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Sason (Armenian: Սասուն Sasun; Kurdish: Qabilcewz from Arabic: قبل جوز; formerly known as Sasun or Sassoun) is a district in the Batman Province of Turkey. It was formerly part of the sanjak of Siirt, which was in Diyarbakır vilayet until 1880. It was in Bitlis Vilayet in 1892. Later it became part of Muş sanjak in Bitlis vilayet. Sason remained part of Muş until 1927. It was one of the districts of Siirt province until 1993. The boundaries of the district varied considerably in time. The current borders are not the same as in the 19th century. This is when the district of Sasun was situated more to the north (mostly territory now included in the central district of Muş).
Sasun, as it is called by Armenians, holds a prominent role in Armenian culture and history. It is the setting of Daredevils of Sassoun, Armenia's national epic. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was a major location of Armenian fedayi activities, who staged two uprisings against the Ottoman authorities. They rebelled against the Kurdish tribes in 1894 and 1904.
History[change | change source]
Historically the area was known as Sasun, part of the historical Armenian Highland. Sasun was in the Arzanene province of the ancient Armenian Kingdom. Later the region was ruled by the Mamikonian dynasty from around 772 until 1189/1190. This is when the Mamikonians moved to Cilicia after being forced out by Shah-Armen.
The Ottoman period[change | change source]
The region was eventually conquered by the Ottoman Empire, becoming part of the sanjak of Muş in Bitlis Vilayet, and continued to hold a substantial population of Armenians. During this period, Sason was a federation of some forty Armenian villages, whose inhabitants were known as Sasuntsis (Armenian: Սասունցի). Surrounded by fierce Kurdish tribes to whom they were often forced to pay tribute, the Sasuntsis were able to maintain an autonomy free of Turkish rule until the end of the 19th century when the Kurds themselves were finally brought under government control. Proud warriors, the Sasuntsis made all their own weapons and relied on nothing from the outside world.
In 1893, about three to four thousand nomadic Kurds from the Diyarbakır area entered the Sason region. This incursion of nomads, who customarily used the mountain meadows of the area in summer for their herds, was harmful to the sedentary Armenians. The Kurds were responsible for bringing economic ruin to the agrarian community of the Armenian villagers. They would steal livestock and demand the Armenians to pay a second tax (that is, a separate tax in addition to the one Armenians paid to the Ottoman government). When Armenians decided to challenge the Kurds, there was a fight and a Kurd was killed. Using the Kurd's death as a reason, Turkish officials allowed a Kurdish attack against the Armenians of Sason.
The Kurds, however, were successfully driven off by the armed Armenian villagers. But that success was then seen as a possible threat by the Ottoman authorities. In 1894 the villagers refused to pay taxes unless the Ottoman authorities protected them against more Kurdish attacks and extortions. Instead, the government sent a force of about 3,000 soldiers and Kurdish irregulars to disarm the villagers. This ended in a general massacre of between 900 to 3,000 men, women and children. The "Sasun affair" was investigated by European Powers. This resulted in demands that Ottoman Turkey initiate reforms in the six "Armenian vilayets". Abdul Hamid II's response to those demands culminated in the anti-Armenian pogroms of 1895 and 1896.
As part of the Hamidian massacres, it is estimated that at least 1,000 Armenian villagers were slain in the Sason atrocity. This was caused by the buildup of Ottoman troops in early 1894. Officials and military officers involved in the Sason massacres were decorated and rewarded.
Modern Sason[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
- Thierry, J.M., Sasun. Voyages archéologiques, Revue des études arméniennes 23, 1992, p.320; Verheij, Jelle. ’Les frères de terre et d'eau’ : sur le rôle des Kurdes dans les massacres arméniens de 1894-1896", in: Bruinessen, M. van & Blau, Joyce (eds), Islam des Kurdes (special issue of Les Annales de l'Autre islam 5, Paris, 1998) p.239
- Hewsen, Robert H. Armenia: A Historical Atlas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 95. ISBN 0-226-33228-4.
- Hewsen, Armenia, p. 206.
- Hewsen, Armenia p. 167.
- Balakian, Peter. The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. New York: HarperCollins. p. 54. ISBN 0-06-055870-9.
- Eliot, Charles. Turkey in Europe, p.405. 1908.
- Quataert, Don. An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire, p.880. Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-521-57455-2
- Balakian, pp. 54-55.
- Hewsen. Armenia, p. 231.
- White, Paul J. Primitive Rebels Or Revolutionary Modernisers?, p.60-61. Zed Books, 2000. ISBN 1-85649-822-0
- Kaiser, Hilmar. Imperialism, Racism, and Development Theories, p.6. Gomidas Institute, 1997. ISBN 1-884630-02-2
- Chisholm, Hugh. The Encyclopædia Britannica, p.568. The Encyclopædia Britannica Co., 1910.
- Chisholm, Hugh. The Encyclopædia Britannica, p. 268.