From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Zaza people)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Total population
2 to 4 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
Diaspora: Approx. 300,000[2]
Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States.[3][4]
Zaza, Kurdish,[3] and Turkish
Alevism and Sunni Islam[5]

The Zazas (other self-determinations Kırd, Kırmanc, Şarê Ma or Dımıli)[6] are a people in eastern Turkey who speak the Zaza language. Their heartland, in the northernmost part of Eastern-Anatolia, consists of Tunceli and Bingöl provinces and parts of Elazığ, Erzincan and Diyarbakır provinces.[2] According to Bodrogi the Zazas generally [7] consider themselves Kurds,[8][5][9][10] and they are often described as Zaza Kurds.[6][11][12][13][14] but this is more valid for the pro-Kurdish political active generation. Some also consider themselves also as Turks but the old generation and also the identity conscious younger generation consider themselves apart from Turks and Kurds especially the northern Zazas also just als Alevites [15]. Although in many sources is claimed that the Zazas generally consider themselves as Kurds but without giving a statistical reference. Several doctoral or master theses written about the ethnic identity of Zazas in details confirm the distinct identification of themlselves from Turks, Kurds or Armenians in their mother tounge.[16] [17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28].


The exact number of Zazas is unknown, due to the absence of recent and extensive census data. The last census on language in Turkey was held in 1965, where 150,644 people ticked Zaza as their first language and 112,701 and second language.[29] More recent data from 2005 suggests that the Zaza-speaking population varies from approximately 2 to 4 million.[1] It is also important to note that many Zazas only learned Kurmanji Kurdish as it was believed that the Zaza language was a mere Kurdish offshoot.[3] According to a 2019 KONDA survey, about 1.5 million people identified themselves as Zaza.[30]

Following the 1980 Turkish coup d'état, many intellectual minorities, including Zazas, emigrated from Turkey towards Europe, Australia and the United States. The largest part of the Zaza diaspora is based in Europe, predominantly in Germany.[4]

Ethnic consciousness[edit]

While Zazas slightly consider themselves Kurds,[7] some researches do consider Zazas as an ethnic group and treat them as such in their academic work (see also the sources above).[31]

Zazas and Kurmanji-speaking Kurds[edit]

"Zaza Kurds in Diyarbakir (Kurdistan)[32]

Kurmanji Kurds and Zazas have for centuries lived in the same areas in Anatolia. In the 1920s and 1930s, some Zazas played a key role in the rise of Kurdish nationalism with their rebellions against the Ottoman Empire and later the Republic of Turkey. During the religious Sheikh Said rebellion in 1925, the Zaza Sheikh Said and his supporters rebelled against the newly established Turkey for its less nationalist but more secular ideology.[33] Some Zazas subsequently joined the Kurdish nationalist Xoybûn, Society for the Rise of Kurdistan and other movements where they rose to prominence.[34]

In 1937 during the Dersim genocide, Zazas once again experienced a massacre made by the Turkish state but this time with a genocidal dimensin. This time the resistance was led by Seyid Riza and ended with a massacre of thousands of Alevite Kurdish and Zaza civilians, while many were internally displaced due to the conflict.[35] Zazas also participated in the Koçgiri rebellion in 1920 together with Kurdish and Turkman Alevites.[36]

Sakine Cansız, a Zaza from Tunceli was a founding member of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and like her many Zazas joined the rebels, including the promiment Besê Hozat but with their remark that they have hardly spojen their own language Zazaki among the Kurdish national movement.[37][38] Many Zaza politicians are also to be found in the fraternal Kurdish parties of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and Democratic Regions Party (DBP), like Selahattin Demirtaş, Aysel Tuğluk, Ayla Akat Ata and Gültan Kışanak but also in the Turkish mainstream parties like the republicans CHP whose leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is an Alevite Zaza from Dersim and also in the government party AKP like Cevdet Yılmaz.

On the other hand, some Zazas have publicly stated they do not consider themselves Kurdish including Hüseyin Aygün, a CHP politician from Tunceli.[39][40]

A scientific report from 2005 concluded that Zazas share the same genetical pattern as other 'Kurdish groups' and did not support the hypothesis of Zazas originating from Northern Iran with the note that not the most Zazas but the language itself can be a descendent from the Dailam region.[41]. Recent DNA results show also the closeness fo the Dersimian Zazas with Armenians and Azeris [[1]].


Zaza language with the other Iranian languages[42]

Zaza is a Northwest Iranian language, spoken in the east of modern Turkey, with approximately 2 to 3 million speakers. There is a division between Northern and Southern Zaza, most notably in phonological inventory, but Zaza as a whole forms a dialect continuum, with no recognized standard.[1] The first written statements in the Zaza language were compiled by the linguist Peter Lerch in 1850. Two other important documents are the religious writings of Ehmedê Xasi of 1898,[43] and of Usman Efendiyo Babıc (published in Damascus in 1933); both of these works were written in the Arabic alphabet.[44] The state-owned TRT Kurdî airs shows in Zaza.[3]

The Zaza language is considered to be an endangered language due to a long history of persecution, and targeting by the Turkish government. The lack of documentation, and the decline in the number of native Zaza speakers can largely be attributed to the Turkish laws put in place in the mid-1920s, after the creation of the Republic of Turkey. These laws banned the Kurdish language, of which Zaza was often erroneously considered a dialect, from being spoken in public, being written down, and being published. One specific law, the Language Ban Act of 1985, explicitly stated that only Turkish could be spoken in public, not only greatly discouraged the use of Zaza, but it also endangered the cultural identity of the Zaza. Only until very recently has Zaza been allowed back in the public sphere of Turkey. But the effects of these past policies are still very present as there has been a lack of literature and substantial development in the language.[[2]]

During the 1980s, Zaza language became popular among diaspora Zazas after meager efforts which was followed by publications in Zaza in Turkey.[45]


Around half of the Zaza population adhere to Alevism and these predominantly live around Tunceli. The other half adhere to Sunni Islam, both Hanafi and Shafi‘i,[46] whereas the Shafi‘i followers are mostly Naqshbandi.[47] Historically, a Christian Zaza population existed in Gerger.[48]

Zaza nationalism[edit]

Zaza nationalism is an ideology that supports the preservation of Zaza people between Turks and Kurds in Turkey. Turkish nationalist Hasan Reşit Tankut proposed in 1961 to create a corridor between Zaza-speakers and Kurmanji-speakers to hasten Turkification. In some cases in the diaspora, Zazas turned to this ideology because of the more visible differences between them and Kurmanji-speakers.[49] Zaza nationalism was further boosted when Turkey abandoned its assimilatory policies which made some Zazas begin considering themselves as a separate ethnic group.[50] In the diaspora, some Zazas turned to Zaza nationalism in the freer European political climate. On this, Ebubekir Pamukchu, the founder of the Zaza national movement stated: "From that moment I became Zaza."[51] Zaza nationalists fear Turkish and Kurdish influence and aim at protecting Zaza culture and language rather than seeking any kind of autonomy within Turkey.[52]

According to researcher Ahmet Kasımoğlu, Zaza nationalism is a Turkish and Armenian attempt to divide Kurds.[53]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Asatrian, Garnik 1995:Dimlī In: Encyclopedia Iranica Online:
  • "Language, Religion, and Emplacement of Zazaki Speakers". Sevda Arslan, University of Notre Dame, USA. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, suppl. Special Issue: Kurdish Diaspora; Istanbul Vol. 6, Iss. 2, (Aug 2019): 11-22.
  • * Faruk İremet, "Zonê Ma Zazaki" (Dilimiz Zazaca), (Our language Zaza and Zazas


  1. ^ a b c Endangered Language Alliance.
  2. ^ a b Asatrian (1995).
  3. ^ a b c d Ziflioğlu (2011).
  4. ^ a b Arakelova (1999), p. 400.
  5. ^ a b Kehl-Bodrogi, Otter-Beaujean & Kellner-Heikele (1997), p. 13.
  6. ^ a b Malmîsanij (1996), p. 1.
  7. ^ a b Kehl-Bodrogi (1999), p. 442.
  8. ^ Arakelova (1999), p. 397.
  9. ^ Nodar (2012).
  10. ^ Postgate (2007), p. 148.
  11. ^ Taylor (1865), p. 39.
  12. ^ van Bruinessen (1989), p. 1.
  13. ^ Özoğlu (2004), p. 35.
  14. ^ Kaya (2009).
  15. ^ Rençber (2013), p. 945.
  16. ^ Asatrian, Garnik. S. / Gevorgian, N. Kh. 1988:“ Zāzā Miscellany: Notes on some religious customs and institutions.“ In: Hommage et Opera Minora (Acta Iranica). Volume XII. Leiden.; Asatrian, Garnik 1995:Dimlī“. In: Encyclopedia Iranica. Online: (September 2011); Asatrian, Garnik S. / Vahman, F. 1990:Gleanings from Zāzā Vocabulary“. In: Acta Iranica. Volume XVI, S. 267-275. Leiden.
  17. ^ Aktaş (1999).
  18. ^ Çağlayan, Hüseyin (1995).
  19. ^ Gündüzkanat & 1997).
  20. ^ Kehl-Bodrogi (1998).
  21. ^ Tahta & 2002).
  22. ^ Taşçı (2006).
  23. ^ Fırat (2010), p. 139).
  24. ^ Werner & 2012, 2017.
  25. ^ Schulz-Goldstein (2013).
  26. ^ Arslan (2016).
  27. ^ Philipp (2017).
  28. ^ Törne (2019).
  29. ^ Dündar (2000), p. 216.
  30. ^ Sputnik (2019).
  31. ^ Keskin (2015), pp. 94-95.
  32. ^ Chantre (1881).
  33. ^ Kaya (2009), p. IX.
  34. ^ Kasımoğlu (2012), pp. 653-657.
  35. ^ Cengiz (2011).
  36. ^ Lezgîn (2010).
  37. ^ Milliyet (2013).
  38. ^ Hürriyet (2013).
  39. ^ Haber Vaktim (2011).
  40. ^ Haber Türk (2013).
  41. ^ Nasidze et al. (2005).
  42. ^ Gippert (1999).
  43. ^ Malmîsanij (1996), pp. 1-2.
  44. ^ Keskin (2015), p. 108.
  45. ^ Bozdağ & Üngör (2011).
  46. ^ Werner (2012), pp. 24 & 29.
  47. ^ Kalafat (1996), p. 290.
  48. ^ Werner (2012), p. 25.
  49. ^ van Wilgenburg, Wladimir (28 January 2009). "Is Ankara Promoting Zaza Nationalism to Divide the Kurds?". Terrorism Focus. 6 (3). Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  50. ^ Indigenous Peoples: An Encyclopedia of Culture, History, and Threats to . Victoria R. Williams
  51. ^ Arakelova (1999), p. 401.
  52. ^ Zulfü Selcan, Grammatik der Zaza-Sprache, Nord-Dialekt (Dersim-Dialekt), Wissenschaft & Technik Verlag, Berlin, 1998, p. 23.
  53. ^ Kasımoğlu (2012), p. 654.