Sheikh Said rebellion

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Sheikh Said Rebellion
Part of Kurdish rebellions in Turkey
Date8 February—March 1925[1]
LocationElazığ, Bingöl, Diyarbakır and Mardin areas
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. While it can be considered we must understand that Britain was a sworn enemy of both the Islamic Caliphate and the Turks. According to British intelligence reports, the Azadî officers had eleven 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]


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 7 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]


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.[20]

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 (2017-01-10). 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. ^
  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
  11. ^ White, Paul J. (1995), "Ethnic Differentiation among the Kurds: Kurmancî, Kizilbash and Zaza", Journal of Arabic, Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies, 2 (2): 67–90
  12. ^ Olson 1989, p. 45.
  13. ^ a b c Uğur Ümit Üngör (2012-03-01). 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. ^ 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.