Military Wiki
Sheikh Said Rebellion
Part of Kurdish rebellions
Date8 February 1925[1] - March 1925
LocationDiyarbakır and Mardin areas
Result Decisive Turkish victory. Revolt suppressed; Mosul province is assigned to British Mandate of Mesopotamia
Alevi tribes (Hormekan and Lolan)
Kurdish tribes
Commanders and leaders
Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Kâzım İnanç (Third Army)
Mürsel Bakû (VII Corps)
Naci Eldeniz (V Corps)
Sheikh Said (POW) and executed afterwards
25,000 men (fewer than 12,000 are armed troops; the rest are unarmed logistical troops)[1]
52,000 men (25,000 are armed troops)[2]
15,000 men[2]
Casualties and losses
15,000-20,000[3] or 40,000-250,000 civilians killed[4]

Sheikh Said Rebellion (Kurdish:Serhildana Şêx Seîdê Pîran, Turkish: Şeyh Said İsyanı, contemporary name: Genç Hâdisesi means "Genç Incident") was a rebellion to revive the Islamic Caliphate System and used elements of Kurdish nationalism to recruit.[7] It was led by Sheikh Said and a group of former Ottoman soldiers also known as Hamidiye soldiers. The rebellion was particularly of two Kurdish groups, the Zaza people and the speakers of the related Kurmanji dialect of Kurdish: it "was led specifically by the Zaza population and received almost full support in the entire Zaza region and some of the neighbouring Kurmanji-dominated regions".[8]


The Azadî was dominated by officers from the former Hamidiye, a Kurdish tribal militia established under the Ottoman Empire to deal with the Armenians and sometimes even to keep the Kizilbash under control. According to various historias the main reason the revolt took place was that various elements of Turkish society were unhappy with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's abolition of the Islamic Caliphate system. There have been questionable British sources who label this as a nationalistic revolt by Kurds. While it can be considered we must understand that Britain was a sworn enemy of both the Islamic Caliphate and the Turks. According to British intelligence reports, the Azadî officers had eleven grievances. Apart from inevitable Kurdish cultural demands and complaints of Turkish maltreatment, this list also detailed fears of imminent mass deportations of Kurds. They also registered annoyance that the name Kurdistan did not appear on maps, at restrictions on the Kurdish language and on Kurdish education and objections to alleged Turkish economic exploitation of Kurdish areas, at the expense of Kurds.[citation needed]

It was Sheikh Said who convinced Hamidiye commanders to support a fight for the return of Islamic Caliphate system.[9]

Certain among you have taken as a pretext for revolt the abuse by the governmental administration, some others have invoked the defence of the Caliphate,.

—President of the military tribunal that sentenced the rebels, 28 June 1925[10][11]

Some claim British assistance was sought realizing that Kurdistan could not stand alone.[12]


Sheikh Said appealed to all Muslims of Turkey to join in the rebellion being planned. The tribes which actually participated were mostly Zazas. However the Xormak and Herkî, two Zaza-Qizilbash tribes were the most active and effective opponents of this rebellion. The participation from Kurds (Kurmanchs) was almost non-existent except a handful of Hamidiye leaders. Mindful of the depredations of the Hamidiye against them (especially the Hamidiye commanded by Xalid Beg Cîbran), other Alevi tribes also refused to join the rebellion.

In one of the bigger engagements, in the night of 6–7 March, the forces of Sheikh Said laid siege to the city of Diyarbakır with 5,000-10,000 men.[13][14] The Muslim Revivalists attacked the city at all four gates simultaneously. All of their attacks were repelled by the numerically inferior Turkish garrison, with the use of machine gun fire and mortar grenades. When the rebels retreated the next morning, the area around the city was full of dead bodies.[13] When a second wave of attacks failed, the siege was finally lifted on 11 March.[13]

By the end of March, most of the major battles of the Sheikh Said rebellion were over. The rebels were unable to penetrate beyond Hınıs, ironically this was one of the two major areas where Sheikh Said was well known and he enjoyed considerable influence there (he had a tekke in Hınıs). This failure excluded the possibility of extending the rebellion.[15]

The main part of the uprising was over by the end of March, as the Turkish authorities, according to Martin van Bruinessen, crushed the rebellion with continual aerial bombardments and a massive concentration of forces.[16]

During this rebellion, the Turkish government used its airplanes for bombing raids in Palu-Bingöl area. In the course of this operation, the airfield near Elâzığ road was used.[17]

However according to the British Air Ministry there are few reports on the use of Turkish airplanes in suppressing the Sheikh Said rebellion.[18] The reports originate from the British Air Command at Mosul, which was in charge of intelligence for all of Iraq.[18] At the beginning of the rebellion the Turks had one squadron (filo) consisting of 7 airplanes. Of these only 2 were serviceable.[19] Later four more arrived. The Turkish Air Force deployed a total of 11 airplanes against the rebellion, however, only 6 were serviceable.[19]


Sheikh Said was captured around 1925 and executed by hanging. This was the last serious attempt for Turks to revive the Caliphate system. The rebellion diminished the negotiating power of Turkey, and the Ottoman province of Mosul was assigned to the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. In the Fall of 1927, Sheikh Abdurrahman (brother of Sheikh Said) began a series of revenge attacks on Turkish garrisons in Palu and Malatya.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Robert W. Olson (1989). The emergence of Kurdish nationalism and the Sheikh Said Rebellion, 1880-1925. University of Texas Press. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-292-77619-7. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Olson, 1989, page 107
  3. The Militant Kurds: A Dual Strategy for Freedom, Vera Eccarius-Kelly, page 86, 2010
  4. (page 104)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  8. Mehmed S. Kaya (2011), The Zaza Kurds of Turkey: A Middle Eastern Minority in a Globalised Society, I.B.Tauris, 15 Jun 2011. p64
  10. Viennot, Jean-Pierre (1974) Contribution á l'étude de la Sociologie et de l'Histoire du Mouvement National Kurde: 1920 á nos Jours. Paris, Institut Nationale des Langues et Civilisations Orientales. p.108
  11. White, Paul J. (1995). "Ethnic Differentiation among the Kurds: Kurmancî, Kizilbash and Zaza". pp. 67–90. 
  12. (Olson 1989, p. 45)
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Uğur Ümit Üngör (2012-03-01). The Making of Modern Turkey: Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia, 1913-1950. OUP Oxford. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-19-965522-9. 
  14. Olson, 1989, page 202.
  15. Robert W. Olson (1989). The emergence of Kurdish nationalism and the Sheikh Said Rebellion, 1880-1925. University of Texas Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-292-77619-7. 
  16. van Bruinessen, Maarten Martinus (1978). "Agha, Shaikh and State: On the Social and Political Organization of Kurdistan". Utrecht: University of Utrecht. ISBN 1-85649-019-X.  (also London: Zed Books, 1992)[page needed]
  17. (Olson 2000, p. 77)
  18. 18.0 18.1 Die Welt des Islams. E.J. Brill.. 2000. p. 77. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Olson, 1989, page 120.


  • Olson, Robert W (March 2000). "The Kurdish Rebellions of Sheikh Said (1925), Mt. Ararat (1930), and Dersim (1937-8): Their Impact on the Development of the Turkish Air Force and on Kurdish and Turkish Nationalism". pp. 67–94. Digital object identifier:10.1163/1570060001569893. 

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