Sheikh Said rebellion

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Sheikh Said Rebellion
Part of Kurdish rebellions in Turkey
Date8 February—March 1925[1]
Result Decisive Turkish victory,
Revolt suppressed
 Turkey Kurdish tribes
(Sunni Zazas and Kurmanj)
Some Alevi Zazas
(Hormekan and Lolan tribes)
Commanders and leaders
Mustafa Kemal Pasha
Kâzım Pasha (Third Army)
Mürsel Pasha (VII Corps)
Naci Pasha (V Corps)
Sheikh Said Executed
25,000 men (fewer than 12,000 are armed troops; the rest are unarmed logistical troops)[1]
52,000 men (25,000 are armed troops)[1]
15,000 men[1]
Casualties and losses
15,000–20,000[2] or 40,000–250,000 civilians killed[3]

The Sheikh Said Rebellion (Kurdish: Serhildana Seîdê Pîran‎, Turkish: Şeyh Said İsyanı) or Genç Incident (Turkish: Genç Hâdisesi) was a Kurdish rebellion aimed at reviving the Islamic caliphate[6] and sultanate. It used elements of Kurdish nationalism to recruit.[7] It was led by Sheikh Said and a group of former Ottoman soldiers also known as "Hamidiye". The rebellion was carried out by two Kurdish sub-groups, the Zaza and the Kurmanj.[8]


The Azadî was dominated by officers from the former Hamidiye, a Kurdish tribal militia established under the Ottoman Empire to deal with the Armenians and sometimes even to keep the Qizilbash under control. According to various historians the main reason the revolt took place was that various elements of Turkish society were unhappy with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's abolition of the Islamic Caliphate system. According to British intelligence reports, the Azadî officers had 11 grievances. Apart from inevitable Kurdish cultural demands and complaints of Turkish maltreatment, this list also detailed fears of imminent mass deportations of Kurds. They also registered annoyance that the name Kurdistan did not appear on maps, at restrictions on the Kurdish language and on Kurdish education and objections to alleged Turkish economic exploitation of Kurdish areas, at the expense of Kurds.[citation needed]

It was Sheikh Said who convinced Hamidiye commanders to support a fight for the return of Islamic Caliphate system.[9]

Certain among you have taken as a pretext for revolt the abuse by the governmental administration, some others have invoked the defence of the Caliphate,.

— President of the military tribunal that sentenced the rebels, 28 June 1925[10][11]

Some claim British assistance was sought realizing that Kurdistan could not stand alone.[12]


Front row, left to right: Shiekh Sherif, Sheikh Said, back row: Sheikh Hamid, Major Kasim (Kasım Ataç), Sheikh Abdullah.

Sheikh Said appealed to all Muslims of Turkey to join in the rebellion being planned. The tribes which actually participated were mostly Zazas. However the Xormak and Herkî, two Zaza-Qizilbash tribes were the most active and effective opponents of this rebellion. The participation from Kurds (Kurmanchs) was allegedly almost non-existent except a handful of Hamidiye leaders. Mindful of the depredations of the Hamidiye against them (especially the Hamidiye commanded by Xalid Beg Cîbran), other Alevi tribes also refused to join the rebellion.

In one of the bigger engagements, in the night of 6–7 March, the forces of Sheikh Said laid siege to the city of Diyarbakır with 5,000–10,000 men.[13][14] The Muslim Revivalists attacked the city at all four gates simultaneously. All of their attacks were repelled by the numerically inferior Turkish garrison, with the use of machine gun fire and mortar grenades. When the rebels retreated the next morning, the area around the city was full of dead bodies.[13] When a second wave of attacks failed, the siege was finally lifted on 11 March.[13]

By the end of March, most of the major battles of the Sheikh Said rebellion were over. The rebels were unable to penetrate beyond Hınıs, this was one of the two major areas where Sheikh Said was well known and he enjoyed considerable influence there (he had a tekke in Hınıs). This failure excluded the possibility of extending the rebellion.[15]

The main part of the uprising was over by the end of March, as the Turkish authorities, according to Martin van Bruinessen, crushed the rebellion with continual aerial bombardments and a massive concentration of forces.[16]

During this rebellion, the Turkish government used its airplanes for bombing raids in Palu-Bingöl area. In the course of this operation, the airfield near Elâzığ road was used.[17]

However, according to the British Air Ministry there are few reports on the use of Turkish airplanes in suppressing the Sheikh Said rebellion.[18] The reports originate from the British Air Command at Mosul, which was in charge of intelligence for all of Iraq.[18]

At the beginning of the rebellion the Turks had one squadron (filo) consisting of seven airplanes. Of these only 2 were serviceable.[19] Later four more arrived. The Turkish Air Force deployed a total of 11 airplanes against the rebellion, however, only 6 were serviceable.[19]

The Rebellion[edit]

Turkish soldiers encircling Palu, Çapakçur (present-day: Bingöl), Genc (present-day: Kaleköy, Solhan), Piran, Hani, Lice, Ergani, Egiland Silvan, Cumhuriyet Newspaper, March 30, 1925.

The people of Sheikh Said were in clash with a gendarme platoon in the village of Dicle (Diyarbakir district of Tigris) in Diyarbakir Province (February 13, 1925), sparked a widespread uprising that would soon expand. Sheikh Said, who had taken the governor and the other officers captive by pressing Darahini (February 16), tried to gather the movement under a single center with a declaration urging the people to rise up in the name of Islam. In this statement, he used his seal which means 'the leader of the fighters for the sake of religion' and called everyone to fight for the sake of religion. Initially, the rebellion was initiated on behalf of the Islamic Sharia, but was later converted to the Kurdish independence movement.[20]

After receiving the support of the tribes of Mistan, Botan and Mhallami, he headed to Diyarbakır via Genç and Çapakçur (today known as Bingöl).Captured Maden, Siverek and Ergani. Another uprising, directed by Sheikh Abdullah, also moved towards Muş via Varto. The rebellion force which had taken over the Varto, even if they moved through Muş on later, they did beaten by militia force around Murat bridge and made them to retreat to Varto. On 21 February, the government declared martial law in the eastern provinces. Army troops sent to the insurgents on 23 February were forced to retreat to Diyarbakir in the Winter Plain against the Sheikh Said forces. The next day, another uprising under the leadership of Sheikh Sharif, who entered Elazığ, kept the city under control for a short time. Elazığ were looted by rebels for several days.[21]

At the beginning of March, a force of about 10,000 people under the command of Sheikh Saeed attacked and besieged Diyarbakir. The ones who siege were getting supplied continuously and the siege were led by Sheikh Said himself. The garrison under Mürsel Pasha succeeded in pushing back the attacks that had lasted for days. But one night, with the help of the Kurdish residents, a group was able to enter into Diyarbakır. Their assets were spotted by the garrison. After a heavy collision between March 7–8, the group was defeated in the city and only a few were able to escape. Sheikh Said, who saw the siege failing, lifted the siege and pulled his men out of Diyarbakir.[21]

Prior to Sheikh Said's rebellion, the prominent Pashas of the War of Independence worried about the anti-religious and totalitarian policy of the M. Kemal government and therefore on 17 November 1924, the Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Fırkası (TCF), the first opposition party in the history of the Republic was established.[22] There was a general consensus that M. Kemal's actions were against religion. In the TCF’s article which led by Kazım Karabekir it says that ‘’ The political party is respectful to the religious beliefs and thoughts’’. One of the TCF officials Fethi Bey; ‘’The members of the TCF are religious. CHF is messing up with the religion, we will save the religion and protect it’’.[23]

Two weeks before the Sheikh Said incident, in late January 1925, the TCF Erzurum deputy Ziyaeddin Efendi, with heavy criticism of the actions of the ruling CHF in the chair of the Grand National Assembly; that innovation is nothing more than isret (getting drunk), dance, beach mischief, prostitution increased, Muslim women are losing their decency, getting drunk is being encouraged but most important of all, the religious emotions are getting dishonored and this new regime that brings nothing more than filth and dragged the country into the mud.”[24]

On Friday, February 13, 1925, Sheikh Said addressed the people in his sermon in the Piran mosque:

The madrasahs were closed. The Ministry of Religion and Foundations was abolished and the schools of religion were connected to the National Education. In the newspapers, a number of irreligious writers dare to insult the Prophet and extend the language of our Prophet. If I can do it today, I will start fighting myself and try to raise religion. [25]

Sheikh Said, by the way, issued various declarations against the people with the signature of ‘’ Emir’ül Mücahidin Muhammed Said El-Nakşibendi’’. In addition, the Alevi Zaza tribal chiefs sent letters to the Alevi Zaza tribal chiefs, to the Kurdish bey, the network and the tribal leaders and the Turkish gentlemen and aghas in Ergani with the same signatures and invited them to join in a common struggle against the Kemalist rule. In one of the published statements,

“Since the day it was founded, Head of the republic of Turkey and his friends  trying to destroy the foundations of Islam by acting oppose to the Kur-an, denying Allah and the Prophet and exiling the caliph of Islam now demolishing this illegitimate regime a must to do for all muslims and is legit according to the Sharia of Muhammed’’[26]

Also, in a letter which Shaik Said sent to the Alevi Zaza tribal leaders Halil, Veli and Haydar in Varto it is written that:

"In the name of Saving the Islam from the heretic M. Kemal’s hands, started to marching to the Susar. For this jihad, i strongly believe that your tribe which has bravery and zeal will come into aid  regardless to sects, it is a duty for every Muslim who says ‘Lailahe illallah Muhammedün Resulüllah’. O’ Eyyühel-Ensar, let us save our religion and honor from these heretics and we will give your tribe the lands that you want. This heretic government will make us heretic like themselves. Jihad must start."[27]

On the other hand, Hasan Hayri Efendi, who was Dersim Deputy and Alevi Zaza, entered into solidarity with Sheikh Sharif, appointed by Sheikh Said as Commander of the Elaziz Front. A joint letter with Sheikh Sharif in Elaziz was sent to all the tribal leaders of Dersim on March 6, 1925. [28]

Similar opinions are also found in the declarations and letters of Sheikh Said. In these letters and declarations name ‘’Kurdish“ does not pass and that disproves ‘’Shaik Said was Rebelled for Kurdish people’’ claims who claimed by Kurdish politicians completely.

After 66 years of Shaik Said rebellion. The Berxwedan news which is the media organ of the PKK carried the subject to its papers like this:

"Finally, the three months lasting Zaza resistance was suppressed in a bloody way by Kurdish-supported Turkish units. Thousands of Zaza people lost their lives. Hundreds of Zaza villages pillaged, lots of families were exiled to the Western provinces of Anatolia. By the way lots of Kurdish aghas, Beys and tribal leaders regardless their support to the Turkish nation, could not escaped from being exiled too."[29]

At the beginning of the incident, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk foreseen the seriousness of the incident and urged the İsmet İnönü pasha to the Ankara which has been resting in the Heybeliada due to his disease. Mustafa Kemal Pasha welcomed Ismet Pasha and his family in Ankara Station and took him to Cankaya to explain the events. In the Çankaya, Ismet Pasha, "the religion in the East goes under the pretext of the British provocative but a serious uprising began," he said. İsmet pasha’s coming to the Ankara caused the gossips to start. Ali Fethi (Okyar) Bey will leave the office, the new government will establish the measures and measures that it will get İnönü’s began to be spoken, ALSO Ali Fethi Bey and İsmet İnönü was not getting well together. Ali Fethi had not described the incident as a riot and believed that he would be stopped by martial law. However, Mustafa Kemal Pasha, who demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Ali Fethi Bey against the rapid rise of the incidents, appointed İsmet Pasha to establish a new government on 3 March. A day later, the Turkish Grand National Assembly immediately adopted the Takrir-i Sükun Law and granted the government emergency powers. The ban on the uprising has been extended to include other measures. In addition, it was decided to establish Independence Courts in Ankara and Diyarbakır. In the meantime, the Sheikh Said forces, which took under the siege Diyarbakir, began to retreat by being sprayed by government forces. After a large consignment, a mass attack (March 26), and with a suppress operation the Turkish troops made many of the enemy troops to surrender and squeezed the insurgency leaders while they are preparing to move to the Iran in Boğlan (today known as Sohlan. Sheikh Sharif and some of the tribal leaders were captured in Palu, and Sheikh Said too in Varto was seized at Carpuh Bridge with a close relative's notice (April 15, 1925).

Seyit Abdülkadir, the chief of the Kurdish Teali Society and 12 of his friends, who were supporting the rebellion, were arrested in Istanbul and taken to Diyarbakır for trail. As a result of the trial, Seyit Abdulkadir and five of his friends were sentenced to death and executed. (27 May 1925).

The Eastern Independence Court in Diyarbakir also imposed a death sentence on Sheikh Said and 47 riots rulers (28 June). Penalties were executed the next day, by Sheikh Said coming up first.

During the Lausanne Peace Conference, there is also many documents and statements that show that the Mosul problem, which could not be agreed with Britain, had an impact. Mustafa Kemal Pasha, right after the victory, the Lausanne conference in Eskisehir on January 14, 1923 in his speech, while addressing the problem of Mosul-Kirkuk, the Kurdish state in connection with this issue also addressed the issue and said: ‘’the second issue is the problem of Kurdishness. The British want to establish a Kurdish state there (in Northern Iraq). If they do, this thought spreads to the Kurds within our borders. To prevent this, we need to cross the border South.’’[30] During and after Lausanne, the British spokesmen made remarks about this. In the report he sent to London on November 28, 1919; "Even though we don't trust the Kurds, it is our interests to use them," he said[31]. British Prime Minister Lloyd George, on May 19, 1920 at the San Remo Conference "the Kurds can not survive without a large state behind them," he says, for the British policy towards the region said: "A new protective admission to all Kurds accustomed to the Turkish administration It will be difficult to bring the British interests to Mosul, where the Kurds live in the mountainous regions and Southern Kurdistan in which they live. It is thought that the region of Mosul could be separated from other parts and connected to a new independent Kurdistan State. However, it would be very difficult to resolve this issue by agreement.[32]

Mosul dispute between the UK and Turkey in Lausanne conference dealt with the bilateral talks, this does not happen it was decided to have recourse to the subject of the League of Nations. On May 19, 1924, the results of the negotiations in Istanbul could not be reached and Britain took the issue on 6 August 1924 to the League of Nations. The Sheikh Sait uprising emerged during the days when British occupation forces declared martial law in northern Iraq, removed their officer's permits, and carried their troops to Mosul. In those days, the Colon of Ministers was increasingly under scrutiny, and a powerful British fleet was moving to Basra.[33] With the Ankara Treaty signed on June 5, 1926, one month after the rebellion, Mosul was left to Iraq under the British mandate.

The suppression of the Shaykh Said Uprising was an important milestone in the control of the Republican administration in Eastern Anatolia and South East Anatolia. On the other hand, the developments that emerged with the uprising led to the interruption of the steps towards transition to multi-party life a while ago. Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Fırkası, which opened an investigation on the grounds that he was involved in the riot, was soon closed under a government decree.


Sheikh Said was captured around 1925 and executed by hanging. This was the last serious attempt for Kurds to revive the Caliphate system. The rebellion diminished the negotiating power of Turkey, and the Ottoman province of Mosul was assigned to the British Mandate of Mesopotamia.

After the failed rebellion, thousands of Kurds fled their homes in southeastern Turkey to Syria, where they settled and were granted citizenship by the French mandate authorities.[34]

In the Fall of 1927, Sheikh Abdurrahman (brother of Sheikh Said) began a series of revenge attacks on Turkish garrisons in Palu and Malatya.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d Olson 1989, p. 107.
  2. ^ The Militant Kurds: A Dual Strategy for Freedom, Vera Eccarius-Kelly, page 86, 2010
  3. ^ (page 104)
  4. ^ Martin van Bruinessen, "Zaza, Alevi and Dersimi as Deliberately Embraced Ethnic Identities" in '"Aslını İnkar Eden Haramzadedir!" The Debate on the Ethnic Identity of The Kurdish Alevis' in Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi, Barbara Kellner-Heinkele, Anke Otter-Beaujean, Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East: Collected Papers of the International Symposium "Alevism in Turkey and Comparable Sycretistic Religious Communities in the Near East in the Past and Present" Berlin, 14-17 April 1995, BRILL, 1997, ISBN 9789004108615, p. 13.
  5. ^ Martin van Bruinessen, "Zaza, Alevi and Dersimi as Deliberately Embraced Ethnic Identities" in '"Aslını İnkar Eden Haramzadedir!" The Debate on the Ethnic Identity of The Kurdish Alevis', p. 14.
  6. ^ Hassan, Mona (10 January 2017). Longing for the Lost Caliphate: A Transregional History. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-8371-4.
  7. ^ Hakan Ozoglu Ph.D. (24 June 2011). From Caliphate to Secular State: Power Struggle in the Early Turkish Republic: Power Struggle in the Early Turkish Republic. ABC-CLIO. pp. 147–. ISBN 978-0-313-37957-4.
  8. ^ Mehmed S. Kaya (15 June 2011). The Zaza Kurds of Turkey: A Middle Eastern Minority in a Globalised Society. I.B.Tauris. pp. 64–. ISBN 978-1-84511-875-4. was led specifically by the Zaza population and received almost full support in the entire Zaza region and some of the neighbouring Kurmanji-dominated regions
  9. ^ http://theunjustmedia.com/Islamic%20Perspectives/March%202008/The%20Destruction%20of%20the%20Khilafah.htm
  10. ^ Viennot, Jean-Pierre (1974) Contribution á l'étude de la Sociologie et de l'Histoire du Mouvement National Kurde: 1920 á nos Jours. Paris, Institut Nationale des Langues et Civilisations Orientales. p. 108
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  12. ^ Olson 1989, p. 45.
  13. ^ a b c Uğur Ümit Üngör (1 March 2012). The Making of Modern Turkey: Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia, 1913-1950. OUP Oxford. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-19-965522-9.
  14. ^ Olson 1989, p. 202.
  15. ^ Olson 1989, p. 115.
  16. ^ van Bruinessen, Maarten Martinus (1978). Agha, Shaikh and State: On the Social and Political Organization of Kurdistan. Utrecht: University of Utrecht. ISBN 1-85649-019-X. (also London: Zed Books, 1992)[page needed]
  17. ^ (Olson 2000, p. 77)
  18. ^ a b Die Welt des Islams. E.J. Brill. 2000. p. 77.
  19. ^ a b Olson 1989, p. 120.
  20. ^ Sulhi Dönmezer, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devleti'ne Yönelik Bozguncu Hareketler ve Tehditler, Atatürk Araştırma Merkezi Dergisi (Sayı 38, Cilt: XIII, Temmuz 1997)
  21. ^ a b János M. Bak, Gerhard Benecke, Religion and rural revolt", Manchester University Press ND, 1984, ISBN 0719009901, sayfa 289–290. Template:İng
  22. ^ Ali Fuat Cebesoy, Siyasi Hatıralar, Vatan Neşriyat, İstanbul 1957; Tarık Zafer Tunaya, Türkiye’de Siyasi Partiler, İstanbul 1952, sayfa 606.
  23. ^ Nurşen Mazıcı, Belgelerle Atatürk döneminde Muhalefet (1919-1926), Dilem Yayınları, İstanbul 1984, sayfa 82.
  24. ^ Metin Toker, Şeyh Sait ve İsyanı, Akis Yayınları, Ankara 1968, sayfa 21.
  25. ^ Behçet Cemal, Şeyh Sait İsyanı, Sel Yayınları, İstanbul 1955, sayfa 24.
  26. ^ M. Şerif Fırat, Doğu İlleri ve Varto Tarihi, TKAE Yayını, Ankara 1981, sayfa 180.
  27. ^ M. Şerif Fırat, a.g.e., sayfa 181.
  28. ^ M. Nuri Dersimi, Kürdistan Tarihinde Dersim, Halep 1952, sayfa 180.
  29. ^ Berxwedan Gazetesi, Sayı: 120 (Almanya/Bonn, 01 Mart 1991), s. 5.
  30. ^ “Eskişehir İzmir Konuşmaları” Kaynak Yay., İst.-1993, sf.95
  31. ^ “İngiliz Belgelerinde Türkiye” Erol Ulubelen, Çağdaş Yay., 1982, sf.195; ak. U.Mumcu, “Kürt-İslam Ayaklanması” Tekin Yay., 19. Bas., 1995, sf.24
  32. ^ “Sevr Anlaşmasına Doğru” Osman Olcay, SBF Yay., Ank.-1981, sf.121; ak. U. Mumcu, “Kürt-İslam Ayaklanması” Tekin Yay., 19.Bas. 1995, s. 28
  33. ^ “Türkiye Cumhuriyetinde Anlaşmalar 1924–1938” Genelkurmay Yay., Nak.-1972, sf.43–44; ak. U.Mumcu, “Kürt-İslam Ayaklanması” sf.53
  34. ^ Dawn Chatty (8 March 2010). Displacement and Dispossession in the Modern Middle East. Cambridge University Press. pp. 230–231. ISBN 978-1-139-48693-4.