Agrarian Reforms - Islamic Studies Network

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Bedouin, fellahs and sultans:
History of the Islamic Countryside
Week 9:
Agrarian Reforms, 1950 -2000
Queen Mary University of
London
HST 5112, 2011-12
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Free Officers in Egypt (1952)
Agrarian reform in Egypt
Iran: Shah’s land reform
Islamic Revolution (1979)
Egypt, 1930s
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Political dominance of large land-owners with
British support
Large private estates, with tenant farmers
Vulnerable small-holders (setting of Egyptian
Earth) and landless villagers
Reliance on cotton
Final scene from al-ard (Egyptian Earth),
Directed Y. Chahine, 1969
Free Officers coup, 1952
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Nationalist, anti-British, against land-owning
elites
Arab socialism – state-led development &
Nationalization
Building of Aswan Dam: increase in yearround irrigation
Land Reforms, 1952 - 1969
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Land Reform Laws (1952, 1961):
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Ceiling to private ownership of land
Confiscated land distributed to landless villagers
(about 20% of cultivated land)
Fixed low rental fees for tenants, and security of
usufruct
Creation of compulsory peasant co-operatives
Government direct control over production &
marketing
Land Reforms, 1952-1969
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Effects of Land Reforms:
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Decline of large estates and rise in peasant
small-holdings (63.5% to 20%, 13% to 38%)
But in 1986, 40% of villagers are landless
Fixed low prices for agricultural produce
Average growth in agriculture doesn’t keep pace
with demography, despite reform & Aswan Dam
Liberalisation, 1970-2000
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‘Opening up’ of market economy
Land law 96 (1992):
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liberalization of agrarian land market
Abolition of fixed low rents for tenants
Tenants (~30% of peasants) could be evicted
from their plots
Today, 57% of Egypt is rural
Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt (1981 – 2011)
Iran: Agrarian Reforms, 1960-2000
Comparison with
Egypt:
Decentralized
Tribal & pastoral
domination
Iran, 1920 - 1960
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British-supported monarchy by Reza Shah
Old iqta‘-like system (Persian: tuyul)
replaced by private ownership
Big landowners (royal families, local
notables, tribal chiefs) own 2/3 of land
Sharecropper tenants are 40% of villagers
(rest are small-holders or landless)
Shah’s Land Reform, 1960s
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Motives:
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Weakening the landowning classes
Thwarting communist revolution
Transition from ‘feudalism’ to capitalism
Shah’s Land Reform, 1960s
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Ceiling on landownership of one village
Transfer of ownership to tenants – affects
more than 50% of cultivated land
Organization of village co-operatives
Promotion of mechanized & commercial
farming
Shah’s Land Reform
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Effects of reform:
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Disappearance of tenant – sharecroppers class
and of political power of landed elites
Landless villagers remain landless
Increases in production and cultivated area
Urbanization and demographic expansion (50%
live in cities by 1979)
Rural migrants: Khomeini’s foot-soldiers?
1979 – Islamic Revolution
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Urban revolution: bazaar, clergy,
intellectuals
Islamic & popular revolution
Landless villagers and small-holders
protest & seize remaining large estates
Communist activism in countryside
1979, Islamic Revolution
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A second proposed land reform (1979), further
limiting maximum ownership;
‘Clause C’ approved in Parliament (1981)
Religious objections: Is it Islamic to confiscate
private property?
Economic objections: dramatic land reform
would stifle agricultural economy
Repeal of law (1986), legalization of land
seizures during the Revolution
Land Reforms in Iran
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Shah’s land reform: initiative from the state
and US; dramatic shift in ownership of land;
downfall of landowning elites; did it lead to
Islamic Revolution?
Islamic Republic’s land Reform: initiative
from peasants; limited effect on ownership;
spread of ‘petty capitalism’ by small
farmers
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