This paper argues that civil rights can only have a substantial meaning in the context of bureaucratic modern states. It examines the emergence of civil rights in the late Ottoman Empire, during the period of the Committee of Union and Progress--CUP (1908-1918). The CUP period is exemplary in that it witnessed the establishment of the category of citizen as a by-product of the political struggles which started to revolve around the defense of civil liberties against the authority of a centralizing state. Since one of the major state responses to this evolving political process is regulating public gatherings and associations, they are analyzed as illuminating the 'bargain' between the state and societal forces over civil rights. By observing the changes made in these regulations over a decade, the paper attempts to better clarify the dialectical relationship between policing the collective action by the state on the one hand and the institutionalization of civil rights on the other.