Archive for the ‘Current Events, Culture and Religion’ Category

Kurdish Kocgiri Revolt and the Young Turkish Republic

November 30, 2009

The history of Kurdish people is such a convoluted and complex subject that in order for one to understand and explain how things have happened and why things have happened, an inordinate amount of time has to be expanded researching the subject matter from the perspective points of Kurdistan, Turkey, Britain, Russia, etc.

It is not remarkable that every record punched in the leaves of the history books and reported by the historians must be deliberately review, critically analyzed, with the task of reframing it, once and last for the greater interest of Kurds. It is not our aim to discredit the independent reviews and researches on the topic, I am sure that several noteworthy studies may have also been conducted by independent and open source publishing houses.

At such an historical moment, in the 21st century, we are still agonized by tormented and disillusioned facts of the past especially in Turkey. Facts, naturally, developed by the official historians paid by the government are no longer credible, authentic, and trustworthy.

Many of the Kurdish uprisings and revolts, such as Kocgiri and Dersim were never mentioned by the historians and researchers. It is disappointing that even the Kurds never studied and explored these events and their strategic, geopolitical, and diplomatic importance, significance, and consequence.

I am convinced that there is a substantial desire and need for change to revisit the history of Kurds within the Kurdish community in Turkey, but it is also evident that one can not progress unless they are informed of and knowledgeable about their history, their people, and their leaders. I have only known so few people who have devoted their lives to the critical inquiry, exploration, and investigation of the history and past events.

Fairness, freedom and honor meant everything to the Kurdish communities. Values shaped their lives. They suffered notably, were exiled, were wounded, were tortured, were oppressed, were exploited; but never gave up; they continue to fight for their freedom event centuries later. They are bold; they have convictions, have strong beliefs, passion, and they have full dedication and commitment to their land. But they are confused……They were left in the dark deliberately…They are confused, because they are alone, confused because they lack national ideology, and confused because they have no reserve capacity other than their own history. Unfortunately, the history that they were thought needs to be relearned, researched, and restudied.

Whichever province, whichever city, and whichever town you appraise and survey in Eastern Anatolia, back in the beginning of 20th century, was predominantly composed of Kurds, administering their selves autonomously. This long lived and appreciated autonomy in Kurdistan allowed many Kurdish leaders to revolt against the Turkish nationalists during the early years of the Young Turkish Republic.

The Treaty of Sevres, signed back in August 10, 1920 between the Ottoman Empire and Allies at the end of World War-I. The fierce negotiations covered a period of more than fifteen months. The negotiations continued at the Conference of London, and took its definite shape not only until April 1920, with a significant delay. The treaty had four signatories and all four were endorsed by Sultan Mehmet VI. During this treaty, it was discussed that in the Kurdistan region a referendum will be carried out to decide its future. Interestingly, there was not a single agreement amongst the Kurds with regards to the borders and depiction of Kurdistan. Section III, Articles 62–64 allowed the establishment of a Kurdish state. Article 64 allowed the independence of Kurdistan which would also included the Mosul Vilayet.

On November 20, 1922, during the Lausanne Peace Conference, Young Turkish Republic and British Empire discussed the future of Ottoman Empire. During this treaty, it was agreed that Young Turkish Republic will not consider itself bound to observe it.

Despite all the international turmoil and differences in opinions, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his friends were very successful in gaining and mobilizing the efforts of Kurdish tribes in Anatolia. In 1918, many Kurdish tribes were marshaled against the Russians and Armenians. During those times, Kemal Ataturk was inclined not to press against the Caliphate and benefited strongly from the traditional religious leaders and their sentiments and rallied Kurdish troops to support his victories.

On May 1920, Ataturk addressed the Parliament, highlighting that the assembly is composed of Kurds, Turks, Circassians and emphasizes the Islamic tendencies. On June 1920, Ataturk sent a note to Nihat Anilmis Pasha considering the option of setting up a local Kurdish government. On June 1922, he phrased the “People of Turkey. On January 16, 1923, in Bursa, he was at a press conference talking about autonomy of Kurdistan.

Interestingly, in1922, Parliament decides to establish autonomous administration for the Kurdish majority provinces, and even launching a university.

It is evident, based on significant research and publications issued on this topic, that during the early ages of the Yong Republic of Turkey, Ataturk had momentous plans to grant Kurds autonomy. If these lessons teach us, on one hand, to admire the social improvements and initiatives that Ataturk was prepared to introduce at the Aseembly, they serve not less on the other, to acknowledge and caution us of hazards and difficulties of such experiments, and of the great hesitation that the Kurds had to go through after the Kocgiri rebellion.

Most Sunni Kurdish leaders, motivated by religious solidarity, supported the Young Turks and their resistance movement, the liberation of the Calipha in Istanbul, and the liberation of Mosoul province from British Empire. However, this call did not really appeal to the Alevi Kurdish leaders, who were less attached to the Caliphate and his order.

Alevi Kurds staged the Kocgiri Rebellion.  Martial law was declared in the region in the first half of March 1921:

  • In 1921, 400 Alevi Kurds were judged by the Sivas Martial Court.
  • The leaders of the revolt and 95 persons were condemned to death.
  • Other rebels were condemned to prison terms ranging from 5 to 15 years.
  • Only 110 people out of 400 were judged to be innocent.
  • Some leaders were put under house arrest and Alişan and Haydar were forbidden from returning to the Koçgiri region.
  • A later amnesty included Alişan and his followers. In 1931 they were allowed to go back to the region.

Hardly any historian mentions Kocgiri uprising. It is a very significant event in the history of Kurds. Official historians of the republic and the Sunni Kurds do not emphasize this significant event. Alevis, on the other hand, either do not remember or underestimate its importance. As a result, no one mentions it.

It is a fact that Kocgiri revolt is the first Kurdish rebellion against Mustafa Kemal and the Young Republic which is also staged and executed by the Alevis. Alevi Kurds hoped that they could extend and expand the appeal of the uprising to include the Sunni Kurds. They were disappointed, few Sunni Kurds joined them. It is doubtful whether the Sunni Kurds would rise to the challenge or whether they had enough time to mobilize and respond.

As always, to the Young Republic, this uprising was the revolt of Aghas and Religious Sheiks.

Six months later additional nationalist movements mushroomed in Dersim with a much stronger nationalist agenda and flavor.

It is also important to keep in mind that until 1923, Young Republic pretended to be a Muslim State, composed of Turks, Kurds, and other minorities. Mustafa Kemal was very aware of the Kurdish separatist movements in the East. It was evident that there was a Kurdish question and kurdish identity. But the rhetoric changed in 1923 and suddenly Young Republic denied the Kurdish identity and presence.

In Lousane, Ismet Inonu told to Curzon that the Kurds were of Turanian origin, and the Kurds did not differ than Turks.

During the elections for the new Grand National Assembly in summer of 1923, deputies denied the chance to return to their constituencies. The new candidates on the Kurdish areas had been nominated by the government rather than elected by the people. All the senior appointments and half of the junior ones in Kurdistan were soon filled with by Turks. All Kurdish place names were replaced by Turkish ones. Dangerous inequality of the appointments and the disproportional amount of discrimination in the process of election were not easily disregarded by the Kurdish people. No part of the arrangements according to the Kurdish tribes were acceptable practices.

Once the Caliphate was eliminated from Istanbul, removal of Caliphate also removed the last ideological tie with the Kurds. The closure of religious schools, madrasas, and dergahs removed the last remaining source of education. 

As Mustafa Kemal…

Well…He made enemies…

He made enemies of the very Kurds who supported him during the Independence War…


Dersim Genocide, 1938

November 28, 2009

Despite all the barbarity and devastation that the Kurds had to go through, if one reviews the Kurdish history scientifically, one event stands out immediately. 

“Dersim Genocide”“Year 1938”

 “Location, Turkish city called Tunceli (Dersim)”

All these years, scientific application of force to this genocide has never been applied. Massacre of 1938 is so unforgiving and so terrible that the researchers get confused and distracted very easily. This may explain one of the reasons for lack of evidence. But it is also unfair to claim and draw conclusions that lack of evidence disproves the genocide. It does not have to be acknowledged by the Turkish Government for it to be considered a fact. 

Defenseless subjects of Munzur were caught in between the harsh requirements and demands of the highlands and the barbaric demands of the Young Turkish Republic. 

Some people are still alive from that era. They still remember the unjust massacre blinding their highlands. And, the fact that people of Dersim were massacred can hardly be dismissed nor justified. 

Those who enthusiastically watch over the facts and negate the genocide, those who cross their fingers and cheer in support of Turkish Government’s actions during the massacre…

I am asking you: 

Don’t you think that it is marvelous, don’t you think that it is hopeless, don’t you think that it is oppressive?


Seyid Riza was born to a no man’s land of windling valleys and tiny upland plains

November 28, 2009

Seyit Riza was born to a no man’s land of windling valleys and tiny upland plains, with its connection to Euphrates. In Dersim, little clans of Kurds and Zazas lived, in pastoral times, secluded from the arms of Ottoman authority.

Strike through the waters of Kutu Dere, through the fertile but unleveled plains of the Munzur, Seyit Riza found himself born to a life of Kurdish Alevi family in Lirtik village of Dersim, in year1863. He was born as son of Seyit Ibrahim.

His people and he himself knew no law other than the law of his own tribe and clan. At his time, every one carried a gun, no one paid taxes, and there was strict code of conduct with regards to allegiance to the laws of their own tribe. As I said, everyone carried a gun; it was either a flintlock or a Martini.  Sheiks were safe from Ottoman attacks; they were safe from the attacks of the young Turkish Republic.

Traditions of Dersim resembled the Scotsland of the 13th century, it was wild, impenetrable, cold, harsh, surrounded with mountains, and strong mountain people.

Kurdish language and the geographic distribution of its dialects were always puzzling and amusing. Even though it was very close to the Persian languages, it was always believed that Kurdish language and especially Zaza language had its own character and it was an independent language.

Many people were confused concerning the origins of Zaza language, many people and travelers that were spoken to be associating this mother tongue of Seyit Riza with Persian language. However, Seyit Riza knew very well that even though Zaza language had some similarities it also had its own identity, and it was different from many other Kurdish dialects.

Seyit Riza’s sense of community, stress of service to his people, and his prayers in the form of songs and music helped him to cleanse the souls of millions. He was a pure man. He would attend the weekly ceremonies and would often find strength and freedom in these. He was significant leader of the Dersim community and represented a significant amount of people in the early years of the Turkish Republic.

Turkey’s Alevi Community

November 28, 2009

Turkey’s Alevi community (they represent nearly 20 million people) is in a shock. Once again, they have realized that they are the forgotten majority, the orphan child of the Republic.

Kurdish-Alevi members of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) are increasingly leaving the party following Turkish CHP Deputy Chairman Onur Oymen’s remarks about a 1937 rebellion in the Kurdish-Alevi town of Tunceli (Dersim). On the other hand, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan critics Chairman Onur Oymen over his remarks two weeks ago.

Just recently, in a demonstration organized by the Alevi Bektasi Federation in İstanbul’s Kadıköy district in November 8th under the theme “Equal Citizenship Rights Against Discrimination,” thousands of Alevis came together to voice their demands for the same rights as the Sunni majority expecting that they would draw attention of democratic platforms to the problems and demands of Alevis in the country. 

How naïve this assumption was. Even the Republican People’s Party (CHP) failed to understand their unique needs, diversity, and cry for more religious freedoms. Because we live in a partially free society, we have a tendency to forget that people still lack fundamental political freedoms in many of the Eastern and European countries such as freedom to practice their own religion and religious beliefs. 

In a country where Prime Minister (Mr. Erdogan), speaks at the 3rd Grand Congress of his Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party), even quotes Seyit Rıza, the Alevi leader who led the 1937 Dersim revolt in the Alevi town of Tunceli, which was violently suppressed by the government of the time using a military campaign that resulted in the deaths of some 90,000 people, a lot is being expected from opposition parties, especially from Republican People’s Party (CHP). 

It is believed that economic freedoms and political freedoms can hardly be separated and they are very much interconnected. The restrictions imposed on individual, political, and religious freedoms can only be improved and removed if and only if the county adopts the essential features of a free market economy. Therefore, economic arrangements fill a dual purpose in promoting a free society. 

Let me explain this in detail. 

According to the organizers of the protest, The Alevis’ main demands are:

  • the abolishment of compulsory religious lessons offered by the government
  • the recognition of Alevi praying houses
  • the abolishment of the Religious Affairs Directorate (RAD),
  • turning the Madimak Hotel, where 37 Alevis were killed in 1993, into a museum

If Alevis are being asked to attend compulsory religious lessons, if their Alevi praying houses are not being recognized by the government, if the Religious Affairs Directorate is only funding the mosques but not the Alevi praying houses, it is clear that the government policies and programs are limiting the religious rights and basic individual freedoms of the citizens’ of Turkey. 

It is evident that some compulsory government programs and policies deprive people of their religious, individual, and political freedoms. So where is the connection between the political and economic freedom? 

In a free private enterprise, society uses its resources to control goods and services where possibility of coordination and cooperation through voluntary involvement of the agents is respected. In a free private enterprise, society also maintains law and order to prevent coercion of one individual by another and to enforce contracts voluntarily entered into. The other great advantage of free private enterprise is also its ability to offer diversity and options. 

In essence, free market provides economic freedom. In the event that the economic power is concentrated in the hands of a few then this political power will also be a threat to the individual freedoms.

The existence of the free market does not eliminate the need for a government to offer other cultural freedoms listed above. And, especially this government has an important role of determining the rules of the game.

To put this argument in a different perspective, we may easily claim that the Turkish Government is eliminating the options and diversity of individual options as it aims to regulate the religious society. 

In our case, with the Alevis, we come to observe that theTurkish Government activity should insist on “limiting” and “renouncing” its religious programs and religious activities and enabling a more diverse society. 

It is clear that further steps should be taken to enforce this decision. 

Religious education should not be made compulsory and individual taxes collected from the Alevis should not be funneled to the creation and construction of the Sunni religious infrastructure. 

In addition to that, The Directorate of Religious Affairs should limit and renounce its religious programs and religious activities where and if individual freedoms are refrained. 

Do you really believe that the Republican People’s Party (CHP) will understand the basic and fundamental needs of Alevi community and their cry for more religious freedoms? 

I remind you, once again, Prime Minister Erdogan’s speech at the 3rd Grand Congress of his Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party), even quoting Seyit Rıza, the Alevi leader who led the 1937 Dersim revolt in the Alevi town of Tunceli, which was violently suppressed by the government of the time using a military campaign that resulted in the deaths of some 90,000 people. 

Given the facts, a lot is being expected from opposition parties, especially from Republican People’s Party (CHP).

A scientific and impartial approach to Kurdish History

November 24, 2009

Confessions, confessions, and confessions…

Confessions of Turkish CHP Deputy Chairman …

Official history, is once again being unrevealed in the statements, speeches, and writings of these powerful politicians and diplomats.

I find this moment very important and wise to provide you with some facts and historical anecdotes. 

In cases where it may be doubtful on which side justice lies, what better can support our judgment than the historical facts? 

Without the compass of facts, figures, research, and impartial observations and with our continued dependence on official historians comprised of superiority of the official/national tools and resources, the answer is always skewed towards insufficient and lack of facts which diminishes the importance of Kurdishness. 

And for that reason, no one can provide a cure but the lines that lie in the shelves of the libraries and secrets of unbiased archives. 

The lack of power to promote the progress of scientific research and utility of this power should be questioned. The indispensable necessity of the facts for the historian is crucial. Without it, it is not possible to produce records, statements, research papers, and articles. 

Without it, we will all be drawn into questions. Without it, we will be drawn in the darkness of the oceans. Without it, we will sacrifice our souls to the shades of dishonest life styles and connections. 

I am hoping that the facts provided in these articles will allow us to see the colors rather than the shades, facts rather than the unscientific information, truth rather than the biased and nationalistic views. 

“Criticize Atatürk and its period if you dare,” said Onur Oymen, when defending his remarks on the Dersim Rebellion, which received criticism from several communities but particularly from Kurds and Alevis. 

Oymen’s statement implying to the fact that it is impossible to question and criticize Atatürk’s personal aspects and political views has triggered questions about why the early years of the republic have not been analyzed by historians, journalists and scholars.

Even Ertugrul Ozkok, a populist journalist, devoted his column on Friday in the Hurriyet Daily to the “Dersim debate” and said it has influenced people to discuss the Atatürk era and the single-party period of the new regime.

He pointed out that Oymen’s statements, which Ozkok thinks he made unwisely, will be beneficial for Turkey as they have brought the political developments in the early years of Turkey under the spotlight.


I urge you to continue to read the articles which will be published on this site; a scientific and impartial approach will be taken to review the Kurdish history, on these very pages. And I am hoping that the facts provided in these articles will allow you to see the colors rather than the shades, facts rather than the unscientific information, truth rather than the biased and nationalistic views.