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Kurdish rebellions in Turkey
Date 6 March 1921 (6 March 1921)–present[1] (95 years, 6 months, 2 weeks and 2 days)
Location Turkey, Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan)
Status Ongoing
  • Several failed massive revolts during 1920–37
  • The Kurdish–Turkish conflict since 1984
Ottoman flag alternative 2.svg Grand National Assembly (1920-1923)

Flag of Turkey.svg Turkey (since 1923)

Koçgiri Tribe
Ginyan Tribe
Society for the Rise of Kurdistan

Kurdish tribes:

Kurdish flag (Khoiboun).png Kurdish Republic of Ararat (1927–1930)

Dersim tribes

Flag of Kurdistan Workers' Party.svg Kurdistan Workers' Party (since 1978)

YDG-H (since 2013)

InfoboxTAK.png Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (since 2004)

Commanders and leaders
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Nureddin Pasha

Kâzım İnanç
Mürsel Bakû
Naci Eldeniz

İsmet İnönü
Kâzım Orbay
Template:Interlanguage link

Fevzi Çakmak
Template:Interlanguage link
İzzettin Çalışlar
Salih Omurtak

Osman Pamukoğlu
Kenan Evren
Turgut Özal
Süleyman Demirel
Ahmet Necdet Sezer
Bülent Ecevit
Mesut Yılmaz
Necmettin Erbakan
Tansu Çiller
Işık Koşaner
İlker Başbuğ
Yaşar Büyükanıt
Hilmi Özkök
Hüseyin Kıvrıkoğlu
İsmail Hakkı Karadayı
Doğan Güreş
Necip Torumtay
Necdet Üruğ
Nurettin Ersin
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Ahmet Davutoğlu
Hulusi Akar

Alişan Bey White flag icon

Template:Interlanguage link

Sheikh Said Skull and Crossbones

Kurdish flag (Khoiboun).png Ihsan Nuri
Kurdish flag (Khoiboun).png Ibrahim Heski
Kurdish flag (Khoiboun).png Ferzende
Kurdish flag (Khoiboun).png Halis Öztürk

Seyid Riza (POW) Skull and Crossbones
Kamer Aga (Yusufan)
Cebrail Aga (Demenan)
Kamer Aga (Haydaran)
Template:Interlanguage link

Abdullah Öcalan (POW)
Şemdin Sakık (POW)
Osman Öcalan
Mahsum Korkmaz
Nizamettin Taş
Mazlum Doğan
Template:Interlanguage link
Hüseyin Yıldırım
Template:Interlanguage link
Halil Atac
Murat Karayılan
Bahoz Erdal
Cemil Bayık
Mustafa Karasu
Duran Kalkan
Ali Haydar Kaytan (ca; de; ku; tr)

Kocgiri: 3,161-31,000 military

Said: 25,000-52,000 men

Ararat: 10,000-66,000 men

Dersim: 50,000 men[6]

Turkish Armed Forces: 639,551:[7]
Gendarmerie: 148,700[8]
Police: 225,000
Village Guards: 60,000[9]
Turkey Total: 948,550
(not all directly involved in the conflict)

Kocgiri: 3,000-6,000 rebels

Said: 15,000 rebels[10]

Ararat: 5,000-8,000 rebels[11]

Dersim: 6,000 rebels[12]

PKK: 4,000–32,800[13][14]

Casualties and losses

Said: Unknown

Ararat: Unknown

Dersim: 110 killed

Kurdish–Turkish conflict (1978-present): 7,230

Kocgiri: 500 rebels killed[15]

Said: Unknown

Ararat: Unknown

Dersim: 10,000-13,160 killed (mostly civilians)

Kurdish–Turkish conflict: 31,874[16][17] killed

Said revolt: 15,000–20,000[18] to 40,000–250,000 civilians killed[19]
Ararat revolt: 4,500 civilians killed
Kurdish-Turkish conflict (1978-present): 6,741[16] to 18,000-20,000[20][21][22][23] civilians killed

Total: 100,000+ killed

Kurdish rebellions in Turkey refer to Kurdish nationalist uprisings in Turkey, beginning with the Turkish War of Independence and the consequent transition from the Ottoman Empire into the modern Turkish state and lasting until present with the ongoing Kurdish-Turkish conflict.

According to Ottoman military records, Kurdish rebellions have been taking place in Anatolia for over two centuries,[26] While tribal Kurdish revolts had shuttered the Ottoman Empire through the last decades of its existence, the conflict in its modern phase is considered to have begun in 1922,[27] with the emergence of Kurdish nationalism in parallel with the formation of the modern State of Turkey. In 1925, an uprising for an independent Kurdistan, led by Shaikh Said Piran, was put down quickly, and Said and 36 of his followers were executed soon thereafter. Several other large scale Kurdish revolts occurred in Ararat and Dersim in 1930 and 1937.[28][29] The British consul at Trebizond, the diplomatic post closest to Dersim, spoke of brutal and indiscriminate violence and made an explicit comparison with the Armenian massacres of 1915. "Thousands of Kurds," he wrote, "including women and children, were slain; others, mostly children, were thrown into the Euphrates; while thousands of others in less hostile areas, who had first been deprived of their cattle and other belongings, were deported to vilayets (provinces) in Central Anatolia. It is now stated that the Kurdish question no longer exists in Turkey."[30]

Kurds accuse successive Turkish governments of suppressing their identity through such means as the banning of Kurdish language in print and media. Atatürk believed the unity and stability of a country lay in a unitary political identity, relegating cultural and ethnic distinctions to the private sphere. However, many Kurds did not relinquish their identities and language.[31] Large-scale armed conflict between the Turkish armed forces and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) occurred throughout the 1980s and 1990s, leaving over 35,000 dead. Recent moves by the Turkish government have provided Kurds with limited rights and freedoms, particularly in regards to the Kurdish language, education, and media. Kurdish politicians and activists still face pressure.[32]


Koçkiri rebellion (1920)Edit

The 1920 Koçkiri Rebellion in the overwhelmingly Kizilbash Dersim region, while waged by the Kizilbash Koçkiri tribe, was masterminded by members of an organisation known as the Kürdistan Taâlî Cemiyeti (KTC).[33] This particular rebellion failed for several reasons, most of which have something to do with its Kizilbash character. The fact was that many Dersim tribal chiefs at this point still supported the Kemalists — regarding Mustafa Kemal as their 'protector' against the excesses of Sunni religious zealots, some of whom were Kurmancî Kurds. To most Kurmancî Kurds at the time, the uprising appeared to be merely an Alevi uprising — and thus not in their own interests.[34] In the aftermath of the Koçkiri rebellion there was talk in the new Turkish Republic's Grand National Assembly of some very limited forms of 'Autonomous Administration' by the Kurds in a Kurdish region centered in Kurdistan. All this disappeared in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, however. Bitterly disappointed, the Kurds turned again to armed struggle in 1925 — this time led by the Zaza cleric Sheikh Said, but organized by another, newer, Kurdish nationalist organization, Azadî.[29]

Sheikh Said rebellion (1925)Edit

The main rebellion which dominates the history of the Kurds in Turkey is that of the 1925 rebellion in Kurdistan region of Turkey which was led by Sheikh Said. The repression and aggression of Kemalist secularism followed and all public manifestations of Kurdish identity was outlawed which, in turn, prepared Kurds for more rebellion. The revolt of Sheikh Said began in February 1925. Of almost 15,000 fighters who participated in the rebellion against the 52,000 Turkish Gendarmerie, the main Kurdish tribes participating in the rebellion came from Zaza. The rebellion covered most of the part of Amed (Diyarbakir) and Mardin provinces. The Sheikh Said rebellion was the first large scale rebellion of the Kurdish race movement in Turkey. The main organizer of this rebellion was the Kurdish Independent Society, Azadi. Azadi’s intention was to liberate Kurds from Turkish oppression and thus deliver freedom and further, develop their country. By March 1925 the revolt was pretty much over. Sheikh Said and all the other rebel leaders were hanged by June 29.

In Fall of 1927 Sheikh Abdurrahman (brother of Sheikh Said) began a series of attacks on Turkish garrisons in Palu and Malatya.[citation needed] Districts of Lice, Bingöl were captured by the rebels. They also occupied the heights south of Erzurum. Turkish military used air force against the rebels using five airplanes in Mardin. In October 1927, Kurdish rebels attacked and occupied Bayazid. The brother of Sheikh Said tried to exact revenge on the Turkish government by attacking several army bases in Kurdistan. Nothing permanent was accomplished. They were driven out after Turkish reinforcements arrived in the area.[35]

The rebellion failed, however, by 1929, Ihsan Nuri’s movement was in control of a large expanse of Kurdish territory and the revolt was put down by the year 1930.

Ararat rebellion (1927–30)Edit

The Republic of Ararat (Turkish language: Ağrı) was a self-proclaimed Kurdish state. It was located in the east of modern Turkey, being centered on Ağrı Province. The Republic of Ararat was declared independent in 1927, during a wave of rebellion among Kurds in south-eastern Turkey. The rebellion was led by General İhsan Nuri Pasha. However it was not recognized by other states, and lacked foreign support.

By the end of summer 1930, the Turkish Air Force was bombing Kurdish positions around Mt. Ararat from all directions. According to General Ihsan Nuri Pasha, the military superiority of Turkish Air Force demoralized Kurds and led to their capitulation.[36] On July 13, the rebellion in Zilan was suppressed. Squadrons of 10-15 aircraft were used in crushing the revolt.[37] On July 16, two Turkish planes were downed and their pilots were killed by the Kurds.[38] Aerial bombardment continued for several days and forced Kurds to withdraw to the height of 5,000 meters. By July 21, bombardment had destroyed many Kurdish forts. During these operations, Turkish military mobilized 66,000 soldiers and 100 aircraft.[39] The campaign against the Kurds was over by September 17, 1930.[40] The Ararat rebellion was defeated in 1931,[citation needed] and Turkey resumed control over the territory.[41]

Government measures after 1937Edit

After suppression of the last rebellion in 1937, Southeast Anatolia was put under martial law. In addition to destruction of villages and massive deportations, Turkish government encouraged Kosovar Albanians and Assyrians to settle in the Kurdish area to change the ethnic composition of the region.[42] The measures taken by the Turkish Army in the immediate aftermath of the revolt became more repressive than previous uprisings. According to the Turkish Communist Party, between 1925 and 1938, more than 1.5 million Kurds were deported and massacred. At times, villages and/or buildings were set on fire in order to repress the Kurdish population. In order to prevent the events from having a negative impact on Turkey's International image and reputation, foreigners were not allowed to visit the entire area east of Euphrates until 1965 and the area remained under permanent military siege till 1950. The Kurdish language was banned and the words "Kurds" and "Kurdistan" were removed from dictionaries and history books and Kurds were only referred to as "Mountain Turks".[43]

The Turks, who had only recently been fighting for their own freedom, crushed the Kurds, who sought theirs. It is strange how a defensive nationalism develops into an aggressive one, and a fight for freedom becomes one for dominion over others

Jawaharlal Nehru on the response to the Kurdish revolts in the early Turkish Republic.[44][45]

Kurdish–Turkish conflict (1978–present)Edit

Kurdish ethnic revival appeared in the 1970s when Turkey was racked with left-right clashes and the Marxist PKK was formed demanding a Kurdish state.[46] PKK declared its objective as the liberation of all parts of Kurdistan from colonial oppression and establishment of an independent, united, socialist Kurdish state. It initially attracted the poorer segments of the Kurdish population and became the only Kurdish party not dominated by tribal links.[citation needed] PKK's chairman, Abdullah Öcalan, was proud of being from humble origins. It characterized its struggle mainly as an anti-colonial one, hence directing its violence against collaborators, i.e., Kurdish tribal chieftains, notables with a stake in the Turkish state, and also against rival organizations.[citation needed] The military coup in 1980 lead to a period of severe repression and elimination of almost all Kurdish and leftist organizations. The PKK, however, was the only Kurdish party that managed to survive and even grow in size after the coup.[citation needed] It initiated a guerrilla offensive with a series of attacks on Turkish military and police stations and due to its daring challenging of the Turkish army, gradually won over grudging admiration of parts of the Kurdish population.[citation needed] In the beginning of 1990, it had set up its own local administration in some rural areas.[citation needed] Around this time, PKK changed its goals from full Kurdish independence to a negotiated settlement with the Turkish government, specially after some promising indirect contacts with President Turgut Özal. After Özal's sudden death, the Turkish military intensified its operations against PKK bases. These measures succeeded in isolating the PKK from the civilians and reduced it to a guerrilla band operating in the mountains. In 1999, increased Turkish pressure on Syria led to Öcalan's expulsion and ultimate arrest by Turkish Maroon Berets in Kenya.[47] A cooling down occurred, and a ceasefire was brokered in 2014 - but then due to the Siege of Kobane the conflict has restarted.

During the 1980s Turkey began a program of forced assimilation of its Kurdish population.[48] This culminated in 1984 when the PKK began a rebellion against Turkish rule attacking Turkish military and civilian targets. Since the PKK's militant operations began in 1984, 37,000 people have been killed. The PKK has been continuing its guerrilla warfare in the mountains.[49] However, since 1995, and especially since the AK Party came to power there have been numerous reforms and the situation has greatly improved.[50] As a result, the fighting is limited to approximately 3000 fighters.[51]

Serhildan (1990-present)Edit

The Serhildan designate several Kurdish public rebellions since the 1990s with the slogan "Êdî Bese" ("Enough") against the Turkish government. The first violent action by the populace against police officers and state institutions occurred in 1990 in the Southeast Anatolian town Nusaybin near the border to Syria. The rebellion in Nusaybin is the beginning of the Serhildan, during the following days the riots initially widened to other cities of the province Mardin and to the neighboring provinces Batman, Diyarbakır, Siirt, Şanlıurfa and Şırnak, and later to other Eastern Anatolian provinces such as Bingöl, Bitlis, Hakkâri, Muş and Van, as well cities such as Ankara, Istanbul, İzmir and Mersin.

See alsoEdit


  1. [1][dead link]
  2. "Turkey’s Kurdish tribes call PKK to leave country". Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  3. "Kurdish people unite against terror: Tribe of 65,000 pledge to stand up against PKK". Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  5. Türk İstiklal Harbi, Edition VI, İstiklal Harbinde Ayaklanmalar, T. C. Genelkurmay Harp Tarihi Başkanlığı Resmî Yayınları, 1974, page 281
  6. David McDowall, A modern history of the Kurds, I.B.Tauris, 2002, ISBN 978-1-85043-416-0, p. 209.
  7. "NEWS FROM TURKISH ARMED FORCES". Turkish Armed Forces. Archived from the original on 2015-11-05. 
  8. "Turkey's Paramilitary Forces" (PDF). Orbat. 25 July 2006. p. 33. Archived from the original on 27 March 2009. 
  9. "Turkey's 'village guards' tired of conflict". My Sinchew. 19 April 2010. Retrieved 29 August 2010. 
  10. Olson, 1989, page 107
  11. Robin Leonard Bidwell, Kenneth Bourne, Donald Cameron Watt, Great Britain. Foreign Office: British documents on foreign affairs--reports and papers from the Foreign Office confidential print: From the First to the Second World War. Series B, Turkey, Iran, and the Middle East, 1918-1939, Volume 32, University Publications of America, 1997, page 82.
  12. Osman Pamukoğlu, Unutulanlar dışında yeni bir şey yok: Hakkari ve Kuzey Irak dağlarındaki askerler, Harmoni Yayıncılık, 2003, ISBN 975-6340-00-2, p. 16. (Turkish)
  13. Pike, John (21 May 2004). "Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)". Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 23 July 2008. 
  14. "The PKK in Numbers". 28 December 2015. 
  15. Hüseyin Rahmi Apak, Türk İstiklâl Harbi – İç ayaklanmalar: 1919-1921, 1964, C.VI, Genelkurmay Basımevi, pages 163-165
  16. 16.0 16.1 Nearly 7,000 civilians killed by PKK in 31 years
  17. [2]
  18. The Militant Kurds: A Dual Strategy for Freedom, Vera Eccarius-Kelly, page 86, 2010
  19. (page 104)
  20. "Federal Judge Rules Part Of Patriot Act Unconstitutional". 22 January 2004. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  21. Visweswaran, edited by Kamala (2013). Everyday occupations experiencing militarism in South Asia and the Middle East (1st ed.). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 14. ISBN 0812207831. 
  22. Romano, David (2005). The Kurdish nationalist movement : opportunity, mobilization and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 81. ISBN 0521684269. 
  23. Turkey, US, and the PKK, 21 December 2007
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. Birand, Mehmet Ali (2008-01-03). "How many Kurdish uprisings till today?". Turkish Daily News. Retrieved 2008-07-30. [dead link] Translated from Turkish by Nuran İnanç.
  27. [3]
  28. (Olson 2000)
  29. 29.0 29.1 (Olson 1989)
  30. Martin van Bruinessen. "Genocide in Kurdistan? The Suppression of the Dersim Rebellion in Turkey (1937-38) and the Chemical War Against the Iraqi Kurds (1988)". 
  31. "Kurds". A Country Study: Turkey. U.S. Library of Congress. January 1995. 
  32. Associated Press (2007-02-23). "Turks Charge Kurd With Inciting Hatred". Washington Post. pp. A12. Retrieved 2008-08-01. 
  33. (van Bruinessen 1978, p. 446) (footnote 35) and (Olson 1989, pp. 26–33)
  34. (van Bruinessen 1978, pp. 374–75)
  35. (Olson 2000, p. 79)
  36. (Olson 2000, p. 82)
  37. (Olson 2000, p. 84)
  38. (Olson 2000, p. 85)
  39. (Olson 2000, p. 86)
  40. (Olson 2000, p. 88)
  41. Abdulla, Mufid (2007-10-26). "The Kurdish issue in Turkey need political solution". Kurdish Media. Archived from the original on 2007-12-28. Retrieved 2008-08-01. 
  42. Dahlman, Carl (2002). "The Political Geography of Kurdistan" (PDF). pp. 271–299. Digital object identifier:10.2747/1538-7216.43.4.271. Archived from the original on 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  43. Gérard Chaliand, A.R. Ghassemlou, M. Pallis, A People Without A Country, 256 pp., Zed Books, 1992, ISBN 1-85649-194-3, p.58
  44. J.D. Eller, From Culture to Ethnicity to Conflict: An Anthropological Perspective on International Ethnic Conflicts, 368 pp., University of Michigan Press, 1999, ISBN 0-472-08538-7, p.193
  45. Nehru, Jawaharlal (1942). Glimpses of world history. John Day. p. 708. 
  46. Pike, John (2004-05-21). "Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)". Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  47. van Bruinessen, Martin. The Kurdish movement: issues, organization, mobilization Archived 2011-07-24 at the Wayback Machine., Newsletter of the Friends of the International Institute for Social History, No.8, 2004, pp.6-8
  48. Hassanpour, Amir (1992). "Kurdish Language Policy in Turkey". Nationalism and Language in Kurdistan 1918-1985. Edwin Mellon Press. pp. 132–136;150–152. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  49. "Kurdish rebels kill Turkey troops". BBC News. 2007-04-08. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 
  50. Kalin, Ibrahim (2008-06-05). "AK Party and the Kurdish issue: a new beginning?". Today's Zaman. Retrieved 2008-08-23. [dead link]
  51. "Turkish forces on high alert against PKK attacks". Xinhua. China Daily. 2007-10-19. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 


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