Persia/Chapter 7

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In Persia, there are, properly speaking, no freehold lands: they are held by leases for specific periods, subject to the payment of certain rents. In Chardin's time, these leases were for a term of ninety-nine years, and renewable at the expiration of that term: this system seems to have undergone little alteration.

At present, there are two grand divisions of land in Persia, the one called shahee, the other urbabee. The former is the royal domain, kalisseh; the latter is held by subjects. One eighth of the lands of Fars and Irak is probably possessed by the king, and the remainder is the property of the subject.

Those who cultivate land belonging to the king, pay a rent of half the produce, after making a deduction on account of seed. The king, however, supplies cattle for drawing water, and digs wells at his own expense.

The urbabee land is held in general by some person of consequence, who cultivates it for himself. He furnishes seed, and cattle to plough and draw water; and after deducting the quantity of seed advanced, he assigns a fifth part of the produce to the cultivators, and a tenth part is the tax paid to government. Should a labouring man cultivate his own land, he merely pays a tax to government, and appropriates the remainder to himself.

The proprietor, or more correctly speaking the tenant, cannot let the lands which he holds lie uncultivated; or if he does, he is still obliged to pay the same tax as if they were producing full crops: but as it is his interest, as well as that of the government, to derive the utmost profit from his land by judicious cultivation, this is a case which must rarely occur.

When lands are confiscated for any crime committed by the tenant, they then become zebti shah, or droits of the crown, and belong to the sovereign till he pleases to restore them to the family. The king, however, in general allots a portion of the produce of these lands to the children of the culprit.

As the greatest part of the land in Persia is watered by artificial means, its value, of course, depends on the abundance or scarcity of this necessary article. Land that is well watered sells for about twelve pounds sterling a jureeb, which nearly corresponds with our acre, and decreases in value to two pounds.

Land situated on the banks of a river pays no greater tax to government, than that which is watered by artificial means. If a person occupies a portion of waste land, which he brings into a state of cultivation, and which has no claimant, he enjoys an exemption from taxes for a certain period, and is at full liberty to bequeath it to his children, or to dispose of it in any manner he may think proper.