Simko Shikak revolt (1918–1922)

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Simko Shikak Revolt
Part of 1921 Persian coup d'état and Kurdish separatism in Iran

Simko (center)
Date1918 to 1922
North-Western Iran

Revolt suppressed:

  • New Iranian leadership led by Reza Khan suppresses the revolt in 1922
  • Another attempt by Simko in 1926


  • Irregular Kurdish militias
  • Ottoman soldiers and mercenaries


Assyrian levies[1]

Assyrian volunteers[2]
Commanders and leaders

Simko Shikak

Seyyed Taha Shamzini

Amir Ershad Reza Khan Mirpanj

Agha Petros[2]
Malik Khoshaba[2]
Malik Yaqo[3]
1,000 (early stage) – 5,000 (later stage)[4]
Several hundred Ottoman soldiers and Turkish mercenaries[5]
Casualties and losses
2,500 killed, captured and wounded[4] 200 killed, captured and wounded[4]
Total: ~5,000 killed

The Simko Shikak revolt refers to an armed Ottoman-backed[5][7] tribal Kurdish uprising against the Qajar dynasty of Iran from 1918 to 1922, led by Kurdish chieftain Simko Shikak from the Shekak tribe.[4]

After Brigadier-General Reza Khan deposed the Qajars in a 1921 coup, he defeated Simko Shikak as well as several prominent rebel commanders such as Kuchik Khan and Colonel Pessian during the Iranian events of 1921. The Shikak rebellion resulted in some 5,000 killed, including many Assyrian civilians, who were massacred by Simko's forces.[8]



By summer 1918, Simko had established his authority over the regions west of Lake Urmia.[9] In 1919, Simko organized an army of 20,000 Kurds and managed to secure a self-governed area in northwestern Iran, centered in the city of Urmia. Simko's forces had been reinforced with several hundred soldiers and mercenaries from the Ottoman Empire, including Kurdish deserters and nationalists.[5] After taking over Urmia, Simko appointed Teymur Agha Shikak as the governor of the city. Later, he organized his forces to fight the Iranian army in the region and managed to expand the area under his control to the nearby towns and cities such as Mahabad, Khoy, Miandoab, Maku and Piranshahr in a series of battles.

In the battle of Gulmakhana, Kurdish forces under the command of Simko Shikak took control over Gulmakhana and the Urmia-Tabriz road from Iranian forces. In the battle of Shekar Yazi, the commander of the Iranian Army, General Amir Ershad, was killed. In the battle of Miandoab, Reza Shah, dispatched Khaloo Qurban to counter Kurdish expansion, but he was defeated and killed by Simko's forces in 1922. In the battle for the conquest of Mahabad (then named Savoujbolagh Mokri), Simko himself commanded his forces with the help of Seyyed Taha Shamzini. After a tough battle in October 1921, Iranian forces were defeated and their commander Major Malakzadeh along with 600 Iranian Gendarmeries was killed. Simko also conquered Maragheh and encouraged the Lurs tribes of western Iran to revolt.

At this time, the government in Tehran tried to reach an agreement with Simko on the basis of limited Kurdish autonomy.[10] Simko had further organized a Kurdish army, which grew stronger and stronger. Since the central government could not control his activities, he continued to expand the areas of western Iran under his control. By 1922, the cities of Baneh and Sardasht were under his administration.[11]

In the battle of sari Taj in 1922, Simko's forces could not resist the Iranian Army's onslaught in the region of Salmas and were finally defeated and the castle of Chari, where Simko's forces were camping, was occupied. The strength of the Iranian Army force dispatched against Simko was 10,000 soldiers.[12] Simko and one thousand of his mounted soldiers, took refuge in what was now Turkey, where they were forced to lay down their weapons.


By 1926, Simko had regained control of his tribe and begun another rebellion.[4] When the army engaged him, half of his troops betrayed him to the tribe's previous leader and Simko fled to Iraq.[4]

In 1930, the commander of the Iranian Army, General Hassan Muqaddam sent a letter to Simko, who was residing in the village of Barzan, and invited him for a meeting in the town of Oshnaviyeh. After consulting with his friends, Simko along with Khorshid Agha Harki went to Oshnaviyeh and were invited to the house of the local army commander, Colonel Norouzi, and were told to wait for the Iranian general. Colonel Norouzi convinced Simko to go to the outskirts of the town to welcome the general's arrival. However, this was a trap, and Simko was ambushed and killed on the evening of June 30, 1930.

Foreign involvement[edit]

The Iranian government accused Britain and Iraq of encouraging unrest amongst the Kurds, and deeply resented the asylum given by the Iraqi government to Simko in 1922 and to Sardār Rashid in 1923.[13]

According to an article published by The New York Times on July 10, 1922:

It is said that Simko commanded 85,000 men and was assisted by Mustafa Kemal Pasha, former Turkish [Ottoman] War Minister, with the fighting lasting several days.[14]

Simko's forces joined with the Ottoman forces in reportedly killing many of the escaping Christians in West Azerbaijan.[15]


Simko's revolts are seen by some as an attempt by a powerful tribal chief to establish his personal authority over the central government throughout the region.[16] Although elements of Kurdish nationalism were present in this movement, historians agree these were hardly articulate enough to justify a claim that recognition of Kurdish identity was a major issue in Simko's movement.[16] It lacked any kind of administrative organization and Simko was primarily interested in plunder.[16] Government forces and non-Kurds were not the only ones to suffer in the attacks, the Kurdish population was also robbed and assaulted.[16] Simko's men do not appear to have felt any sense of unity or solidarity with fellow Kurds.[16] In the words of Kurdologist and Iranologist Garnik Asatrian:[17]

In the recent period of Kurdish history, a crucial point is defining the nature of the rebellions from the end of the 19th and up to the 20th century―from Sheikh Ubaydullah’s revolt to Simko’s (Simitko) mutiny. The overall labelling of these events as manifestations of the Kurdish national-liberation struggle against Turkish or Iranian suppressors is an essential element of the Kurdish identity-makers’ ideology. (...) With the Kurdish conglomeration, as I said above, far from being a homogeneous entity―either ethnically, culturally, or linguistically (see above, fn. 5; also fn. 14 below)―the basic component of the national doctrine of the Kurdish identity-makers has always remained the idea of the unified image of one nation, endowed respectively with one language and one culture. The chimerical idea of this imagined unity has become further the fundament of Kurdish identity-making, resulting in the creation of fantastic ethnic and cultural prehistory, perversion of historical facts, falsification of linguistic data, etc. (for recent Western views on Kurdish identity, see Atabaki/Dorleijn 1990).

On the other hand, Reza Shah's military victory over Simko and Turkic tribal leaders initiated a repressive era toward non-Persian minorities.[16] In a nationalistic perspective, Simko's revolt is described as an attempt to build a Kurdish tribal alliance in support of independence.[4] According to the political scientist Hamid Ahmadi:[18]

Though Reza Shah’s armed confrontation with tribal leaders in different parts of Iran was interpreted as an example of ethnic conflict and ethnic suppression by the Iranian state, the fact is that it was more a conflict between the modern state and traditional socio-political structure of pre-modern era and had less to do with the question of ethnicity and ethnic conflict. While some Marxist political activists (see Nābdel 1977) and ethno-nationalist intellectuals of different Iranian groups (Ghassemlou 1965; Hosseinbor 1984; Asgharzadeh 2007) have introduced this confrontation as a result of Reza Shah’s ethnocentric policies, no valid documents have been presented to prove this argument. Recent documentary studies (Borzū’ī 1999; Zand-Moqaddam 1992; Jalālī 2001) convincingly show that Reza Shah’s confrontation with Baluch Dust Mohammad Khan, Kurdish Simko and Arab Sheikh Khaz‘al have merely been the manifestation of state-tribe antagonism and nothing else. (...) While the Kurdish ethno-nationalist authors and commentators have tried to construct the image of a nationalist hero out of him, the local Kurdish primary sources reflect just the opposite, showing he was widely hated by many ordinary and peasant Kurds who suffered his brutal suppression of Kurdish settlements and villages.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ismael, Yaqou D'Malik. "Assyrians and Two World Wars: Assyrians from 1914 to 1945".
  2. ^ a b c "آغا بطرس: سنحاريب القرن العشرين" (PDF). نينوس نيراري. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-08-12.
  3. ^ Ismael, Yaqou D'Malik. "Assyrians and Two World Wars: Assyrians from 1914 to 1945".
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Smith, B. (2009). "Land and Rebellion: Kurdish Separatism in Comparative Perspective" (PDF). Working Paper.
  5. ^ a b c Bruinessen, Martin (2006). "Chapter 5: A Kurdish warlord on the Turkish-Persian frontier in the early Twentieth century: Isma'il Aqa Simko". In Atabaki, Touraj (ed.). Iran and the First World War: Battleground of the Great Powers. Library of modern Middle East studies, 43. London; New York: I.B. Tauris. pp. 18–21. ISBN 9781860649646. OCLC 56455579.
  6. ^ Arfa, Hassan (1966). The Kurds: An Historical and Political Study. London: Oxford University Press. p. 57. OCLC 463216238.
  7. ^ Allen, William Edward David; Muratoff, Paul (1953). Caucasian battlefields: A History of the Wars on the Turco-Caucasian border, 1828-1921. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 296. OCLC 1102813.
  8. ^ Maria T. O'Shea, "Trapped Between the Map and Reality: Geography and Perceptions of Kurdistan", Routledge, 2004. p. 100: "Simultaneously, a 1000 Christians were killed in Salmas, in a massacre instigated by Simko."
  9. ^ Elphinston, W. G. (1946). "The Kurdish Question". International Affairs. 22 (1): 91–103 [p. 97]. doi:10.2307/3017874. JSTOR 3017874.
  10. ^ McDowall, David (1991). "The Kurds in Iran". The Kurds. London: Minority Rights Group. ISBN 0946690928. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007.
  11. ^ Koohi-Kamali, F. (1992). "Nationalism in Iranian Kurdistan". In Kreyenbroek, P. G.; Sperl, S. (eds.). The Kurds: A Contemporary Overview. Routledge. pp. 175–176. ISBN 0-415-07265-4.
  12. ^ Cronin, S. (2000). "Riza Shah and the disintegration of Bakhtiyari power in Iran, 1921–1934". Iranian Studies. 33 (3–4): 349–376 [p. 353]. doi:10.1080/00210860008701986. S2CID 154157577.
  13. ^ Cronin, Stephanie (2002). "British Influence During the Rezā Shāh Period, 1921–41". Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  14. ^ "Kurdish Republic Formed; Simko, Bandit Leader, Said to Have Defeated Iranian Troops" (PDF). New York Times. July 10, 1922.
  15. ^ Sanasarian, Eliz (2000). Religious Minorities in Iran. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 178. ISBN 0521029740. Simko's forced joined with the Turks and killed many escaping Christians.
  16. ^ a b c d e f See:
    * Entessar, Nader (2010). Kurdish Politics in the Middle East. Lanham: Lexington Books. p. 17. ISBN 9780739140390. OCLC 430736528.
    * Kreyenbroek, Philip G.; Sperl, Stefan (1992). The Kurds: A Contemporary Overview. London; New York: Routledge. pp. 138–139. ISBN 9780415072656. OCLC 24247652.
  17. ^ Asatrian, Garnik (2009). "Prolegomena to the Study of the Kurds". Iran and the Caucasus. 13 (1): 65–66. doi:10.1163/160984909X12476379007846.
  18. ^ Ahmadi, Hamid (2013). "Political Elites and the Question of Ethnicity and Democracy in Iran: A Critical View". Iran and the Caucasus. 17 (1): 84–85. doi:10.1163/1573384X-20130106.