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Kurdish: Dêrsîm
Zaza: Dêsim
Armenian: Դերսիմի
A 1911 map of Dersim showing the routes traveled by Captain L. Molyneux-Seel, British Vice-Consul in Van
A 1911 map of Dersim showing the routes traveled by Captain L. Molyneux-Seel, British Vice-Consul in Van
Largest cityTunceli
Ethnic groups
Hurrians, Hattians, Urartians, Luwians, Cimmerians, Medes, Daylamites, Turkomans
Zazas, Kurds, Turks, Armenians
LocationArmenian highlands
Today part ofTurkey Turkey

Dersim (Zazaki: Dêsim; Kurdish: Dêrsîm; Armenian: Դերսիմի) is a mountainous historical region in the Armenian Highlands, which is in Eastern Turkey today.

The region included all parts of Tunceli Province (Çemişgezek, Hozat, Pertek, Tunceli, Ovacık, Pülümür, Nazımiye, Pertek) Tercan, Erzincan, Kemah and Kemaliye in Erzincan Province, Keban in Elâzığ Province, Kiğı in Bingöl Province and Arapkir in Malatya Province.

History[change | change source]

Isuwa on the map of the ancient Middle East in the beginning of the Amarna letters period, the first half of the 14th century BC.

This region was known as Ishuwa in the 2000s BC. As a result of the struggle of the Ishuva Kingdom, which was established by the Hurrians in the region, with the Hittites, this place passed under the rule of the Hittites towards the 1600s BC. Then it came under the domination of the Urartians and formed the westernmost part of the country of Urartu. After that, it was ruled by Medes and the Persian Achaemenid Empire, next it passed into the hands of the Alexander the Great, king of Macedon.[1] During the reign of Tigranes the Great, the king of Armenia of the Artaxiad dynasty, Dersim was annexed to the kingdom of Armenia, even after the fall of the Artaxiad dynasty, Dersim remained loyal to them and did not submit to the Romans.[2]

Detailed map of Tigranes the Great's Armenian Empire
The Tigranes the Great with four vassal Kings surrounding him

Medieval[change | change source]

The Armenian district of Daranaghi (partly corresponding with Tunceli province) shown as a part of the holdings of the Mamikonian dynasty

After the acceptance of Christianity as the official religion in Armenia, as in many territories subject to Armenia, Dersim, the people resisted the influence of the new religion and adhered to their old religious traditions.[2] After the Byzantine Empire occupied the western parts of Armenian state, they deported as many of the Dersimites as they could capture to Thrace and made these refugees serve as soldiers against the Bulgarian invasion. Despite all Byzantine "tricks", the people of Dersim were able to prevent the establishment of Byzantine influence in their neighbourhood.[3] Also the Seljuks defeated Byzantine Empire in 1093 but the people of Dersim did not submit to the Seljuks.[4] At the time of the establishment of the Safavid Empire, Shi'ism, the official sect of the Safavid Empire, had been able to spread to Dersim in a favourable manner. The Kurds of Dersim showed favour towards Shāh Ismā'īl I and agreed to cede the fortress of Kemah to Ismā'īl as a military base to facilitate the military movements of the Safavids, on condition that their sovereignty and independence would be respected by Ismā'īl.[4]

Ottoman Empire rule[change | change source]

16th century Ottoman (left) and 17th century Safavid (right) miniatures depicting the battle of Chaldiran

Although the Ottoman presence began to be felt in the region after Mehmed II the Conqueror defeated the Aq Qoyunlu in 1473, its incorporation into the Ottoman lands took place after the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514 during the reign of Selim the Grim. However, the harsh and rugged geographical structure of this place caused it to be in the hands of local administrators from time to time, away from state control. They displayed a rebellious situation during the weak periods of the central administrations.[1] The southwestern parts was ruled by the Emirate of Çemişgezek, a hereditary and autonomous Kurdish emirate that existed from the 13th century until 1663,[5] centred on Çemişgezek, which included Mazgirt, Pertek and Sağman.[6] The emirate was inhabited by both Muslims and non-Muslims,[7] and also had a significant Kurdish Alevi population, which flourished and expanded thanks to the self-government secured under Ottoman rule despite Ottoman hostility towards the minority.[8]

In 1848, the Dersim Sanjak was formed within the Erzurum Vilayet. In 1880, the Dersim or Hozat vilayet was formed with Hozat as its center, although by 1888 it was made a sanjak/mutasarrifate of the Mamuret-ul-Aziz vilayet (now Elazığ).[9] Even in 1895 between 1897, many Armenian fedayis took refuge in Dersim and benefited from the baht (of asylum) of the Dersimites and were able to protect themselves against the bathtubs of the Ottoman administration.[10] Various rebellions took place in the region in the 1877, 1885, 1892, 1907, 1911, 1914 and 1916.[1]

In Turkey[change | change source]

With the abolition of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey became the owner of the region. In 1937, an Alevi Kurdish broke out in the region and was suppressed with the deaths of 30,000 Kurds.[11] Following the Tunceli Law 1935, which demanded a more powerful government in the region, the Fourth Inspectorate-General (Umumi Müfettişlik, UM) was created in January 1936.[12] The fourth UM span over the provinces of Elazığ, Erzincan, Bingöl and Tunceli, and was governed by a Governor Commander. Most of the employees in the municipality were to be filled with military personnel and the Governor-Commander had the authority to evacuate whole villages and resettle them in other parts. Also the juridical guarantees did not comply with the law in the other parts in Turkey. The trials were at most 15 days long and sentences could not be appealed. For a release, the Governor Commander had to give his consent. The application of the death penalty was under the authority of the Governor-Commander, while normally it would be the authority of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey to approve such a punishment. In 1946 the Tunceli Law was abolished and the state of emergency removed but the authority of the fourth UM was transferred to the military.[13] The Inspectorates-General was dissolved in 1952 during the Government of the Democrat Party.[14]

People[change | change source]

Armenian family in 1915 from Çemişgezek district, Tunceli
Kurdish tribal leaders of Tunceli (i.e Dersim) in 1895 called Kurdish Sheikhs, Seyid İbrahim, second from the left, was the head of the Abbasan tribe and father of Seyid Riza who organizator of Dersim rebellion

Tunceli's (Dersim) language distribution is 69.5% Kurdish and Zazaki, 29.8% Turkish and 0.74% Armenian in 1927, also according to Savaş Sertel, Zazas are majority people and Zazaki were more common than Kurdish.[15] However, Ahmet Kerim Gültekin defined the province as predominantly Kurdish Alevi.[16] Kurmanji Kurdish is the main dialect around Pertek, while Zazaki is spoken in Hozat, Pülümür, Ovacık and Nazımiye. Both Kurmanji and Zaza is spoken in Tunceli town and Mazgirt.[17] The Dimli (or Zaza) people of Dersim are the descendants of the Deylamites who migrated from the highlands of Gilan region of Iran in the 10th–12th century.[18] The districts of Mazgirt, Nazımiye and Çemişgezek had a large Armenian population during the Ottoman period. A large part of this population must have been deported out of Anatolia with the deportation order of 1915. It is likely that the remaining population migrated to Western Anatolia.[15] The town and district of Çemişgezek is both populated by Turks and Kurds.[19]

The Kurdish and Zaza people of the region are divided into tribes. Of the 20 tribes in Hozat, 17 are Zazaki and 3 are Kurmanji;[20] of the 8 tribes in Çemişgezek, 6 are Zazaki and 2 are Kurmanji;[21] of the 17 tribes in Ovacık, 15 are Zazaki and 2 are Kurmanji;[22] of the 13 tribes in Pülümür, 12 are Zazaki and 1 is Kurmanji;[23] of the 14 tribes in Nazımiye 11 are Zazaki and 3 are Kurmanji;[24] 16 of the 30 tribes in Mazgirt speak Kurmanji and 14 speak Zazaki;[25] while all of the 8 tribes in Pertek speak Kurmanji.[26] The Hozat included present-day central district.

Etymology[change | change source]

According to Nuri Dersimi, it is noteworthy that six centuries before Christ, Greek historians and geographers called the Dersim region Daranis, and in the Bisltun inscriptions of Darius the Great, this region is called Zuza, and the term Zuza is similar to the word Zaza, which is the "Kurdish dialect" spoken in Dersim and its region.[27] According to another thesis, estimated that the name Dersim (Der-sîm "silver gate" in Persian) was given to the region, which frequently changed hands between the Sasanid and Byzantine Empires during the Byzantine period.[1]

Notable people[change | change source]

  • John I Tzimiskes (925–976; Çemişgezek[28]) - Byzantine emperor between 969 and 976 years
  • Seyid Riza (1863–1937; Ovacık) - tribal leader and organizator of Dersim rebellion
  • Vazken Andréassian (1903–1995; Çemişgezek) - engineer, author, survivor of the Armenian genocide
  • Andranik Andréassian (1909–1996; Çemişgezek) - author, editor, survivor of the Armenian genocide
  • Nuri Dersimi (1893–1973; Hozat) - Kurdish nationalist writer, revolutionary and intellectual
  • Aram Achekbashian (1867–1915; Arapkir) - politician from Hunchak
  • Abdullah Cevdet (1869–1932; Arapkir) - intellectual, writer and physician
  • Nicol Galanderia (1881–1944; Kemaliye) - musician
  • Hasan Hayri (1881–1925; Hozat) - politician
  • Soghomon Tehlirian (1897–1960; Tercan) - Armenian who ​​​​assassinated Talaat Pasha
  • Aurora Mardiganian (1901–1994; Çemişgezek) - author, actress, and a survivor of the Armenian genocide
  • Vahagn Davtyan (1922–1996; Arapkir) - poet, translator, publicist and public activist
  • Sait Kırmızıtoprak (1935–1971; Nazımiye) - Kurdish nationalist writer, revolutionary and intellectual
  • Hasan Saltık (1964) - record producer
  • Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (1948; Nazımiye) - economist, retired civil servant, social democratic politician and leader of the Republican People's Party
  • Kamer Genç (1940–2016; Nazımiye) - politician
  • Alican Önlü (1967; Nazımiye) - politician
  • Volga Sorgu (1981; Ovacık) - movie and serial actor
  • Edibe Şahin (1960; Nazımiye) - politician, former mayor of the municipality of Tunceli.
  • Hozan Diyar (1966; Mazgirt) - singer
  • Hüseyin Aygün (1970; Nazımiye) - lawyer and politician
  • Ali Haydar Kaytan (1952–2019; Nazımiye) - miliant, co-founder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
  • Aynur Doğan (1975; Çemişgezek) - singer and songwriter
  • Fatih Mehmet Maçoğlu (1968; Ovacık) - communist politician, current mayor of Tunceli
  • Ferhat Tunç (1964; Ovacık) - singer
  • Mikail Aslan (1972; Hozat) - musician
  • Nilüfer Gündoğan (1977; Nazımiye) - Dutch politician

Originating from Dersim[change | change source]

  • Turgut Özal (1927–1993; Çemişgezek[29][30]) - former president and prime minister of Turkey
  • Gültan Kışanak (1961)[31] - journalist, author and politician
  • Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius (1977) - politician, current Minister of Justice and Security in Netherlands
  • Zuhal Demir (1980)[32] - lawyer, politician, current Flemish minister of Environment, Justice, Tourism and Energy in Belgium
  • Yıldız Tilbe (1966)[33] - prominent singer

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Tuncel (2012), p. 380–381.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Dersimi (1952), p. 73.
  3. Dersimi (1952), p. 73–74.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Dersimi (1952), p. 74.
  5. Ünal 1999, pp. 262–263.
  6. van Bruinessen & Boeschoten (1988), p. 20.
  7. Uzun (2017), p. 261.
  8. Gezik (2021), pp. 565–566.
  9. Yıldız (2014), p. 124.
  10. Dersimi 1952, p. 41.
  11. Gerlach (2016), p. 401.
  12. Cağaptay (2006), p. 108–110.
  13. Bayır (2016), p. 139–141.
  14. Faroqhi (2008), p. 343.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Sertel (2014), p. 8.
  16. Gültekin (2019), p. 4.
  17. Malmîsanij (1988), p. 62–67.
  18. Asatrian (1995), p. 405–411.
  19. Andrews & Benninghaus (2002), p. 55–57.
  20. Dersimi (1952), p. 46.
  21. Dersimi (1952), p. 47.
  22. Dersimi (1952), p. 48.
  23. Dersimi (1952), p. 53.
  24. Dersimi (1952), p. 56.
  25. Dersimi (1952), p. 55.
  26. Dersimi (1952), p. 50.
  27. Dersimi (1952), p. 1.
  28. "Çemişgezek" in The Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names, 2005, by John Everett-Heath, Oxford University Press.
  29. "Çemişgezek'e bir gelen geri dönmek istemiyor". Sabah. (in Turkish). Retrieved 9 February 2023. "8. Cumhurbaşkanı Turgut Özal'ın annesi Hafize Özal, Çemişgezek Mezire Köyü doğumlu."
  30. "Turgut Özal'ı rahmetle anıyoruz". Yeni Akit. (in Turkish). Retrieved 9 February 2023. "Babası Malatya/Çırmıktı'lı Ünlüoğulları'ndan banka memuru Mehmet Sıddık Özal, annesi ise Tunceli Çemişgezekli, ilkokul öğretmeni Hafize Hanım (d. 1906 - ö. 1988) olan Turgut Özal kısmen Kürt kökenlidir."
  31. "Gültan Kışanak Kimdir?". Bianet. (in Turkish). 9 February 2023. "Ailesi zamanında Dersim'den göçerek Elazığ'ın merkez köylerinden Sünköy'e yerleşmiş bulunan Ağuce aşiretine mensuptur."
  32. "Belçika’nın Kürt asıllı bakanı Zuhal Demir tehdit edildi"[permanent dead link]. Ahval. (in Turkish). Retrieved 9 February 2023. "Tunceli ve Elazığ kökenli, maden işçisi bir babanın üçüncü çocuğu olan Zuhal Demir, 12 Mart 1980'de Belçika'nın Genk kentinde dünyaya geldi."
  33. "Star'daki Yıldız Tilbe'nin Programında Türk-Kürt Gerginliği...". Haber Vitrini. (in Turkish). Retrieved 9 February 2023. "Programın ilerki bölümlerinde Yıldız Tilbe, “Ulaştırma Bakanından uyarı gelmiş. Benim anam Tuncelili, hem Zaza hem Kürt, babam Ağrılı Kürt. Ben bu topraklarda doğdum, büyüdüm. Kürt neyse benim için Türk de odur, Laz da odur, Çerkez de odur. Hiç bir farkı yoktur birbirinden asla” dedi."

Sources[change | change source]

  • Dersimi, Mehmed Nuri (1952). Kürdistan Tarihinde Dersim (in Turkish). Aleppo: Ani Matbaası. ISBN 975-6876-44-1.
  • Ünal, Mehmet Ali (1999). XVI. yüzyılda Çemişgezek Sancağı (in Turkish). Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi. ISBN 9751609577.
  • Tuncel, Metin (2012). "Tunceli". TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi (in Turkish). Vol. 41. pp. 380–381.
  • Sertel, Savaş (2014). "Türkiye Cumhuriyeti'nin İlk Genel Nüfus Sayımına Göre Dersim Bölgesinde Demografik Yapı". Fırat Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi (in Turkish). 24 (1). Elâzığ: 8. doi:10.18069/fusbed.82073. ISSN 1300-9702.
  • Gültekin, Ahmet Kerim (2019), Kurdish Alevism: Creating New Ways of Practicing the Religion (PDF), University of Leipzig
  • Gerlach, Christian (2016). The Extermination of the European Jews. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-88078-7.
  • Yıldız, Hatip (2014). Osmanlı Yenileşme Döneminde Dersim Sancağı'nda Eğitim [Education in Dersim Sanjak during the Ottoman Reform Period] (in Turkish). Tunceli: Tunceli Üniversitesi. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  • Cağaptay, Soner (2006). Islam, Secularism and Nationalism in Modern Turkey: Who is a Turk?. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-17448-5.
  • Malmîsanij, Mehemed (1988). "Dımıli ve Kurmanci Lehçelerinin Köylere Göre Dağılımı" [Distribution of Dimili and Kurmanji Dialects by Villages]. Berhem (PDF) (in Turkish). 3: 62–67.
  • Asatrian, Garnik (1995). "DIMLĪ". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. VI. Fasc. 4. pp. 405–411. ISBN 978-0933273634.
  • Bayır, Derya (2016). Minorities and Nationalism in Turkish Law. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-09579-8.
  • Andrews, Peter; Benninghaus, Rüdiger (2002). Ethnic Groups in the Republic of Turkey: Supplement and Index. ISBN 9783895002298.
  • van Bruinessen, Martin; Boeschoten, Hendrik (1988). Evliya Çelebi in Diyarbekir. Brill Publishers. ISBN 9004081658.
  • Faroqhi, Suraiya N. (2008). "Guildsmen and handicraft producers". In Faroqhi, Suraiya N. (ed.). The Cambridge History of Turkey. Vol. 3. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-62096-3.
  • Gezik, Erdal (2021). "The Kurdish Alevis: The Followers of the Path of Truth". In Bozarslan, Hamit (ed.). The Cambridge History of the Kurds. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781108623711.
  • Uzun, Celalettin (2017). "Osmanlı Döneminde Çemişgezek Şehri" (in Turkish). 28. Firat University Social Studies Journal. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)