Ararat Rebellion Part of Kurdish rebellions in Turkey


Armenian Kurdish Relations in the Era of Kurdish National Movements (1830-1930)



Ararat Rebellion Part of Kurdish rebellions in Turkey
Ararat Rebellion Part of Kurdish rebellions in Turkey From left to right: Halis Bey, Ihsan Nuri Pasha, Ferzende Bey

Although the Turkish government crushed Sheik Said Ali’s rebellion with iron first, Turkish troops, however, were unable to bring all of Kurdistan under their control. Scattered into small, underground fedayeen groups, Kurdish militants and revolutionary elements were almost always on the move to cause harm to the army regiments deployed in the area. Turkish troops faced a grave danger because of the striking methods of the Kurdish fedayeen that seemed to enjoy the devoted and unconditional help of the Kurdish populace.

The Kurdish fighters of Dersim moved to Mt. Ararat. Kurdish revolutionary leaders such as Ibrahim Heski Telli, chief of military operations Ihsan Nuri Pasha and Ziylan Bey were already stationed in the remote mountain.[1] With their enthusiasm they were motivating all Kurdish rebels to join in Ararat.

By now, the Kurdish liberation movement had become a true menace to the authorities. Most importantly, Kurdish fedayeen attacks were obstructing the immigration programs that the Kemalist government was trying to implement. It so happened, that just before the outbreak of the 1925 Kurdish rebellion, Turkish authorities were eagerly working to settle some one hundred thousand Turkic people from the Caucasus, Syria, and Cyprus in Kurdistan and the Eastern [i.e. Armenian, G.M.] vilayets. This immigration project was very important to the Turkish government. In spite of the difficult economic situation that it encountered, the government allocated one million gold coins for this purpose. All this was undertaken to alter the ethnic status quo of the territories under discussion, which was definitely in favor of the Kurds.[2]

Armenians in the homeland and especially in their Diaspora viewed the Kurdish rebellious movements as a blessing.  After all, this Kurdish movement was blocking the Turkic immigration wave, which aimed at filling emptied Armenian territories with Turkish muhajirs (immigrants). The A.R.F. was most enthusiastic in defending the Kurdish insurrections. On this occasion Arshak Chamalian (Isahakian) writes in A.R.F. organ Droshak: –

“We are closely monitoring the Kurdish movements and the substantial attacks that the Kurdish fighters are successfully waging against Turkish troops. By so doing, they are preventing the Turkish government from fulfilling its immigration programs of inhabiting Turkish Armenia with new Turkish muhajirs. It is not surprising that this new wave of Turkish Immigration is something that the Kemalist government is trying to successfully accomplish since the singing of the Lausanne Treaty. Sheik Said Ali’s rebellion was a decisive blow to this project, since it compelled the muhajirs to escape from the East and seek refuge in Western Anatolian territories. Hoyboun’s actions obstructed Kemal from accomplishing his dream of brining Turks from Trace, Bulgaria and Rumania and settling them in the eastern vilayets. Those immigrants did not reach beyond Izmir, and it is there that they are staying.”

“We have to realize the great danger behind populating the emptied Armenian lands with the new coming Turkish muhajirs. A project of such magnitude is capable of changing the ethnography of the land; endanger Armenian rights over these places; be a substantial danger to Armenians living in the Trans Caucasian parts of Armenia, since their security will always be compromised. Therefore, even if these Kurdish movements represent no other importance to us Armenians, their obstruction of the Turkish governments immigration policies is reason enough for us to monitor and to support them continuously.”[3]

Mustafa Kemal had no other Choice but to try to subdue the Kurdish danger by crushing the Kurdish rebel forces. He realized that he desperately needed to accomplish this to be freed from the only minority issue remaining in his “homogeneous” republic. Moreover, by annihilating the Kurds, he would open the way to communications with the Turkish people of the Trans-Caucasus — the still unrealized Pan-Turkish dream. Since he had gotten the “green light” from Communist Russia to oppress the Kurds, thus, with Moscow’s blessing, he started to exert pressure on Iran to allow passage for his troops, so that he could surround Mt. Ararat and strangle the Kurdish rebel nest at Ararat.[4]          

            Kemal proceeded according to this plan and sent his regiments to the battlefield with orders to besiege Mt. Ararat from all sides.  Kurds had prepared for this day. Mt. Ararat was now a bomb waiting to explode at any moment.

A.    The Ararat Rebellion

Early in 1930 Turkish troops stationed around Mt. Ararat started their advance. However, they encountered severe losses because they were unable to effectively besiege the rebel mountain. Moreover, Kurdish revolutionaries still enjoyed the benefits of a supply line through the Iranian corridor. Turkey and Communist Russia insisted that European powers–England, in particular– were aiding the Kurdish rebels both militarily and economically. It was obvious that this Kurdish-Russian ploy was for propaganda purposes and possessed no kernel of truth. All indications showed that the Kurds were cut from the West and left to their fate. Only limited Armenian aid offered by the A.R.F. ever reached the rebels in Ararat. On the other hand, there are indications that some European powers were in fact aiding Kemal. France was the first to follow such a policy. It allowed Turkish troops to utilize the North Syrian railroad system to transport troops to the southern flanks of Mt. Ararat. Moreover, French authorities made sure that no Kurds living in Iraq or Syria were able to cross to Ararat to take part in the rebellion.

The only attempt to reach and help the Kurdish rebels in Ararat was organized by the Iraqi Kurdish leader, Barazani, who crossed the Turkish border via Iraq with some five hundred Kurdish horsemen. However, after encountering numerous confrontations with Turkish troops, he was compelled to return to his base in the mountains of Musul.

Turkey increased its pressure on Iran. It demanded the Shah to open the Iranian border to Turkish troops and to participate in the Turkish military effort to besiege Mt. Ararat, to cut the Kurdish supply lines, and to crush the rebellion.

During the initial stages of the conflict, the Shah sent some regiments to the border. He tried to make it amply clear to the Turkish government that crossing the Iranian border will be considered a hostile act. After a while, however, the Shah gave in to diplomatic pressures from Turkey and the Soviet Union. He opened his border to Turkish troops, who swiftly arranged a security cordon around the Iranian skirts of Mt. Ararat. Thus, the rebels’ only operating passage and link with the outside was lost. The Shah also instructed his regiments not to let the Kurdish rebels to escape to Iran, and to help the Turkish troops in their endeavors.

By now Ararat was completely surrounded. Deprived of new resources and any kind of external help; clustered within a narrow strip of land; having lost their only line of communication and supply, Kurdish freedom fighters were confronted by a regular army equipped with submachine guns, artillery, and even an airforce. The battles were intense; however, Kurds stubbornly continued to defend their strongholds. They were even able to shoot down several Turkish military airplanes.

Meanwhile, a fledgling Turkey was facing huge economic hardships, because of the military expenses it had to incur. The government was on the verge of bankruptcy. The Kurdish uprisings and their human and economic toll made Turks question the validity of their government’s policies. Many opposition leaders started to freely criticize Kemal’s actions. Ismet Pasha, Turkey’s prime minister, tried his best to silence those angry voices. Unable to achieve this peacefully, he utilized his only other alternative, the army. This created a chain reaction, which added to the political and economic turmoil.

The Turkish government tried desperately to strengthen its economic position. Attempts to provide European loans failed. Bankers refused to venture in a country facing severe internal and economic problems. Once again, it was Communist Russia that came to Kemal’s aid. It was through Soviet gold that Kemal was able to continue his war.[5]

Turkish troops continued their military operations in Ararat. Kemal sent all his reserve regiments and even new recruits to the battlefield. Fortified in their high mountain strongholds, Kurds continued to remain adamant and to inflict a heavy loss on the Turkish army. High ranking Turkish officers were outraged by the strong Kurdish defenses. In some instances they had to sacrifice hundreds of Turkish soldiers just to occupy a single Kurdish stronghold.[6]

Kemal was convinced that subduing the Ararat rebellion was only a matter or time. His conviction was based on the facts that Kurds 1) were cut off from all of their communication and supply lines. 2) They had severe shortages of ammunition and food supplies. 3) Turkish offensives, although very costly in terms of number of soldiers lost, wasted huge amounts of Kurdish military supplies. All these factors added to the Kurdish predicament.

On the mountain, beside Kurdish freedom fighters, there were civilians (usually families and relatives of fighters). Supplying them with food and shelter was difficult, especially because winter was so near. Some Kurdish leaders like Ihsan Nuri Pasha thought about leading the people and most of the fighters to other places under the cover of dark. Others, fanatics like Ibrahim Heski Telli, wanted to remain and defend the mountain until the last man. As for the problem that civilian Kurds posed, the extremist Telli advocated killing them all so that their presence and eventual predicament would not weaken the rebels’ will. Telli went as for as trying to kill some members of his own family to set an example for others. Some of his most loyal fighters interfered to stop the madness.[7]

As a last resort, a group of Kurdish fighters were able to open a corridor to the Iranian side of the mountain. Civilian Kurds and many of the fighters used this passage. Once on the other side of the mountain they surrendered to the Iranian authorities. Heski Telli and his ardent followers vanished from site for some months. They took refuge in the caves on the mountaintop. Telli and his devoted fedayeens continued their struggle for two more years until they were all massacred in 1932. Apparently, Telli lived by his vow to fight until the last man…

B. The Kurdish Question in the Second Socialist International

The most active and positive page in the history of Armenian-Kurdish relations was written prior to and during the actual Kurdish rebellions of Dersim and especially Mt. Ararat. The A.R.F. was instrumental in providing much needed aid to the Kurdish national Movement. It provided the moral support that Kurdish warriors needed in their battles against the Turkish armies.

It was within the confines of this moral support that the A.R.F. provided critical help to the Kurdish Revolution and its leading organization, Hoyboun. This was achieved through the channels of the Second Socialist International (S.S.I. hereafter). It was through the dedicated work of Arshak Chamalian, the A.R.F. representative to the S.S.I., that in August of 1930 the General Assembly of the International ratified an important resolution concerning the Kurdish issue. It read as follows:

“The executive of the S.S.I. calls the world’s attention to the massacres which are being committed by the Turkish government. Peaceful Kurdish peasants who have not participated in the Insurrection (Ararat Rebellion) are being exterminated just as the Armenians were. The degree of repression extents far beyond containment of the Kurdish struggle for freedom. Yet Capitalist public opinion has not in any way protested against this bloody savagery.”


The S.S.I. tried to direct the attention of the European newspapers toward the Kurdish issue. It even utilized its diplomatic channels to bring the matter to the attention of The League of Nations. However, these efforts were defeated because Turkey, being a member of the League, used all of its diplomatic muscle to block the discussion of the Kurdish issue, insisting that it was solely an internal Turkish affair.

The 1930-1931 issues of the A.R.F. organ Droshak are almost entirely dedicated to articles dealing with the debates of the Kurdish issue in the S.S.I. The articles confirm the sympathy and the cooperation of the Armenians and the A.R.F. in particular with the Kurds and their liberation movement.

The A.R.F. did all this with only one goal in mind. To make the world understand that in the far away mountain of Ararat a people was fighting for freedom. It was besieged by regular army battalions that were shelling not only freedom fighters but even families, children, and elderly people.

Chamalian presented a through report regarding the Kurdish Question during the S.S.I. meeting. He tried to clarify the causes that led to the Kurdish resurrections. A historical background of the Kurdish people was delivered to the General Assembly concentrating particularly on the events of the last decade (1920-1930). It emphasized the deportation and relocation policies deployed by the Kemalist government that aimed at the Turkification of the Kurds and their uprooting from their ancestral, national, and historical homeland.[9]

Turkey’s European diplomatic corps and missions tried to rewrite history by presenting events in Kurdistan as “the Turkish government’s effort to silence bands of robbers and criminals who were causing hardships to peaceful peasants.”[10]

European newspapers remained silent about the Kurdish issue. Only a handful of journalistic and diplomatic reports came from that part of the world. Moreover, the validity, and, most importantly, the authenticity of those reports remained questionable.

Contrary to the sympathy that the International’s most influential representatives (like those of France, Great Britain, and Austria) had toward the Kurdish anguish, nothing could be expected from a congress of socialist parties in the midst of capitalist Europe. It was true that the S.S.I. was an international form; however, it did not have the political muscle to force its will over European powers concerning the Kurdish Question. Moreover, the S.S.I. regarded the Kurdish issue as the first phase of a total “Eastern Conflict” that could endanger European peace. From this point of view, the S.S.I. was in favor of a truce between Turks and Kurds. Therefore, it preferred a diplomatic solution to the Kurdish Question.

After quenching the Ararat Rebellion, the Turkish government started implementing a new wave of Kurdish deportation and relocation projects. Turkish troops stationed in Kurdish territories supervised those massive Kurdish deportations to Western Turkey. Simultaneously, thousands of Turkish immigrants were brought to inhabit vacated Kurdish territories. Turkish civil authorities were, by law, urged to assist the military in Kurdish relocation project on condition that “Kurds must not exceed the ten percent limit of the population in the relocated areas.”[11]

Thus, in the winter of 1932, hundreds of thousands of Kurds were deported from Kurdistan. Nevertheless, in Dersim Kurds decided to resist deportation and never to leave their homeland. This Kurdish resistance too was crushed by regular Turkish troops. Kurds continued to fight until late in 1937, when the Turkish government was finally able to suppress all of Kurdistan.

C. “The Mountain Turks”!!!

In the following decades, Kurdistan and its people lived in anguish and turmoil. Consecutive Turkish governments suppressed the Kurds and Kurdish spirit. Assimilation, annihilation and Turkification continued. All these measures aimed at making the Kurds believe that they are an inseparable part of the Turkish race and not a distinct ethnic element that possess its own history, civilization, and culture. Kurdish language and literature were banned. The words “Kurd” and “Kurdistan” were omitted from dictionaries and history books. Turkish “scholars” rewrote the history of the Kurds. They became known as “The Mountain Turks.”[12]



Altalabani, Jalal, Kurdistan wa Alharaka al Khowmiya al Kurdiya, Tali’a Press,

            Beirut, 1971.

Arfa, Hasan, The Kurds, Oxford University Press, New York, 1966.

Chaliand, Gerard, Editor, People Without  a Country: Kurds And Kurdistan, Zed

            Press, London, 1980.

Edmonds, Cecil John, Kurds, Turks, Arabs, Oxford University Press, New York, 1957.

Eagleton, William, Junior, The Kurdish Republic of 1946, Oxford University Press,

            New York, 1963.

Fisher, Sydney N., The Middle East: A History, New York, 1965.

Makhmutov, N. Kh., Kurt Zhoghovurde, Haypet Hrat Press, Erevan, 1959.

Malkhas (Hovsepian, Artashes), Aprumner – Jambus Vra, 2 volumes, New York, 1959.

Mazhar, Kamal Ahmad, Kurdistan Fi Sanawat al Harb al Alamiya al Ula, Bagdad,


Mikayelian, Kristapor, Ampokhayin Tramabanutiun, Hamazkaine Press, Beirut, 1974.

Sasuni, Karo, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere Ev Hay Krtakan Haraberutiunnere,

            Hamazkaine Press, Beirut, 1969.

Shiod, M. T., Kurtere Tajgats’ Hayastanum, Pushkinyan Press, St. Petersburg, 1905.

Ter Minassian, Ruben, Hay Heghapokhakani Me Hishataknere, 8 volumes,

            Hamazkaine Press, Beirut, 1974.

Varantian Mikayel, Ho.Hi.Ta. Patmutiun, 2 volumes, Geneva,  1910.

Vratzian, Simon, A.R.F. Archives, Batch #s 34-2 & 34-5

HAYRENIK Issues (Chronological)

Ter Minassian, Ruben, “Hayastani Arevelke,” Hayrenik, Boston, 1927, # 11, pp. 94-108.

Sasuni, Karo, “Kurteru Ev Hayeru Azatagrakan Sharzhman Pulere Ev Anonts’ Pokh

Haraberudiunnere,” Hayrenik, Boston, 1929, # 1, pp. 134-145, also 1930, # 7, pp. 124-133, 1930,  #12,  pp. 134-140.

__________ , “Kurt Azgayin Kusakts’utiune,” Hayrenik, Boston, 1931, # 5, pp. 74-100,

            1931, # 6, pp. 125-131.

DROSHAK Issues (Chronological)

Abdul Rahman Bey, “Koch’ Kurterun,” [Kurtlere Khitab], Droshak, 1898, # 6, pp.

Ter Minassian, Ruben, “Krtakan Sharzhume,” Droshak, 1925, # 1, pp. 10-14, 1925, # 2,

            pp. 38-40.

Vratzian, Simon, “Hayastane Ev Ir Harevannere,” Droshak,  1925, # 3, pp. 68-71.

Author Unknown, “Krtakan Sharzhume,” Droshak, 1925, # 4, pp. 124-127.

Hakki, Ismail, “Krtakan Apstambutiune,” Droshak, 1925, # 6, pp. 179-182, 1926, # 1,

            pp. 18-21.

Chamalian, Arshak, “Viennayi TurkDespanutiune Ev Krtakan Khendire,” Droshak,

            1926, # 2, pp. 52-54.

Amatuni, H., “Krtakan Sharzhumnere,” Droshak, 1926, # 4, pp. 110-112.

Vahakn, “Musuli Khendire,” Droshak, 1926, # 6, pp.

Auther Unknown, “Kurt-Trkakan Paykare,” Droshak, 1928, # 1, pp. 29-30.

Auther Unknown, “Krtakan Sharzhume Ev Iran,” Droshak, 1928, # 4,  pp.

Ashot, “Krtakan Sharzhume Khorherdayin Aknots’ov,” Droshak, 1928, # 5, pp.

Auther Unknown, “Ararati Krivnere,” Droshak, 1929, # 8, pp. 147-148.

Chamalian, Arshak, “Krtakan harts’e,” Droshak, 1930, # 8, pp. 185-188.

________________, “Krtakan Harts’e Internats’ionalum,” Droshak, 1930, # 8, pp

Sasuni, Karo, “Krtakan Apstambutiune,” Droshak, 1930, # 8, pp. 191-196.

__________, “Krtakan Sharzhume,” Droshak, 1931, # 1-2, pp. 11-14.

Misakian Shavarsh, “Tashnak-Hoyepun,” Droshak, 1931, # 3, pp.

Chamalian, Arshak, “Krtrakan harts’e Internats’ionalum,” Droshak, 1931, # 3, pp.   ,

            1931, # 2, pp. 77-80.


Poladyan, A.B., “Kurtistane Arach’in Hamashkharhayin Paterazmi Tarinerin,”

            Patmabanasirakan Handes, Erevan, 1979, # 2, pp. 259-262.

Jalali, Jalal, “Bitlisi 1914 Tvi Krtakan Apstamputiune Hay mamuli Gnahatmamb,”

            Patmabanasirakan Handes, Erevan, 1985, # 4, pp.126-134.

AZDAK Issues (Chronological)

Sasuni, Armen, “Kurt Azgayin Sharzhume,” Azdak, Beirut, 1927, # 1, p. 2.

____________, “Krtakan Sharzhume Ke Dz’avali,” Azdak, Beirut, 1927, # 17, p.1.

Author(s) Unknown, Reports, “Azat Ev Ankakh Kurtistan, Azdak, Beirut, 1927, # 28, p.

1, # 34, p. 1, # 44, pp, 1-2.

____________, “Krtakan Apstambutiune,” Azdak, Beirut, 1927, # 52, p. 1,

# 56, p. 1.

____________, “Krtakan Sharzhumnere,” Azdak, Beirut, 1927, # 62, p 1, #

            67, p. 1, # 72, p.1, # 78, p. 1, 1928, # 93, p. 1.

Author Unknown, “Krtakan Sharzhumnere Ev Arab Terti Me Mtahogutiunnere,” Azdak,

            Beirut, 1928, # 92, p. 1.

___________, “Kurt Ev Trkakan Kurtistani Krivnere,” Azdak, Beirut, 1928, # 129, p.1.

___________, “Krtakan Krivnere,” Azdak, Beirut, 1928, # 122, p. 1.

___________, “Krtakan Ch’ardere,” Azdak, Beirut, 1928, # 122, p. 1.

[1] During the beginning stages of the Ararat Rebellion, Armenian-Kurdish cooperation was achieved through the efforts of Ziylan Bey, known to be one of the most famous rebels on the mountain. The shocking reality is that Ziylan Bey was not Kurdish but Armenian from the Khnus village of Sasun. His real name was Artashes Muradian. Sasuni, who knew Ziylan Bey-Artashes Muradian adds: “Ziylan Bey, who was none other than Artashes Muradian from Khnus. He was a devoted A.R.F. agent sent secretly by the party to Ararat with the purpose of strengthening Armenian-Kurdish relations and helping the Kurds in their utmost struggle. Today, after twenty four years, we can openly declare the Armenian identity of Ziylan Bey.” Ziylan Bey (Artashes Muradian) was ambushed and killed by communist spies who had infiltrated the ranks of the rebels on Mt. Ararat. Sasuni also mentions that Ziylan Bey was only one of the scores of Armenian freedom fighters in the Ararat Rebellion. His case is publicized because he had attained a certain level of leadership in the rebellion. The identities of other Armenians– disguised as Kurds– in the rebellion still remains to be determined. Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, p. 284.

[2] Ibid, p. 285.

[3]Arshak, Chamalian, “Krtakan Harts’e,” Droshak, 1930,  # 1, p. 185.

[4] Ibid, pp. 185-186.

[5] Sasuni, Kurt Azgayin Sharzhumnere, pp. 290-291.

[6] Ibid, p. 292.

[7]  Ibid, p. 293.

[8] Chaliand, People Without, p. 66.

[9] Chamalian, “Krtakan Harts’e Internats’ionalum,”  Droshak, 1931, # 3, p. 46 , # 4,  pp. 77-80.

[10] Author Unknown, “Viennayi Turk Despanutiune Eva Krtakan Khendire,” Droshak, 1926, # 2, pp. 52-54. The article starts with a reprint of a communiqué issued by the Turkish Embassy at Vienna, which states that all news materials printed in the newspapers of the day concerning the Kurdish resurrections are untrue “…and full of lies.” It also accuses Armenians and the A.R.F. in particular for being the source of these news. The second part of the article is a response by Arshak Chamalian. He defends the justness of the Kurdish rebellion as well as the A.R.F. position regarding the Kurdish issue.

[11] Chaliand, People Without, p. 66.

[12] Ibid, p. 68. 

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