Armenian Kurdish Relations in The Era of Kurdish National Movements (1830-1930)
Forcibly settled in some select communities in Western Turkey and several Middle Eastern countries, and partially concentrated in the eastern districts of Anatolia, there lives an atypical ethnic group whom Turks label as "Mountain Turks". Yet this unique ethnic group is totally unrelated to the Turks and possesses a distinct culture, history, and social background. Historical data collected during the last 2 centuries indicates that these people are the original inhabitants of southeastern Anatolia. History names them the Kurds and their homeland, Kurdistan. The modern day Turkish Republic was built on the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. During their expansion, the Ottomans conquered and occupied the lands of many peoples. They built a large, yet diverse empire, whose borders extended from southeastern Europe (the Balkans) to the Caucasus including the Middle East, Arabia, and North Africa. Asia Minor and Anatolia became the nexus of this vast state. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, unprecedented luxury, opulence, and indolence corrupted the Ottoman imperial power. Weakness and incapacity in the face of European powers became a permanent features of the power elite. By the nineteenth century, the whole empire was reduced to "the sick man of Europe." During these two centuries of weakness, the Ottomans encountered an increasing number of nationalistic and freedom movements. An already strong Europe interfered in the internal politics of the empire. However, European powers were never able to reach a compromising agreement or a final decision on how to divide the Ottoman Empire between themselves. Thus, Ottoman territorial integrity became a permanent element of the European peace process. The totality of the empire was restored for almost a century, until the outbreak of World War I. Most of the nationalistic movements that the Ottomans encountered during the nineteenth century were staged in their European territories. These were backed by different European powers, especially Russia, which for political reasons regarded the Slavic freedom fighting peoples of the Balkans a continuation of its own people. Moreover, Russia used the Slavic population of the Balkans to implement its strategic plans of "descending to the hot waters" that is, the Mediterranean. Unable to suppress all these freedom movements at the same time, the Ottomans retreated. Consequently, most of the Balkans regained its freedom. At about the same time (i.e. the middle of the 19th century), peoples in the eastern parts of Anatolia, namely the Kurds and the Armenians, awoke from their centuries long torpor and embarked in nationalistic movements seeking freedom and equality. Yet the remoteness of those peoples and their lands from Europe brought them a fate that was totally different from their European counterparts. Armenian and Kurdish national liberation struggles were handled with an iron fist. All that Ottoman Sultans were deprived of achieving in their European territories they forced in the eastern parts of their empire. Later, under the cover of the first global war, The Ittihadist Turkish government exceeded even its predecessors when it staged and executed THE FIRST GENOCIDE OF MODERN HISTORY [G.M.] by massacring the Armenian population of Ottoman, i.e. Western Armenia. After the war, in 1918, Armenians garnered their feeble forces in a tiny republic in the Caucasus. This fledgling state was unable to endure for long. After only two and one half years of independence, it was crushed under a "Blitzkrieg" between Kemalist Turkey and Communist Russia. It was eventually absorbed by the latter. Today, about one half of all Armenians live in this republic that was an integrated part of what came to be known as the Soviet Union. It regained its independence in 1990 after the demise of communism. The other half of Armenians is scattered around the world. It constitutes the communities that comprise the Armenian Diaspora. As for the Kurds, they also were the victims of assimilating Turkish policies. Unlike Armenians, Kurds never achieved sovereignty. Today, their homeland is divided between Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. All four governments suppress any nationalistic insurgence within their Kurdish population. Numerically, the Kurds comprise the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East. However, they are forced to accept the identity of the country in which they live. In Turkey and elsewhere, a planned policy of forced assimilation and military action is wiping out all forms of ethnicity and Kurdish national belongingness. The events of the last two decades in Turkish Kurdistan are valid indications of this. This narrative strives to shed some light on the history of the Kurds. It deals with almost a century of events (1830-1930) which covers the most active chapter in the history of the Kurdish freedom movements. As an important supplement, Armenian-Kurdish relations are also studied. Noteworthy is the fact that Kurds and Armenians were close neighbors for centuries. Thus, their histories are closely interrelated. Even a cursory analysis of the relations between these two people show that a close, mutual, and trustworthy collaboration was never realized during their struggle for freedom. This, of course, eventually harmed both peoples. Nevertheless, the turbulent situation that the Middle East encounters in modern times, and the numerous wars and conflicts that are staged on its soil are motivating reasons to have a better understanding of the region and its peoples. The Kurds are one such example. They are scattered in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria with ghetto type enclaves in the other Middle Eastern countries. Iraqi Kurds seem to be the most active. During the past three or four decades, they staged more than one rebellion under the leadership of the Barzani (Barzanji) family. The Iraqi government, with the aid and the military help of the Turkish Republic, crushed those Kurdish insurrections. Some of the Kurdish rebel leaders were murdered. Others were thrown into prison after being charged as traitors to their "host" countries. In 1945 Kurds in Iran staged an insurrection and for a period of a year established what is historically referred to as "The Kurdish Republic of Mahabad," which was crushed by the armies of the Pahlavi Shah. More recently, Kurds in Iran grasped the opportunity offered by the Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomainy to extract an autonomous existence for themselves. Although they failed, the Kurds remain a nagging and thorny issue for Iran. Today, in all the countries in which they live, Kurds are considered to be in a very low socioeconomic level. This is observed especially in the Turkish parts of Kurdistan, where severe limitations on education, dissemination of ethnic culture, and economic opportunities are imposed, the Kurdish language (or languages) and literature are banned, hundreds of villages have been destroyed. The "Mountain Turks" are yet another case of lost national identities that swim in the murky waters of the Middle Eastern swamp.
I. FROM TIMES IMMEMORIAL TO THE EIGHTEEN HUNDREDS
"No people are so closely related to Armenians by history and creed as the Kurds. Since legendary times, when people used cuneiform to express their magnificence and melancholy, those two neighbors have lived together. Many nations and peoples, ancient Rome, Macedonia, the Parthians, the Arabs from the south, Russians from the north, Gengis Khan and Tamerlane from the far east and Central Asia have conquered the lands of Kurds and Armenians, but they have all gone away. Like winter snow, they have sat on peoples breasts, oppressed and tortured them, but they have eventually melted away, once again giving rise to Kurdish and Armenian existence. As different in their beliefs and character - one mobile and pastoral, the other settled and agricultural - these two people have often become enemies of each other. Instead of protecting each other and living in harmony, they have fought against each other. Sometimes one had ruled over the other."
Ruben Ter Minasian, from whom the paragraph above is quoted, was a patriot who lived for years in the Western Armenian regions of Van and Sasun. Ter Minasian was destined to become a prominent figure in the Armenian National Movement. As a leader of the Armenian gorilla fighting units in Sasun, the fedayeen, he established relations with the Kurds, and negotiated with their numerous tribal chieftains. Ter Minasian's words are a clear illustration of the actual history and affiliation of the two contiguous peoples. If chance had played a different game by making their relationship a more positive one, then many things might have been different today for these two peoples. It is indeed very difficult to trace the origins of the Kurdish people or to give an exact date of their "entrance" into southeastern Anatolia. A.V. Dolmaik, extracting his information from one of the few Kurdish historians, Sharaf Ul Din, in his book titled “Sasun,” states that:
'Their [the Kurd's, G.M.] origin is very dark. It is possible that these Kurds had entered the region since ancient times. It is also possible that they are the descendants of a race of people which lived in the southern mountains of Lake Van, which Armenians called Mardastan [Land of the Mards, G.M.].(1)
Whatever ambiguities shroud the origins of the Kurds, the important thing to note is that they lived in this region immediately neighboring Historical Armenia. It follows, that they lived in the southeastern districts of Anatolia; induced several conquerors; sometimes even overlapped lands inhabited by Armenians. At the end of the fifteenth century -- i.e. seventy five years before the rule of the Ottoman Sultan Selim I-- Armenian and Kurds were still living close to each other. In the mountainous regions, they were governed by their princes who defended their lands against all outside enemies. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Ottomans, after conquering most of southern Europe (Greece and the Balkans), ventured east towards Asia Minor and Eastern Anatolia in an attempt to unite the scattered Turkish and Turkoman tribes and principalities under the banners of their fledgling state. One of the most important historical developments of those times was the federation of 1459 that was signed by the Muslim and Christian rulers of the Caucasus and Eastern Anatolia. It was formed with the purpose of blocking Ottoman expansion, Key figures such as 1) Uzun Hassan, leader of the Ak-Koyulu Turkoman tribes of Diarbekir, 2) David, the emperor of Trapizond, the last remnant of the Byzantines, 3) Kevork Pakratian, Prince of Georgia, and 4) Armenian princes of Sasun participated in this federation. Conscious of the danger of lightning Ottoman expansion, the federation sent envoys to Europe and tried to harness Western attention. However, Europe was not supportive, and this was to be expected, since after the last and disastrous Crusade to liberate Constantinople, it had encountered numerous internal conflicts, which were the result of the fermenting process of its new nation-states. in fact, internal European clashes were the reason behind the momentum of Ottoman armies and their success on the European battlefronts. The federation had to face the oncoming Ottoman armies. Soon, Sultan Mehmed II started his offensive towards Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus. Ottoman forces gave decisive blows to the federation's armies. Eastern Anatolia was now open for them. Meanwhile, another force was fermenting in the East. This was the Shiite state of Shah Ismail in Persia (Iran). This Safavid state was in turn interested in Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasian provinces. It also tried to bring them under its rule. The Ottomans expanded rapidly. Muslim and Christian principalities of the "federation" fell under Ottoman rule. Safavid Iran also sent its armies there. This was a dangerous game, especially because the two rivals fanned the centuries old Sunni vs. Shiite enmity of Islam. War was inevitable. Sultan Selim's armies crushed the forces of Shah Ismail. In 1514 the Sultan placed Armenian and Kurdistan under Ottoman rule. By the religious principles of Islam, Christians were rendered second degree citizens entitled to pay costly taxes to their Muslim rulers. Selim burdened Armenians with heavy taxes, yet was more lenient and friendly towards Kurds. He even signed a treaty of friendship with their princes, according to which.-
a- All participating princes were to reclaim their sovereignty over their realms. b- The rule in these Kurdish principalities will continue based on the primo- geniture system of the past, on condition that the appointment of new princes be confirmed by a firman (order) from the Ottoman Sultan. c- During wars, Kurdish princes and their tribes must help the Sultan with sipahi (feudal) forces and supplies. d- The Ottoman Sultan promises to protect these principalities against outside aggression. e- The Kurdish feudal lords are obliged to pay tribute to the Sultan in the form of yearly presents. (2)
With this treaty most of Armenia came under direct Ottoman rule. However, there remained some regions, like Hazzo in Kharazan, and Sasun, which kept their ancient sovereign status and did not even pay the yearly tribute demanded by the Ottoman rulers. (3) The freedom of those remote pockets was not something Ottomans willingly tolerated. Military campaigns and expeditions were sent with the objective of oppressing these Kurdish and Armenian mountain dwellings. Unable to accomplish their primary objective, the Ottoman regiments diverted their attention to the Kizilbash Kurdish tribes of Sebastia (Sivaz) and Kharpert (Kharput). Ottomans regarded Kizilbash Kurds as heretics --Devil worshippers was and still is a misleading denunciation that Kizilbash Kurds encounter.-- who, "according to Ottoman policy, coveted the spread of Shiism within the Ottoman Empire." Armed with this religious intolerance, the Ottoman armies massacred thousands of Kizilbash Kurds during these campaigns. In Western Armenia, except for the mountainous areas like Sasun, Armenians came under direct Ottomans rule. Since Ottomans were lenient towards the Kurds, the previously existing balance of power changed. As a result, all former Armenian-Kurdish links were severed. Kurdistan was internally divided between several princes who all wanted to be the first in the eyes of the sultans. Eventually, they all became tools in the hands of the Ottoman rulers, who often used on Kurdish prince or tribe against another, thus keeping them in perfect chaos. Ottomans played this "divide and rule" game for a very specific reason. Until 1683 they were busy with their campaigns in southeastern Europe. This consumed a great percentage of their military and economic resources. Therefore, they had to create a policy of divide and rule in Kurdistan in order to secure their posterior. It was not easy to reach the gates of Vienna and return empty-handed. When those soldiers fighting in the European front returned to Istanbul, they were immediately sent eastward to rob the people. This policy was quite successful. It submerged Armenians and Kurds in the quagmire of fighting marauding Ottoman Yenicheris. From the Ottoman point of view, this kept their [Armenians’, Kurds’] subjugation permanently confirmed. Against this background of continuous campaigns and pillage Kurds and Armenians continued to live until the end of the eighteenth century. Things started to change only at the beginning of the new century. The year 1806 is a turning point in the history of the Kurdish people. From this date on, several freedom movements and rebellions echoed in different parts of Kurdistan. Some of those movements remained within the confines of the Kurdish noble houses. They did not possess the popular tribal basis so vital for such ventures. The insurrections were put down by canny Ottoman policies which aimed first at belittling the princes in the eyes of the Kurdish tribes and then at suppressing the headless tribes and strangling their desires for freedom. One must admit however, that some of these movements were able to consolidate several Kurdish tribes and motivate them towards the cause of freedom. This was a hardship for the Ottomans, because those movements had the covert blessing of Tsarist Russia and/or Shiite Iran. This obliged Ottomans to take strict measured to crush rebel Kurds and quell their movements in their initial stages. Armenian participation was minimal in those Kurdish Movements. Cooperation occurred only in such principalities where some Armenian villages were under the rule of a Kurdish prince. As his menials, Armenians were obliged to aid the Amir (prince) in his quest for freedom. Sasuni states that:-
"This historical era demanded heroism, united forces, and united endeavors for the sake of freedom. The two neighbors had to realize the importance of depending on each other during their common struggle. If one of them broke this rule, the other was to carry the consequences. The wheels of history were to turn in such a way as to crush the first and then the other. Past history is rich with such instances. This also indicates that if Armenian-Kurdish unity was accomplished, the two neighbors would have had established their freedom long ago." (4)
A comprehensive Armenian-Kurdish unification never materialized in those important days. Later, when some measure of mutual understanding and cooperation did transpire, it was already too late to be of any significance. Events that followed 1830 proved that Armenian-Kurdish unity was an impossibility.
II. A REBELLIOUS CENTURY
"If a throne was established, than we would have a future. We were not to be torn to pieces, and without any doubt were to flourish. These Turks were not to be victorious over us. Our homeland was not to be ruined by those owls."
Ahmed Hani 17th Century Kurdish Poet
The first Kurdish rebellion of the nineteenth century broke out in 1806 in the Baban district of Ottoman Kurdistan, under the leadership of Abdul Rahman Pasha. Today, the Baban district is located within Iraqi territory. However, during the nineteenth century it enjoyed a rich and flourishing Kurdish cultural and economic life. Its leader, Abdul Rahman, was able to expand his territory by bringing under his rule minor principalities that were paying tribute to Ottoman and Persian rulers. Abdul Rahman’s movements were viewed negatively by the Ottomans. The sultan appointed one of his followers, Khalid Pasha, as the new Amir (prince) of the Baban district. This was done to ridicule Abdul Rahman's influence and to belittle him in the eyes of the Kurdish tribes he ruled. Yet Abdul Rahman proved to be an experienced leader and a seasoned politician. He understood Ottoman intentions quite clearly. He advanced with his army against Khalid Pasha, defeated him in a momentous battle in the Sanjak (county) of Khoy, and reinstated himself as the Amir of Baban. After Khalid's defeat Kurdish princes and tribal chieftains joined Abdul Rahman. The Kurdish prince soon declared himself sovereign. However, Abdul Rahman was unable to endure. He was defeated by new Ottoman armies sent to Baban. In 1808 he was forced to flee from his principality and take refuge with the Kurdish tribes of Persia. The Ottomans brought massive forces to the eastern vilayets (states) stationing most of them in Kurdistan, This was done to secure the border from Abdul Rahman. Rumors were circling that the rebel Kurdish Amir was gathering new forces in his exile. The Ottomans had yet another reason for stationing armies on their Eastern borders. Times were sensitive. The fear of a Russian offensive was ever-present. Nevertheless, the Ottoman armies stationed in Eastern Anatolia and Kurdistan did much harm to the villages and their peasants. They were viewed suspiciously by the inhabitants, who, being tired of their cruelty and oppression, staged a number of minor rebellions in the different parts of Kurdistan. According to Kendal "many Armenians participated in these uprisings, because they were attempts by the population mainly to defend itself." (5)
A. Amir Mohammed and the Unification of Kurdistan
The mountainous region of Southern Kurdistan continued to be the nexus of Kurdish rebellious movements. After the defeat of Abdul Rahman, Amir Mohammed of the Soran territory -- whose principality extended from the Great Zap River to the Iranian border -- benefited from the difficulties that the Ottomans encountered in Greece and Egypt in the 1830's. He too tried his luck in creating a free and sovereign Kurdistan. Times seemed to be right for such a venture. The Ottomans were badly defeated by the advancing Russian armies from the north. In the south, the viceroy of Egypt, Mohammed Ali, grew in power and tried to expand his realm on behalf of his suzerain, the Ottoman sultan. Moreover, the Greeks were in a stage of rebellion which resulted in the severance of Greece from the Ottoman Empire and the creation of an independent Hellenic State. Encouraged by the example of Mohammed Ali, Mohammed, the Amir of Soran, began preparations and established several military factories and arsenals in his capital city, Rewanduz. Those military plants soon supplied his army with vast amounts of ammunition, rifles, and primitive types of cannons. (6) By 1833 Amir Mohammed brought all of southern Kurdistan under his rule. The Kurdish chieftain's army was comprised of ten thousand cavalry and twice as many infantry. With the new territorial gains, his borders stretched to those of the Bohtan Emirate whose prince, Bedir Khan, himself entertained ambitious dreams of unifying Kurdistan. Amir Mohammed realized the benefits of joining forces with Bedir Khan. For this reason, he approached the prince of Bohtan with a request to form a Kurdish federation against the Sublime Porte. Bedir Khan totally rejected Amir Mohammed's offer, since it meant that he and his forces would come under the command of the mighty prince of Soran. Bedir Khan's refusal was in fact a decisive blow to the cause of Kurdish unification envisioned by the Amir of Rewanduz. (7) Once the Ottomans had settled their problems, Amir Mohammed became the primary target of the Ottoman Sultan, who sent Rashid Pasha with an army against him. Rashid also received reinforcement from the Ottoman valis (governor) of Musul and Baghdad. He declared war against the Amir of Soran, and he fought him during the summer months of 1834 . Von Moltke, who at the time was a german lieutenant serving in the Ottoman army, writes in his memories that the battles were furious. Kurds fought heroically to defend their motherland. The Ottomans had many casualties. They often fought thirty to forty days to occupy just one Kurdish stronghold. (8) However, Kurdish resistance was destined to fail. Partisan Kurdish irregular soldiers were unable to resist the advances of regular Ottoman regiments that were rejuvenated with fresh recruits. Amir Mohammed relived the fate of his predecessor, Abdul Rahman. He took refuge amongst the Kurdish tribes of Iran, from where he returned in 1836 to continue his struggle. This time, the Ottoman Sultan used his religious authority as the Khalifa [literally the successor to the prophet, religious leader, G.M.] and encouraged Kurdish religious shieks to rebel against their Lord. Prince Mohammed was outcast by his own people. He was handed over to the Ottomans, who took him and his family to Istanbul. The Sultan's plan worked quite well. Depriving the Soran district from its ruler and protector, he ruled there with an iron fist. After living in Istanbul for some years, prince Mohammed was granted permission to return to his country. However, he was mysteriously murdered on his way home (most probably by the assassins of the Ottoman Sultan). Amir Mohammed's movement was different from all previous Kurdish attempts at freedom. It was for once a huge endeavor with a broad popular basis (at least in its initial stages). It is normal to conclude that this movement was the forerunner of Kurdish national movements. However, one problem which severely damaged the Amir's cause was the social culture of the Kurdish people itself. Based on tribal and clan organization, unity and national belongingness were still strange, not to say altogether incomprehensible, to the Kurdish character. Amir Mohammed placed his bet on this sensitive issue. He lost because he did not realize that more time was needed in order to unify a tribal-pastoral society. Kurdistan was not yet ready to accept freedom and national sovereignty under the leadership of a single ruler. The Soran district was a remote area in southern Kurdistan. Amir Mohammed was not able to establish ties with the Armenian vilayets. The only Christians which might have helped the Amir were Armenian and Nestorian villagers who had migrated long ago to these remote areas of Kurdistan. However, as will be related, Christian and Armenian aid was more readily available during the next Kurdish rebellion. The originator of the new movement was non other than Bedir Khan. The nexus of his revolt was his capital city, Jezireh.
B. Bedir Khan's Rebellion
Bedir Khan, the Amir of Bohtan, was born in 1802. he was the son of the most prominent feudal lord of Bohtan, whose family enjoyed the leadership of the principality since the fourteenth century. Bedir Khan was destined to play an important role in the history of the Kurdish liberation movement. Most of southern Kurdistan had by now suffered dearly at the hands of the Ottoman armies. Kurds had no doubts about the intentions of the Sultan. An apparent hatred toward the Ottoman regime was gaining momentum. On the other hand, Ottomans encountered a great defeat in Syria where their armies were defeated against the forces of Egypt's viceroy, Mohammed Ali, at Nazib, in June 1839. (9) Bedir Khan acted quickly, and by 1840 he brought almost all of Ottoman Kurdistan under his rule. The prince of Bohtan also signed a treaty of friendship with the Kurdish leaders of Iran and the district of Kars. According to Safrastian, Bedir Khan was a just ruler. Within his territories justice prevailed to all Kurds, Armenians, Nestorians, or Khaldians. Christians enjoyed unlimited religious freedom under his jurisdiction. They were encouraged to build their churches and worship in them. Bedir Khan protected his Christian subjects and allowed no harm to be done to them. (10) This tolerance toward Christians was something different than Ottoman or Persian policies towards "infidel" Christians, which were based on religious discrimination. This humanistic character of Bedir Khan acknowledged him as a respectable leader. As a consequence, his popularity grew tremendously in the different parts of Kurdistan. The Amir was now able to rely on his popular base to accomplish his goal of liberating and unifying Kurdistan. Yet like other Kurdish leaders before him, Bedir Khan was confronted with the centuries old problem of Kurdish tribal disunity and rivalry which proved to be a major obstacle. Kendal mentions yet another problem that is of prime importance, but whose accuracy is yet to be determined. He exerts the idea that missionary movements, British and American, operating in southern Kurdistan preached Christians into obedience to the Ottomans, and total neglect to the cause of their actual leader, Bedir Khan. Kendal continues by saying that the missionaries were quite successful in their attempts. They encouraged people, and Armenians in particular, not to participate in battles against the Ottomans or to pay taxes and dues for the military aims of Bedir Khan. Kendal's arguments in this regard are interesting. The fact that missionary movements are by nature against violence, and, by this token, unencouraging towards war is well known. On the other hand, however, other authors insist that those missionary movements "did enlighten" Christians in those remote areas, and thus "generated the development of national consciousness amongst them." (11) Nevertheless, it turned out that Bedir khan possessed a political acumen and became experiences and seasoned leader who enjoyed the devotion and admiration of all his followers. Moreover his movement transcended the limited, sectoral understandings of Kurdish tribal thinking. Quoting from Hagop Shahpazian's book titled “Armenian-Kurdish History,” Sasuni states that:
"Bedir Khan's plan of action contained within it the eastern vilayets of Van, Mush, Bitlis and Diarbekir, reaching the Sea of Urmia (rather Lake Urmia). Moreover, Bedir Khan's plan demanded that those territories be defended against all outside enemies. For this reason, the Amir assumed direct negotiations with the Shah of Iran and asked for his help against the Ottomans. As for the Armenians, they had to provide help from Russia and Georgia. This could be a contrived as a ripe plan according to the developments of those days, since in it the seeds of an Armenian-Kurdish federation against Ottoman rule are detectable". (12)
In fact, Armenians living within Bedir Khan's rule did provide help for the Kurdish prince in his struggle against the Ottoman Empire. Some Armenians even fought in his army, Yet history was to provide a decisive blow to Bedir Khan's cause. Concerned with the fate of the Ottomans Empire, the "Concert of Europe" acted quickly and settled the question of Egypt's Viceroy, Mohammed Ali, by bestowing him with hereditary rule over Egypt, in 1840. This presented the Sultan with a real opportunity. Rescued from his primary rival, he momentarily sent an army under the command of Osman Pasha against Bedir Khan. Osman's objective was to restore Ottoman rule in Eastern Anatolia and Kurdistan. The war continued for three full years, 1844-1847. However, by the end of 1847, Bedir Khan had exhausted almost all his forces and supplies. Moreover, a dissension occurred within his camp. Osman Pasha bribed Bedir Khan's nephew, Yezdansher, who was the commander of the eastern wing of Bedir Khan's army. With Yezdansher's defection the remaining Kurdish forces fell apart and the doors of the Kurdish capital, Jezireh, were wide open to Osman Pasha. Bedir Khan's final battle took place in the Eruhi castle. He was defeated, captured and exiled first to Varna in Ottoman Bulgaria, then to Crete, and finally to Damascus where he died in 1868. After about forty years of warfare, the Ottoman government thought that it had finally brought rebellious Kurdistan to its knees. It was mistaken, because after only few years the movement reemerged, this time under the leadership of Yezdansher, who benefited from the Crimean War of 1853 and took upon himself the call of arms.
C. Yezdansher's Movement
The Russian-Turkish conflict of 1853 was reason enough for Turkish armies to leave their bases in Kurdistan and to hurry to the battlefield in an effort to stop the Russian offensive from the north. With the newly created vacuum, Yezdansher took the cause of his uncle upon himself. He endeavored to recreate the Kurdish spirit of freedom, which had died for almost a decade due to the massive presence of Turkish armies in the Bohtan Principality. Early in 1855, with a small army comprised of two thousand cavalrymen, Yezdansher took Bitlis and drove away its Ottoman governor. This act brought the new Kurdish chieftain an immense popularity within the Kurdish tribes of southeastern Anatolia. Soon hundreds and thousands of Kurdish warriors came from all over the terrain to join his army and fight for his cause. Still in 1855, Yezdansher crushed the joined forces of the valis of Musul and Baghdad near the city of Siirt and obliged Kenkam Pasha, the commander of the Turkish army, to flee away. In four months, Yezdansher brought the whole territory from Van to Baghdad under his rule (including Diarbekir). (13) By this time, Yezdansher's army swelled to over one hundred thousand soldiers. Parallel to Yezdansher's advance, the Russian offensive had a partial success. Yezdansher tried in vain to establish communications with the advancing Russian armies. His numerous letters to the Russian command in this regard remained unanswered, since most of the advancing Russian armies operated far to the northeast and away from Yezdansher's field of action. On the other hand, the European powers were once again in panic, since the unity and territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire were in danger by the Russian armies in the north and Yezdansher's rebellion in the south. France and Great Britain joined the Ottoman Empire against Russia. (14) They viewed Yezdansher's movement in the utmost negative sense. After all, a free and sovereign Kurdistan under Yezdansher's rule would become a Russian puppet and thus endanger European interests in the Ottoman Empire. Something was to be done. The British did find a way with which to silence the Kurdish chieftain:-
"The British emissary, Nimrud Rassam, set of from Musul in 1855 with plenty of cash in his coffers and demanded to be received as a mediator at the headquarters of the Kurdish movement. After visiting the tribal chieftains one by one, and offering bribes of guns, gifts and money, he set about persuading Yezdansher to settle the question of Kurdish independence from the Ottoman Empire by negotiating [with it] with the British acting as mediators." (15)
Yezdansher was mistaken in accepting the British terms. He trusted English diplomacy and accompanied Rassam to Istanbul where he was immediately imprisoned. His army was left without a leader. Soon it was defeated by Ottoman forces. With Yezdansher, the rebellious movements originated by the Kurdish feudal families during the first half of the nineteenth century came to an end. These uprisings represented a real threat to the Ottomans, since they had to supply costly armies to control the situation. Yezdansher was the last Kurdish Amir to lead a rebellion. With him the rule of the Kurdish princes perished. Soon religious leaders known as sheiks assumed the role of the feudal lords. With their fanatic religious zeal, the sheiks changed the policies of the secular princes. They started to discriminate against the Christian minorities who lived within their territories, and thus defeated all hopes of future cooperation. Once motivated by their religious leaders, Kurds started to realize their difference as Muslims from Christian Armenians, Assyrians, Nestorians, Khaldians, etc…They gradually developed hatred and enmity towards their Christians neighbors, something which proved to be disastrous for the future of both parties. During the following decades, nationalistic feelings started to ferment within the Armenian communities of the Ottoman Empire. However, there seemed to be no way or means by which the two ethnic groups could join forces. During the rule of the religious sheiks, the major movement that originated in Kurdistan was the rebellion of Sheik Obeidullah in 1880. Like its predecessors it was strangled in a bloodbath. After this defeat the status quo changed completely. Armenian-Kurdish enmity escalated and reached its peak after 1880, specially during the reign of the “Red Sultan,” Abdul Hamid II.
III. THE ERA OF HE RELIGIOUS SHEIKS
If until 1855-60 Armenian-Kurdish relations had a more or less friendly character, this trend did not continue unabashed. The scene changed dramatically after 1860. This was due mostly to the absence of Kurdish princes like Mohammed or Bedir Khan, who were true advocates of Armenian-Kurdish cooperation. Ottoman authorities were greatly pleased with the newly established status quo, especially because with the demise of the Kurdish princes, the Kurdish tribes and clans were left in a state of anarchy. It was the religious sheiks who assumed the leadership of the tribes. The sheiks were not only unable to unify the Kurdish tribes under their rule, but, with time, themselves became the “ears and eyes” of the Ottoman Sultans. One exception did occur, however. This took place in 1880, under the leadership of Sheik Obeidullah. In reality, this movement was different from the traditional movements of the previous Kurdish Amirs. Moreover, it was the first time that the Kurdish tribes of Iran took part in it. On the other hand, Sheik Obeidullah’s rebellion did not possess the potential and force of Bedir Khan’s or Yezdan Shers movement. Last but not least, it had a distinct religious overtone. It was the Ottomans who tried to stir the religious pot. They constricted this policy with the perspective of achieving enmity between the Kurds and Christian Armenians. It is worthy to note here that until 1860 all across the Ottoman Empire, and especially in the Armenian vilayets of Eastern Anatolia, Armenians in general were considered a friendly element to the Ottoman Empire. As a matter of fact, the consecutive sultans did not fear this “Milleti Sadika” (friendly people)” which paid its taxes and conducted all its responsibilities towards the “benevolent” state. Instead, Ottomans purred their anger on the troublesome Kurdish tribes in their attempt to crush their various rebellions. However, the rubrics of “peaceful Armenians” and the “friendly people” soon came out of circulation. Nationalist ideas had found fertile ground within the Armenian communities of the empire whose members were treated as second degree citizens in their own homeland for almost five centuries. In 1862, Armenians in the Ottoman Empire accomplished a major sociopolitical triumph, when they convinced the sultan to ratify their national constitution, Azgayin Sahmanadrutiun. The document enabled Armenians to bring some sort of organization to their communal life within the empire. In another words, with this constitution the Armenian Patriarch (Milletbashi) became the religious as well as the political leader of the Armenian Gregorian Millet (religious community) within the Ottoman Empire. The constitution capacitated Istanbul Armenians to establish ties and lines of communication with the Armenian communities of the Eastern Armenian vilayets. With the communication, the sad reality of Armenians living in Eastern Anatolia reached the Ottoman capital. A new network of Prelacies was soon established with a bishop appointed at the head of each prelacy. Thus, after centuries of seclusion and isolation, the different Armenian communities of the empire started to communicate with one another under the umbrella of this religious network. Armenians in Istanbul became active in projects involving remote Armenian societies. Schools soon started to operate with the intention of bringing education to the illiterate masses. With education enlightenment and notions of national belongingness started to flourish. Thus a new Armenian image emerged. The Kurds viewed Armenian accomplishments negatively. The already developed enmity between them and the Armenians escalated to new hights, simply because they were deprived of such an organization. This was due to their lack of unity and especially their competitive tribal pattern of life. After 1864, however, the Turkish government developed a more lenient policy in governing the Kurdish tribes. Ottoman armies were still kept stationed in Kurdistan, yet their effectiveness was greatly reduced. But Kurds had already lost a great proportion of their freedom loving spirit, and by this time they had reassumed their internal conflicts, vendettas, and booty raids. During the rule of the Kurdish Amirs, each Armenian country was under the protection of a Kurdish prince to whom it paid tribute. By paying taxes, Armenian town and villages were spared the cruel raids of Kurdish tribes. When the religious sheiks came to power and stressed the religious difference between Armenians and Kurds, the latter started pointing their guns towards peaceful Armenian peasants and targeted them for their “traditional” booty raids. The network of Armenian prelacies brought organization to the Armenian communities scattered throughout the Ottoman Empire. Soon primates started to send reports to the Patriarchate in Istanbul describing the difficulties and atrocities that Armenians encountered at the hands of Kurdish tribal bands. In their letters, the primates asked the Armenian patriarch to bring the matter to the attention of the Sublime Porte and to demand Protection for Armenians in the remote eastern vilayets. However, most of these reports were literally kept in the Patriarchate’s drawers, mainly because conservative and well to do Armenians, Amiras and Sarrafs, whose effectiveness had been diminished by the National Constitution, but who in reality were still able to exert great pressure on the Patriarch, made him keep his silence so as not to endanger their, i.e. the Amiras’ positions and fortunes. The Sublime Porte not only pretended not to hear the Armenian demands, on the contrary, it approached the Kurds and tried to gain them to its side. It even encouraged them to increase their raids on Armenian towns and villages. In 1877 a new Russo-Turkish war started. The Russians launched an offensive to erase the shame and humility that they encountered in their defeat in the Crimean War. This time the Ottomans were unable to depend on Europe’s help. Actually, most of the European powers were at odds with the Sublime Porte. Some of them even joined Russia against the Ottoman Empire. By this time Armenians and Kurds had swapped their historical roles. The formers were now regarded as enemies of the empire while the latter were the obedient followers of the Ottomans. Kurds actually helped the Ottoman in their war effort. By not attacking the flanks of the Ottoman armies they eased security in the Ottoman backyard, thus gaining the government’s trust. On the Northern front, the Russians planned and executed quick and decisive offensives and occupied all of Northern Anatolia. A second Russian army marched in a northwest and then Southern direction and after several victorious battles reached the gates of Istanbul. “The sick man of Europe” was once again rescued because of contradicting European politics, which now worked desperately to stop the Russian advance and to make Russia reach an agreement with sultan. As a result of the 1877 Russo-Turkish conflicts, the “Armenian Question” came into existence as part and parcel of the broader Eastern Question. The war ended with the Treaty of San Stefano. Article sixteen of this treaty stated that the Sublime Porte was under obligation to bring about much needed reforms in the Eastern vilayets that were inhabited by Armenians, and that Russian troops were to be stationed in those areas until such reforms were met. The article also demanded that the Sublime Porte had to protect Armenians against Kurdish and Cherkez aggression. (16) Evidently, the Russian victory could have secured a major victory to Armenian dreams of autonomy within a federative state. But the Turks used all of their canny diplomatic means and European ties to extinguish such Armenian hopes as formulated by article sixteen of the Treaty of San Stefano. Turkish diplomatic endeavors paid their dividends. After only one year the Armenian cause suffered a great defeat at the Congress of Berlin, in 1878, which was called upon by the European powers, on the request of Ottoman Turkey, which aimed at nulling and voiding the terms of San Stefano. Article sixty-one of the Congress of Berlin dealt with the Armenian Question. It was milder in context than article sixteen of the San Stefano Treaty. According to this new article, the concept of an autonomous Armenian state was altered. Russian Armies were not to remain in the eastern vilayets. The sultan was to initiate reforms as he saw fit. (17) For Turks, Armenians could no longer be trusted as the “Milleti Sadika”, the subordinate element. They were preparing themselves for the cause of freedom. Realizing that the cultural, social, and economic advantages of the Armenian communities were diametrically opposed to the pastoral status of the highly nomadic Kurdish tribes, the Ottoman government saw it necessary to develop a strictly negative policy towards Armenians. In this regard, the Ottomans used Kurdish hatred towards Armenians as a means to carry out their policies. By having the Kurds dangling as a “Tamoglian Sword” over their heads, Armenians would be busy dealing with it and lose precious time that would otherwise be dedicated for their cause of freedom. Ironically, a new Kurdish threat developed during this period. Thinking that they were finally able to control the Kurdish population and their rebellious spirit, the Ottomans had almost no armies in Kurdistan. In fact, the Russian offensive had demanded the utilization of all of the Ottoman military might. Therefore, the evacuation of Turkish troops from Kurdistan was a necessity. With no Ottoman threat in sight, a new rebellion started to take shape in Kurdistan, which also engulfed Kurdish territories in Iran. It originated under the leadership of Sheik Obeidullah who was the son of Sheik Taha, the highest religious authority in Kurdistan.
A. - Sheik Obeidullah and the Rebellion of 1880
The last Kurdish rebellion of the nineteenth century broke out in 1880. For the first time Kurds from Iran participated in it. In December 1872, the Iranian government demanded the Kurds living in Khoy and the regions of the Sea of Urmia to pay taxes for previous years. Kurdish leaders objected by saying that they had already paid their duties to Sheik Obeidullah whose family enjoyed this privilege since 1836. Not willing to tolerate such a Kurdish objection, the Shah sent an army to Khoy to punish the Kurds and to collect the proper taxes. Seeing the immediate Iranian danger, Sheik Obeidullah asked the Sublime Porte to interfere on his behalf and stop the Shah from destroying the Kurdish territory of Khoy. The Ottoman government sent the vali of Erzurum as an envoy to Iran. The vali was unable to accomplish his mission because the Shah rejected all of Sheik Obeidullah’s peace proposals. (18) During the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War, some Ottoman regiments acted cruelly against Kurds in the regions of Dersim, Hakkari, Mardin, and Bohtan. Sheik Obeidullah asked the sultan to pull his forces back and bring an end to the atrocities. Realizing that the Sublime Porte was intentionally ignoring his requests, the sheik established secret ties with the Khedive of Egypt, the Sherif of Mecca and the Russian consuls of Van and Erzurum. He wanted to bring their attention on the Kurdish problem. Russia had newly signed a treaty with the Ottomans. It was not prepared to undertake a new venture. Having received no guarantees from the Tsar, Obeidullah dropped Russia from his plans and started to make preparations alone. Yet what was the position of Europe and specially Great Britain towards the sheik and his activities? Of course England had almost always been a defender of Ottoman integrity. This policy was kept not because of love or admiration of the Ottoman Empire but for two other reasons: first, because Europe was not able to divide “the Sick man of Europe” peacefully among its states. Therefore, preserving it and the status quo it represented was the best way o secure England’s route to her Far Eastern colonies. Second, to have the Ottoman Empire as an enemy was to invite Muslim animosity against the British, since the sultan was after all the Khalifa, the successor to the line of the Prophet Mohammed. The British were really sensitive in this regard because of their Muslim colonies in India and elsewhere. They were not ready to confront the wrath of some three hundred million Muslim over whom they held sway. Beside all these considerations, a free and independent Kurdistan would first harm the territorial integrity and the unity of the Ottoman Empire and also endanger England’s land route to its Indian colonies. So it was evident why England was never in favor of the creation of a free and independent Kurdistan. Sheik Obeidullah knew this, and he also knew that England was another power on the list of his enemies. But a power, which needed close surveillance, since, it could do much harm with all its military and diplomatic might. Nevertheless, the English were quick to act as before with Yezdan Sher, they used not military but diplomatic means, since that was more likely to work again in such situations. Soon the British Consul of Van undertook the long journey and appeared at the sheik’s palace in Shamsdinan. The Consul told Obeidullah that Britain stood with the totality of the Ottoman State, but at the same time it wanted to encourage reforms for Kurds, Armenians, and Nestorian Assyrians living in Kurdistan. The Sheik assured the consul that all Sunni Kurds are faithful to the Ottoman Sultan. It seems that the British consul fell prey to the sheik’s words and returned to Van thinking that he accomplished his mission and gained the Sheik’s confidence. After his visit, the Sheik’s forces received weapons and ammunition from the British. These arrived under the cover of relief aid. (19) It seems that Obeidullah was himself a gifted politician besides being a religious leader. He was ambitious, and he worked for several goals simultaneously. He also wanted to establish his rule over Kurdistan. On the other hand, Sultan Abdul Hamid II wanted to use the Sheik and manipulate him for his own purposes. The sultan had developed a Pan-Islamic ideology, which aimed at using of religious authority to unify the weakened empire and restore its greatness. Obeidullah and his alikes seemed to be important in carrying out such a plan. So the sheik’s part was to block Armenian resistance and thus help the sultan to destroy reform projects which European powers pressured him for. As for the question that such a part would increase the strength of the Kurdish sheik, Abdul Hamid was clever enough not to let the balance be disturbed. His politics worked in the direction of strengthening the various religious leaders, but on condition that none of them exceeded others in power and became a threat to the central government. Sultan Abdul Hamid did let the Kurdish Sheik grow strong, but he always balanced that strength and made sure that the sheik was under his control. (20) Makhumtov views Sheik Obeidullah’s movement as strictly nationalistic. Such feelings are understood even if not shared, since historical research shows a different perspective. Makhmutov bases his opinion on one of Obeidullah’s speeches during which he is supposed to have said that:
“Ottoman rule was established five hundred and fifty years ago. Ottoman achieved their ruling positions by using all of the illegal avenues that they could think of. As long as the Shariah (Muslim religious code of law, derived from the writings and the Hadises of the prophet-G.M.) demands that the sultan [sick, Khalifa-G.M.] must be of the Prophet’s lineage, Ottoman rule on the Islamic world is accordingly null and unlawful”. (21)
Being a religious leader, Sheik Obeidullah had to use religious overtones in order to strengthen his position. Even if the authenticity of the speech is put under question, its wording indicates no nationalistic feeling but rather a definite religious content. The mention of the Shariah alone is reason enough in this respect. Therefore, the nationalistic outlook with which Makhnutov tries to color Obeidullah’s movement does not seem to fit the historical record. Anyway, this could be proven by the fact that the Kurdish Sheik became the victim of his highly ambitious character. In the end he and his people came under the duel fire of the Ottoman and Iranian armies. (22) How did this downfall happen? In February 1880 (July, according to Makhumutov), Obeidullah invited the Kurdish tribal chieftains to a meeting in his capital city of Shamsdinan. During the discussions, the sheik spoke out that he had abandoned the idea of fighting the sultan and the shah simultaneously, and that instead he had decided to attack Iran first (an indication of his pro-ottoman position perhaps). Warfare started in October of the same year. Obeidullah, with an army of eighty thousand, first occupied Sudjbulak (Mahabad), then Maraghi, and then the strategic city of Tabiz. The disorganized Kurdish army soon diverted from its real objectives and Obeidullah was unable to manage and lead an army comprised mainly of undisciplined tribal warriors. Soon booty raids became so frequent that Tabriz and its defense was totally neglected. The whole movement was endangered. Frightened, the shah asked for Ottoman intervention in order to stop Obeidullah’s offensive. The sultan had helped the Kurdish sheik in his campaign, but now he was worried that the sheik had exceeded his limits. Soon Ottoman armies appeared on the scene. Obeidullah was now caught between the Ottoman and Iranian forces. He abandoned his newly conquered territories and fled to Shamsdinan. The Ottoman government did not punish Obeidullah, because the sheik and his forces could still be of use to secure the Southern flank of the Iranian-Turkish border. Yet the sheik’s campaign had made him a hero. Eventually, his authority had grown too much. Abdul Hamid used politics and diplomacy to solve this problem. He sent valuable gifts to the various Kurdish sheiks and tribal chieftains. He invited Obeidullah to Istanbul. The sheik was not in favor of such an invitation, but he was encouraged to travel by the other Kurdish leaders. He finally accepted the invitation and traveled to the Ottoman capital, where he was welcomed by a special parade in his honor, contrary to the protests of the Iranian ambassador to the Sublime Porte. Obeidullah returned to Shamsdinan. Yet as soon as he reached there, the sultan exiled him to Mecca. Obeidullah did not stay long in Mecca. He returned to Shamsdinan from where he was once again taken to Istanbul. After living there for a while, he was exiled once again because of his “liberal ideas”. With the declaration of the constitution in 1908, Obeidullah was allowed to return to Istanbul. In 1925, Obeidullah was apprehended because of his participation in the rebellion of Sheik Said Ali of Dersim. The military court of Diarbekir (which was assembled for the purpose of convicting the Kurdish rebel elements) judged him. He was found guilty and was hanged with Sheik Said and his followers. Sheik Obeidullah’s movement was the last Kurdish insurrection of the nineteenth century. Abdul Hamid’s canny diplomacy was capable of changing the Kurdish character. In 1885, the first Armenian political part, the Armenakan Party, was formed in Van, the heart of Ottoman Armenia. During the following five years, the Armenian communities in the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Caucasus were in rapid change. In 1887, the Social Democratic Henchakian Party was formed, and two years later the first attempts towards uniting all Armenian nationalists in a single entity was achieved in Tibilsi (Tiflis), Georgia, where the Federation of Armenian Revolutionaries (Hay Heghabokhakanneri Dashnaksutiun) was formed. Two years later the federation of all Armenian revolutionaries seemed to be a futile experiment. Many abandoned it; the remaining members formed a new party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Hay Heghapokhagan Dashnaksutium, A.R.F hereafter). As a result, the Armenian Question entered a period of dramatic escalation. Abdul Hamid and his government fought with all their might to surpress this new movement for autonomy. And what could have been more useful than the Kurdish tribes with which to accomplish this goal…
IV. SULTAN ABDUL HAMID II AND HIS PAN-ISLAMIC POLICIES
“We Armenians must try to share our enthusiasm with them. For this, we do not have any other means except out motivation, with which we could strengthen ourselves and become live models, and show that we Armenians are capable of defending our, and our neighbor’s rights as well. If we create this vigor, then we will have the Kurdish ally. Otherwise, Armenians will remain as raiding and robbing targets for the Kurds, and at no time will they accept us as partners in the struggle against the common enemy.”
Kristapor Mikayelian (Founding member, A.R.F)
After the major Kurdish rebellions of the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire changed its policies towards the Kurds. The sultan tried to establish a common denominator between the government and the Kurdish ruling class. This way, the Ottoman government expected to gain the Kurds on its side. By offering them a partnership in the ruling process, the government was to gain unconditional Kurdish cooperation in exchange. The protagonist of this new policy was sultan Abdul Hamid II himself. He needed the Kurds as allies to disseminate and advocate his Pan-Islamic ideology within the Kurdish communities. Abdul Hamid aimed at restoring the sultanate and the empire and to bring back the glory of the old days, after decades of weakness and corruption. When Kurdish leaders sensed that the sultan was ready to meet their demands, they willingly offered their services to him. Before proceeding any further, a brief analysis of the Pan-Islamic ideology that Sultan Abdul Hamid II advocated will suffice. When this capricious sultan occupied the Ottoman throne, the country was already on the verge of decline. Consecutive wars had weakened the government and had emptied its coffers. Several vassal territories in the European part of the empire had by then regained their freedom. On the other hand, Europe grew so strong that it controlled the foreign and even the domestic politics of the Ottoman Empire. European powers brought the Ottoman economy under their supervision. Its representatives demanded the sultan to carry out reforms for the minorities (Armenians, Greeks, etc.). Europe insisted that this was necessary to secure the empire’s internal tranquility and save it from further disintegration. Against this enormous European pressure, Abdul Hamid devised his own political agenda. Through the teachings of Jamal Ul Din Al Afghani (a Muslim ideologue) and his direct tutelage, he emphasized the importance of Islam as a cohesive force which was destined to amalgamate the empire’s mostly Muslim peoples. Abdul Hamid intended to recreate a strong central government. This could only be achieved by the unification of the ethnically diverse yet religiously homogeneous Muslim population of the empire. The sultan’s contention was that if he could accumulate this religious power in his hands, he would be able to restore his political authority as well. With such power, Abdul Hamid could block European interference in his internal affairs. At the same time, he could control the minorities’ demands of autonomy. He could even suppress new separatist movements. As a result of the Pan-Islamic policies of Abdul Hamid, the enmity between the Armenians and the Kurds escalated to new hights after 1880. The two neighboring people were unable to tolerate each other. According to Sasuni: “The Kurdish national movement stopped completely at about the same moment the Armenian national freedom struggle was born. At this juncture, a new Turko-Kurdish united front was shaped. In the decades that followed, it became the primary evil against the Armenian struggle for freedom”. (23) The absorption of the Kurdish “nobility” within the ruling Ottoman elite was to be one of Abdul Hamid’s canniest moves ever. Kendal notes that:
“… This policy of centralization, based on the integration of the Kurdish leaders, enabled the empire to make good use of the Kurdish people’s warlike qualities, partly as backing for an eventually conflict with the Russians, but mainly as a means of repressing the national movements of the various peoples struggling against Ottoman rule such as Armenians, Arabs, Albanians, and even the Kurds.” (24)
In every corner of the eastern vilayets, Kurds viewed Armenians as infidels who could be robbed, and mimed. In Alashkert, Vaspurkan (vilayet of Van), Pasen, and Diarbekir, armed bands of Kurdish tribal warriors named Hamidiye-- after sultan Abdul Hamid II, who sanctioned their establishment-- raided and looted Armenian towns and villages. They even murdered Armenian peasants. Some of these atrocities were the consequence of fanatic religious speeches that filled Kurds with blind hatred and transformed them into vigilantes. Anarchy was now dominant from on end of Western Armenia to the other. To defend themselves against this Kurdish menace, Armenians tried to get organized. Some Armenians were outlawed because of injuring or killing a raiding Kurd. They were obligated to flee form Ottoman justice and take refuge in the mountains as fugitives. Soon these fugitives grew in number in the remote mountainous areas. They organized themselves into fedayeen groups with the intent to avenge their families. (25) Arapo and Mekho in Sasun, Huno in Alashkert, Akripasian and Koloshian in Vaspurakan were thus transformed into legendary “outlaws” who became leaders of these groups. Those modern Robin Hoods fought Kurdish and Turkish army units. They tried to defend their rights and seek justice with their own hands. “However, these bands were few in number and their actions had but a limited effect on the situation in general. They were unable to restrain the Kurdish terror which by now had grown to an unbearable magnitude.” (26) Kurdish atrocities against Armenians reached their peak in 1895, when thousands of Kurds, with the help of regular Turkish regiments, attacked the secluded mountainous Armenian villages of Sasun and ruthlessly massacred the population. Notorious amongst Kurdish Chieftains in their dealings with Armenians were Musa Beg and his brother Chacho. Musa Beg’s evils were spread all over Sasun and even Mush. The government was unable to deny the many protests which Armenian villagers submitted against him. The authorities unwillingly exiled Musa Beg into Western Turkey. Yet the Kurdish chieftain returned after a while and was even appointed a leader of an Hamidiye regiment. Another event that is worth mentioning is the battle of the Birm. Kurds tried to subjugate the Armenian villages of the Birm district. Yet Armenian villagers defended themselves. Having exhausted their ammunition and supplies, their resistance was destroyed and they were massacred. Similar battles occurred in Ghizilaghaj, Hirgert and other parts of Ottoman Armenia.
A. The Rebellions of Sasun (1892-1904)
After 1890, the Turkish government and the Kurdish tribes focused their attention on the mountainous Armenian villages and settlements of Sasun. Abdul Hamid was very specific in choosing this Armenian “freedom nest.” Subjugating the last of the Armenian strongholds would evidently silence the Armenian liberation movement and its demands of autonomy. Furthermore, this would serve as an example to other minorities who entertained ideas about autonomy or even separation from the Ottoman Empire. In 1892, skirmishes between Kurds and Armenian villagers became frequent all over Sasun. Kurdish chieftains were outraged, because Armenian villagers refused to pay extra taxes. On the other hand, Armenians argued that the Ottoman government heavily taxed them. Moreover, being poor villagers, they were unable to pay the extra taxes demanded by the Kurdish tribal leaders. However, it must be stated that it was at about this time that some Armenian agitators, mainly from the Henchakian party, had moved to Sasun to entice the villages of this remote Armenian dwelling. Acknowledged as patriots by local Armenian villagers and as revolutionaries, terrorists, and even traitors by the government, it was these nationalist instigators who encouraged the villagers to refuse to pay the Kurdish lords. The first serious Kurdish advance towards Sasun started in the summer of 1894. Murad, the Henchakian leader in Sasun organized the bombing of the Satan’s Bridge, (Satani Kamurch’)which was still being built. It was to serve as a strategic passage to the mountains of Sasun and was to provide ample employment for Kurdish laborers. Outraged by this act, Kurdish forces moved toward the Armenian stronghold on the first of August. Kurdish Hamidiye cavalrymen and troops from fourth Turkish army battalion from Bitlis soon joined them. The villages of Sasun were besieged, yet neither the Kurdish nor the Turkish forces were able to advance because of the tight-armed resistance of Armenian villagers and the few nationalist agitators helping them. The outraged Mushir Zeki Pasha, the commander in chief of the joint Turko-Kurdish forces, planned and executed yet another offensive in 1895. In a way, these attacks were reminiscent of Ottoman assaults launched against Kurdish Amirs during earlier decades of the nineteenth century. This second offensive lacked any success. However, Armenian resistance was also weekend because of several weeks of intense fighting, Turkish troops and Kurdish irregulars were finally able to pierce through Armenian front lines and enter Sasun. The “eagles’ nest” was subjugated. More than a thousand villagers were killed; some one hundred and sixty fedayeens were captured and murdered by torture. (29) The atrocities of the Turkish troops and the Kurdish tribesmen in Sasun attracted European interest. European ambassadors intervened on behalf of Armenians to stop the brutality and the meaningless massacres. On May 11, 1895, the ambassadors of England, France, Russia, and other European states handed Sultan Abdul Hamid a memorandum demanding swift reforms in the six Armenian vilayets of Eastern Anatolia. Sultan Hamid had no other choice but to agree to the reform project, at least to silence Europe whose representatives had already traveled to Sasun and had witnessed the cruelties first hand. What sultan Abdul Hamid accepted was the memorandum known as “The May Project of Reforms”. However, he not only Prevented it from being enforced, but also even continued his aggression on Sasun during 1896-1897. Armenian villagers did stage limited acts of self-defense. In the long run, however, they were always to be defeated against the broader Turkish and Kurdish forces. Thousands of Armenians perished of brutality in the period 1895-1897. Susan revolted once again in 1904. But it was once again silenced by similar measures. During Sasun’s fight for self-defense in 1895, Armenian nationalistic agitation was already surfacing in other parts of Ottoman Armenia. Acts were staged even in the capital city of Constantinople. Events like the seizure of the Ottoman Bank by A.R.F. fedayeens and the disturbances that occurred at about the same time in some suburbs of the capital alarmed the sultan. Abdul Hamid was not dealing with the problem in the secluded mountains of Sasun, but in the very heart of his capital, exposed to European powers and the international community at large. By accepting the May reform project, Hamid was able to silence Europe and free his hand in seeking revenge against Armenians. He dumped hundreds of thew into prison. He brilliantly staged a series of massacres near and even inside Istanbul under the very eyes of the European ambassadors. Hamid presented his policies as measures and tactics taken against revolutionaries and traitors. To toll of these Hamidian Massacres was some three hundred thousand Armenian dead. (30) In the Eastern vilayets, Kurds once again became the tools of the slaughter. The May reform project showed that European powers intervened simply at the last moment, and on a solely humanitarian basis in order to preserve Armenian existence. Armenians never gave up hope from Europe. Yet it seems that the Armenian provinces were too remote to attract such importance as that of the magnitude that Greece or the Balkans possessed. The only Christian power interested in Western Armenia was Russia. It had labored and gradually absorbed the Eastern Armenian provinces, namely the Khanates of Erivan, Nakhichevan, Gharabagh, and Gianja from Kajar Iran as well as the territories of Kars and Artahan from the Ottoman Empire. Armenian nationalistic agitation and political societies first fermented in the Eastern provinces of Armenia, as well as Tbilisi, the capitol of Georgia. In European capitols such as London, Paris, Vienna, Geneva Armenian University students had already organized themselves into political groups. They discussed the Armenian question in the Ottoman Empire, and they tried to find the means with which an autonomous Armenian entity could be materialized. In fact, Ottoman Armenia was the birthplace of the first Armenian political party, the Armenakan Party, created in Van, in 1885, through efforts of an Armenian intellectual, Mekerdich Portukalian, himself a student from Europe, who, after returning to his hometown, started his nationalistic career as a teacher. Portukalian surrounded himself with the active youth of the city, and motivated them towards the cause of freedom. In 1887, the second Armenian political Party, the Henchakian Party, was formed in Geneva by a group of Armenian students. It soon started to publish its organ, Henchak (literally The Bell, after Gologol—also Bell—the organ of the Russian anarchists and their founder, Bakunin), advocating Armenian freedom. The first attempt at uniting Armenian nationalists and revolutionary intellectuals failed in Tiflis where the Federation of Armenian Revolutionaries was created in August 1890. Two years later, the Federation was transformed into a new party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (A.R.F.). It assumed the role of the protector of oppressed Armenians within the Ottoman Empire, and it devoted itself to the cause of their liberation. For this reason, the A.R.F. realized the importance of Kurdish cooperation and tried to approach this tribal people and to bring it closer to the Armenian cause. This was not a simple task to achieve. Armenians had almost nothing to offer the Kurds except their true friendship and an honest faith in the power of a unified Armenian-Kurdish struggle and what it could accomplish. It was not easy to make the Kurdish tribes understand this important and vital message, especially since they were repeatedly hearing the opposite from their Ottoman rulers. Armenian nationalists realized this difficulty early on. They were convinced that in order to bring the Kurds to their camp, a show of force was required, because it was only might and vigor that could influence a Kurd. Armenians also approached some Kurdish intellectuals in Istanbul. They even established a limited communication with some of the so-called “liberal” Kurdish chieftains and they tried to make them aware of the reality.
B. Relations During Hamid’s Reign.
Abdul Hamid encouraged and motivated the Kurdish tribes towards suppressing the Armenians. In many instances Armenians were cast as outlaws. Kurdish brutality against them was even permitted by law. The sultan armed the Kurdish tribes and then formed the Hamidiye corps from among the fiercest of the Kurdish fighters. Incorporated within the framework of the Ottoman army, these Hamidiye regiments proved to be a real menace for Armenians. In a matter of months they accomplished what regular Ottoman troops took years to accomplish. Elucidating this period Sasuni states: -
“During this long period of enmity between Kurds and Armenians (1880-1908), the Armenian cause suffered. This enmity took a heavy toll on Armenians. Its memories remained even when later conditions were changed between the two people. In order to shed some light on the future developments of Armenian-Kurdish relations, we have to add here that many attempt were made to ease the situation and to decrease the hostility between the two neighbors.” (31)
What were these “attempts” and what kind of work was done in order to bring a compromise? After the first A.R.F. general convention, almost all of its leaders who were sent to Western Armenia tried to approach the Kurdish tribes. It was necessary, even imperative, to make Kurds understand that the Armenian freedom movement was directed towards the Ottoman and not the Kurds. Even before the retaliatory Khanasor Expedition, during which the A.R.F. fedayeen punished the Kurdish Mazrik tribe (stationed on the southeastern border region between Iran and the Ottoman Empire), to show Kurds that they do not have a free hand in raiding and killing Armenian peasants, the A.R.F. Central committee of Iran established direct negotiations with the Kurdish tribes of Vaspurakan, with the purpose of achieving an accord with them. The negotiation had only a partial success. Some Kurdish tribes began to cooperate with the Armenian parties and the fedayeen groups, especially in such tasks as messenger services and arms transportation. First transporting military supplies from Russia to the Iranian border districts, and from there to Van, Mush, and Sasun in Western Armenia accomplished this. This network operated smoothly through the help of Kurdish tribes dwelling along the transportation route. It must be noted, however, that Kurdish tribes and villages that cooperated with the Armenian Movement were limited in number. Most of them, it seems, participated in the effort out of fear, because they were situated within the field of action of the Armenian fedayeen groups. Only a very small number of individual Kurds collaborated with Armenians because of their belief in the justness of the Armenian cause. Some even joined the Armenian fedayeen groups and died heroically fighting side by side with their Armenian comrades. Before attempting to reach a final evaluation of the various means employed at creating a more positive Armenian-Kurdish relationship, a cursory mention of some notable Armenian patriots who endeavored to establish a mutual understanding between these who neighboring people will suffice. The list of those patriots dates back to the 1850’s when clergymen like Khrimian Hayrik (Mekerdich Khrimian. Hayrik means Father in Armenian), then the Catholicos of Monastery of Akhtamar in Van, Karekin Servantziants, a priest and author at the same monastery, tried to advocate Armenian-Kurdish cooperation through their literature. In the 1890’s this work was continued by figures such as Rev. Vartan (Vartan Vartapet) of Saint Garabet’s Monastery in Sasun, Hrayr Tzhokhks (Armenak) of Sasun, and Keri (literally uncle, Rupen Shishmanian) of Dersim. Rev. Vartan was a respected clergyman. He was also a devoted nationalist. During his administration, the monastery became a hiding place for Armenian fedayeen and a depot for arms and ammunition. Rev. Vartan realized very early in his career that an understanding must be reached with the Kurdish tribes of Hazzo (Sasun). He dedicated his life to accomplish this important task. He created some inroads with Kurds through his pious character. The “Keshish” (literally priest, father) as the Kurds used to call him thus brought some ease to the Armenian villages that he served. Creating a positive atmosphere between Kurds and Armenians was a priority to Hrayr of Sasun, another devoted figure of the Armenian Nationalist Movement. He started his revolutionary career as a member of the Henchakian Party and was initiated by Mihran Damadian, the first Henchakist agent to Sasun. Later, Hrayr joined the ranks of the A.R.F. After 1895, he became the central figure of the Armenian Nationalist Movement in Sasun. He stringently advocated Armenian-Kurdish cooperation. His teaching became the basis for other revolutionary figure such as Kevork Chavush and Rupen Ter Minassian. Hrayr journeyed to the Armenian and Kurdish villages of Sasun disguised as a dervish (beggar, pious man). Once his presence was established he motivated the illiterate masses towards the cause of freedom. However, these calls remained incidental and their results negligible. Kurdish Sheiks and Begs sometimes cooperated with the A.R.F. on a personal basis and for only short periods of time. As for Keri, he became the central figure of the Armenian freedom struggle in the districts of Dersim and Erzinjan as early as 1895 and continued to be so until 1899. The A.R.F. Bureau (highest executive body) sent Garabet Ghumrikian as its agent to organize these remote Kurdish territories and motivate its leaders towards freedom. Keri, who was by now heading a fedayeen group, participated enthusiastically in this task. However, he was discouraged by the politics of the A.R.F. Bureau, which directed most of the organization’s potential towards Sasun and Vaspurakan, thus leaving Keri alone with no funds or dedicated personnel to continue his task in Dersim. Meanwhile, Keri succeeded in establishing firm and friendly ties with the Kurdish leaders of Dersim. He enjoyed a high popularity within the Kurdish tribes there. Most of them respected him and always listened to his advice. Keri’s efforts blossomed very late, when Sheik Said Ali of Piran rebelled against the Turkish government in 1924-1925. By then Keri was already martyred. Eventually, he did not witness the results of his dedicated endeavor. Stories of devoted Kurdish fedayeen and their adherence to the Armenian cause of freedom occupies a special chapter in the history of the Armenian Revolutionary Movement. This in itself could be the subject of an important historical research, which is outside the scope of this narrative. The Kurds never suspected, however, that the Armenian massacres were only the first phase of a more general plan, whose second act would be their--i.e. The Kurd’s--own distinction. By the time Kurds realized this, it was already too late. In 1897, atrocities similar to those in Sasun occurred in the city of Van. Armenians were obliged to take defensive measures. When Armenian resistance was weakened, the militants of the three Armenian political parties operating in Van—after negotiating with the authorities through the offices of the Russian consul – decided to retreat from the city to save the population from eminent massacres. However, as soon as they started to retreat, they came under heavy fire and were attacked by a Kurdish mob. The Armenian fedayeen took refuge in the hills surrounding Van. They were besieged and murdered by Kurdish irregulars, who hunted them down. Recalling this incident Rupen Ter Minasian writes: -
“With this (the Van resistance), the leaders of the three Armenian parties of Van and most of their devoted followers were massacred. And so they died on the path of freedom, which they adored. This was a tremendous blow not only for the parties involved but to the Armenian people of Vaspurakan as well. The most devoted and educated of the Armenian nationalists were martyred. After this blow, they [Henchakian Party, G.M.] never recovered. Its organization in Van was halted. With the martyrdom of Avetisian, the Armenakan Party in turn received a decisive blow. Its remaining members soon joined the A.R.F.” (32)
The cruelty of the Turkish regiments and especially that of the Kurdish mob proved once again that there was no, nor can there be any, mutual trust between Kurds and Armenians. It was as if cooperation with Armenians was a misnomer for Kurdish mentality. The A.R.F. finally realized that the mild means with which it advocated cooperation were useless. As a direct result, the Khanasor Expedition was organized in late 1897. This retaliatory act heralded the massage that the A.R.F. did not forgive those who spilled Armenian blood in the hills surrounding Van. Moreover, the message was clear: severe punishment was to be extracted against Kurds thereafter. (33) On the other hand, the expedition was truly an example of discipline and organization. The fedayeen that attacked the Mazrik tribe acted as true soldiers. They directed their rifles only against Kurdish tribal warriors, thus completing their task with a minimum number of civilian casualties. Nevertheless, most Kurdish aggression towards Armenians had no certain motive behind it. Kurdish warriors had to comply with the battle calls of their sheiks and tribal chieftains who followed Sultan Abdul Hamid’s policies almost blind-foldedly. Sasuni mentions that at the eleventh hour before the Khanasor Expedition commenced, Vasken Teroyan, known also as “Vasken of Vaspurakan”-- not being in favor of such an overt military act and preferring the continuation of covert, underground organizational efforts instead-- decided against participation in the campaign and ordered his fedayeen back to Van. On their way back, the group was scouted and was caught in a fight against a sizable Kurdish force which was about to surround it when Avo, the Kurdish scout of Vasken’s group told the fedayeen to direct all their rifles in the direction of the leader of the marauders whom he pointed by his finger. Eventually the Kurdish chieftain was fatally wounded. Amazingly enough, the Kurds halted there offensive and retreated at the exact moment when they could have given the fedayeen the decisive blow. (34) Many such incidents are recorded in the history of the Armenian National Movement. Ultimately, they prove the point that Sasuni tries to make. Obviously, Kurds followed their leaders blindly, yet they deserted them at the first sign of danger.
C. Relations With Kurdish Intellectuals.
If brutality and mayhem were the marks of Kurdish raids in the Eastern vilayets, Their intellectuals in Europe and even in the capital, Istanbul showed totally different attitude towards Armenians. A Kurdish inelligentsia had started to mushroom in the different European capitals after 1898. Kurdish students traveled to Europe to achieve higher education. Living in Western societies and having engulfed the social understandings and the nationalistic philosophies of the day, those young and active Kurdish intellectuals realized the erroneous directions towards which the illiterate Kurdish masses were driven. They tried hard to inform the Kurdish masses and motivate them to live in cohesion and mutual understanding with their Armenian neighbors. Some Kurdish students even wrote pamphlets in this regard. An example of such an essay is the one written by Abdulrahman, the son of Bedirkhan Bey, whose Armenian translation appeared in the A.R.F. organ, Droshak. The original Kurdish pamphlet was secretly distributed within the Kurdish tribes. It was titled “Kurtlere Khitap” (A Call To The Kurds), and it advocated cooperation with the Armenians and their cause. With simple words and sentences Abdulrahman told his brethren about “the evil Sultan Abdul Hamid and his treacherous policies,” insisting that joining hands with the Armenians is important “because their struggle against the Ottoman oppressor is just, and Kurds must take an example from it”. (35) The A.R.F. organ dedicated two editorials to the question of mutual cooperation between Kurds and Armenians. In them, the A.R.F. formally expressed its position of welcoming Kurds to join the Armenian struggle. At the same time, however, it advised them not to show hostility towards Armenians or their cause… By 1900, the Armenian National Movement had acquired a respectable reputation. Kurds realized that they either had to cooperate with Armenians or continue their enmity and raid and be confronted by the vengeance of Armenian fedayeens. The A.R.F. still advocated ideas of collaboration and mutual understanding. The party’s literature of the day reflects this, since it uses the examples of the nineteenth century Kurdish Amirs and their endeavors in establishing good relations with their Christian neighbors. Of course, this was done to bring Kurds closer to the Armenian cause of liberation, since there was a clear understanding in this regard between all Armenian nationalists: only with the accomplishment of a strong Armenian-Kurdish cooperation could the Armenian cause be effectively solved. In 1903 Malkhas (Artashes Hovsepian), an American-Armenian physician and an A.R.F. member, undertook a tedious and extremely dangerous journey to the southernmost part of Kurdistan and reached its capital, Shamsdinan. The objective of the trip was to meet with Sheik Sedekh, the son of the famous Sheik Obeydullah, and establish negotiations with him. Malkhas persuaded the sheik to join his forces with the Armenians. (36) This trend did not continue, because the A.R.F. was unable to send another envoy to the sheik in 1904. Eventually, Sheik Sedekh’s enthusiasm faded away. He brought his participation only late in 1908, after the declaration of the Ottoman constitution. The A.R.F. also tried to show friendly attitudes towards the raya (serf) Kurdish population, whose life was as miserable as that of the Armenian peasants. Between 1907-1908, the A.R.F. launched a campaign against Turkish and Kurdish tax-farmers and absentee landlords. It went as far as assassinating some of the most cruel and bloodthirsty of those bankers, who were a real threat to Armenian and Kurdish peasants alike. In fact, Sultan Abdul Hamid had swarmed the Eastern vilayets with his agents and spies “the eyes and the ears of the Sultan” and he knew about the assassination plans. However, he was unable to stop the killing of some of his best servants. This elevated the esteem of the A.R.F. and the Armenian movement among the raya Kurds. Some of them even joined the Armenian movement. The achievements mentioned above were only partial successes. Many Armenian patriots gave their lives as a price for their trust in the Kurdish character. Those were “true advocates of a positive Armenian-Kurdish relationship and had dedicated most of their work for the achievement of that goal.” (37)
V. THE CONSTITUTIONAL PERIOD, WORLD WAR I AND THE QUESTION OF ARMENIAN AND KURDISH INDEPENDENCE (1908-1920)
The Ottoman Constitution was reinstated on the tenth of July 1908. A season of festivity spread throughout the empire. Oppressed nationalities and minorities thought that the constitution would bring them liberty, justice and freedom. Moreover, it was generally thought that the new constitutional government would condemn the brutal policies of the Hamidian regime and initiate era of equality. Armenians also entertained the hope that the constitutional was their long awaited salvation, and that under the new, constitutional government, they would reclaim and even repossess their lands. As Christian subjects of the empire, Armenians would now be relieved from heavy direct taxation by the central government and indirect levies by Kurdish chieftains. For the Kurds, the new government structure was something incomprehensible. Rumors indicated that the centuries old feudal system and customs would come to a halt. This was outrageous, since yesterday’s raya (servant) Christians would stand up and demand their rights, their lands, and their rectitude. Diverse interpretations of the established governmental character created an even stronger division and enmity between Armenians and Kurds. Armenians advocated the Constitution. They remained a pro-constitutional element and protected it until late in 1913, when, in reality, events such as the 1909 massacres in Adana strongly indicated that constitutional Turkey was not the just and ideal state which Armenians believed it to be. Until 1913, and even after, Armenian parties and especially the A.R.F. continued to adhere to a policy of cooperation with the constitutional Young Turk government. They primarily remained an ally of the Ittihad Ve Terraki Firkasi (Union and Progress Party) Turkish party. Kurds, on the other hand, adamantly remained a pro-sultan element and freely advocated the restoration of feudal-tribal life in the Eastern vilayets of Anatolia and Kurdistan. The constitution did however bring enlightenment to some Kurds, in and around Istanbul. As was mentioned before, a small Kurdish intelligentsia had developed in the capital. Kurdish intellectuals took upon themselves the tedious and difficult task of educating he Kurdish masses and enlightening them with the idea of liberalism. They realized that Kurds could not continue to live in the Middle ages when the world was changing rapidly. Kurdish intellectuals ultimately aspired for the creation of a Kurdish nation as the first step towards the establishment of Kurdistan.
A. The First Kurdish Organizations
One of the most important reasons behind the failure of the Kurdish rebellions movements of the nineteenth century was the absence of political parties and their programs, which would have enhanced the popular basis of those movements. In the middle of the nineteenth century, a few Kurdish students had the privilege of attending European universities and acquiring Western education. In Europe Kurdish students were introduced to the nationalistic and liberal ideologies of the day. They brought those notions with them when they returned home. It is ironic to think that after all it was the Ottoman government that sent scores of Turkish and Kurdish youth to study aboard. Engulfed by the new ideologies, those returning intellectuals were not to sit still. Actually, a true process of change had started to ferment in the Ottoman capital. The reforms earlier in the century had culminated in the edicts of Hatti Sharif and Hatti Humayun, the labor of love of European educated Ottoman reformists who became known as the “Young Ottomans.” The sultan grudgingly ratified those edicts, bowing to the will of the Turkish (and Kurdish) intelligentsia, whose members had by now assumed important positions within the governmental structure. The reform process came to a halt, however, when Sultan Abdul Hamid II ascended the throne in the wake of the 1876-1878 Russo-Turkish war. It was to restart again in 1908, this time by the new Ittihadist “Young Turk” intelligentsia, which had inherited the reformist and liberalist ideologies of its predecessor. After 1908, many Kurdish intellectuals were assigned to high governmental positions. They motivated many Kurdish students to enter the University of Istanbul and the Military Academy. Those educational institutions had their doors open to Kurds since 1870. However, they were exclusive to sons of prominent Kurdish chieftains. Moreover, Kurds attending those institutions were specially prepared to assume leading positions within the Kurdish nobility and, at the same time, become obedient followers of the sultan. Yet things were changing by the end of the nineteenth century. According to Kendal:
“In Istanbul of the turn of the century a city bubbling with revolutionary and nationalistic agitation, these privileged few [Kurdish intellectuals, G.M.] became familiar with European bourgeois ideas. They befriended liberal Kurdish nationalists. Like the intellectuals of other nations, they launched journals and associations, both clandestine and legal.” (38)
Until the Young Turk coup d’etat of 1908, Kurdish nationalists worked among various other organizations. Some of them even held important positions within the framework of the Ittihad Ve Terakki Party. In April of 1898, Midhad Bey, son of Amir Bedir Khan, published the first Kurdish bilingual journal (Kurdish and Turkish). This periodical published articles dealing with cultural and educational issues in general. Soon it became “an important reviving tool for the Kurdish national sentiments.” The pages of the publication represented a real platform for Kurdish intellectuals. Abdul Rahman succeeded his brother, Midhat, as chief editor. Because of the tight political atmosphere, which preceded the first global war, he relocated the periodical to Geneva. Here Abdul Rahman came into contact with the editorial staff of the A.R.F. organ, Droshak. He published his illustrious article “Kurtlere Khitap” which was mentioned earlier. The newspaper offices then moved to London. But in 1908, with the Young Turks in power, the periodical and its editor were repatriated to Istanbul. After a while, Sureya Bedir Khan became the editor of the periodical. After the war, she relocated to Cairo where she published it under the name “Kurdistan”. The newspaper was by then accepted as the organ of the Kurdish National Movement and it served the cause up to the days of the Ararat Rebellion (1929-1931). From the beginning, the Kurdish nationalists took their stand beside the Young Turks. They argued that with Turkish “revolutionaries” in power the demands of Kurdish nationalists would be seriously taken into consideration. Grasping the opportunity that the 1908 constitutional movement provided, some prominent Kurdish nationalists such as Ali Bedir Khan Bey, General Sharif Pasha, and Sheik Abdul Kadir (son of the new Ottoman Parliament’s president, Sheik Obeidullah, organized the Taali Ve Terakki Kurdistan (Recovery And Progress Of Kurdistan) group. Soon after they started publishing the Kurt Teavun Ve Terakki Gazetesi (Gazette of Kurdish Mutual Aid And Progress) journal in Turkish. The periodical became the organ of the newly founded organization. It was also recognized as the first legal Kurdish newspaper in Turkey. Moreover, it enjoyed ample popularity within the Kurdish community of Istanbul. (39) According to Kendal, the Kurdish Cultural and Education Organization, Kurt Neshri Maarif Jemiyeti (Kurdish Committee For The Advancement of Learning) was formed as a subsidiary of the Taali Ve Terakki Kurdistan. This institution undertook the difficult task of establishing, and also operating, the first Kurdish school in Istanbul, located in the Tchemberli quarter. Contrary to the fact that the Taali Ve Terakki Kurdistan did not possess any clear political program, ideology, or a distinguished organizational machine, it was able to unite Kurdish intellectuals and nationalists under its banner. With its cultural and educational achievements, the organization spread the torch of education social understanding in the various parts of Kurdistan and among its numerous clans. However, the corruption of its leadership quickened the disintegration of the organization. Sheik Abdul Kadir left and established his own liberal gazette, the Hetawe Kurd (the Kurdish Sun), which became a new nexus of Kurdish nationalist and intellectual agitation. (40) Kendal writes in this regard that:
“…While Kurdish activities marked time [sick] in Istanbul, Kurdistan itself was beginning to awaken to modern political life. Young militants and intellectuals set up Kurdish clubs (Kurt Kulupleri) in the main urban centers, notably Bitlis, Diarbekir, Mush, Erzerum, and Musul. The Mush club, for example, had established contact with the main tribes of the vilayet. When it opened at the end of 1908, the Bitlis club had seven hundred names on its roster. The clubs were organized on semi-military lines derived from the young Turks, who had drown on the model of the Italian Carbonari. These clubs indubitably signaled the start of an organized political struggle in Kurdistan and clearly constituted a first attempt at setting a modern political organization.” (41)
After defeating Abdul Hamid, new policies were formulated within the Young Turk leadership. Some felt that they could now continue without the help or cooperation of the non-Turkish nationalist and intellectual elements. As a result, of this restrictive policy, existing non-Turk schools and organizations were closed, and publications were banned. These measures were decisive blows to the dreams of Armenians, Kurds, and other minorities. As a direct consequence of these policies, many Kurdish intellectuals and nationalists preferred exile to escape imprisonment. Most of the newly established Kurdish organizations vanished. Only a handful continued to work underground and prepare for the future. Meanwhile, even with the Young Turks in power, Kurdistan was not a peaceful place. Rebellions resurfaced as early as 1909. The two new centers of agitation were Dersim and Musul, where Sheik Mahmud Barzandji demanded an unconditional withdrawal of all Ottoman forces. The Young Turk government not only did not pull its armies back from Musul, but even reinforced them with new regiments, declared war on Barzandji, destroyed his movement as well as many Kurdish towns and villages that had joined the rebellion. Another minor rebellion was staged at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. This rebellion started in Bitlis under the leadership of Mulla Selim. He incited the Kurdish population of the city against the Turkish vali (governor) and his forces. In two days the rebels captured the whole city. However, they had to retreat against the arriving Turkish regiments, which reoccupied Bitlis and persecuted the perpetrators of the rebellion. As for the rebel leader, Mulla Salim, he sought refuge in the Russian consulate of the city. (42) After 1909, Kurdish nationalists themselves embarked on seeking relations with Armenians and Arabs. It is necessary to underline here that the Ittihadist government was encountering an Arab uprising at the southernmost corner of the Arabian Peninsula. Sheik Yahia Said was the leader of this Arab rebellion in the Yemen. He compelled the Young Turk government to change its policies of aggressions against the Kurds to focus its attention on this Arab threat. In 1912, permission was granted to the Kiviya Kurd (Kurdish Hope)--organized secretly in 1910-- to operate legally. Hassan Motki, who was a member of the Ottoman Parliament, led this organization. It operated for two years with a dynamic program. However, it too dissolved in the beginning of the First World War. Speaking about this “dynamic” period in the Kurdish national movement, Sasuni quotes that:
“The Kurdish intellectuals had finally found the missing cultural, educational and political keys, without which Kurdish unity was an impossibility. Unfortunately, Kurdish intellectuals assumed governmental and private sector careers. Some became representatives in the Ottoman Parliaments. Others became senators in the upper house of parliament. Still others became governmental officials, and military leaders. They, however, enjoyed the benefits of these careers personally. Kurds remained without a united literature, or a united alphabet. Kurdistan was still deprived of education. The few neophyte movements in this regard in Istanbul did no produce any echoes in the distant and isolated parts of Kurdistan. The nationalistic movement was gradually dithered and the Kurdish masses continued their conservative way of life. (43)
Kurdish intellectuals were not totally responsible for the failure of this fledging Kurdish awakening. These were dangerous times that preceded the First World War. During this global conflict many such movements were incapacitated. The Kurdish loss was twofold. Some Kurdish territories became the battlefields of long and exhausting campaigns between the Turkish and the Entente armies. Eventually, it was impossible to bring any sort of organization--let alone nationalistic motivation-- into such war-torn territories. On the other hand, Kurdish intellectuals living in Istanbul were silenced, as were intellectuals of other minorities. They were unable to speak out to aid their brothers in the homeland. It has been reported, however, that some Kurdish intellectuals had secret ties with their kin in the interior. These ties were the reason behind some major Kurdish revolts during and after the war. During the first global war, Kurds retained their negative attitudes towards Armenians. Under the constitutional government, Armenian-Kurdish relations – except those on the intellectual level—were almost non-existing. The Young Turks preferred to deal with Armenian and Kurdish nationalists separately. By this token (of liberalism), the A.R.F. became a legal, constitutional party thus attaining its seats in the newly establish Ottoman Parliament, beside those of the Kurds and other minorities. No one suspected that this liberal and to some extent “revolutionary” administration could after only a few years organize the first genocide of the century. Desisting all relations with the Kurds caused Armenians a great deal of suffering. Kurds became the real tools of extermination during the Armenian massacres. History revealed once again that Kurdish tribal hordes could still be employed to butcher innocent Armenians during their march into the Syrian desert.
B. The First World War Period.
Directed by the powerful German Empire, and with dreams of reinstituting Ottoman Might and integrity, the Young Turk triumvirate (Enver, Talaat, Jemal, who had consolidated power in 1912) pushed Turkey into the war. The primary objective was the creation of the Turan, the united empire of all Trukic tribes and peoples. As a new ideology Zia Gokalp, Ahmed Akchura and other ultra nationalist, racist Turkish intellectuals, who had praised the idea of Tuan incessantly in their literature, formulated Pan-Turkism. (44) Under the cove of the war, the Ittihadist Turkish government undertook the realization of the covert goals of Pan-Turkism. It organized and executed the extermination of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire, simply because they were a geographical, historical, and physical hurdle against the creation of Turan. The whole genocidal scenario was prepared in advance. The result was the punishment of some one and one half million Armenians. Moreover, the Eastern, i.e. Armenians, vilayets of the empire was emptied from their original inhabitants. All this was accomplished just to remove the “obstacle’ that separated the Turks of the Ottoman Empire from their ethnic brethren in Azarbaijian and Central Asia. Ironically, Kurdish sources observe that some seven hundred thousands Kurds perished during this same period. (45) This Kurdish death toll is somewhat questionable. The Young Turk government of the day instructed the feeble Sultan Rashid to order the people that the extermination Armenians was tantamount to a Jihad, a holy war, against infidel Christians. This was done to secure the cooperation of non-Turkic, Muslim elements of the empire such as the Kurds. It follows that the Kurds assumed an active role in the obliteration of the Armenians by themselves becoming the executioners (and not the “victims” as Kendal or other Kurdish historians desperately try to argue. Therefore, it is plausible to say that Kurdish casualties of war (obviously much lesser than the number given above) occurred because of civilian deaths during the battles which took place in Kurdistan, and also among the ranks of the Kurdish soldiers serving in the Ottoman armies on the various battlefronts. It is unimaginable how wars effect people and their fates. Sasuni mentions that:
“… Because of the war, huge Turkish armies were garrisoned in Armenia. The nationalist movement came to a halt, and all forms of civil life changed. All were frightened. And everyone tried to escape with his head. Armenians and Kurdish national volition was crushed. All forms of Armenian-Kurdish relations were uprooted. Military operations became frequent, and Turks seemed to know how to operate in an organized fashion. On the other hand, Armenians were left to their fate. They were subjugated and dealt with according to the military rule which gave unlimited power to the leaders of the Turkish armies.” (46)
Armenians and Kurds had to enlist into the Ottoman army. The draft law stated that all competent males between the ages of eighteen and forty must enlist as regular soldiers. Many Kurds circumvented the problem by paying the badali askariye (military exemption fee). On the other hand, poor Armenian peasants had to forcibly join the army because of lack of funds. They were enlisted and sent to a certain death if not on the battlefronts (where they were stationed on the advanced battle lines) then in the numerous labor camps, which were an important element in the process of the obliteration of the Armenian labor battalions. (47) Even in the few locals were Armenians organized self defense battles, Kurds helped the government by weakening Armenian defenses through their continuous raids. Such were the cases Sasun, Van, Shadakh Khnus, Taron, and Bitlis. Only Van was spared total annihilation because it was able to defend itself until the arrival of the advancing Russian armies and the Armenian Volunteer Regiments (Faykakan Kamavorakan Gunder). But on the whole, Kurds massacred Armenians with their own hands in Sasun, Daron, Bitlis, and the remote environs of Van. (48) It must be stated, however, that in some areas of Southern Kurdistan, and especially in Dersim, Kurds not only did not participate in the war efforts or the Armenian massacres, but also even confronted Turks as their enemies. (49) On the other hand, some Northern Kurdish tribes came into contact with the advancing Russian armies and fought alongside against the Turkish armies headed by Enver Pasha, minister of war of the Ittihad government. Russia, for its part, gave rosy promises to Kurdish tribes that helped her during the war. By securing the cooperation of Armenians and Northern Kurdish tribes, Russia aimed at annexing Armenia and Kurdistan as part of its colonizing policies. Russia’s European allies had similar aims for different areas of the Ottoman Empire. This imperialist mood was apparent in the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 between France, Great Britain, and Russia. According to this treaty, the three powers divided the Caucasus and the Middle East between themselves (Russia later abandoned the treaty when the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917. Lenin even uncovered all the secret negotiations pertaining to the agreement and its content). The rapid advance of the Russian armies did protect Armenian lives in Van and some other areas of Western Armenia. Soon Armenian refugee relocation tasks were underway with the purpose of saving the lives of those who were hiding in the mountains and valleys. In the Southern territories, some Armenian families had found refuge near the Kurdish tribes that had not participated in the war or the Armenian massacres. Some Kurds had even helped and gave shelter to Armenian families in Sasun. In Dersim frightened Armenians lived with the Kurdish tribes and clans of the remote mountains. Here, old Kurdish customs still prevailed. Kurds did not want to break their centuries old neighborly ties with Armenians. They helped their Armenian brethren in their times of utmost need. Most useful in helping Armenians were the Kurdish tribes of Northern Syria. They protected those Armenians who escaped the death marches in the North Syrian desert. As an eyewitness to these events Sasuni cities:
“I personally was interested in this matter (the Kurdish tribes of Northern Syria helping the Armenians). I was able to confirm that during 1915-1917 many Kurdish tribal leaders were questioned and even tortured by Ottoman authorities, because they had given refuge to Armenians by keeping them in their tribes, under the disguise of Kurdish clothing, so as not to arouse any suspicions”. (50)
It is also to be noted that during the first four months of 1915-- the most active months of the Armenian massacres--Kurdish rayas (serfs) were the greatest tool in the ensuing Armenian Mayhem. The government fully utilized the poor and greedy Kurdish peasants to kill and loot Armenians during the death marches. What was the result of all this? In 1916, Kurds finally realized that they had actually become the tools of the Ittihad policies. Obviously Armenia was uprooted and soon they, the Kurds, would face a similar fate. It was already too late. But even in those difficult days of self-realization, unity did not find fertile basis among the Kurdish tribes. Kurds remained divided, and they were transformed to a minority even in their own homeland. After 1915, the Ittihad government had no reason to fear Armenian-Kurdish collaboration. Everything seemed to be ready for the second phase of the Pan-Turkic plan--to bury the Kurdish issue of autonomy. The Turkish government first made sure that Kurds would never remain a majority on their lands. Massive immigration of Kurds to the remote parts of Anatolia was organized. In the Eastern vilayets, Kurds statistically were reduced to about five percent of the total population. Not content with these measures, the government herded Kurdish leaders and active youth into exile to the Western districts of the empire. Kurdish “nationalists” were thus deprived of their popular basis. According to Sasuni, the exile law had a secret article according to which:
“All Turkish civil and military authorities must see to it that the exiled Kurds encounter the UTMOST DIFFICULTY [G.M.] en-route, in other word, it was suggested that the exiled should, if possible, be massacred like the Armenians before them.” (51)
Although firm on its decision, the Turkish government did no seek the total obliteration of the Kurds. It wanted to relocate them to other areas and to start the process of their Turkification. Even with such Turkish policies in action, Kurds dwelling in the Russian occupied territories of the empire kept on helping the defeated Turkish government. When the Russian armies retreated in 1917, Armenians in Van and its vicinity had to retreat with them to the Caucasus. Kurds now joined forces with the incoming Turkish army. Sasuni states that on the Pergri Bridge alone Kurds massacred about four thousand Armenians and threw their bodies into the river. A.R.F. leaders tried to negotiate with the Kurds even before the Russian retreat, when there was no actual sign of such a withdrawal. The purpose of this approach was to make Kurds understand that Armenians were willing to forget the past for the sake of cooperation and mutual understanding. Sasuni, who was a participant in the events and also a member of the negotiating team, writes:
“I myself conducted part of these negotiations. I invented forty Kurdish leaders in January of 1918 to speak to them about restoring relations. This could be considered the first Armenian-Kurdish convention of this time…. Some of the leaders promised to be friendly, but the majority obviously showed the enmity and hatred that was hidden deep in their hearts….In February, when the advancing Turkish troops reached Van, those same Kurdish leaders joined them and persecuted fleeing Armenians and even massacred many of them. (51)
C. Defeat and Victory: The Treaties of Sevres And Lausanne
The Ottoman Empire surrendered in October of 1918, by singing the Mudros Armistice. This not only saved Turkey from being totally conquered by the Entente, but it even created a chance of coming out of the war with only partial losses and an obligation to sign a peace treaty that would in the long run conserve the integrity of the new Turkish State. The Pan-Turkic dreams of the Ittihadists were about to cost the total loss of the empire. The British fleet was stationed in the Bosphorus. English, French, Italian, and Greek troops occupied big chunks of Turkish territory. The huge Ottoman Empire was drastically reduced. Only Anatolia and the southern shores of the Black Sea remained under its control. The period between October of 1918 and June of 1919 was therefore an unprecedented opportunity for Kurds to establish their national homeland. It might be argued with some certainly that this opportunity could have been extended even to 1921, since during those three critical years Turkey was experiencing a potentially volatile political vacuum. The whole country was in a total state of anarchy and chaos. The Ittihadist government had fled; the Sultan’s rule did no go beyond the boundaries of the capital, Istanbul; the remnants of what used to be the Ottoman army were disintegrating; the commanders and officers were fleeing to save their own lives. On the other hand, Russia was encountering severe internal problems. Those were exacerbated by the Bolshevik takeover of the government in October of 1917. The new rulers of Russia cut off its ties with the Entente powers; signed the shameful surrender treaty of Brest Litovsk with Germany; called their armies home. Russia was now a secluded state trying to cope with the tyranny of the new Communist regime. The revolutionary government, under the leadership of Lenin, abandoned all previous Tsarist policies. This also meant that for the time being communist Russia was not interested in the colonizing policies of its predecessor of which Kurdistan was an essential part, in accord with the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916. The Persian army too was in a state of disintegration. It so happened that all three powers, Turkey, Russia, and Iran were engulfed in internal problems and strife. Europe was unable to interfere. The Kurds could have simply grasped the opportunity to declare the independence of their national homeland. In May 1918, the three Caucasian states of Georgia, Azarbaijian, and Armenia declared their independence. These states almost immediately enjoyed the recognition of Europe and the United States as well as their economic aid. Europe had to show a positive image to those new republics, because they were to assume the role of natural barriers against Communist Russia. All Kurds had to do was to follow in the footsteps of the Armenians and to declare their sovereignty. Even if European powers like France or England were opposed to such a declaration (rather unlikely at the time), they were unable to stop it from happening. In fact, their withdrawal from Aintab and Urfa (both in Cilicia) proves this. (53) It must be noted here that France and Britain were at odds in their Caucasian and Middle Eastern policies. England was trying desperately to reach the oil fields of Musul – scientific research proved to the British that those fields were rich in crude oil. England had kept this a secret from France. It was for this reason that the British seemed ready to negotiate with the Kurds for the establishment of a free and independent Kurdistan. France also approached the Kurds in this direction. What France wanted was a Kurdistan under French mandate. So all that Kurdish leaders had to do was to negotiate with the English and the French simultaneously and to make them agree to the idea of an independent Kurdish state. However, what Kurds were lacking was their own collective force. There were no Armenians in eastern Anatolia to help this Kurdish move. Moreover, the fledgling Armenian Republic could in no way help the Kurdish cause of independence. As in the past, there was no hope of the formation of a United Kurdish front, let alone an independent Kurdish state. It was really embarrassing to be unable of grasping such a historic opportunity. The question implies itself. Why didn’t the Kurds unite even when confronted with such an opportunity? In 1919, the hero of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal, then an officer in the Turkish army in Istanbul, was sent on a mission to the Eastern vilayets. Arriving in Sivas, Kemal severed all ties with the central government in Istanbul and originated a new movement to reorganize Turkey as a modern republic. He was able to gather an army of thirty five thousand men (mostly Kurds). Kurdish chieftains could have easily destroyed Kemal and his forces. Some gave serious thought to crushing the new Kemalist army. However, once again Kurdish leaders were the “victims” of British diplomacy, which wanted to use Kemal as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with the central Turkish government. Sasuni writes that in August 1919, prominent Kurdish leaders conducted a meeting in Malatia. Speaking about this meeting, he quotes a paragraph from a Kurdish publication that appeared in the United States under the title “The Case of Kurdistan Against Turkey” (published by the Kurdish National Organization) which states:
“During this time, concern and fear led Kurdish leaders to conduct a meeting in Kahta, near Malatia. The participants decided to join forces and confront the new Turkish Nationalist Movement of Mustafa Kemal. But Col. Bill (surname unknown) of the British Intelligence Bureau of Aleppo appeared at the meeting, and in the name of his government asked the chieftains to keep their silence, and, most importantly, not to organize any military campaign against Kemal and his forces. The Colonel also assured the Kurdish leaders that the Kurdish Question was to be solved in a just way by the Allied Power”. (54)
It seems that England once more stood as the protector of Turkish integrity. By so doing it extinguished any new hopes of Kurdish independence. But, most of all, England allowed Kemal’s movement to flourish and gain more firm ground. This proved to be a disaster not only for Kurds but also for Armenians. In the long run, Kemal’s momentum hurt even Britain’s policies in the Levant. The new Turkey immerging under the leadership of Kemal regarded Britain as an enemy and didn’t act in a manner which was agreeable or pleasing to England. Yet one is compelled to think of the reasons behind this pro-Kemal British tactic. The question that asserts itself here is why did the Kurdish leaders who were gathered in Malatia accept the English terms so quickly. According to Kurdish intellectuals, Kurdish leaders were certain that their country’s independence was dependent on English and French approval. In other words, almost all of the Middle Eastern states that immerged during this time or shortly afterwards were either British or French protectorates or mandates. Kurds knew that if they were to have their independence, then most probably they were to have that under an English mandate. For this reason they were obliged to accept all English demands even if they were opposed to it. Yet what Kurds did not know was the bitter fact that neither England nor France was interested in having a mandate over Kurdistan. Moreover, they were absolutely against antagonizing Kemal for such a venture. France was the first to act and to sign a treaty of friendship and economic exchange and even cooperation with Kemal in as early as 1920, (the Ankara Agreement). Moreover, Most of the participants in the Malatia Convention were not nationalists or radical intellectuals, but rather conservative and religious sheiks. They were always influenced by the British policies, which was brought to them by British consuls. The most powerful organization in Kurdish society was the Kurd Istiqlal Jemiyetti (Committee of Kurdish Independence). It had assumed direct talks with Kemal. Some of its members even advocated the nationalistic cause of the Turkish hero. Anyway, this organization became the victim of Kemal’s Milli Movement. Late in 1921, one hundred and ten of its radical members (who detested the close ties with the Kemalist Movement) were sentenced to death. They were either hanged or put in front of firing squads. The failure of the Khata meeting and the accumulating mistakes of the Kurdish leadership gave Kemal the opportunity to strengthen his posture. Once he accomplished this, he moved to the offensive. He fought the Kurdish nationalist elements furiously. Kemal saw in them the capacity of becoming a real threat to the new Turkish republic that he was trying to establish. Meanwhile, preparations for the Peace Conference were underway early in 1919. Before speaking about the Paris Peace Conference, it is important to give a brief description about the relations and the negotiations that occurred between the two Armenian Delegations and the Kurdish Commission in Paris in the months that preceded the Peace Conference. These negotiations lasted until August 10, 1920, the date on which the Treaty of Serves was signed. For a period of almost a year between 1919 and 1920, Armenian and Kurdish delegates continued their political and diplomatic “skirmishes” in Paris over disputed borders and overlapping territories. During this same time, in Anatolia, Kemal continued to grow stronger and to constitute the basis of his new Republic. In the early stages, no one thought seriously about Kemal or his feeble movement. This gave the Turkish nationalist a free hand. By the time the Peace Treaty was ready to be signed, Kemal came forth as a capable and to some extent strong leader, which wanted to definitely be counted as a player in the game. European powers now had to face this new reality imposed by Kemal. They were negotiating with the delegates of a defeated Ottoman Empire, whereas real power in Turkey was in the hands of the young and energetic Mustafa Kemal. The Kurdish Delegation in Paris was headed by Sherif Pasha who, according to Sasuni, “still kept the character of an Ottoman official and even acted in accordance to that psychology.” He was always confused and unable to reach an agreement. He could not argue effectively. Sherif Pasha did no have a clear picture of the geographic boundaries of an independent Kurdistan. He was unable to define its borders or the territories that he wanted to be included within the envisioned Kurdish state. The long and tedious negotiations finally resulted in an agreement between the Armenian and the Kurdish delegations. The central theme of this agreement was that the two people wanted to be free from oppressive Turkish rule. The problem of the disputed territories and borders were not solved. They were sent back to the Peace Conference to be decided over. In an official letter addressed to the Peace Conference and signed by the two delegations, Armenians and Kurds asked for the establishment of independent Armenian and Kurdish states, leaving the problem of disputed territories in Vaspurakan and elsewhere to the discretion of the Peace Conference. (56) The Armenian-Kurdish negotiations and the matter of the disputed territories met the protests of Armenians everywhere. Some though that too many concessions were being made in order to reach a compromise with the Kurds. The first such protestor was the Armenian Ambassador to Washington D.C., Armen Karo (Karekin Pastermajian). Armenians had two delegations in Paris; Avetis Aharonian, the representative of the Republic of Armenia, headed one, Boghos Nubar Pasha headed the second. It represented Western and Cilician Armenians (it was this delegation that demanded an Armenia “from sea unto sea” with Cilician territories included within the future Armenian republic (this in turn unleashed a sarcastic campaign in the European and especially the French media about an “Armenian Empire”). The “concessions” issue became the subject of hot debates in the Armenian diasporan media itself. This compelled the two Armenian delegations to publish a joint communiqué in order to clarify the issue and prove that the agreement in no way jeopardized Armenian demands. (57) Sherif Pasha did not remain as the head of the Kurdish delegation until the end of the Peace Conference. He declared that he opposed the Armenian-Kurdish agreement that he himself had signed. After his departure from Paris, Kurds continued their lobbying but had a very limited and unorganized presence in the diplomatic circles of the Peace Conference. On August 10, 1920, a Peace Treaty was singed in Severs. The representative of Kemal, the real power in Anatolia, was not present. The delegate of the feeble sultan who had no real power in the Anatolian interior presented Turkey. As a matter of fact, his rule encompassed only the capital Istanbul, and some of its suburbs. During the Conference Woodrow Wilson, the president of the United States of America, put his famous sixteen points concerning the right of people to decide their futures and freedom on the discussion table. President Wilson himself drew the borders of the free and independent Republic of Armenia. As for the question of Kurdish independence, articles 62, 63, and 64 of the treaty addressed that issue. (58) Article 62 stated that a committee formed from the representatives of the three Entente powers France, England, and Italy, was to reside in Istanbul and was in a matter of six months prepare a program of autonomy in the regions inhabited by the Kurds. This offered a partial solution to the question of Kurdish independence. Kurds were outraged. According to them, the newly established Armenian Republic had acquired territories that were considered theirs. Kendal argues that president Wilson annexed to Armenia lands that were inhabited by Kurds in Mush, Erzinjan, Bingeol, Bitlis, Van, Gharakilise, Iktir, and Erzerum. (59) This is a topic of hot debate. It is clear that by 1920, and mostly due to the Armenian massacres during the war, those Armenian territories were emptied from their original Armenian inhabitants. Was it really possible to translate the ownership of such disputed territories by the mere fact that after the massacres and the deportation of Armenians Kurds had become a majority in those areas? Nevertheless, even this Kurdish majority was questionable at the time, since with the blessings of the new Kemalist government massive numbers of Turkish immigrants from the Balkans and the Caucasus were being dumped into those areas. However, for the record it must be stated that culturally, ethnically, and historically these disputed lands represented the ancient homeland of the Armenian nation who lived there as an undisputed majority for over two millennia enduring Turkish, Kurdish, Cherkez, and other immigrations organized by the various Ottoman sultans. Nevertheless, the Treaty of Severe was destined to fail even before its ink was dried. Kemal was to grow and eventually give a decisive blow to the Allied Powers and their friends, the Greek, who was entrusted with the execution of the ill-fated treaty. Kemal gathered his forces and first blockaded the Greek advance. Himself moving to the offensive he defeated the outnumbering Greek armies near Izmir and literally threw them into the Black Sea under the very eyes of the British fleet, which stood silently during the whole unfolding “drama.” Kemal literally burned the seaport city of Izmir. Thousands of civilians (including many Armenians who had returned home encouraged by the Allied Powers) were either burned or put at the mercy of the sea. By new Kemal’s position was that of a strong man. He was now ready to negotiate with Europe according to his own terms. The Treaty of Severe was to be nulled. Another was singed at Laussane in 1923. Armenian and Kurdish independence was totally jeopardized, since Kemal insisted that Turkish sovereignty must be reinstated over all of Anatolia. The Entente powers had to agree in order to gain Kemal as an ally rather then an enemy who was certain to fall into the lap of Communist Russia. Kemal was promised help from Moscow too. His position was a favorable one. He had all the cards in his hands and he played expertly. By so doing he constituted the cornerstone of a new phase of relations with Europe. After 1921, the A.R.F. leaders tried once more to establish relations with the Kurds, since now Armenians and Kurds represented the only two people who still had demands from republican Turkey. In 1924, an agreement was reached with the Kurdish National Committee. Soon after, in 1925, a new Kurdish rebellion burst out on Dersim under the leadership of Sheik Said Ali. The Sheik gathered the Kurdish nationalists under his flag and raised arms against the Turkish oppressor, which this time was represented by the new Kemalist Republic.
VI. SHEIK SAID ALI’S REBELLION AND THE FORMATION OF “HOYBOUN,” THE KURDISH NATIONAL PARTY
“My natural life is finished. I do not regret that I am dying for my country and nation. I would be satisfied if our grand-children do not shame us in front of our enemies.”
Sheik Said Ali of Piran
After defeating the implementation of the Sevres treaty, Kemal approached communist Russia for economic and military aid. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 gave the impetus necessary for the creation of a pseudo Turkish Communist Party. Kemal tolerated the formation of such a political entity to secure Soviet friendship and, most importantly, aid. Later, however, in an effort to rectify his position with Europe—that is, to appease its powers--Kemal dissolved that party in 1925, of course after physically eliminating its leaders first. The initial Kemalist tilt towards Communist Russia alarmed Europe. Its most affected powers, i.e. France, Britain were worried that such a tilt would definitely endanger their new Middle Eastern possessions. Moreover, a Turkey friendly to Russia would extend communism’s frontiers to the detriment of Europe and its spheres of influence. France was the first to sign a treaty of friendship with the Kemalist government. This happened in early October 1921, when Kemal’s forces had not yet extended their rule over all of modern day Turkey. Moreover, Greek forces were still active in Anatolia. In fact, to most Turkish nationalist leaders, the very existance of such massive Greek forces did endanger the very existence of their fledgling nationalist movement. It is in this context that France’s erratic behavior must be understood and properly analyzed— most probably a case of “cold feet.” With such French encouragement—as the signing of a treaty of peace and friendship with Turkey could have entailed-- Kemalist forces were able to halt the advance of the Greek armies who had already conquered Izmir and were moving inward, toward central Anatolia. This Turkish victory was achieved through substantial Kurdish aid to Kemal’s army. Thousands of Kurdish tribal warriors and previous Hamidiye regiment soldiers joined Kemal’s army. The Turkish leader was thus not only able to confront the Greek armies but even to stage a strong counter-offensive which swept the advancing Greek army back to Izmir and literally into the Black Sea, together with the Greek and Armenian population of the city, under the very eyes of the British fleet which watched the tragedy unfold (according to some reports Her Majesty’s sailors, following orders from their officers, even went as far as pouring boiling water on those seeking refuge on board British ships. What was the reason or reasons behind this massive Kurdish aid to Kemal. After all, it was only months before that’s Kurdish chieftains who had met in Malatia had agreed to get rid of him. There is nothing surprising in such Kurdish attitude. By now, Kemal had become a seasoned politician. So, in order not to alienate the Kurdish chieftains, Kemal never used the term “Turkish Republic” when addressing them or the Kurdish population at large. Instead, he started his movement in the heart of Kurdistan, where he promised Kurds a country where Turks and Kurds would live mutually, and harmoniously like brothers and equals in every aspect. Kemal’s promises were negotiated and hammered down during several. meetings and conventions. The first such convention was held in Erzerum. It is also known as the Congress of the Eastern Vilayets. Rumors had it that the Paris Peace Conference had already annexed the vilayets of Erzerum, Kars, Bitlis, Erzinjan, Mush and Van to the Armenian republic, whose borders were to be drawn by the president of the United States of America, Woodrow Wilson. Fifty-four prominent Kurdish chieftains and leaders from these territories came to Erzerum to meet Kemal and to join forces to struggle against the annexation of Kurdish territories to neighboring Armenia. Kendal, who had previously erred by claiming that those vilayets were “historically Kurdish territories,” and that “Armenians had no legitimate claims over them,” contradicts himself by stating that:
“The Kurdish notable [who did participate in the Erzerum Convention of 1919, G.M.] had their own reasons for resisting such an outcome [annexation, G.M.]. When Armenians were deported during the war, Kurdish notables had sized their goods (lands). Serving under Armenian domination would have meant dispossession as well as persecution [by] and servitude to a Christian regime.” (60)
The Erzerum Convention decided to act quickly, and to do all that is in its power to prevent the annexation of the six eastern vilayets to the Armenian republic. The Convention also decided that Kurds would help the Turkish army against any Armenian expansion. Kazim Karabekir Pasha was sent to Kurdistan to recruit Kurdish soldiers and to supervise their training. It was this mainly Kurdish army that advanced against the Armenian Republic in 1922. This offensive lead to the singing of the peace treaty of Gumri (Leninakan, during the Soviet era) which resulted in the Armenian loss of not only the contested vilayets but also of the districts of Kars and Ardahan. The Armenian Republic was thus squeezed into a small state, with an area of a bit over thirty thousand square kilometers. The question that asserts itself here is weather the Kurds, after all their endeavors, were able to keep the eastern vilayets for themselves or their posterity? The answer to this question is a definite no. After the Erzerum Congress, Kemal led his army from one victory to another. He destroyed all possibilities of executing the Treaty of Severe. For three years he waged a two front war against the Allies in eastern and western Asia Minor. He made them realize that they had to deal with him as the new strong man in Turkey. In 1923, a new treaty was signed at Lausanne. Here, Kemal’s free and independent Republic of Turkey participated as an equal negotiator. European nations, who only months before were engaged in a war of attrition against him, were now desperate to gain his friendship and have his new Turkey on their side as an important new ally, and, of course, a barrier, against Communist Russia. In Lausanne, all dreams of Kurdish autonomy were shattered. The treaty made it abundantly clear that hopes of establishing an “enlarged” Armenian Republic were futile. Deserted by its European allies and even the United States (which completely reneged on its previous promise of providing the feeble Caucasian state with a mandate and protection because of its important strategic value as a country bordering Communist Russia), Armenia now came under the duel fire of Turkey and Russia. Kemal’s Army had already reached Kars and Ardahan. On the other front, the Russian Red Army, through the help of local communist agitators and agents, defeated the abruptly organized Armenian army; instituted Communist rule over the republic; and compelled the leadership of the liberal, pro-Western ruling party, the A.R.F., to exile first to Iran, then to the newly established Middle Eastern countries (some finally settled in Europe and the United States). As for the Kurds, they were deprived of any political recognition. The Turkish envoy to Lausanne silenced all talks about Kurdish autonomy. He stressed that “Kurds and Turks are now equal partners in the government of Turkey,” and that “although Turks and Kurds may speak different languages, these two people are not different from the point of view of race, faith and custom.” (61) If anything, this statement indicates that Kemalist Turkey viewed the assimilation and Turkification of the Kurds as a natural process. The Treaty of Lausanne gave other minorities in Turkey--like Armenians, Greeks, and Jews religious as well as some cultural “freedoms.” But Kurds, because of being represented as “equal partners” to the Turkish majority, were not counted as a minority. Thus, they were deprived from even the meager “freedoms” that other minorities were to enjoy. After 1923, the Turkification of the Kurds accelerated with the objective of literally melting them within the Turkish race. In yet another blow to the Kurds, the Treaty of Lausanne divided Historical Kurdistan between the newly established Middle Eastern states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. This was an indirect consequence of the planning and the execution of the Sykes-Picot agreement. England wanted the oil-rich fields of southern Kurdistan (Musul). It was annexed by Iraq, a British mandate. The oil issue exacerbated relations between France and England. Supposedly, oil was discovered after the Lausanne Treaty was signed. However, France insisted that the British already knew about the oil reserves in the area and preferred to say nothing about it during negotiations. Nevertheless, the two European powers were able to reach a compromise. Accordingly, France received twenty five percent of the oil revenue and also the districts of Jezireh and Kurd Dagi (Kurdish Mountain) in southwestern Kurdistan, which it annexed to its Syrian protectorate.
A. Sheik Said Ali’s Rebellion in Dersim
In the Turkish parts of Kurdistan, and also in the eastern vilayets, Kemalist oppression followed the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne. As an initial phase of assimilation, Mustafa Kemal closed all Kurdish schools and deployed new methods Turkification in areas inhabited by the Kurds. There was no doubt in Kemal’s mind that Turkey was to become a homogeneous Turkish state. By this token its inhabitants were to be only Turks. To add insult upon injury, unfair taxation, unjust judicial procedures, and bribe taking, corrupted Turkish civil and military officials made life unbearable for Kurds. (62) Late in 1922, Kurdish deputies in the Turkish parliament such as Yusuf Zia of Bitlis and Colonel Halid Bey from Chebran founded the Kurt Istiqlal Jemiyeti (Kurdish Association of Independence). The association organization branches in the major towns and cities of Turkish Kurdistan. This underground organization had its sub-committees in Diarbekir, Bitlis, Urfa, Siirt, and Elazig (Kharput, Kharpert). Army officers of Kurdish origins joined the association because they feared that the Turkification policies imposed by Kemal aimed at cutting the Kurdish people from their roots. Kurdish nationalists and intellectuals joined the association as well. Surprisingly, even some Kurdish religious figures such as Sheik Said Ali of Piran, Skeik Sherif of Palu and Sheik Abdullah of Melkan contacted the leaders of the association and put themselves under their command. (63) In March 1924, Kemal nulled the Khalifate by a governmental decree. Soon, another decree followed. This time Kemal banned all Kurdish organizations, as well as regular and religious schools. This action enlarged the existing gulf between him and the Kurdish people. It also pushed the latter into rebellion. From the onset, the Kurdish Association of Independence was making preparations for a general rebellion. (64) It had established ties with most of the religious sheiks and tribal chieftains. Its leadership had also created links with the Kurdish communities of Istanbul and Aleppo. In other words, the period 1923-1924 was completely devoted to the accumulation of military and other provisions in preparation for the general rebellion. Late in the summer of 1924, Yusuf Zia, the Kurdish deputy from Bitlis, went to Istanbul with the objective of contacting the leaders of the anti-Kemalist party, the Terraki Perver Chumburiyet Firkasi (Progressive Republican Party). It seems that Zia was successful in his mission. Yet, after only few days of his return to Erzerum, rebellion broke out in the northern districts of Bitlis. It follows that the Turkish government was also closely monitoring the underground activities of Yusuf Zia. It had assigned a number of agents and spies for this purpose. Taking advantage of the opportunity that this Kurdish insurrection provided, Turkish troops besieged Zia’s home; put him under custody; demanded the arrest of his brother--who was accused of being one of the primary agitators of the rebellion. Hundred of Kurdish rebels and Independence Association members were also imprisoned. They were brought to trial before a special military court in Bitlis in October 1924. They were charged with treason and were sentenced to death. It was at this juncture of the rebellion that Sheik Said Ali of Piran assumed the leadership of the Kurdish Rebellion. Knowing well that most of the captured Kurdish leaders and rebels were to be summarily murdered, he contacted the Kurdish tribes of Kharput, Diarbekir, Gendj and Darhini and persuaded them to raise arms against Mustafa Kemal and his government. Sheik Said also established ties with some Armenian nationalists and through them with the A.R.F. According to sources Sheik Said even had an A.R.F. representative, Vramian, in his camp. This Vramian became the liaison between the Kurds and the A.R.F. He also oversaw the administration of Armenian aid to the rebels. There is no doubt that this Armenian aid was symbolic. However, its significance lies in the fact that it was perhaps the first step toward a more rigid Armenian-Kurdish cooperation after almost decades of hostility and intolerance. This Armenian cooperation could also be considered the beginning of a decade long (1924-1934) mutual understanding and cooperation between Armenian and Kurdish nationalists, during which the A.R.F. tried to help the Kurdish people in its struggles against the almost genocidal procedures imposed on them by Kemalist Turkey. Kemal sent several Turkish regiments to the rebel Kurdish territories. Even with the leaders of the Kurdish independence movement either murdered or imprisoned the general Kurdish rebellion was underway. On February 5, 1925, Kurdish rebels took to the offensive and seized Mush, Khnus, Varto and Arzni. (65) The Kurdish rebellion gained momentum day after day. Kurds from all over came to join the rebel forces. This was happening in spite of draconian Turkish measures to silence the rebellion. For example, in Kharput alone, four hundred Kurds were hanged after being summarily sentenced by the established pseudo military court. Kemal’s cunning character becomes apparent when one considers how he used the Kurdish insurrection to rid himself of the Turkish communist movement and party that he himself had instituted years ago as a puppet organization to attract Soviet aid. By introducing the brutal and unjust court martial system, Kemal created a permanent source of fear in the eastern vilayets and Kurdistan. On the international front, Kemal tried to convince the international community that the Kurdish uprising was a reactionary movement that aimed at restoring the sultanate. He worked hard to manipulate both the domestic and the international newspapers by attributing fanatic, religious overtones to the nationalistic aspirations of Kurdish rebels. (66) Moreover, Kemal went as for as to suggest that by restoring the Ottoman Sultanate Kurds were aiming at destroying Kemal and his cause of modernization. Nevertheless, all of Kemal’s measures considered, according to the A.R.F. central organ “Droshak” within only two months-- end of March 1925-- Kurdish rebel forces had occupied almost all of the twelve districts constituting Turkish Kurdistan. (67) Kemal and his government could not envisage such a Kurdish victory. A Turkish army of eighty thousand men was deployed within the areas engulfed by the rebellion. Moreover, with the permission of French authorities in Syria, the Northern Syrian railroad was utilized to transport new Turkish infantry regiments to Kurdistan. Soon, these two Turkish armies besieged the mountainous town of Diarbekir. They shelled it day and night until it fell in April 1925. Most of the Kurdish rebels were either murdered or captured. Others, however, still managed to escape and to seek refuge with the Kurdish tribes of Iran and Iraq. After the Turkish seizure of Diarbekir, atrocities began to multiply in the Kurdish territories. On September 4, 1925, the government hanged the rebel Sheik Said Ali and fifty-two of his followers. Thousands of Kurds were massacred, and scores of towns and villages were pillaged and reduced to ashes. Not content with these measures, the Turkish government instituted yet a new court martial that after only short and staged trials condemned hundreds of Kurdish rebels to death. It took the Turkish army months, even years to cleanse the rebel areas and to cut all supply and communication lines between the rebels. Turkish Kurdistan was put under military rule. Deportation measures were reintroduced to uproot Kurdistan from its original inhabitants. Kurds were relocated to eliminate all fears of future rebellions. Kurds had to fight for their existence. To do so they had only their rifles and their mountains with which to continue the uneven battle. Sasuni writes that: -
“Now Kurds had finally realized that the Turks were after them for good. They were no more the victims of Turkish lies. The Kurdish National Revolution had acquired a general character. Internal conflicts and personal enmities were all forgotten in the face of Turkish danger. The notion of a united Kurdish national organization was spreading quickly into every corner of Kurdistan. The Turkish brutality indirectly helped in the development of this new spirit. Thus, every Kurd realized that unity was a necessity rather than a tactic or a political maneuver.” (68)
During the last stages of Sheik Said Ali’s Rebellion, some Kurdish rebels had escaped to Iran and Iraq. From, there they reentered Kurdistan in small groups and gathered in the region of Ararat which seemed to be the final refuge--and also the new center of rebellion-- for all Kurdish freedom fighters. In 1926, Col. Ihsan Nuri Pasha, a Kurdish nationalist serving in the Turkish army, deserted the ranks and with the help of some Kurdish and Armenian friends reached Mt. Ararat, where he joined the rebel forces of Haski Telli, the new Kurdish rebel leader. During the following months, hundreds of Kurdish rebels reached Ararat to partake in the preparations for the big event. On the other hand, minor skirmishes and battles still continued to occur in Hakiari, Hazzo, and Dersim. Kurdish rebel chieftains in these areas too had established relations with the A.R.F. through the agents of the latter. It is interesting to note that Kurds had started to approach Armenians differently as early as 1924. Gone were the memories of Armenian as friends and neighbors that Kurdish Amirs of the previous century had tried to instill in their people. For decades, Kurds had viewed Armenians as an element that can be officially exploited. As a matter of fact that was what the government had made them learn. That Armenians, after decades of Kurdish cruelty, were ready to forget the past and were still eager to lend them a helping hand in their struggle against the government was enough to change Kurdish attitudes towards them. Kurds thus developed a new appreciation towards Armenians and their organizations. (69) The spirit of Armenian-Kurdish unity and cooperation at last started to flourish. Kurds were convinced that in order to gain their freedom they had to fight Kemal’s armies to the last man. As for Kemal, he continued to shape public opinion to his side by attempting to convince it that the continuing Kurdish menace was not an internal issue, but rather one that had many external links, and that England and its agents were primarily involved in it. (70) Kemal’s propaganda did not work in this intense. Moreover, Kurds were sure that Europe and especially England had long since abandoned them and their cause. In their disparity Kurds turned their eyes towards their past neighbors and primary allies, the Armenians, who “sometimes Islamized and wrapped up in Kurdish dress fought by their side and were even martyred for the sake of the Kurdish cause, thus gaining the gratitude and the admiration of the Kurdish people.” (71) Sasuni states that Armenians in Iran, Iraq and Syria were the motivating forces behind organizing the different Kurdish forces and political currents. The A.R.F. was active and even instrumental in this regard. On their part, when Kurds saw the enthusiasm with which Armenians approached their—i.e. the Kurds-- cause, they became strongly attached to the Armenians and welcomed their help. As a result of this Armenian endeavor, Kurdish intellectuals and nationalists coalesced to create a united political and military organization that was essential in leading their struggle. Sasuni also writes: -
“Kurdish and Armenian revolutionary elements worked hard during 1926-1927: They prepared plans for the future, brought together opposing groups and leaders, and, in the summer of 1927, organized a series of conventions and meetings. In autumn, all preparations were made and everything seemed to be ready for the commencement of the first Kurdish National Congress. Exiled Kurdish intellectuals, leaders of the Kurdish Diaspora, and representatives from the rebel areas of Mt. Ararat came together under the same roof. This could be considered the first serious Kurdish political, and at the same time, revolutionary, congress.” (72)
The congress gave birth to “Hoyboun” the Kurdish National Political Party, around which all Kurdish forces gathered. The party was built along lines similar to the A.R.F. During tedious discussions, its goals, political program, and its internal workings were all meticulously crafted.
B. Hoyboun and Its Activities
In the Kurdish language, Hoyboun means independence. After the failure of the 1925 rebellion, rebel Kurds from all over Turkish Kurdistan gathered in and around Mt. Ararat to continue the struggle for the Kurdish Hoyboun. The founding meetings of the Hoyboun party were conducted in August 1927, in the Lebanese mountain resort town of Bhamdoun. All Kurdish organizations and rebel groupings had sent their representatives to this convention. Among the most important achievements of this congress was that it established a consensus about the issue of the unification of all Kurdish elements under the flag of a single and general organization. Another priority that was achieved during the convention was the implementation of a strong and firm Armenian-Kurdish cooperation. The A.R.F. even sent its representative, Vahan Papazian, better known as Koms (a seasoned revolutionary and a member of the Ottoman parliament during the Ittihadist period), to the convention. Sources agree that Kurds desperately sought the A.R.F. for consultation. Kendal states that:
“This Armeno-Kurdish alliance seemed essential to the Kurdish leaders who were very much on the lookout for possible sources of support and aid for their movement. The Armenian party [A.R.F.] seems to have enjoyed more genuine Western support, perhaps because it was struggling not only for the liberation of Turkish Armenia, but also against Soviet control of Russian Armenia…It was as a result of this agreement between the Kurdish and Armenian nationalist leaders, and probably at the request of the latter, that the Ararat region, not far from Soviet Armenia, was chosen as a center for the new uprising. Another factor influencing this choice must have been the fact that from the Ararat area it would be easy to establish lines of communication with Iran, which had also promised to aid the Kurdish movement. The Shah had everything to gain: He would be weakening his rival, Kemalist Turkey, and his control over the insurrection would enable him to forestall the Kurdish revolt which was threatening to break out in Iran itself, under the leadership of Simko.” (74)
The founding congress also elected a central committee that soon became known as the Kurdish National Cabinet. The central committee realized that in order to gain momentum and recognition a flexible diplomatic corps was needed to capture international attention toward the Kurdish cause of freedom. The committee also approached Iran and the Arab states of Iraq and Syria in an effort to establish friendly relations with their respective governments. The Kurdish National Cabinet also consigned letters to the Second Socialist International (S.S.I. hereafter) and important European newspapers to direct Europe’s attention towards the Kurdish cause. Turkey had every reason to fear what was happening. According to Kemalist intelligence sources, the Ararat Mountain was a hotbed of external influence and interference. It was a nest of anti-Kemalist elements. The Turkish army was put on the alert and regiment after another were sent there to give the Kurdish National Movement the final and decisive blow. Late in 1927, a Turkish army of ten thousand men reached Mt. Ararat and launched a triangular offensive. Ironically, it was Turkey who provoked the Kurdish forces and ignited the general rebellion. During the initial battles, the Turkish army suffered nearly two thousand casualties between dead and wounded. 1928-1929 was a year of military preparations on both sides. Hoyboun published one communiqué after another and motivated Kurds to Join the general rebellion both physically and morally.
VII. THE ARARAT REBELLION AND THE KURDISH QUESTION IN THE SECOND SOCIALIST INTERNATIONAL
Although the Turkish government crushed Sheik Said Ali’s rebellion with an iron first, Turkish troops, however, were unable to bring all of Kurdistan under their control. Scattered into small, underground fedayeen groups, Kurdish militants and revolutionary elements were almost always on the move to cause harm to the army regiments deployed in the area. Turkish troops faced a grave danger because of the striking methods of the Kurdish fedayeen that seemed to enjoy the devoted and unconditional help of the Kurdish populace. The Kurdish fighters of Dersim moved to Mt. Ararat. Kurdish revolutionary leaders such as Ibrahim Heski Telli, chief of military operations Ihsan Nuri Pasha and Ziylan Bey were already stationed in the remote mountain. (75) With their enthusiasm they were motivating all Kurdish rebels to join in Ararat. By now, the Kurdish liberation movement had become a true menace to the authorities. Most importantly, Kurdish fedayeen attacks were obstructing the immigration programs that the Kemalist government was trying to implement. It so happened, that just before the outbreak of the 1925 Kurdish rebellion, Turkish authorities were eagerly working to settle some one hundred thousand Turkic people from the Caucasus, Syria, and Cyprus in Kurdistan and the Eastern [i.e. Armenian, G.M.] vilayets. This immigration project was very important to the Turkish government. In spite of the difficult economic situation that it encountered, the government allocated one million gold coins for this purpose. All this was undertaken to alter the ethnic status quo of the territories under discussion, which was definitely in favor of the Kurds. (76) Armenians in the homeland and especially in their Diaspora viewed the Kurdish rebellious movements as a blessing. After all, this Kurdish movement was blocking the Turkic immigration wave, which aimed at filling emptied Armenian territories with Turkish muhajirs (immigrants). The A.R.F. was most enthusiastic in defending the Kurdish insurrections. On this occasion Arshak Chamalian (Isahakian) writes in A.R.F. organ Droshak: -
“We are closely monitoring the Kurdish movements and the substantial attacks that the Kurdish fighters are successfully waging against Turkish troops. By so doing, they are preventing the Turkish government from fulfilling its immigration programs of inhabiting Turkish Armenia with new Turkish muhajirs. It is not surprising that this new wave of Turkish Immigration is something that the Kemalist government is trying to successfully accomplish since the singing of the Lausanne Treaty. Sheik Said Ali’s rebellion was a decisive blow to this project, since it compelled the muhajirs to escape from the East and seek refuge in Western Anatolian territories. Hoyboun’s actions obstructed Kemal from accomplishing his dream of brining Turks from Trace, Bulgaria and Rumania and settling them in the eastern vilayets. Those immigrants did not reach beyond Izmir, and it is there that they are staying.” “We have to realize the great danger behind populating the emptied Armenian lands with the new coming Turkish muhajirs. A project of such magnitude is capable of changing the ethnography of the land; endanger Armenian rights over these places; be a substantial danger to Armenians living in the Trans Caucasian parts of Armenia, since their security will always be compromised. Therefore, even if these Kurdish movements represent no other importance to us Armenians, their obstruction of the Turkish governments immigration policies is reason enough for us to monitor and to support them continuously.” (76)
Mustafa Kemal had no other Choice but to try to subdue the Kurdish danger by crushing the Kurdish rebel forces. He realized that he desperately needed to accomplish this to be freed from the only minority issue remaining in his “homogeneous” republic. Moreover, by annihilating the Kurds, he would open the way to communications with the Turkish people of the Transcaucasus -- the still unrealized Pan-Turkish dream. Since he had gotten the “green light” from Communist Russia to oppress the Kurds, thus, with Moscow’s blessing, he started to exert pressure on Iran to allow passage for his troops, so that he could surround Mt. Ararat and strangle the Kurdish rebel nest at Ararat. (78) Kemal proceeded according to this plan and sent his regiments to the battlefield with orders to besiege Mt. Ararat from all sides. Kurds had prepared for this day. Mt. Ararat was now a bomb waiting to explode at any moment.
A. The Ararat Rebellion
Early in 1930 Turkish troops stationed around Mt. Ararat started their advance. However, they encountered severe losses because they were unable to effectively besiege the rebel mountain. Moreover, Kurdish revolutionaries still enjoyed the benefits of a supply line through the Iranian corridor. Turkey and Communist Russia insisted that European powers--England, in particular-- were aiding the Kurdish rebels both militarily and economically. It was obvious that this Kurdish-Russian ploy was for propaganda purposes and possessed no kernel of truth. All indications showed that the Kurds were cut from the West and left to their fate. Only limited Armenian aid offered by the A.R.F. ever reached the rebels in Ararat. On the other hand, there are indications that some European powers were in fact aiding Kemal. France was the first to follow such a policy. It allowed Turkish troops to utilize the North Syrian railroad system to transport troops to the southern flanks of Mt. Ararat. Moreover, French authorities made sure that no Kurds living in Iraq or Syria were able to cross to Ararat to take part in the rebellion. The only attempt to reach and help the Kurdish rebels in Ararat was organized by the Iraqi Kurdish leader, Barazani, who crossed the Turkish border via Iraq with some five hundred Kurdish horsemen. However, after encountering numerous confrontations with Turkish troops, he was compelled to return to his base in the mountains of Musul. Turkey increased its pressure on Iran. It demanded the Shah to open the Iranian border to Turkish troops and to participate in the Turkish military effort to besiege Mt. Ararat, to cut the Kurdish supply lines, and to crush the rebellion. During the initial stages of the conflict, the Shah sent some regiments to the border. He tried to make it amply clear to the Turkish government that crossing the Iranian border will be considered a hostile act. After a while, however, the Shah gave in to diplomatic pressures from Turkey and the Soviet Union. He opened his border to Turkish troops, who swiftly arranged a security cordon around the Iranian skirts of Mt. Ararat. Thus, the rebels’ only operating passage and link with the outside was lost. The Shah also instructed his regiments not to let the Kurdish rebels to escape to Iran, and to help the Turkish troops in their endeavors. By now Ararat was completely surrounded. Deprived of new resources and any kind of external help; clustered within a narrow strip of land; having lost their only line of communication and supply, Kurdish freedom fighters were confronted by a regular army equipped with submachine guns, artillery, and even an airforce. The battles were intense, however, Kurds stubbornly continued to defend their strongholds. They were even able to shoot down several Turkish military airplanes. Meanwhile, a fledgling Turkey was facing huge economic hardships, because of the military expenses it had to incur. The government was on the verge of bankruptcy. The Kurdish uprisings and their human and economic toll made Turks question the validity of their government’s policies. Many opposition leaders started to freely criticize Kemal’s actions. Ismet Pasha, Turkey’s prime minister, tried his best to silence those angry voices. Unable to achieve this peacefully, he utilized his only other alternative, the army. This created a chain reaction, which added to the political and economic turmoil. The Turkish government tried desperately to strengthen its economic position. Attempts to provide European loans failed. Bankers refused to venture in a country facing severe internal and economic problems. Once again, it was Communist Russia that came to Kemal’s aid. It was through Soviet gold that Kemal was able to continue his war. (78) Turkish troops continued their military operations in Ararat. Kemal sent all his reserve regiments and even new recruits to the battlefield. Fortified in their high mountain strongholds, Kurds continued to remain adamant and to inflict a heavy loss on the Turkish army. High ranking Turkish officers were outraged by the strong Kurdish defenses. In some instances they had to sacrifice hundreds of Turkish soldiers just to occupy a single Kurdish stronghold. (80) Kemal was convinced that subduing the Ararat rebellion was only a matter or time. His conviction was based on the facts that Kurds 1) were cut off from all of their communication and supply lines. 2) They had severe shortages of ammunition and food supplies. 3) Turkish offensives, although very costly in terms of number of soldiers lost, wasted huge amounts of Kurdish military supplies. All these factors added to the Kurdish predicament. On the mountain, beside Kurdish freedom fighters, there were civilians (usually families and relatives of fighters). Supplying them with food and shelter was difficult, especially because winter was so near. Some Kurdish leaders like Ihsan Nuri Pasha thought about leading the people and most of the fighters to other places under the cover of dark. Others, fanatics like Ibrahim Heski Telli, wanted to remain and defend the mountain until the last man. As for the problem that civilian Kurds posed, the extremist Telli advocated killing them all so that their presence and eventual predicament would not weaken the rebels’ will. Telli went as for as trying to kill some members of his own family to set an example for others. Some of his most loyal fighters interfered to stop the madness. (81) As a last resort, a group of Kurdish fighters were able to open a corridor to the Iranian side of the mountain. Civilian Kurds and many of the fighters used this passage. Once on the other side of the mountain they surrendered to the Iranian authorities. Heski Telli and his ardent followers vanished from site for some months. They took refuge in the caves on the mountaintop. Telli and his devoted fedayeens continued their struggle for two more years until they were all massacred in 1932. Apparently, Telli lived by his vow to fight until the last man…
B. The Kurdish Question in the Second Socialist International
The most active and positive page in the history of Armenian-Kurdish relations was written prior to and during the actual Kurdish rebellions of Dersim and especially Mt. Ararat. The A.R.F. was instrumental in providing much needed aid to the Kurdish national Movement. It provided the moral support that Kurdish warriors needed in their battles against the Turkish armies. It was within the confines of this moral support that the A.R.F. provided critical help to the Kurdish Revolution and its leading organization, Hoyboun. This was achieved through the channels of the Second Socialist International (S.S.I. hereafter). It was through the dedicated work of Arshak Chamalian, the A.R.F. representative to the S.S.I., that in August of 1930 the General Assembly of the International ratified an important resolution concerning the Kurdish issue. It read as follows:
“The executive of the S.S.I. calls the world’s attention to the massacres which are being committed by the Turkish government. Peaceful Kurdish peasants who have not participated in the Insurrection (Ararat Rebellion) are being exterminated just as the Armenians were. The degree of repression extents far beyond containment of the Kurdish struggle for freedom. Yet Capitalist public opinion has not in any way protested against this bloody savagery.” (82)
The S.S.I. tried to direct the attention of the European newspapers toward the Kurdish issue. It even utilized its diplomatic channels to bring the matter to the attention of The League of Nations. However, these efforts were defeated because Turkey, being a member of the League, used all of its diplomatic muscle to block the discussion of the Kurdish issue, insisting that it was solely an internal Turkish affair. The 1930-1931 issues of the A.R.F. organ Droshak are almost entirely dedicated to articles dealing with the debates of the Kurdish issue in the S.S.I. The articles confirm the sympathy and the cooperation of the Armenians and the A.R.F. in particular with the Kurds and their liberation movement. The A.R.F. did all this with only one goal in mind. To make the world understand that in the far away mountain of Ararat a people was fighting for freedom. It was besieged by regular army battalions that were shelling not only freedom fighters but even families, children, and elderly people. Chamalian presented a through report regarding the Kurdish Question during the S.S.I. meeting. He tried to clarify the causes that led to the Kurdish resurrections. A historical background of the Kurdish people was delivered to the General Assembly concentrating particularly on the events of the last decade (1920-1930). It emphasized the deportation and relocation policies deployed by the Kemalist government that aimed at the Turkification of the Kurds and their uprooting from their ancestral, national, and historical homeland. (83) Turkey’s European diplomatic corps and missions tried to rewrite history by presenting events in Kurdistan as “the Turkish government’s effort to silence bands of robbers and criminals who were causing hardships to peaceful peasants”. (84) European newspapers remained silent about the Kurdish issue. Only a handful of journalistic and diplomatic reports came from that part of the world. Moreover, the validity, and, most importantly, the authenticity of those reports remained questionable. Contrary to the sympathy that the International’s most influential representatives (like those of France, Great Britain, and Austria) had toward the Kurdish anguish, nothing could be expected from a congress of socialist parties in the midst of capitalist Europe. It was true that the S.S.I. was an international form, however, it did not have the political muscle to force its will over European powers concerning the Kurdish Question. Moreover, the S.S.I. regarded the Kurdish issue as the first phase of a total “Eastern Conflict” that could endanger European peace. From this point of view, the S.S.I. was in favor of a truce between Turks and Kurds. Therefore, it preferred a diplomatic solution to the Kurdish Question. After quenching the Ararat Rebellion, the Turkish government started implementing a new wave of Kurdish deportation and relocation projects. Turkish troops stationed in Kurdish territories supervised those massive Kurdish deportations to Western Turkey. Simultaneously, thousands of Turkish immigrants were brought to inhabit vacated Kurdish territories. Turkish civil authorities were, by law, urged to assist the military in Kurdish relocation project on condition that “Kurds must not exceed the ten percent limit of the population in the relocated areas.” (85) Thus, in the winter of 1932, hundreds of thousands of Kurds were deported from Kurdistan. Nevertheless, in Dersim Kurds decided to resist deportation and never to leave their homeland. This Kurdish resistance too was crushed by regular Turkish troops. Kurds continued to fight until late in 1937, when the Turkish government was finally able to suppress all of Kurdistan.
C. “The Mountain Turks”!!!
In the following decades, Kurdistan and its people lived in anguish and turmoil. Consecutive Turkish governments suppressed the Kurds and Kurdish spirit. Assimilation, annihilation and Turkification continued. All these measures aimed at making the Kurds believe that they are an inseparable part of the Turkish race and not a distinct ethnic element that possess its own history, civilization, and culture. Kurdish language and literature were banned. The words “Kurd” and “Kurdistan” were omitted from dictionaries and history books. Turkish “scholars” rewrote the history of the Kurds. They became known as “The Mountain Turks.” (86)
== END NOTES ==
This essay was first researched and written during the years 1983-1984. An initial Armenian version of it was presented as a senior thesis at the "Institute Superior d'Armenologie," operating under the uspieces of the “Hamazkaine” Cultural Association in Beirut, Lebanon, for a BA degree in Armenian History. In 1986 an edited, English version of the same essay was presented as a senior project for a second BA degree in History-Armenian Studies at the University of La Verne, California. This is a second edited version of the same senior project. Its editing was completed in April 1999. Although it had been written over more than a decade ago, I commit it to publication mainly because of the new interest in Kurds and Kurdistan in general. The essay deals with a period of Kurdish history (1830-1930) about which very little academic research has ever been produced. Moreover, it is my hope that the usage of firsthand sources and materials dealing with Armenian-Kurdish relations during the century under discussion (especially in Armenian) makes writing and editing the narrative worthwhile.
1. Karo, Sasuni, “Kurteru Ev Hayeru Azatagrakan Sharzhman Pulere Ev Anonts' Pokh Haraberutiunnere,” Hayrenik, 1929, # 1, p. According to more recent research concerning the origins of Indo-European peoples, the British linguist-archeologist, Robert Renfrew [The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins] as well as the Russian and Georgian historians, Ivanof and Komgralitse respectively, attest that the Kurds too might be of Indo-European stock. Therefore, they can be considered as the original inhabitants of the region under discussion. 2. Ibid, It is important to note here that Sasuni cites the terms of the treaty from a Hoyboun (Kurdish National Organization, or Committee for Kurdish Independence) publication. About the same treaty also see: Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere Ev Hay Krtakan Haraberutiunnere, Hamazkaine Press, Beirut, 1969, pp.38-39. 3. Leo, Hayotz Patmutiun, Vol. III, Erevan, 1946, p. 178. Here, the famous Armenian Historian analyzes why the Ottoman Sultan was showing a friendly attitude toward the Kurdish princes. It was through such policies that the sultan was able to bring the popular Kurdish Mulla Idris of Bitlis to his camp. Mulla Idris worked ardently for the Ottoman cause; accepted bribes; with his furious religious speeches motivated thousands of Kurds to come and live in the northern areas of Lake Van (thus overlapping land which were historically Armenian); thus securing the border against any Persian intervention. In a similar fashion, a Kurdish author, Makhmutov, adds that the Kurds who were living in Erzerum and Van were actually from Diarbekir. They had migrated to those areas because of Mulla Idris’s motivational tactics. According to Makhmutov, “Mulla Idris did accomplish Turkish policies even at the expense of his own people, the Kurds.” N. Makhmutov Kh., Kurt Zhoghovurte, Haybed Hrad Press, Erevan, 1959, p. 4. Sasuni, “Kurderu Eva Hayeru Azatagrakan,” p.
5. Gerard, Chaliand, Ed., People without a Country: The Kurds and Kurdistan, Zed Press, London, 1980, p. 26. The quotation is from Kendal, whose paper appears in the above-mentioned volume, with the title “The Kurds Under Ottoman Rule.” 6. Ibid, p. 27. 7. Ibid, p. 27. Also see: Arshak, Safrastian, Kurds And Kurdistan, Harvic Press, London, 1948, p. 52. 8. Chaliand, People Without, p. 27. Also see: Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, pp. 86-89. 9. In 1839 the Ottomans suffered a serious defeat at Nazib (in Syria) against the forces of Ibrahim Pasha, son of Egypt’s viceroy, Mohamed Ali. 10. Chaliand, People Without, p. 29. Also see: Safrastian, Kurds and Kurdistan, p. 11. Chaliand, People Without, p. 29. Also see: Sydney, Fisher N., The Middle East: A History, New York, 1965, p. 331. 12. Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin, pp. 101-103. According to Makhmutov, Amir Bedir Khan did not enjoy friendly relations with the Christians living in his domain. Makhmutov implies directly that the Amir had no intention of establishing any friendly relations with those Christians. In this author’s opinion, such an analysis is vague and confusing. The mere fact that Bedir Khan intended to establish communications with Russia and Georgia necessitated that he create friendly ties with his Armenian, Assyrian, Nestorian and other Christian subjects, even if he was not sincere in his intentions. It follows that Armenians even participated in his army (although in very small numbers). Makhmutov, Kurt Zhoghovurte, p. 30. 13. Chaliand, People Without, p. 120. Also see: Makhmutov, Kurt Zhoghovurte, p. 120 The major difference between Kendal and Makhmutov is that according to the latter Yezdansher had an army of one hundred thousand soldiers in February 1855. According to Kendal, Yezdansher’s army grew to that number only late in the summer of 1855. There is a time gap of almost nine months. Kendal’s time frame seems to be more accurate. If Yezdansher had his massive army in February, why would he lose such valuable time and postpone the offensive (winter was not a problem, and the element of surprise was to be lost, G.M.) just for the sake of establishing communications with the Russians of which he was not so sure anyway? 14. The indication is of the Crimean War during which European powers joined forces with the Ottomans to defeat Russia and thus preserve the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire. The defeat was a decisive blow for the Russians, especially for their southwestern expansion. The outcome of the war was a shameful treaty that compelled the Russians to postpone their expansion policy by some twenty years (1875-1876). 15. Chaliand, People Without, p. 30.
16. Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, p. 138. 17. Ibid, pp. 139-140. 18. Chaliand, People Without, p. 31. 19. Ibid, pp. 31-32. 20. Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin, pp. 145-146. 21. Makhmutov, Kurt Zhoghovurte, p. 129 22. Sources do not label this rebellion a “national liberation movement.” However, one must take into consideration the tribal status quo of the Kurds itself was a primary obstacle for the propagation of national liberation sentiments in the population. It is therefore important to look at the events from this perspective. 23. Sasuni, ‘Kurteru Eva Hayeru Azatagrakan Sharzhman Pulere,” Hayrenik, 1930, # 7, p. 124.
24. Chaliand, People Without, p. 33. 25. For information regarding the organization and the ideology of its leaders see: Sasuni, “Kurteru Eva Hayeru”, Hayrenik, 1930, # 7, p.124. 26. Ibid, p. 124. 27. Ibid, pp. 125-127. Also see: Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, pp. 162-166. 28. Sasuni, “Kurteru Eva Hayeru”, p. 127. 29. For more information about the 1894-96 insurrection in Sasun see: Ruben, Ter Minassian, Hay Heghabokhagani me Hishataknere, Hamazkaine Press, Beirut, 1974, Vol. III, pp. 70-113. Also see: Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, pp. 166-169, and Sasuni, “Kurteru Eva Hayeru”, pp. 127-128. 30. The number of Armenians massacred is a matter of debate. While some sources estimate it at about three hundred thousand, others, like Sydney Fisher figure it at around one hundred thousand. This numbers represent Armenians who were massacred in Sasun, the eastern vilayets and also in pogroms in and around the capital city, Istanbul during 1894-96. Nevertheless, what all sources agree upon is that these “Hamidian Massacres” (After sultan Abdul Hamid, who instigated them) were the first planned [G.M.] extermination that the Ottoman government undertook. Moreover, the magnitude of these massacres show, that they exceeded all previous forms of atrocities committed against Armenians in the empire. 31. Sasuni, “Kurteru Ev Hayeru,” pp. 1280129. 32. Ter Minassian, Hay Heghapokhakani, Vol. II, p. 106. About the battles of Vaspurakan, see: Ibid, pp. 93-106. About the life and work of Rev. Vartan, Hrayr, Keri, and other Armenian patriots who were the real advocates of Armenian-Kurdish cooperation and friendship see: Ter Minassian, Hay Heghapokhakani, Vol. III, pp. 130-140, 240-270. As for the 1904 second rebellion of Sasun, first Ter Minassian’s voluminous work contains an abundance of first hand information about it, since he was present and an eye witness of the events he describes. 33. The Khanasor Expedition is a huge subject in itself. It can easily be the topic of another research narrative because it possesses a momentous literature of its own. In the context of this narrative, it was cited as an example of the armed propaganda that the A.R.F. deployed to show that Armenians were not going to remain passive, but would even retaliate-- with force if necessary—to protect their lives and fortunes. 34. Sasuni, “Kurteru Eva Hayeru,” p. 129. 35. Ibid, pp. 130-133. Regarding this matter also see: Abdul Rahman Bey, “Koch Kurterun"[Kurtlere Khitab], Droshak, 1898, # 6, p. 51. Droshak published the Armenian version of said document. On the other hand, the A.R.F. was instrumental in procuring thousands of copies of the pamphlet in Turkish to distribute it in Kurdistan. 36. Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, pp. 185-188. 37. Ibid, pp. 189-191. An example of this sort of Turkish treachery is Ghasem Beg, who joined the ranks of the A.R.F. and even became a member of one of its regional committees. He assumed the name “Nor Melik” (New Prince, G.M.) However, He committed a dreadful crime that caused the death of several devoted and seasoned Armenian freedom fighters, fedayeens. According to Ter Minassian, Ghasem Beg invited the fedayeens who were visiting his village to his home where he fed them and then, with his accomplices, killed them while they were fast asleep.
38. Chaliand, People Without, p. 34. 39. Ibid, p. 35. 40. Ibid, pp. 35-36 41. Ibid, p. 36 42. Jalil, Jalali, “Bitlisi 1914 Tvi Krtagan Apstambutiune Hay Mamuli Gnahatmamb,” Patmabanasirakan Handes, Erevan, 1985, # 4, pp. 127-130. 43. Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, p. 206. 44. Chaliand, People Without, p. 37. Zia Gukalp, the exponent of Pan-Turanism or Pan-Turkism, was from Diarbekir. He was able to influence the Young Turks with his extremely poetic, yet at the same time politically extremist literature. The leaders of the Young Turks became his ardent followers. Also important in this regard was Ahmed Akchura, another proponent of Pan-Turkism, whose writing gained him a following within the ranks of the Young Turks. 45. Chaliand, People Without, p. 37. 46. Sasuni, “Kurteru Ev Hayeru Azatagrakan,” p. 134. 47. When Turks and Kurds were drafted into the army, the former took part in the Armenian Conscription Committees, while the latter joined the Hamidiye bands, thus remaining in their own territory or region. As for the Armenian villagers, it was almost impossible for them to pay the “Badali Askariye,” (conscription exemption fee or tax) because, simply put; they could not afford it. A famous scenario was that Hamidiye bands would attack Armenian villages and rob the villagers just prior to the visit of the Conscription Committee officials. Unable to rescue their young men, they were dragged into the army to serve in remote areas, often in “work battalions.” On the other hand, searching for Armenian deserters was often enough for Turkish regular troops to surround Armenian villages and towns causing great hardship to the inhabitants. Only the mountainous regions of Sasun remained exempt from military draft. While young Armenians from Mush, Van, Bitlis and other eastern vilayets were drafted only to join “work battalions” and then to be massacred once their roles were fulfilled. 48. Sasuni, “Kurteru Eva Hayeru Azatagrakan,” p. 135. 49. Chaliand, People Without, p. 38. 50. Sasuni, “Kurteru Eva Hayeru Azatagrakan,” pp. 135-136. 51. Ibid, p. 137 52. Ibid, p. 138. 53. Chaliand, People Without, p. 39. 54. Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, p. 231. 55. Ibid, p. 234. 56. Ibid, pp. 234-235. Also see: Simon, Vrats'ian, A.R.F. Archives, # 34-2, Boston, Mass. Vrats’ian was a leading A.R.F. figure. During the period of the Armenian Republic (1918-120) he served twice as prime minister. 57. Vrats’ian, Archives, # 34-5. This document represents a copy of the original response that the two Armenian delegations sent to the Armenian newspapers of the day. Both delegations tried to make it clear that no concessions were made to the Kurds during the negotiations. 58. Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, pp. 236-238. Also see: Chaliand, People Without, pp. 41-42. 59. Chaliand, People Without, p. 43.
60. Chaliand, People Without, p. 55. 61. Ibid, p. 59-60. 62. Hakki, “Krtakan Apstambutiune,” Droshak, 1926, 6, pp. 179-182. 63. Chaliand, People Without, p. 60. Also see: Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, p. 240. According to Sasuni, the organization was founded in October 1920, with the objective of liberating Kurdistan from Turkish rule. On the other hand, Kendal shifts the founding of the organization and the Central Committee to 1922. Kendal’s date, i.e. 1922 is more plausible, since in 1920 Kurds and their leaders were still followers of Kemal and were engaging their capabilities against the Republic of Armenia. 64. Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, pp. 242-244. After the fall of the independent Armenian Republic, A.R.F. leaders and members at large were forced to exile and to an eventual process of reorganization. In this regard, many exiled leaders were in favor of close cooperation with the Kurds. It follows, therefore, that this exiled A.R.F. leadership was instrumental in the formation of Hoyboun, and the preparations for the Ararat Rebellion. It is perhaps worth mentioning, that an agreement was signed between the A.R.F. and the Kurdish national Movement (Hoyboun) in 1924, with the purpose of rejuvenating the Treaty of Sevres and accepting the articles of that treaty as a determinant for the boundaries between Armenia and Kurdistan. 65. Hakki, “Krtakan,” p. 182. Also see: Chaliand, People Without, p. 61. 66. Hakki, “Krtakan,” p. 182. 67. Chaliand, People Without, p. 63. 68. Sasuni, “Kurt Azgayin Kusaksutiune,” Hayrenik, 1931, # 5, p. 75. 69. Ibid, p. 76. 70. Chaliand, People Without, p. 63. 71. Sasuni, “Kurt Kusaksutiune,” p. 77. 72. Ibid, p. 78. 73. Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, pp. 255-266.
74. Chaliand, People Without, p. 64. 75. During the beginning stages of the Ararat Rebellion, Armenian-Kurdish cooperation was achieved through the efforts of Ziylan Bey, known to be one of the most famous rebels on the mountain. The shocking reality is that Ziylan Bey was not Kurdish but Armenian from the Khnus village of Sasun. His real name was Artashes Muradian. Sasuni, who knew Ziylan Bey-Artashes Muradian adds: “Ziylan Bey, who was none other than Artashes Muradian from Khnus. He was a devoted A.R.F. agent sent secretly by the party to Ararat with the purpose of strengthening Armenian-Kurdish relations and helping the Kurds in their utmost struggle. Today, after twenty four years, we can openly declare the Armenian identity of Ziylan Bey.” Ziylan Bey (Artashes Muradian) was ambushed and killed by communist spies who had infiltrated the ranks of the rebels on Mt. Ararat. Sasuni also mentions that Ziylan Bey was only one of the scores of Armenian freedom fighters in the Ararat Rebellion. His case is publicized because he had attained a certain level of leadership in the rebellion. The identities of other Armenians-- disguised as Kurds-- in the rebellion still remains to be determined. Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, p. 284. 76. Ibid, p. 285. 77. Arshak, Chamalian, “Krtakan Harts'e,” Droshak, 1930, # 1, p. 185. 78. Ibid, pp. 185-186. 79. Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, pp. 290-291. 80. Ibid, p. 292. 81. Ibid, p. 293. 82. Chaliand, People Without, p. 66. 83. Chamalian, “Krtakan Harts'e Internats'ionalum,” Droshak, 1931, # 3, p. , # 4, pp. 77-80. 84. Author Unknown, “Viennayi Turk Despanutiune Eva Krtakan Khendire,” Droshak, 1926, # 2, pp. 52-54 The article starts with a reprint of a communiqué issued by the Turkish Embassy at Vienna, which states that all news materials printed in the newspapers of the day concerning the Kurdish resurrections are untrue “…and full of lies.” It also accuses Armenians and the A.R.F. in particular for being the source of these news. The second part of the article is a response by Arshak Chamalian. He defends the justness of the Kurdish rebellion as well as the A.R.F. position regarding the Kurdish issue. 85. Chaliand, People Without, p. 66. 86. Ibid, p. 68.
Altalabani, Jalal, Kurdistan wa Alharaka al Khowmiya al Kurdiya, Tali’a Press, Beirut, 1971.
Arfa, Hasan, The Kurds, Oxford University Press, New York, 1966.
Chaliand, Gerard, Editor, People Without a Country: Kurds And Kurdistan, Zed Press, London, 1980.
Edmonds, Cecil John, Kurds, Turks, Arabs, Oxford University Press, New York, 1957.
Eagleton, William, Junior, The Kurdish Republic of 1946, Oxford University Press, New York, 1963.
Fisher, Sydney N., The Middle East: A History, New York, 1965.
Makhmutov, N. Kh., Kurt Zhoghovurde, Haypet Hrat Press, Erevan, 1959.
Malkhas (Hovsepian, Artashes), Aprumner - Jambus Vra, 2 volumes, New York, 1959.
Mazhar, Kamal Ahmad, Kurdistan Fi Sanawat al Harb al Alamiya al Ula, Bagdad, 1977.
Mikayelian, Kristapor, Ampokhayin Tramabanutiun, Hamazkaine Press, Beirut, 1974.
Sasuni, Karo, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere Ev Hay Krtakan Haraberutiunnere, Hamazkaine Press, Beirut, 1969.
Shiod, M. T., Kurtere Tajgats’ Hayastanum, Pushkinyan Press, St. Petersburg, 1905.
Ter Minassian, Ruben, Hay Heghapokhakani Me Hishataknere, 8 volumes, Hamazkaine Press, Beirut, 1974.
Varantian Mikayel, Ho.Hi.Ta. Patmutiun, 2 volumes, Geneva, 1910.
Vratzian, Simon, A.R.F. Archives, Batch #s 34-2 & 34-5
HAYRENIK Issues (Chronological)
Ter Minassian, Ruben, “Hayastani Arevelke,” Hayrenik, Boston, 1927, # 11, pp. 94-108.
Sasuni, Karo, “Kurteru Ev Hayeru Azatagrakan Sharzhman Pulere Ev Anonts’ Pokh Haraberudiunnere,” Hayrenik, Boston, 1929, # 1, pp. 134-145, also 1930, # 7, pp. 124-133, 1930, #12, pp. 134-140.
__________ , “Kurt Azgayin Kusakts’utiune,” Hayrenik, Boston, 1931, # 5, pp. 74-100, 1931, # 6, pp. 125-131.
DROSHAK Issues (Chronological)
Abdul Rahman Bey, “Koch’ Kurterun,” [Kurtlere Khitab], Droshak, 1898, # 6, pp.
Ter Minassian, Ruben, “Krtakan Sharzhume,” Droshak, 1925, # 1, pp. 10-14, 1925, # 2, pp. 38-40.
Vratzian, Simon, “Hayastane Ev Ir Harevannere,” Droshak, 1925, # 3, pp. 68-71.
Author Unknown, “Krtakan Sharzhume,” Droshak, 1925, # 4, pp. 124-127.
Hakki, Ismail, “Krtakan Apstambutiune,” Droshak, 1925, # 6, pp. 179-182, 1926, # 1, pp. 18-21.
Chamalian, Arshak, “Viennayi TurkDespanutiune Ev Krtakan Khendire,” Droshak, 1926, # 2, pp. 52-54.
Amatuni, H., “Krtakan Sharzhumnere,” Droshak, 1926, # 4, pp. 110-112.
Vahakn, “Musuli Khendire,” Droshak, 1926, # 6, pp.
Auther Unknown, “Kurt-Trkakan Paykare,” Droshak, 1928, # 1, pp. 29-30.
Auther Unknown, “Krtakan Sharzhume Ev Iran,” Droshak, 1928, # 4, pp.
Ashot, “Krtakan Sharzhume Khorherdayin Aknots’ov,” Droshak, 1928, # 5, pp.
Auther Unknown, “Ararati Krivnere,” Droshak, 1929, # 8, pp. 147-148.
Chamalian, Arshak, “Krtakan harts’e,” Droshak, 1930, # 8, pp. 185-188.
________________, “Krtakan Harts’e Internats’ionalum,” Droshak, 1930, # 8, pp
Sasuni, Karo, “Krtakan Apstambutiune,” Droshak, 1930, # 8, pp. 191-196.
__________, “Krtakan Sharzhume,” Droshak, 1931, # 1-2, pp. 11-14.
Misakian Shavarsh, “Tashnak-Hoyepun,” Droshak, 1931, # 3, pp.
Chamalian, Arshak, “Krtrakan harts’e Internats’ionalum,” Droshak, 1931, # 3, pp. , 1931, # 2, pp. 77-80.
PATMABANASIRAKAN HANDES Issues (Chronological)
Poladyan, A.B., “Kurtistane Arach’in Hamashkharhayin Paterazmi Tarinerin,” Patmabanasirakan Handes, Erevan, 1979, # 2, pp. 259-262.
Jalali, Jalal, “Bitlisi 1914 Tvi Krtakan Apstamputiune Hay mamuli Gnahatmamb,” Patmabanasirakan Handes, Erevan, 1985, # 4, pp.126-134.
AZDAK Issues (Chronological)
Sasuni, Armen, “Kurt Azgayin Sharzhume,” Azdak, Beirut, 1927, # 1, p. 2.
____________, “Krtakan Sharzhume Ke Dz’avali,” Azdak, Beirut, 1927, # 17, p.1.
Author(s) Unknown, Reports, “Azat Ev Ankakh Kurtistan, Azdak, Beirut, 1927, # 28, p. 1, # 34, p. 1, # 44, pp, 1-2.
_______________________, “Krtakan Apstambutiune,” Azdak, Beirut, 1927, # 52, p. 1, # 56, p. 1.
_______________________, “Krtakan Sharzhumnere,” Azdak, Beirut, 1927, # 62, p 1, # 67, p. 1, # 72, p.1, # 78, p. 1, 1928, # 93, p. 1.
Author Unknown, “Krtakan Sharzhumnere Ev Arab Terti Me Mtahogutiunnere,” Azdak, Beirut, 1928, # 92, p. 1.
___________, “Kurt Ev Trkakan Kurtistani Krivnere,” Azdak, Beirut, 1928, # 129, p.1.
___________, “Krtakan Krivnere,” Azdak, Beirut, 1928, # 122, p. 1.
___________, “Krtakan Ch’ardere,” Azdak, Beirut, 1928, # 122, p. 1.