You know how Armenian
propaganda tells us the Turks and the Kurds were partners in crime against the
Armenians? Actually, the main thing Turks and Kurds shared, in regards to the
Armenians, is that both groups suffered monumentally under the Armenians'
heartless ethnic cleansing policies.
Other than that, the Kurds were constantly a thorn in the side of the Ottoman
Turks. In the word of a British consular agent, as you'll be reading below,
the Kurds were " unmanageable."
Since the cash-poor Ottoman administration had their hands full with so many
other problems and dangers, they never quite succeeded in controlling the
Kurds (and as you'll also be reading below, it would be more correct to define
this group as "Kurdish tribes" rather than "Kurds"; as
opposed to Armenians, the problems these Kurds caused mainly did not derive
In reality, the reason why Sultan Abdul Hamid created the "Hamidiye"
(Kurdish regiment) had nothing to do, as Armenian propaganda tells us (see,
for example, Peter Balakian's "The Burning Tigris"), with making life hell for the
Armenians. This was the sultan's idea in trying to control the Unmanageable
Kurds, and also hope that a much-needed fighting force could be utilized for
his constantly threatened nation, in the style of the Russians' Cossacks. (It
was a short-sighted idea, of course, because such did not stop making the
Kurds " unmanageable," nor did it help with making the lives of
eastern Armenians and other Ottomans any easier.)
The Kurds, or these Kurdish tribes, surely did make life difficult for
Armenians. But one of the many things Armenian propaganda neglects to tell us
is that the Kurds made life miserable for everybody. Even an Armenian
organization in Britain (back in 1878, before these propagandists became
utterly unscrupulous and spoiled) paid grudging recognition to the
fact that Muslims were also victimized by the Kurds. In their article, the
Armenians also added:
of things has gone on for centuries, but has become sensibly worse during the
last 30 or 40 years, as the Turkish Government has become weaker and
fanaticism has increased. The Government is utterly powerless to control the
Kurds, who follow their own chieftains and do not care for the officials of
the Sultan. These officials seldom venture to interfere; but if they do, the
Kurds take vengeance probably on them, and certainly on the village of the
Armenian who has dared to complain.
Note what we are correctly being told: Ottoman control was weak, adding to the
Armenians', and other eastern Ottomans', miseries. In areas of governmental
strength, as Istanbul and environs, Armenians were prospering and had few
causes for complaint.
In other words, aside from tax collection and perhaps the occasional other
minor affairs, Armenians had little exposure to the "iron hand" of
the Ottoman government. Propagandistic claims of "Turkish tyranny"
fall by the wayside when there is barely any contact with the government. (And
to stress the point, ironically, it was the lack of such contact that made
these easterners so unhappy.) In short, as Prof. Richard Hovannisian has
instructed us, Armenians enjoyed what amounted to an internal autonomy.
So, in fact, did the Kurdish tribes.
The idea of this page is to shed light on what horrible and disloyal citizens
the Kurds of these tribes were. The idea is to break the myth that the
Turks and Kurds always worked hand in hand.
(Yet, getting back to our favorite topic of Armenians, you will note below
that if some Kurds operated as predatory lawless bands, so in fact did some
Armenians... once again busting the commonly held belief that Armenians are
always poor, defenseless victims.)
(Can't let go of our favorite topic, can we? The reader may now gain a better
understanding — in these bleak "no man's lands" of eastern and
southeastern Anatolia — as to why the poorly-guarded Armenian convoys,
during the resettlement process, could easily fall victim to lawless bands who
would swoop out of nowhere.
Sometimes corrupt gendarmes were in cahoots with these Kurds; yet, most of the
time, the gendarmes protected the Armenians. If they hadn't, the majority of
Armenians could not have reached
their destinations alive.)
Let us refer to Prof. Justin McCarthy's extremely scholarly book "Death and
Exile: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821-1922," on the
issue of Ottoman Kurds. (This book is a must-have for any truthful
party interested in this "genocide" matter.)
Afterwards, we'll examine a few other sources related to
Kurdish persecution of the Armenians. (Although the idea of this particular
page should have little to do with Armenians, once again the focus turns to
the Armenians. Amazing.)
It will then be time to explore more background on the Kurds' rebellious ways,
in the section called Russians and the Kurds.
Followed up by a New York Times account,
"Kurds Disgust the Turks."
SITUATION IN THE OTTOMAN EAST
The Ottoman Empire did not actually rule in much of eastern Anatolia. The state was an
important and intrusive factor in the lives of only a portion of the eastern population,
primarily the inhabitants of cities, rural areas close to cities, and border regions. In
most rural areas, the Ottomans functioned as tax-collectors whenever possible and as an
ultimate military force whenever absolutely necessary.
The main danger, and thus the main political factor in the Ottoman East, was the constant
presence of marauding elements that lay in wait for situations that allowed them to
operate with impunity. These were especially nomadic or seminomadic Kurdish tribes, and
the main public security activity of the Ottoman government was to control these tribes.
The Ottomans had neither the manpower nor the finances to constantly oversee the
activities of the Kurds, so they controlled them by a typically Ottoman system of bribes
coupled with force. Tribal chiefs were coopted to the Ottoman system with honors, posts,
and money. During relatively quiescent times, Kurdish tribes were allowed to treat their
own affairs by themselves. They kept lands farmed by Muslim and Christian tenant farmers,
operated market "industries" in handicrafts and foodstuffs, kept extensive herds
of animals—all without the intervention of the state. Only when the Kurdish tribes
actually revolted or engaged in marauding campaigns did the Ottomans send
successful, such expeditions sometimes resulted in the hanging of a rebellious tribal
sheyh. More often they resulted in the sheyh's being forcibly transferred to Istanbul or
elsewhere with a sizeable pension, so that the Ottomans' troubles would not be complicated
by an ongoing blood feud. The organic situation in the east remained unchanged. For real
changes to have transpired, the army would have had to remain in the eastern provinces,
constantly keeping the Kurds in check.
One must be careful when identifying the Kurds as a disruptive element. Those who were a
disruptive force were tribal groups, and their loyalties were tribal. It would be an error
to infer any "Kurdish" identification among them. If tribes cooperated, it was
out of mutual benefit, not ethnic loyalty, for which there is no evidence. Also, most
Kurdish-speakers were not at any time in rebellion. They were farmers and herdsmen with
basically the same feelings toward religion and state as ethnic Turkish farmers and
herdsmen. The rebellious tribes were as much an enemy to their lives and livelihoods as
they were to those of Turkish-speakers. When disruptive Kurdish tribesmen are discussed
here it is not these Kurds, surely the majority, who are being described.
(A detour from "Death and Exile"; from dissertation below.)
The brigands of some of the trouble-making Kurdish leaders believed in equal
opportunity. For example, Ibrahim Pasha, one of the more despotic rulers, employed Armenians
in the ranks, as well as Turks, Arabs and, of course, Kurds. E.B. Soane, To
Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in Disguise (London: J. Murray, 1912), 43, 66.
While the Armenians of the east were often subject to Kurdish rule in the
countryside and the Ottoman government in the cities, they also took advantage of
Ottoman weakness to gain practical autonomy. Armenian villages in the mountainous
regions of the southeast were often actually free of external control. This was
particularly true in the Zeytun region. In Zeytun, Armenians sometimes grudgingly
paid tribute to the Ottomans, as they had to the Arabs, Byzantines, and others
before, but they ruled themselves. Throughout the nineteenth century, tension
between the Zeytunlis and the Ottomans over tribute payments remained high. In armed
confrontations, the Ottomans were only partially successful in gaining assessed
taxes or tribute.
Ottoman tolerance of Kurdish and Armenian quasiautonomy was symptomatic of the
weakness of the Ottoman state. Occupied by life-threatening wars in the north and
the west, the Ottomans were forced to be satisfied with relative calm in the east.
The defects in the system of government in the Ottoman East became especially
obvious in times of war. During peacetime, Ottoman garrison soldiers and gendarmes
were usually sufficient to guarantee something approximating civil order. They could
enforce their authority because behind them ultimately stood the Ottoman army. With
war, the situation was radically altered. Gendarmes (the police of the Ottoman East)
were withdrawn to provide the backbone of the Ottoman armies battling the Russians.
Thus the day-to-day security of the region was threatened. Moreover, there was now
no army available to threaten ultimate force. Into this power vacuum came first
Kurdish tribes and later Armenian revolutionaries.
Kurd Feast at Marash (Photo: Sir Mark Sykes)
Kurdish tribes contested with the Ottomans for control whenever they felt they had a
chance of success. They battled Ottoman troops in major wars in 1834, 1836, 1847, and
1879, and in minor conflicts throughout the nineteenth century. Their intention was not to
set up a state, but simply to be free of central authority. At times, only the hostilities
the Kurdish clans showed toward each other allowed the Ottomans to impress their authority
by a policy of divide and conquer. During the Crimean War, Kurds of Mosul revolted against
the government precisely because the Ottoman troops were at the front and unable to step
in, and in the later Ottoman-Russian wars the
position of the Kurds was at best ambivalent. Some indeed fought on the Ottoman side,
although they were of limited military benefit.
Others simply "sat out" the wars. Some even attacked and robbed Ottoman troops
when the opportunity arose. Throughout the period, the Kurdish tribes as a group showed
that their loyalties were to their tribes, not to any government, nor even to their
The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 was a watershed in eastern Anatolia. Its effect on both
Muslims and Christians was great. Armenian aspirations of living under Christian
sovereignty, and possibly even Armenian autonomy, were heightened. Part of what the
Armenians considered to be their homeland, the Kars-Ardahan region, had been taken from
the Ottomans, and there was good reason to expect that the rest of Armenia would soon be
in Russian hands. There also was a deterioration in the Ottoman government's control of
its eastern provinces. This was a direct result of the war, which broke the balance of
power in the east. The Ottoman government, impoverished and now without many
revenue-producing European provinces, found it impossible to pay for the security needs of
the east. Many of the soldiers and gendarmes, who normally would have provided public
security, had died in the war.
The following descriptions by an American missionary and a British consul of the city of
Bitlis before and after the war describe the situation. In both circumstances the
representatives of the Ottoman government intended to protect their people and did what
they could toward that end. Before the war, they were successful; after the war, they
[Bitlis in 1876, before the war] At the commencement of this month, there
was a plot maturing to massacre the Christians . . . some of the conspirators applied to a
resident Sheigh [sic] for his approval and aid. The latter set his face against the
scheme; and declared that, if they attempted to carry it out he would show his indignation
by burning his house and leaving the city! This meant a great deal for he is held in
reverent esteem by the Mussulmans. Then the plot was presented before another
distinguished Turk—Ali Agha, who also showed his decided disapproval, and declared that,
if they attempted to carry it into effect, he would call to his house five hundred of his
vassals and arm them with guns and require the conspirators to confront them in deadly
Then the conspirators informed the Mufti of it, who showed as decided opposition to the
scheme as the two I have mentioned.
At length the affair reached the ears of Avedis Effendi, the ex-azkabed of the Armenians
who, accompanied by the governmental treasurer presented the case before the Caimakam, and
threw upon him the consequences of such a massacre if it should be allowed to take place.
The Caimakam assured them that they need not entertain any fear; that he should see that
no such plot be consummated.
My informant, Johannes Agha, Protestant Member of the Mejiis, tells me that the Caimakam
patrols the streets, nights, with his armed bodyguard, to guard the city against
plunderers and assassins.]
[Bitlis in 1879, immediately after the war] Everyone, Mussulman as well as
Christian, spoke well of the Kaimakam, Raschid Effendi, and said that he was always
anxious to do what was right, to repress disorder and to have impartial justice
administered. He is seconded in well-doing by Ahmed Effendi, a member of the Mejiis. But
unfortunately he is able to effect very little. The force at his command is very small. He
has only forty zaptiehs [gendarmes] with whom to escort travellers and the mails, collect
the taxes and keep order. The result is that the Kurds commit crimes of robbery even
within the limits of the town itself and the Kaimakam is unable either to prevent or
The Ottoman government found it difficult to police the east and southeast of
Anatolia even in good times. During good times, the Ottomans were able to garrison
regions threatened by Kurdish nomads with regular army troops and gendarmerie. In
times of internal crisis and, especially, war with Russia, however, the Ottomans
troops were drawn off and the civilian population was to a greater or lesser degree
subjected to Kurdish raids and exactions.
As the Ottoman troops were drawn from the eastern provinces to fight the 1877-78
war, the force of Ottoman civil government in the east began to vanish. Even in major towns such as Bitlis, as seen before, the Kurds
had their way. In Bitlis, in 1877, the Motkanli Kurds simply marched to prison and
released one of their own who had been awaiting sentence for killing an Armenian.
They would have plundered the town, as well, but another tribe of Kurds rode in to
rescue the townspeople. The rescuers acted because the town was the only outlet for
the produce the tribe sold to the city merchants.
Tribal Kurds were an armed and mobile force, well-hidden in the mountains. They
moved from one Ottoman provincial juris- diction to another with ease, as well as
across the border and into Persia. Later,
after World War I, the British in northern Iraq, armed with planes and other modern
military equipment, also found subduing the Kurds almost impossible.
A good example of the situation all over eastern Anatolia is found in the Midyat
region during and after the war of 1877-78, which was described by British Consul
Trotter immediately after the war. According to him, before the war, the government
had been able to keep the Kurdish chiefs in check. During the war, with the regular
troops off at the front, there was no means of enforcing order. Indeed, there was fear that the Kurdish tribes would rebel. The
upshot was continual raid and counterraid among Kurdish tnbes and a general state of
anarchy in the region. The region of Midyat was divided into various armed camps.
Each village, including Christian villages, defended itself. No one was considered
safe very far from his village. Christians and Muslims alike were armed and all
defended themselves. Trotter mentioned particularly Teller- man. an Armenian village
"of about 100 houses lying in the plain to the southwest of Mardin." The
village was described as "well- armed and holding their own amongst their Arab,
Kurdish, and Circassian neighbors."
Villages of settled Kurds were exactly the same, i.e., "well-armed and holding
their own," and, of course, the continual state of readiness for battle led to
battles between Muslim and Muslim and Muslim and Christian. Defending the need for
arming themselves, the Kurdish aghas of one village declared "the whole police
force for the protection of the district consisted of 4 men, a number manifestly
ridiculously insufficient considering that they march with [adjoin] the Aleppo
Vilayet, and are in contact with Arabs, Kurds and Circassians."
With the gall typical of a British Consul, undoubtedly assuming that Ottoman
officials had no idea of the state of things, Trotter brought the situation in
Midyat to the attention of the Governor of Diyarbakir Vilayeti. The governor
notified him bluntly that he had no men to send. Half of his already small force had
deserted when they were paid in worthless paper currency, and "there will be
found none foolish enough [to take] the place of those that are gone." And this was the crux of the problem. There
was no money to pay the police, no money to pay the soldiers. The situation was the
same all over the east. For example, there
was so little money in the coffers of the vilayet of Erzurum that the vali
(governor) was forced to borrow funds from wealthy Erzurum citizens to give the
garrison troops their traditional bayram (holiday) gift. The gift he gave them was
one month's pay, part of the four-years' pay that was in arrears. It should be no surprise that soldiers so paid were inefficient
and that there were few of them.
British ambassador Layard correctly stated that the Ottomans could not hope to
improve the situation when all government funds were taken up by defense against
"the still menacing attitude of Russia."
Little could be done as long as the Russians took Ottoman lands, caused great losses
to the Ottomans in war, and made the upkeep of a large army essential.
Although all sections of the population suffered, many of the raids fell
particularly hard on Armenians. For example, the Ottomans had always stationed a
battalion of regular troops in (^emiskezek (near Harput) before the 1877-78 war.
During the war, they could not do so. As a result, Kurdish tribes entered the area
and plundered villages, primarily Armenian villages. However, it would be a mistake to think that Armenians were the
sole targets of Kurdish marauders; they were not so selective in choosing victims.
As a British consular agent who was sent to investigate the Kurds reported:
From all I have heard and seen, all the highland Kurdish tribes, from
Diarbekir to Solaimania, are more or less unmanageable. They not only refuse to pay
any taxes, or conform to the law of conscription, but they plunder and kill at their
pleasure, and anyone who dares to deny them anything, he is sure to lose his life
and property. I must, however, not omit to mention that, in many instances which
came to my notice during my travels, Mahommedans suffered as well as Christians from
the ravages of the Kurds. The Rushkootan, Sheikh Dodan, the Sasoun and Mooktu
tribes, who inhabit the mountains between Diarbekir and Moosh, spare neither
Christian nor Mahommedan; and while I was in the Pashalic of Diarbekir, no less than
three Mahommedan Chiefs were murdered by these robbers for the sake of their
There is only small evidence at this point to indicate that the Kurds preferred to
attack Christians over Muslims, although it is obvious that they preferred the
pickings from the rich to those from the poor and preferred to attack the weak. The
relative wealth of the Armenian community may explain why the Armenians seem to have
been more often their targets. The Ottoman army and gendarmerie were not in the east
solely to protect the Armenians from the Kurds. They were present, as is any police
force, to protect citizens from each other. And the Armenians were not the only ones
to be protected from the tribes. Turkish peasants and even other Kurds were the prey
of Kurdish tribes.
Before the 1880s, Kurdish tribes were actually a much greater military threat to the
civil order of the Ottoman Empire than were Armenian rebels. During the Crimean War,
for example, a Kurdish tribal chieftain in the Mosul Vilayeti volunteered to collect
a large force of Kurds to fight against the Russians. He was given 50,000 kurus to
pay and outfit his men. Once gathered together, his 1,500 men revolted, attacked
Ottoman government officials in Jezireh, and raided throughout the region. Their
revolt was not put down until after the war.
In 1878, during wartime, the Dersim Kurds revolted as well.
In 1879, Kurdish revolts spread all over southeastern Anatolia and were a major
threat to an empire weakened by the recent Russian War. The rebels showed little
loyalty to anyone but members of their own tribes. Most of the villages destroyed by
the rebels were Kurdish villages, which were loyal to the sultan or attached to
rival tribes. Kurds even raided rafts
bringing food downriver to famine-stricken areas in southeastern Anatolia in 1879,
causing starvation among untold numbers of Kurds (who were to receive the grain).
The Ottomans, aided by loyal Kurdish tribes, were always able eventually to deal
with the Kurds militarily, something they
were often denied, because of European pressures, when Armenians revolted. The same
Europeans who complained bitterly whenever the Ottomans imprisoned Armenian rebels voiced constant com- plaints that the
Ottomans were not forceful enough in dealing with Kurdish tribes.
One should not think that only Muslims took part in robberies and civil disruption.
British consul Biliotti, on an investigative trip in 1879, reported that Armenian
attacks on Muslims were not unknown. The
Armenian community of Zeytun was particularly known for its raids.
REVOLTS DURING THE "1915" PERIOD
(From pp. 183-184:)
EASTERN ANATOLIA—THE INTERNAL SITUATION
The last decades of the Ottoman Empire saw a significant extension of Ottoman power in
eastern Anatolia. Telegraph lines and new roads brought Ottoman administrative authority
to Van, Diyarbakir, and the other eastern vilayets. For the first time in the modern
history of the Ottoman Empire, government officials were able to penetrate to remote
villages in the east and enumerate the inhabitants for census and conscription records. Law and order were established through renewed
Ottoman military power. When in World War I these military forces withdrew, civil order
As the First World War began, Ottoman troops were withdrawn from garrisons in southeastern
and central Anatolia and sent to fight the Russians on the Caucasian border.
Significantly, all but a minimum of the gendarmerie, the police of the rural east, were
withdrawn from public security duties and organized into gendarmerie units in the army. These were desperately needed at the front, both
for their fighting abilities and for their knowledge of the region. With the gendarmes
gone and the Ottoman army dying on the Caucasian front, the Kurdish tribes were in a
position to renew their raids on the civilian population.
In theory, Kurdish tribesmen should have been conscripted into the Ottoman army, but in
fact they usually were not. Settled agricultural Kurds and Kurds in eastern cities were
conscripted and went off to war just as did Turks; tribal Kurds did not. In order to
conscript Kurdish tribesmen, the Ottomans would have been forced to send an army to first
subdue the tribes-not a practical possibility in the midst of war. Many Kurdish tribes
thus took what can best be called a neutral position in the war, working to their own
advantage whenever possible. Kurdish tribesmen even fought against the Ottomans in the Van
Vilayeti and in the Dersim region. In southern
Van, an entire gendarmerie battalion was needed to put to flight Bedirham Abdurrezzak, who
attempted to set up a major Kurdish revolt. The
Dersim Kurds had contributed irregulars to the Ottoman army at the beginning of the war,
but changed sides when the Ottomans began to lose. They attacked Ottoman convoys,
slaughtered Turkish army units, and pillaged local villages. Most of the tribesmen who were ostensibly fighting alongside the
Ottoman army in the Ottoman campaign in Persia in 1915
deserted and joined in the pillage and murder being carried out by the tribes in the
region between lakes Van and Urmiah.
The Ottoman government recognized that many Kurdish tribesmen could not be considered
loyal or compliant citizens. One month before the war began, the government attempted,
unsuccessfully, to organize loyal militia and to seize arms in Kurdish hands in order
"to maintain the loyalty of Kurdish and other Moslem communities who could be misled
because of ignorance," a typically understated Ottoman euphemism for treason. In territories conquered by the Russians in
northeastern Anatolia, Kurdish tribes usually quickly made peace with the Russians,
although their animosity toward Armenians smoldered. The Kurdish tribes were to be a major
source of death for Armenians and, to a lesser extent, Turks and settled Kurds in the war.
66. For example, on the rebellion of Kurds
in Hakkari in 1879, see F.O. 195-1237, no. 80, Trotter to Layard, Erzeroum, 5
September 1879. Also, F.O. 195-1237, Clayton to Trotter, Van, 19 August 1879, F.O.
195-1237, no. 83, Trotter to Layard, 12 September 1879, especially the two
enclosures from Captain Clayton in Diyarbakir. F.O. 195-1238, no. 45, Biliotti to
Mallet, Trebizond, 2 April 1878. F.O. 195-1237, no. 89, Trotter to Layard, Erzeroum,
17 September 1879 and 27 September including enclosures from Captain Clayton. F.O.
195-1237 contains many other communications on the Kurdish Revolt, which effectively
ended when the Kurds were defeated by regular Ottoman troops and their leaders were
exiled to Albania.
The position of the Kurds vis-a-vis the Ottoman Army and local
Muslim and Christian populations is covered extensively by C. B. Norman in Armenia
and the Campaign of 1877, London, 1878. However, one must allow for Norman's
vehement anti-Turkish and pro-Russian sympathies, which cloud all he wrote. He
believed, for example, that the Turks were guilty of starting the war of 1877-78.
Norman particularly searched out examples of Kurdish depredations.
Occasionally, villagers took things into their own hands and planned and took
revenge on their oppressors. (See F.O. 78-2992, no. 3, Biliotti to Salisbury,
Trebizond, 18 January 1879.)
One of the best sources on the Ottoman East to 1890, and on the Kurds and the
Armenians, is the first two-volumes of the work by Bilal N. Simsir, British
Documents on Ottoman Armenians, Ankara, 1983, Vol. I ( - 1880) and Vol. II (1880-
1890), hereafter British Documents I and British Documents II. References
here are to document numbers, not pages.
67. On the revolts, see Hassan Arfa, The
Kurds: An Historical and Political Study, London, 1966, pp. 23-25, and Arshak
Safrastian, Kurds and Kurdistan, London, 1948, pp. 45-62. Unfortunately, there is no
adequate history of the Kurds. Arfa's short book often borders on the ridiculous,
with many factual errors, and Safrastian's is distinctly anti-Turkish in
orientation. Safrastian, for example, blames the Ottomans for stopping Kurdish raids
on civilians. He sees such hindrance of Kurdish actions as an unjust assertion of
68. Lynch (vol. II, p. 421) stated that the
Kurds "played one Power against another" in the 1829 and 1854 wars.
69. Charles Williams was absurdly wrong, as
he often was, on the events of the retaking of Bayazit by Ottoman forces. (For the
actual history, see Caucasian Battlefields, p. 148, and F.O. 65-978, no. 121,
Ricketts to Derby, Tiflis, 2 October 1877.) However, his analysis of the position of
the Kurds and Circassians is worthy of note. He described the Circassians and Kurds
in the Ottoman army as disruptive of soldierly discipline, but essential to the
army, because they in effect provided the only cavalry available. (Charles Williams,
"one of the special correspondents attached to the staff of Ghazi Ahmed Mukhtar
Pacha," The Armenian Campaign, London, 1878, pp. 129-30.)
"Troop of Kurd Cavalry which the
Turks are hurling against the Russians in the passes of the Caucasus
Mountains." The New York Times, Jan. 24, 1915. Such a rousing shot... here's
the Big Picture. Thanks to
195-1100, no. 46, Zohrab to Derby, Erzeroum, 8 August 1876, enclosure, "Extract
from a letter from the Reverend George Knapp to Consul Zohrab, dated Bitlis 25th
71. F.O. 195-1237, Clayton to Trotter, Van,
19 August 1879.
72. To a certain extent this happens in any
country at war. The Russian Caucasus showed a considerable increase in crime at the
same time, although not approaching the gravity of the situation in the Ottoman
Empire. See F.O. 65-928, Ricketts to Derby, Tiflis, 26 August 1877.
Even before the 1877-78 war, troops were far too scarce to properly protect the
east. British consul Zohrab in Erzurum, who was solely concerned with the problems
of the Armenian population, constantly complained of the poor situation there. In
one exchange with the Ottoman Governor of Erzurum, he received a completely frank
Samih Pasha told me very candidly that he could not spare troops to be stationed at
Bitlis, for, he said if he gave soldiers to protect every town which was now menaced
by Koords he would be left without an army to protect the frontier or garrison the
fortresses. . .
(F.O. 195-1140, no. 13, Zohrab to Layard, Erzeroum, 3 January 1877.)
See also F.O. 195-1187, no. 109, Biliotti to Layard, Trebizond, 30 July 1878.
73. The rescuing Kurds said they had acted
because the citizens of the town were "their customers." F.O. 78-2623, no.
58, Zohrab to Derby, Erzeroum, 12 July 1877, enclosure, "Extract from a letter
from the Reverend G. Knapp, American Missionary at Bitlis." In tales such as
this, the Reverend Knapp was a fairly reliable source, because Christians did not
enter into the story. Where Armenians appeared, his prejudices stood in the way of
his observational veracity.
See also: F.O. 195-1211, no. 33, Trotter (relaying letter of Captain Clay from Van)
to Layard, Erzurum, 30 August 1879; F.O. 195-1140, Zohrab to Elliot, Erzurum, 30
January 1877; and other documents in F.O. 195-1140, in which wartime reports from
the American missionaries in Van, Bitlis, and elsewhere are included. Interestingly,
the missionaries' solution to the problems in the east, brought upon by the Russian
invasion, was that the Russian should win! They openly stated their hopes that the
Ottomans would be quickly defeated. (One wonders if they had any idea of how poorly
the Russians traditionally received Protestant missionaries.)
74. Kurds often crossed across the Persian
border in both directions to raid or to escape punishment. On at least one occasion,
Ottoman gendarmes followed them across the border "to remonstrate with some of
the more audacious Kurdish tribes" (P.O. 424-169, no. 2/1, Devey to Lloyd, Van,
6 December 1890, in British Documents II, no. 383).
75. The British, recently victorious in
World War I, attempted to subdue the Kurds of southeast Anatolia so that they could
take over the area as part of their Iraqi Mandate. They failed badly. (Paul C.
Helmreich, From Paris to Sevres, Columbus, Ohio, 1974, pp. 26, 27, and
203-5.) The fact that the Ottomans and later the Turkish Republic managed to govern
there shows a higher degree of loyalty than might be expected.
76. F.O. 195-1237, no. 22, Trotter to Malet,
Diarbekir, 22 March 1879.
77. F.O. 195-1237, no. 22, Trotter to Malet,
Diarbekir, 22 March 1879.
78. F.O. 195-1237, no. 22, Trotter to Malet,
Diarbekir, 22 March 1879.
79. F.O. 195-1237, no. 22, Trotter to Malet,
Diarbekir, 22 March 1879. Trotter had high hopes for the beneficent effects of a
European presence: "The news of the arrival and location of a British consul in
Diarbekir has done much to quiet these lawless tribes." No doubt.
80. On the financial condition of the
empire, see Sevket Pamuk, "Foreign Trade, Foreign Capital, and the
Peripheralization of the Ottoman Empire," Ph.D dissertation, University of
California at Berkeley, 1978; Charles Issawi, An Economic History of the Middle
East and North Africa, New York, 1982, chapter 1; Roger Owen, The Middle East
in the World Economy, 1800-1914, London, 1981; and the bibliographies in each.
81. F.O. 195-1237, Trotter to Layard,
Erzeroum, 16 September 1879. See also F.O. 195-1237, no. 14, Trotter to Salisbury,
Diarbekir, 28 December 1878.
82. Turkey No. 51 (1878), p. 12-16, no. 4,
Layard to Salisbury, Therapia, 30 October 1878 in British Documents I, no.
111. Only 11.4 percent of the annual Ottoman budget was available for all the work
of the Interior Ministry ca 1875. That ministry was responsible for all civil order
and administration in the provinces (Shaw, p. 155).
83. F.O. 78-2844, no. 29, Biliotti to
Derby, Trebizond, 25 February 1878. When reading European reports of Kurdish
attacks, it is often difficult to tell whether Armenians were particularly picked
out for Kurdish depredations or if the Europeans only reported on Armenian losses.
For example, in the previous report, Consul Biliotti states that "there is
panic among the Armenians" and cites numbers of deaths in various villages. He
does not actually indicate that the deaths were deaths of Armenians. The only person
selectively identified as being killed by the Kurds is described as a "philo-Armenian
Mussulman." The truth probably is that all the sedentary population suffered,
the Armenians perhaps worse than the others. Because the main activity of the
marauding Kurds was robbery and the Armenians were by all accounts richer than the
other groups, it would be odd if they did not suffer greater losses. Hatred against
non-Muslims would have been a secondary cause for discrimination against Armenians,
and a far lesser cause. On relations between Armenians and Kurds, see Lynch, vol.
II, pp. 431-33.
84. Rassam to Layard, Van, 15 October 1877,
in British Documents I, no. 43.
85. On the "normal" activities of
the tribes against Muslims and Armenians, see Turkey No. 23 (1880), no. 147, Clayton
to Trotter, Van, 25 May 1880, in British Documents II, no. 9.
86. F.O. 78-1017, no. 2, Holmes to de
Redcliffe, Diarbekir, 7 November 1854.
87. F.O. 195-1187, no. 168, Biliotti to
Layard, Trebizond, 25 October 1878. On other Kurdish revolts in the 1877-78 war, see
F.O. 195-1237, no. 6, Trotter to Salisbury, Erzeroom, 28 November 1878.
88. F.O. 195-1237, Trotter to Layard,
Erzeroum, 19 September 1879.
89. F.O. 78-3132, no. 7, Trotter to
Salisbury, Diarbekir, 3 March 1879 and no. 9, 17 March 1879.
90. Consular records are full of the
military moves against the Kurdish rebels. The Ottomans sent battalions of troops
from all over the east to put down the 1879 revolts. Loyal Kurdish tribes were even
used to fight disloyal ones. (See F.O. 195-1237, Trotter to Layard, Erzeroum, 2
91. The reports of British diplomats
contain numerous examples of European complaints over the imprisonment of Armenians
convicted of treason, especially of convicted Armenian bishops and clergy.
92. F.O. 78-3137, Biliotti to Salisbury,
Tripoli, 1 October 188t).
NOTES, pp. 183-184
10. See Justin McCarthy, Muslims and
Minorities, New York, 1983, pp. 163-81.
11. Caucasian Battlefields, p. 289.
12. Ibid, p. 426.
13. Mahmut Kamil to Acting Supreme
Commander, Karahisar, 22 July 1915. Belgeler III, no. 159.
14. Caucasian Battlefields, p. 438.
15. Ibid, p. 296.
16. Ibid, p. 299.
17. Third Army, "To All Units,"
Erzurum, 18 September 1914. Belgeler I, no. 1. "At the All-Armenian National
Congress held in Tiflis in February 1915, it was revealed that the Russian
government had given the Dashnaks over two hundred thousand roubles to arm the
Turkish Armenians and provoke their uprising at an opportune moment" (Kazemzadeh,
p. 26). Kazemzadeh states that the Russians repented their actions later, when they
realized the Dashnaks had different plans for eastern Anatolia than did the Russians
(pp. 26 and 27).
Testimony on Oppressors: Kurds, Not Turks
In the introduction above, you have read an excerpt of an
Armenian-British article, laying the blame of oppression on the Kurds. This is
interesting, because here is no end of Armenian propaganda telling us that it's always the
Turks who loved to chop Armenians into little pieces. The striking fact is, before the
1895 period (when Armenians first revolted and the response to put them down was always
reported as a "massacre" in the Western press), there is nary a peep on
barbarian Turks engaging in their favorite sport of Armenian snuff. It's almost always the
Kurds, Circassians and others... just as Prof. McCarthy has instructed. Below are further
examples of "Armenian back-up" of this interesting phenomenon.
"It would be erroneous to state that the evils to which the Armenians are exposed
in Armenia are due solely to the Kurds and Circassians. There is also another calamity,
another evil. Worthless administrators. From one end of Armenia to another there is not a
single Armenian official."
Nerses Varjabedian, Armenian Patriarch, National Assembly of July 21, 1878.
"The Armenians in History and the Armenian Question," Esat Uras, p. 503; Minutes
of the National Assembly, 5th sitting. What the Patriarch reported
at the end was untrue. There were Armenian officials, but they contributed to the
"evil" through their own corruption. In fact, the British consul in Erzurum used
the very word, when he wrote in
1869: " ...as the evil lies as much with the Christians as the Turks."
"...We had been so often deceived by the Turks that we no longer placed any faith
in their false promises, and that in any case, even if they were sincere, they were quite
incapable of controlling the Kurds and the other barbarous tribes who inhabited
Archbishop Khoren Narbey, as he betrayed his Ottoman nation to archenemy Tsar
Alexander II on March 18, 1878. (Source.)
Was It Really That Bad? Some Perspective:
Sounds like life was one gigantic hell of Kurdish
persecution, doesn't it? Let's not forget these complaints come from Armenians, and while
there certainly were unfairnesses and outrages, Armenians do have a tendency to
Russian General Mayewski (Highlights are
"The description of the Turkish Armenians as 'unbearable' does not apply to the
country towns. There they are completely free, and able to pursue and preserve their own
interests. As for those in the villages, due to their skill in farming and irrigation,
the Turkish Armenians are in a much better situation than those in Russia. They should not be regarded as continually under the threat of Kurdish
attacks. If such allegations had been true not a single Armenian would have
survived in the region. On the contrary, Armenian villages are always much richer and
more productive than the Kurdish villages... Western diplomats have ruthlessly
exploited these inter-community conflicts, and by arousing Armenian nationalist feelings
have produced the so-called Armenian Question... In those places where the
revolutionists have not yet perpetrated, the Armenians are perfectly happy and
contented. If these members of the political committees again become active, the
Armenians will fall back into their own wretched condition... Until 1895, the trials
and sufferings of the Armenians were nothing but fantastic fairy-tales. The Armenians in
Turkey were in no worse a situation than the Armenians elsewhere.... As far as for the
massacres and looting referred to by the Armenian militants, these occurred more
particularly in the Caucasus. The raids on cattle and property are no different from the
robberies and pillages taking place in various parts of Russia. As for security of life
and property, in places where the Ottoman government is able to enforce its power and
authority, it is better here than in the province of Elisavetpol."
"The Armenians in History and the Armenian Question," Esat Uras, p. 680; source:
"Statistics of the Provinces of Van and Bitlis."
(Another version of the above, as sourced in the 1919 booklet cited
in the next section):
In his “Statistics of the vilayets of Van and Bitlis” which is
written in a remarkable spirit of impartiality and truth except in so far as he omits to
speak of the very compromising role played in the Armenian Question by his own country,
this is what this soldier diplomat has to say of the relations between Kurds and
“The allegations of publicists according to which the Kurds are busy exterminating the
Armenians may be set aside as false without exception. If they were founded it would mean
that not a single individual belonging to another race could exist among the Kurds, and
that the different peoples living in their midst would be obliged to emigrate en masse
because of the impossibility of obtaining a piece of bread or to become their slaves.
Neither of these situations had occurred. On the contrary, all those whoknow the eastern
provinces (of Anatolia) will bear witness to the fact that the villages of the Christians
are in any case more prosperous than those of the Kurds. If the Kurds were no more than
brigands and thieves as the Europeans claim the prosperous condition of the Armenians
which lasted until 1895 would never have been possible. Thus, until that date the distress
of the Armenians is nothing but a legend. The condition of the Ottoman Armenian was not
worse than that of the Armenians living in other countries.
“The incidents in connection with which the Armenian revolutionists would make such a
terrible outcry, such as instances of murdering and pillaging, occurred just as often if
not more so in the Caucasus. As to cattle lifting, this question has no other character
than in different localities in Russia. Then, again, life and property were better guarded
wherever the authority of the Government could make itself felt than in the district of
Elisabetpol for instance.
“One could see certain Kurdish chieftains notoriously addicted to brigandage and
pillaging, to take under their protection needy Armenians even in the most agitated times.
There could be no better proof that the Armenians lived on perfectly friendly terms with
the Kurds whom the Armenians denounced as highwaymen.
“During the years 1895-6 the Armenian Committees sowed the seeds of such an animosity
between Kurds and Armenians that no sort of reforms could extinguish it.
“Here (at Sassoum) the Armenians and Kurds had lived very amicably together for
centuries. In 1893 one Damadian makes his appearance. . . . A year later one Boyadjian
takes his place. . . . As a result of the intrigues of these individuals several affrays
took place in a short time between the two elements. . .”
ARMENIAN-KURD RELATIONS GOOD
M. Zarzecki, former French Consul at Van, describes the situation:
“By reason of the isolation of the little Armenian people, which became Christian in the
Vth century, in the midst of the Musulman peoples whose preponderance in Asia Minor became
more marked from day to day, the Armenians were considered by the Musulman conquerors who
succeeded one another as belonging to an inferior race. The Kurds, having embraced Islam,
were favored by these conquerors and very naturally encouraged to have the upper hand.
“Nevertheless, the Kurdish beys and aghas who used them to till their fields or for
other work, treated them with a certain kindness and protected them against the extortions
of other Kurdish feudal lords who sought to take them away from their neighbors to place
them under their own authority or to get a temporary profit out of them by plundering
their villages. Thus, it would come to pass during this period, that one Kurdish tribe
would fight another because the Armenians had been attacked, molested or plundered by
certain Kurds. In short, the relations between Kurds and Armenians were those of lords and
bondsmen. The Armenians worked, the Kurds protected them. Accustomed to this condition of
affairs, the Armenians did not imagine it could be otherwise, and did not complain too
much of their fate. Besides, materially they were not too unhappy.
“Toward the end of this first period the. . . . demands of the Kurds on the Armenians
became less hard. . . . Under favor of this new state of things the conditions of the
Armenians still further improved by the promulgation of the Tanzimat. Many Armenians
became rich and acquired vast fields of which many were even cultivated by poor Armenian
rayahs. The relations between the Kurdish rayahs and the Armenian had always been good. .
. .” (I)
(I) “La Question Kurdo-armenienne” in the Revne de Paris of 15 th April 1914 –
Underlined by the Editor.
As presented in the booklet, THE TURCO-ARMENIAN
THE TURKISH POINT OF VIEW;
Published by THE NATIONAL CONGRESS OF TURKEY CONSTANTINOPLE
Societe Anonyme de Papeterie et d’Limprimerie
and the Kurds
(The following is from Michael A. Reynolds'
excellent dissertation, "THE OTTOMAN-RUSSIAN STRUGGLE FOR EASTERN ANATOLIA AND
THE CAUCASUS, 1908-1918: IDENTITY, IDEOLOGY AND THE GEOPOLITICS OF WORLD
ORDER," Nov. 2003, pp. 104-108, 109, 113, 130.)
It should be noted that the fundamental rifts between the Christian Armenians and
Assyrians and the Muslim Kurds stemmed not so much from religion or ethnicity but
from their clashing ways of life and modes of existence. The majority of the Kurds
were nomads, while the Christians generally were settled farmers, craftsmen, and
merchants. As nomads, the Kurds were given to raiding and plundering settled
communities, and were much less tractable for state authorities, who had relatively
little to offer the Kurds by way of carrot or stick. Settled Kurds, by contrast,
paid taxes, lived peacefully, and suffered from the depredations of their nomadic
co-ethnics just as much as non-Kurds. Moreover, the Kurdish tribes fought each other
and their co-religionists, the Ottoman authorities, almost as much as they fought
with others. 44
The tribal elite's hostility to the Unionist regime expressed itself immediately
upon the announcement in 1908 of the reinstatement of the Constitution of 1876 when
the most powerful of the Kurdish chieftains, Ibrahim Pasha, rose in revolt. Ibrahim
Pasha had been a favored Hamidiye leader, and in return for his loyalty, Abdülhamid
II had permitted him to rule the territory between Urfa and Diarbekir as a private
fief in return for loyalty and annual tribute. 45 Ibrahim Pasha stood to lose much
under the new regime and predictably fought it. After slaying Ibrahim Pasha and
quelling the numerous uprisings among the Kurds, the CUP moved to strip the Hamidiye
regiments of their privileges and incorporate them into the regular army.
Another prominent Hamidiye leader, the wealthy and influential chief of the
Heyderanli tribe, Kör Hüseyin Pasha, responded to this act by rebelling in turn.
Government forces managed to capture him, but the depth of Kurdish dissatisfaction
deterred the CUP from detaining him for more than three months. The government's new
policies had already caused many Kurds to flee into Iran where increasing numbers
began applying for Russian subject status, thereby unsettling and embarrassing the
Ottomans. The CUP returned to the question of reforming the Hamidiye several times,
and even invited British instructors, skilled in training tribal border forces in
India, to assist.
Kör Hüseyin, however, dealt the reform project a crippling blow. He was upset by
the CUP's attempts to assert tighter control over the regiments, its decision to
allow Armenians to enjoy full rights and even to bear arms, and the pro-Armenian
sympathies of the CUP member and Vali (Governor) of Erzurum, Celâl Bey. The
imprisonment of many Kurdish Hamidiye officers for past crimes and the government’s
initiation of an investigation into him no doubt also gave him cause to worry. In
response he and several prominent Kurdish leaders crossed into Iran, taking with
them several Hamidiye regiments. 46
The CUP did initially succeed in imposing order on Eastern Anatolia. The government
cracked down on known outlaws and managed to curb pillaging and provide greater
security for the lives and property of settled inhabitants, Christian and Muslim
alike. The Russian consul in Bitlis recorded the decrease in banditry and
lawlessness with approval, writing in March 1909, "[D]ue to the new
government's policy the Kurds have become unrecognizable." 47
Although the Russians acknowledged and even admired the CUP's success in restraining
the brigands among the Kurds, they understood that the CUP's policies were
alienating the Kurds. 48 Seeking to exploit the Kurds' animosity toward Istanbul,
the Russians in 1910 embarked 106 on a project to recruit rebellious Kurdish tribal
leaders and form a united Kurdish front. The effort focused on a prominent Kurd
Abdurrezzak was attractive to the Russians for two reasons. First, he was from the
prestigious Bedirhan family, and thus was already a respected and influential figure
among the Kurds. Second, he was a Russophile by conviction. Born in the town of
Norduz in the vilayet of Van, Abdurrezzak had earlier in his life been an Ottoman
diplomat. He had served as secretary and later as the "Minister of
Ceremonies" of the Ottoman Embassy in St. Petersburg. 49 What he saw in Russia
must have had a powerful effect on him, for Abdurrezzak became a staunch advocate
not only of Kurdish political union with Russia, but also of the spread of Russian
culture, language, and literature among the Kurds.
When exactly Abdurrezzak entered into opposition to the Ottoman government is not
clear. In 1895, he made a private trip to Russia. Resentful toward the Hamidian
regime for its stripping of his tribal titles, Abdurrezzak entered into secret
negotiations with the Russians. He offered to lead the Kurds in rebellion in
exchange for Russian patronage and protection. The Russians turned down this initial
offer and sent him back. Then, after Abdurrezzak was implicated in the murder of the
Prefect of Istanbul, the Albanian Major Ridvan Pasha, in 1906, Sultan Abdülhamid II
had Abdurrezzak arrested upon the urging of his Grand Vizier, another Albanian named
Ferid Pasha, and exiled his family and up to 3,000 others from his tribe. Despite a
general amnesty of political prisoners under the proclamation of constitutional rule
in 1908, Abdurrezzak was freed from jail only one and a half years later. 50 Upon
his release, Abdurrezzak announced to his associates that he was leaving for
Kurdistan "to civilise his people." 51
By August 1910, Abdurrezzak was distributing pamphlets pushing the idea of a Kurdish
"beylik" or principality and praising the "blessedness of Russian
rule." 52 In September he made a formal application to the Russian government
for Russian subject status and requested permission to settle in Erevan. The embassy
in Istanbul and the authorities in the Caucasus responded positively, objecting
initially only to his desire to settle in Erevan, which they considered too close to
the border. But six months later the Ministry of Internal Affairs approved
Abdurrezzak’s request to become a Russian subject and settle in Erevan. 53
That same year, Kör Hüseyin Pasha wrote the Viceroy of the Caucasus, Count I.I.
Vorontsov-Dashkov, and offered to hand over all of Kurdistan to Russia. 54 The
Russians did not spurn Kör Hüseyin, but nonetheless preferred to focus their
efforts on Abdurrezzak whose combination of dynastic prestige among the Kurds and
unabashedly pro-Russian sympathies made him a natural choice. The Russians hoped to
make him a leader of all the Kurds, and later gave him the title of Sultan ul-asair
('Sultan of the Tribes'). 55
The Russians decided to provide sanctuary in the Caucasus and Iran to influential
Kurds but not overtly to support their attacks into Ottoman territory. The fact that
Abdurrezzak was operating from Russian controlled territory and agitating in
Anatolia for a united Kurdish revolt inevitably attracted the Sublime Porte's ire.
Russia maintained its support for him and other Kurds, providing money, shelter, and
advance warning of assassination and arrest attempts, but being careful nonetheless
not to hand the Ottomans a clear casus belli. 56
Besides Abdurrezzak, Simko, Kör Hüseyin, and another leading Kurd named Sheikh
Seyid Ali also availed themselves of Russian support. Seeking to take advantage of
Italy's attack on the last Ottoman possession in Africa, Tripoli of Barbary, they
led revolts in the regions of Siirt, Van, and Bitlis in 1911. 60 Seyid Ali and
others distributed leaflets in Kurdish that read, "This land is our land"
and claimed Bitlis and the neighboring provinces for the Kurds. 61
At times, the Ottoman forces would even join with Armenians to fight the Kurds, as
in June 1913 when a 500-man force of Dashnaks led by Aram Pasha fought alongside
Ottoman regulars against the Kurds of the Gravi tribe between Van and Bashkale. 76
Those rebel leaders who did not receive sanctuary in the embassy were not so lucky.
Some, including Sheikh Sehabeddin, Sheikh Said Ali, and Mullah Abdurrahman, tried to
escape to Russia, but were caught at the border. 143 The authorities brought before
military courts a total of one hundred twenty two suspects. 144 On 7 May 1914 the
Ottomans hanged Sheikh Seyid Ali, Sehabeddin and nine others.
44 AVPRI, Copy of Secret Dispatch of Chirkov [not to be confused with
Shirkov] to the Imperial Charge d'Affaires in Tehran, 14.2.1913 [27.2.1913] f.
Posol'stvo v Konstantinopole o. 517/2 d. 3573, l. 25. Nor were Kurds the sole
marauders. Circassians were also often implicated in pillaging, as article 61 of the
Treaty of Berlin noted. See also V.A. Gordlevskii, Izbrannye sochineniia, vol. 3
(Moscow: Izdatel’stvo vostochnoi literatury, 1962), 119; Lazarev, 11, 39.
45 Ibrahim Pasha ruled his territory as a predatory despot, and was highly unpopular
among the region's inhabitants and with the local government authorities. Ahmad, 59;
van Bruinessen, 187-189; V.A. Gordlevskii, vol. 3, 116; Hanioglu, Preparation for
a Revolution, 106-107; Lazarev, 37, 115-116, 148-149. Ibrahim Pasha's
recruitment of brigands seems to have been as non-discriminatory as his
exploitation. Among the ranks of his armed men could be found Turks, Armenians, and
Arabs as well as Kurds. E.B. Soane, To Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in Disguise
(London: J. Murray, 1912), 43, 66.
46 AVPRI, Copy of Secret Dispatch of the Caucasus Military District to Quartermaster
General of the General Staff, 5 .1.1910 [18.1.1910], f. Posol'stvo v Konstantinopole,
o.517/2, d. 3572, ll.15-17; Lazarev, 150-153; Gordlevskii, vol. 2, 128.
47 Somakian, 38.
48 AVPRI, Copy of Secret Dispatch of the Caucasus Military District to Quartermaster
General of the General Staff, 5 January 1910 [18 January 1910], f. Posol'stvo v
Konstantinopole, o.517/2, d. 3572; As this report explained: “The local Armenians,
who had become the main and most implacable enemies of the Kurds over the course of
the past several decades, suddenly changed from reaya [non-Muslim subjects
with limited rights according to the sharia] without rights to citizens with
full rights. Feeling their strength, they, in alliance with the Young Turks, began
to avenge themselves upon on the Kurds for the former, old offenses. All that the
Kurds perpetrated over the course of many years preceding the declaration of the
constitution, all of this was recorded. Naturally, the more influential a Kurds was,
the more the charges leveled against him; many of the less influential Kurds were
imprisoned, and investigations of the others, including Hüseyin Pasha, have begun.
The Kurds, who are not used to this kind of treatment, await further developments in
a state of incomprehension.”
49 Lazarev, 79; AVPRI, Dispatch to K.E. Argirapulo, 1910 [day and month not noted];
Telegram from Chirkov, 17.1912 [30.11.1912] f. Posol'stvo v Konstantinopole, o.
517/2 d. 3572 ll. 61, 110.
50 The figure of three thousand is Abdurrezzak's. AVPRI, Secret Telegram of the
Vice-Consul in Hoy to the First Department, December 1913 [day not specified], f.
Posol'stvo v Konstantinopole, o. 517/2 d. 3573 l. 232. One possible reason for
Abdurrezzak's detention beyond the amnesty might have been his unyielding defiance
of authority. When some of his relatives were imprisoned for killing Ridvan Pasha at
his behest, Abdurrezzak wrote to Abdülhamid II saying that he regretted only that
he had not killed Ridvan himself. Lazarev, 118. The enmity between Abdurrezzak and
Ridvan was part of a larger Kurdish-Albanian rivalry being played out in Istanbul.
Starting in 1896, large numbers of Kurds were brought into Istanbul in order to
replace Armenian porters and dock workers. The influx of Kurdish laborers in turn
created tension with the Albanians. Abdülhamid II’s Grand Vizier was also
prominent in the Albanian community, and the Albanian rivalry with the Kurds in
Istanbul explains in part why he wanted to see Abdurrezzak expelled. For more on
Abdurrezzak’s role in the assassination of Ridvan Pasha, see Halide Edib (Adivar),
Memoirs of Halide Edib (New York: The Century Company, 1926), 222-223; and
Sir Andrew Ryan, The Last of the Dragomans (London: Geoffrey Bless, 1951),
41. For more on dock workers and labor strife in Istanbul see Donald Quataert, Social
Disintegration and Popular Resistance in the Ottoman Empire, 1881-1908 (New
York: New York University Press, 1983), 95-120.
51 These words are as cited by Sir Telford Waugh in Turkey: Yesterday, Today, and
Tomorrow (London: Chapman Hall, 1930), 97.
52 Somakian, 51.
53 AVPRI, “Disptach to K. E. Argirapulo,”” Copy of Letter of G. Tovarishch of
the Ministry of Internal Affairs,” 3.3.1911 [16.3.1911] f. Posol’stvo v
Konstantinopole o. 517/2 d .3572 ll. 61,67; Lazarev writes that Abdurrezzak
requested permission to settle in Erevan in November, but the latter letter makes
clear that in fact he made the request no later than 26 September. Lazarev, 159.
54 Lazarev, 157.
55 Bab-i Ali Osmanli Arsivi (BOA), “Cipher Telegram from the General Security
Directorate to the Van Vilayet,” Dahiliye Nezareti Sifre Kalemi (DH.SFR) 25 Eylül
1330 [8.10.1914], Dosya 45 Belge 215.
56 The War Ministry and the Caucasus Army General Staff advocated more active
support of Kurdish attacks, but the Foreign Ministry at this stage was wary of
lending too much support too openly lest Russia get embroiled in a war before it was
ready. Lazarev, 158-159, 163.
60 Akgül, “Rusya’nin Dogu Anadolu Politakasi,” 72.
61 Lazarev, 201-202.
76 AVPRI, “Telegram from Chirkov,” 30.5.1913 [12.4.1913], f. Posol'stvo v
Konstantinopole, o. 517/2 d. 3573 l. 158. This, of course, was the reverse of the
tactic of using the Kurds to fight Armenian revolutionaries, one of the primary
motives for Abdülhamid’s establishment of the Hamidiye Regiments.
143 Balcioglu, 173.
144 Akgül, “Rusya’nin Dogu Anadolu Politikasi,” 11.
|KURDS DISGUST THE TURKS
KURDS DISGUST THE TURKS
The Latter Protest Against the Atrocities of the Former.
TABRIZ, April 16, (via Petrograd, April 17.)-- Engagements between
Armenians and Kurds are frequent in the vicinity of Van, in Turkish Armenia, according to
reliable information reaching Tabriz and a general massacre of Christians is expected in
the Province of Bashkals. The Armenians of Van are hurriedly trying to raise volunteers in
Azerbaijan Province, Persia, to help them against the Turks and the Kurds,
After several stubborn engagements between Russian and Turks, to the
north of Dilman, in Persia, the Turks to the south of Dilman. From the district of the
Choruk River it is reported that after an unsuccessful defense of Khopa, the Turks
retreated beyond Archava where they have occupied fortified heights from which they are
There is said to be growing hostility between the Turks and Kurds,
the former deprecating the inhumanity of the latter. In cases where Turks and Kurds are
serving together this disaffection has at times approached the mutinous stage. Turkish
soldiers and even the younger of the Turkish officers are protesting against the
countenancing by higher Turkish officers of the outrages committed by the Kurds. There are
several instances of Turkish soldiers having lynched Kurds guilty of unusual atrocities.
The New York Times, April 18, 1915.
Holdwater: This is another propagandistic article from The
New York Times, and its worth comes in reading between the lines. There were no
American journalists on the field in the interior of the Ottoman Empire during 1915, save
for George Schreiner, according to the
propaganda book, "America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915." Without
reporters, the "reliable
information reaching Tabriz" was sure to come from the mouths of Armenians. (Or from
missionaries, who got their information from the Armenians.) During the month of April,
the Armenians were busy rebelling in Van, in coordination with their soon to arrive
Russian allies, massacring Muslims to the point where the Van governor was seeking permission from Istanbul to "deport" the
Van Muslim population on April 24, the symbolic Armenian genocide date. Yet, this
article is predictably making it seem as though the Armenians were in danger of attack.
The Turks, with their eastern army decimated at Sarikamish, were struggling desperately with mortal enemy Russia, and
the last thing they were going to do was deplete their precious manpower and resources by
attacking Armenians for no reason. It was the Armenians doing the attacking. Whatever
rag-tag regiments were being sent to deal with the rebellion, it sounds like the Kurds
were behaving ruthlessly (Kurdish families were being hit by the murderous Armenians, and
no doubt few Kurds were showing mercy), and the worth of this article is to point out the
Turks and the Kurds were at odds. In fact, whomever the Armenian reporters were, it's
remarkable to learn from such a biased source that some Kurds were getting punished for
their actions, by way of execution! (While the "higher Turkish officers" get the
ultimate blame, of course.)
"He (Mohammed-Tchefik, a deaf-mute Kurdish sheik from
Socaida hamlet, whose 'brother was the owner of many villages on the surrounding valley')
had fought for us at Van, but had passed over to the enemy because the latter had brought
him over. Most of the Kurdish and Arab sheiks in northern Mesopotamia used to be 'for
sale' in those days. With them it was only a question of the higher price. Knowing the
Kurds, however, and their treacherous character, I politely refused to share Mohammed's
Rafael de Nogales, "Memoirs
of a Soldier of Fortune" (Garden City, NY, 1932, p. 291). Nogales' epilogue to
the above story was a "hornet's nest of Kurds rushing to the attack with
blood-curdling howls (p. 292)," but Nogales and his Turkish men succeeded in
Kurds of Turkey