment at the same time was an important measure to secure the country's customs revenues and ensure the safety of the country. Moreover Ottoman women owned a job opportunity with this employment and at the same time served to secure economic and political interest of the country. This article examines employment of female customs guard at the beginning of the 1900s with a reference to the events and conditions which required this employment. In the article the features of the Ottoman customs in Anatolia and Rumelia where female customs guard were employed, detected trafficking events, and female guards' contribution to prevent smuggling will also be examined as well.