From Classic Encyclopedia 1911
"KURDISTAN 15.949). - During the last eight years of his reign Sultan `Abdul Hamid pursued the policy of attracting to his person those Kurdish leaders whom he found to have the greatest local power, and of creating the impression that he looked to the Kurds as his special adherents. There were at the time several descendants of the Badr Khan Bey and Baban families in exile in Constantinople, and from these certain members were given considerable Government posts in the capital and in Syria and Anatolia. By this means the Sultan contrived to exact some taxes, and succeeded in producing a state of the country more tranquil than had existed for several generations. In the north Ibrahim Pasha Milli, and in the south the Sheikh of Barzan and Sheikh Said Barzinja of Sulaimani, became the great leaders, while Saiyid Taha of Shemsdinan held the greatest power in central Kurdistan.
When in 1908 the Turkish Revolution occurred, resulting in the deposition of the Sultan and the victory of Enver Bey's Young Turk party, Kurdistan remained generally loyal to the old regime, and Ibrahim Pasha Milli and Sheikh Said of Sulaimani both declared themselves loyalists. The former gathered a considerable army and terrorized the country in the neighbourhood of `Urfa, Diarbekr, Mardin and Nisibin, while Sheikh Said and the Sheikh of Barzan led a condition of rebellion extending over the whole of central and southern Kurdistan. In 1908 Sheikh Said of Sulaimani was murdered in Mosul, an event which only aggravated matters in southern Kurdistan and excited a sympathy for the family even deeper than had existed before. In 1909 Ibrahim Pasha Milli was defeated and lost his life and comparative order was restored in his district.
Meanwhile southern Kurdistan, led by Sheikh Mahmud, the son of Sheikh Said, continued in a state of rebellion, in which the two most active tribes were the Jaf and the Hamawand. Various means were tried to quell the rebellion. Sulaimani was occupied in 1910 after heavy bribes had been paid to Sheikh Mahmud; Mahmud Pasha, leader of the Jaf, was induced to go to Mosul and there detained for a year. Mustafa Pasha Bajlan, of the Khaniqin district, was likewise detained in Bagdad in 1912. In this year military measures at last succeeded against the Hamawand tribe, which fled en masse to Persian territory.
At the outbreak of the World War conditions were not favourable to the Turks in Kurdistan. An insurrection had occurred in Bitlis, the Hamawand were still virtually outlaws and the whole country refused to respond to the call to a jihad against the British. In the south a small volunteer force of cavalry was eventually raised, but after fighting against the British at Shu`aiba near Basra it returned to Kurdistan owing to the illtreatment it received at the hands of the Turks. With the preoccupation of the Government in the war, Kurdistan remained for the time being untouched and indifferent.
In 1915 the official massacre of Armenians occurred, but evidence conclusively proves that, though there were cases of Kurdish participation, the greater portion of the nation not only held aloof, but, as in the case of the Dersim Kurds (who actually saved 25,000 Armenians), displayed their repugnance to the Turkish orders in a practical manner. Throughout central and northern Kurdistan there were in 1919 numbers of Armenians who had lived as refugees among the Kurds.
About this time Russia began to formulate a policy to encourage the Kurdish national movement, for she hoped to use Kurdistan as a counterpoise to Armenia, and when in 1916 Russian forces were in possession of Erzerum and Bitlis, members of the Badr Khan Bey family were appointed as provincial governors in pursuance of the policy. In this year events happened which complicated political matters in Kurdistan. Ismail Agha Shekak, better known as Simko, living between Van and Urmia, murdered the patriarch of the Nestorians, who fled to Persian territory and called upon the Russians to avenge the murder. In the same year a Russian force moved towards and occupied Rawanduz in central Kurdistan. This force was largely composed of Armenians and other Christian volunteers, calling themselves" the army of revenge,"and the atrocities committed by them in the destruction of Rawanduz upon Kurds who had till then known nothing of them were in every way equal to anything attributed to Kurds in former massacres of Armenians. Further apprehension and unrest were caused in central and northern Kurdistan by the Sykes-Picot agreement, which provisionally assigned the Mosul vilayet to France, a Power regarded by the Kurds as violently pro-Christian.
Early in 1917 the Russians further alienated Kurdish sympathy by brutal treatment of the population of Khaniqin and the Shilyar valley in southern Kurdistan. The British forces, beyond a reconnaissance in April 1917, did not enter Kurdistan till Dec. 1917, when Khaniqin was occupied without opposition from the Kurds. In the early part of 1918 the desire for autonomy and the favourable attitude of Kurdistan to Great Britain was becoming apparent; at Sairt, in central Kurdistan, the Kurds actually expelled the Kurdish garrison, while leaders throughout the country contrived to get into touch with the British and assure them of their friendly sentiments and desire for autonomy and final independence of Turkey.
In Nov. 1918 an officer of the political department of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force was sent to Sulaimani, where he received a welcome from all classes. He appointed as governor Sheikh Mahmud Barzinja, and instituted a form of government designed to be acceptable to southern Kurdistan.
A few other officers were sent at Sheikh Mahmud's request to assist in organizing the local Government under British protection. No troops entered the country. Meanwhile in the north, the Turks, alarmed at the rapid spread of pro-British and nationalist expression, busied themselves with propaganda which bore fruit to some extent on the northern borders of the Mosul vilayet, which was occupied by British troops in Nov. and Dec. 1918. The tribes in that neighbourhood are violently anti-Christian and have frequently been in armed opposition to British forces.
While propaganda and counter-propaganda were busy throughout northern and central Kurdistan, in May 1919 Sheikh Mahmud, who conceived that he had received ill-treatment at British hands in his capacity of governor of southern Kurdistan, effected a coup de main by which he filled Sulaimani town with Persian Kurd freebooters. He then entered upon a campaign, and, after defeating a small British force at Tasluja on May 26 1919, was himself defeated and captured wounded at Bazian Pass on June 20 1919.
Since the future status of Kurdistan had not been determined at that time by the League of Nations, those portions of it which fell south of the northern boundary of the Mosul vilayet were directed from Bagdad. The expedition of Major Noel in 1919 to northern Kurdistan had revealed a very general and genuine desire for separation from Turkey and independence.
The Treaty of Sevres, signed on Aug. 10 1920, provided for these aspirations as follows (Section III.): (Article 62.)" A Commission sitting at Constantinople and corn posed of three members appointed by the British, French and Italian Governments respectively shall draft within six months from the coming into force of the present Treaty a scheme of local autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish areas lying east of the Euphrates, south of the southern boundary of Armenia as it may be hereafter determined, and north of the frontier of Turkey with Syria and Mesopotamia, as defined in Article 27, II. (2) and (3). If unanimity cannot be secured on any question, it will be referred by the members of the Commission to their respective Governments. The scheme shall contain in full safeguards for the protection of the Assyro-Chaldeans and other racial or religious minorities within these areas, and with this object a Commission composed of British, French, Italian, Persian and Kurdish representatives shall visit the spot to examine and decide what rectifications, if any, should be made in the Turkish frontier where, under the provisions of the present Treaty, that frontier coincides with that of Persia."(Article 63.)" The Turkish Government hereby agrees to accept and execute the decisions of both the Commissions mentioned in Article 62 within three months from their communication to the said Government."(Article 64.)" If within one year from the coming into force of the present Treaty the Kurdish peoples within the areas defined in Article 62 shall address themselves to the Council of the League of Nations in such a manner as to show that a majority of the population of these areas desires independence from Turkey, and if the Council then considers that these peoples are capable of such independence and recommends that it should be granted to them, Turkey hereby agrees to execute such a recommendation, and to renounce all rights and title over these areas.
"The detailed provisions of such renunciation will form the subject of a separate agreement between the Principal Allied Powers and Turkey. When such renunciation takes place, no objection will be raised by the Principal Allied Powers to the voluntary adhesion to such an independent Kurdish State of the Kurds inhabiting that part of Kurdistan which has hitherto been included in the Mosul vilayet." Some suitable temporary status for the Kurds of the Mosul vilayet and the south, which are included in the British mandate, was under consideration in 1921. (E. B. S.)