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This page is built in order to principally protect, develop and promote the Zaza language. Therefore the texts mostly are written only on the Zaza language. The articles in Swedish, English and Turkish are here to inform about our language and the difficulties and obstacles that exist. The Zaza language has just been a written language in about fifteen years. Our language belongs to the Indo-European family. About 3-4 million people in foremost southeast Turkey speak the Zaza language.

The index contains all issued edition of the magazine ZazaPress. The first number of the magazine came out in may 2000. This page was activated under 2001.

We hope that you who visit this page receive sufficient information despite that you can't read all the texts that the site contains. If you have any questions or wonder over something write to us on the address zazapress@yahoo.se

Zazaki: Its position among western-Iranian languages
By Paul Ludwig (
html) and (pdf)

A Grammar of Dimili
Terry Lynn Todd

The Identity of Hewrami Speakers
Amir Hassanpour

The Debate on the Ethnic Identity of the Kurdish Alevis
Martin van Bruinessen

Dynamics of the Kurdish &Kirmanc-Zaza Problems in Anatolia
Paul White

Book reviews: Grammatik der Zaza-Sprache
Geoffrey Haig

Poems by
Faruk remet

Poems by
Susanne Ayata

The Zaza Flag
Jaume Oll

Notes on some religious customs and institutions
G.S.Asatrian and N.KH.Gevorgian

A Panorama of Indo-European Languages
Albert Von le Coq

Gorani and Zaza

A joint work by Oskar Mann and Karl Hadank
Internationale Presse-Korrespondenz

The difference between Zaza, Kurdish and Turkish
By Faruk remet



By: Ludwig Paul

Zazaki is a West Iranian language spoken in Southeast Anatolia, northwest to the Kordi (Kurdish) speaking regions, by approx. 2 Mio. Since the beginning of the 20th century Zazaki has been accepted as a language of its own among linguists[1], and not any longer merely as a Kordi dialect. Nevertheless until recently the Zaza people were generally held to be Kurds speaking a special dialect of Kordi. Due to the oppressive minority and language policy of the Republic of Turkey, until 15 years ago there existed practically no indigenous Zazaki written literature, and so no means by which the Zaza people could find out anything about their own language and cultural identity[2].

Only after the military coup d tat of 1980 and the following emigration of Turkish leftists, many of them Kurds, to countries of Western Europe the publication in Zazaki started in the exile - then still under the label "Kordi dialect". In 1984 AYRE (mill"), the first exclusive Zazaki journal, was published by the pioneer of Zaza nationalism Ebubekir Pamuku (d. 1993). Considered an outsider among the Zaza, or even a Turkish agent" trying to split off the Zaza from their Kordi sister people, Pamuku finally saw some fruits of his labour when in the early 90ies a stronger awareness of an own cultural identity started gaining a foothold among the speakers of Zazaki. At present the further development of Zazaki language and culture is endangered by the Turkish policy of purifying" Eastern Anatolia of its indigenous Kordi and Zaza population, as well as by the long-standing process of forced and unforced assimilation (to Turkish and Kordi). As moreover there is even religious and political discord among the Zaza, it is far from certain whether the making of the Zaza nation" will reach a successful conclusion.

Although the history of Zazaki studies is already 140 years old, we still lack a comprehensive grammar of even one of its dialects, and a reliable survey of its dialectology[3]. During the last four years I have, preparing my PhD thesis, which is intended to supply this want. In what follows, I will first give an outline of the historical phonology of Zazaki, and then sketch a couple of its morphological features whith the aim, in both cases to determine more precisely than has been done hitherto the position of Zazaki among West Iranian languages and dialects. First attempts at achieving this aim have been made by Vahman and Asatrian recently[4].

The West Iranian languages and dialects are generally divided into a Southern and a Northern group. Already in the Old Iranian period the sound system of Old Persian (OP), the language of the Royal Achaemenian Court centered in Southern Iran, showed specific historical changes opposing it to the more conservative Avestan language (Av.) spoken at about the same time. In the Middle Iranian period this division became more distinct as Middle Persian (MP), the successor to Old Persian spoken in southern Iran, showed further sound changes not shared by the still more conservative northern Parthian (Pth.). Most of the dialectal distinctions attested in Old and Middle West Iranian, and some more in addition, are found in modern West Iranian languages and dialects as well. Although there are a couple of well-defined phonetic laws seperating the southwest from the northwest, it must be said that there is, in all historical stages, a varying amount of interdialectal borrowing whichs blurs the picture; furthermore, due to migrations in all periods, the SW/NW-distinction does not for all languages coincide with the geographical reality of today[5]. One major aim of this paper is to show that the NW/SW-distinction is not a clear-cut, but should rather be explained in terms of graduation, with each language attributed its position on a scale ranging from the most north-western" to the most southwestern". To facilitate comprehemsion of this study, a simplified list of the most important West Iranian languages and dialect groups is given below, together with the sketch of a map indicating their geographical location (fig. 1)[6]:


[1] See O. Mann, Mundarten der Zaza, hauptschlich aus Siwerek und Kor (Kurdisch-Persische Forschungen, Abt. III, Bd. IV), ed. K. Hadank, Berlin 1932, p. 18.

[2] Zaza" denotes the people, Zazaki" their language. There are other names for this language used by its speakers, e.g. Diml" or zon m" (lit. our language"), but Zazaki" seems to have gained widest acceptance in scientific publications.

[3] The nearest thing to a comprehensive grammar of a single Zazaki dialect published so far is T. L. Todds A Grammar of Dimil (also known as Zaza), Ann Arbor (UMI) 1985.

[4] F. Vahman and G. S. Asatrian, Gleanings from Zz vocabulary, Iranica Varia, Papers in honour of Ehsan Yarshater (= Acta Iranica 30), ed. J. Duchesne-Guillemin, Leiden 1990, pp. 267-275; and G. S. Asatrian, Ee raz o meste Zaza v sisteme iranskyx jazykov, Patma-banasirakan hands 1990/4, Erevan, pp. 154-163.

[5] E.g. northwestern" Bal is spoken in the SE, but southwestern" [N.]-Tt in the NW

[6] The NW/SW-dichotomy is also a simplification (and will be questioned below). The dialect grouping followed here corresponds in general to that proposed by P. Lecoq in his articles dealing with NWIr. dialects in R. Schmitt (ed..) Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum (Wiesbaden 1989) (=CLI). Some of the dialects groups are more or less geographical and by no means uniform (esp. the CD), nevertheless this grouping seems to be a justifiable compromise for the moment.

The linguistic material concerning the modern dialects in this paper is mainly (unless otherwise stated) taken from the following sources.

Caspian: M. Pyande-Langerd, Farhang-e Gl va Daylam (Teheran 1987);

Semnn: A. Christensen, Contributions la dialectologie iranienne II (Copenhagen 1935);

H Homdoxt, Gye-e Aftar (Teheran 1992); Central D.:

A. Christensen, Contributions la dialectologie iranienne [I] (Copenhagen 1930);

O. Mann, Die Mundarten von Khunsr, Mahallt, Natnz, Nyin, Smnn, Svnd und S-Kohrd (Kurdisch-Persische Forschungen, Abt. III, Bd. I, ed. K. Hadank Berlin 1926);

M. Moqaddam, Gyeh-ye Vafs va tiyn va Tafre (Teheran 1949); Tle: B. V. Miller, Talyskij jazyk (Moskau 1953);

L. A. Pirejko, Talysko-russkij slovar (Moskau 1976);

G. Lazard, Le dialecte Tle de Msle (Gln)', Studia Iranica 7/2, 1978, pp. 251-268;

zar: E. Yarshater, A grammar of Southern Tati dialects (The Hague 1969);

Y. Zok, Gye-e Keringn (Teheran 1954), and Gye-e Galn-qaya (Harzand") (Teheran 1957);

Zazaki: from my forthcoming PhD thesis; Grn: D. N. MacKenzie, The dialect of Awroman (Kopenhagen 1966);

Kurdish: D. N. MacKenzie, Kurdish dialect studies I (London 1961).


A Grammar of Dimili

Av. Terry Lynn Todd

Dimili is an Iranian language, part of the Indo-Iranian subgroup of Indo-European. It is spoken in central eastern Turkey by perhaps as many as one million people. The Turks and Kirmanji Kurdish speakers around them call the language Zaza which has pejorative connotations (Mann-Hadank, 1932:1). The most important analysis of the language is based of fieldwork done in the first few years of this century by Otto Mann whose notes were edited and published posthumously by Karl Hadank (Mann-Hadank, 1932).

Prior to Hadank, Peter Lerch (1857:49-87) had published some forty pages of Dimili texts along with some Kirmanji texts but no grammar was attempted and his translations are not believed to be accurate. A few years later Friedrich Mller attempted an analysis of Dimili based on Lerch's texts but achieved little more than a comparison of some Dimili words with cognates, mostly in New Persian. In 1862 W. Strecker and O. Blau published less than 100 words reportedly from the vicinity of Quziljan in the mountainous Dersim area of central eastern Turkey. Blau concluded that it was a dialect very similar to the one which Lerch had recorded. Albert von Le Coq (1903) published two volumes of texts from the "Cermuk/Kosa" area near Siverek, Turkey. Volumes which unfortunately were not available for the present research. Again no grammatical sketch was attempted.

Mann's fieldwork and Hadank's careful analysis of Mann's notes have long been recognized as extremely valuable andscholarly works. Of particular significanse are the historical, cultural, and folkloristic contributions, the detailed comparisons of vocabulary with other Iranian and non-Iranian languages and the treatment of syntax which far surpassed that of most grammars of that era. Their work was also ramarkable for the careful separation of various dialects of Dimili: the greatest description was of the dialect spoken in Siverek accompanied by 35 pages of texts, individual sentences and their translations. But a contrastive sketch of the dialect of Kor was included as well as 10 pages of vocabulary of the Bijaq dialect, 25 pages of analysis and vocabulary of the Chabakhchur (Bingπl) dialect and 16 pages of analysis, vocabulary and texts of the Kighi dialect.

To the credit of Mann and Hadank, the present research confirms that their work is remarkably trustworthy and insightful. Their research attests virtually all of the forms found in the present corpus plus a few which do not occur in the present corpus. Their interpretation of those forms is occasionally inadequate but that is primarily due to the linguistic time period in which the description was done.

Their research was done early in the development of modern linguistics and since that time linguistic research in the Dimili speaking area has not been encouraged. Our experience with grammars written in that era has made us cautious about taking them as accurate and definitive. Wherever possible modern linguists have sought to do new fieldwork to substantiate the older grammars, to extend our understandig of the languages described and to describe them in terms that reflect more recent insights into linguistics in general.

For Dimili that effort has been hindered by the fact that their area has been under martial law almost continuously since the 1920's and serious linguistic research has not been permitted (MacKenzie, 1960:xvii). Windfuhr (1976) complited from Mann-Hadank the more important details that can be drawn from that work and sketched a "Mini-Grammar of Zaza" that consists of a brief historical survey of the scholarship and a sixteen page structuralist abstract. The mini-grammar unfortunately remains unpublished but it was graciously made available for this research.

Mann concluded (Mann-Hadank, 1932:19) that Dimili is not a Kurdish dialect and Hadank concluded (1932:4) that the name Dimili is most likely a metathesis "Daylem", i.e. the language reflects that of the Daylamites who came from an area called Daylam on the south coast of the Caspian and who were often distinguished from the Kurds in medieval references. Dimili speakers today consider themselves to be Kurds and resent scholarly conclusions which indicate that their language is not Kurdish. Speakers of Dimili are Kurds psychologically, socially, culturally, economically, and politically. It is quite possible, especially since the term Kurd has always been ill-defined (MacKenzie, 1961b:69), that speakers of Dimili should be identified as Kurds today.

The language, however, is distinct from Kurdish dialects. MacKenzie (1961b) attempted to define Kurdish by citing elements that were common to all Kurdish dialects that distinguished them from other Iranian dialects. Refering to the fact that historic /-sm/ and /-xm/ have become /-v/ or /-w/ in Kurdish and the retention of /.-/ in the stem of the verb 'go', he says, "In short, apart from this /.-/ and the treatment of /-sm/ and /-xm/, I can find no feature which is both common to all the dialects of Kurdish and unmatched outside them." (1961b:72) Those features are not shared by Dimili. Tedesco (1921:199) based on Lerch's texts classified Dimili as a central dialect. Kurdish he classified as north-western (1921:198). See also Windfuhr's comments (Azami and Windfuhr, 1972:13) and distribution maps (Azami and Windfuhr, 1972:198-990 regarding the development of /*fr-/ into /hr-/ and the present indicative based on the old present participle in /-and/ which Dimili shares with other dialects.




Amir Hassanpour
Research Associate
Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations
University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

The Identity of Hewrami Speakers:
Reflections on the Theory and Ideology of Comparative Philology

Published in:Anthology of Gorani Kurdish Poetry
Compiled by A. M. Mardoukhi, Edited by Anwar Soltani
London, 1998, ISBN 0 9529050 00

The European authorities generally maintain that Gorani [Hewrami] is not Kurdish and that the people who speak it are not Kurds; but the people themselves feel themselves as Kurds in every way (Edmonds 1957:10)

This observation by C.J. Edmonds, a European who was quite familiar with the language, culture and politics of the Kurds, has become a clich of Kurdish studies. Until the 1960s, however, few Kurds know about the European constructions of the genealogy of Gorani or, as many Kurds call it, Hewrami. For one thing, the Western literature on the Kurdish language was generally not available in Kurdistan. Another limitation was the ban on debating Kurdish issues especially in Turkey, Iran, and Syria. When Kurdish intellectuals gradually learned about the identification of "Gorani" as a non-Kurdish speech, the response was, generally, resentment and resistance. Such a spirit pervades the publication, in this volume, of the manuscript of "Gorani" poems acquired by the British Museum in the mid-nineteenth century. The editor of the book, Anwar Soltani, unequivocally treats the Hewrami poems as genuine Kurdish literature.

Although European or Western1 claims that Hewrami is not Kurdish are rooted in "scholarly" or academic traditions of historical and comparative philology, they cannot be, like all other knowledge forms, but social constructions. Thus, far from being objective, they are influenced by the political, ideological, epistemological, and cultural contexts in which academic disciplines emerge and live. Moreover, under the political conditions of Kurdistan, almost any claim, by Kurds and non-Kurds, on the status of the language acquires a political dimension. This is in part because the Kurds today are a stateless nation subjected to harsh measures of linguicide and ethnocide (see, e.g., Skutnabb-Kangas and Bucak 1994). One justification for the assimilation of the Kurds in Turkey, Iran and Syria has been the official denial of a single Kurdish language. The ideologists of Middle Eastern states reduce Kurdish to a conglomerate of unrelated dialects obscurely mixed with Turkish, Persian or Arabic. Even when Kurdish is considered a "purer form of Persian," it still remains a dialect of this language without any right to official status as a medium of administration or education. To many Kurdish nationalists, genealogies which assign Hewrami, Dimili (Zaza) or, for that matter, Luri, a non-Kurdish identity serve the interests of the Middle Eastern states.

Kurdish Constructions of their Language Genealogy. The first history of Kurdistan, Sharaf-nameh, composed by a Kurdish prince in 1597, identified the Gorans as one of the four constituting elements of the Kurdish people, which are different in "language and manners" (Chref-ou'ddne 1870:27). Three centuries later, Haji Qadiri Koyi (1817?-1898), in one of his poems extolling the great literary figures of Kurdistan, did not hesitate to include Hewrami poets among them (Koyi 1986:219-27). During the twentieth century, Hewrami poetry has been indisputably presented as Kurdish literature in both the print and broadcast media.

Written sources aside, neither the speakers of Hawrami nor their neighbouring speakers of Central (Sorani) and Southern Kurdish have ever doubted the Kurdish identity of the people and their dialect and culture. Many Sorani speakers do, in fact, regard Hewrami as a purer and older form of Kurdish. It is important to emphasize that this indigenous construction of Kurdish language genealogy was not based on any grammatical or structural analysis of the dialects concerned. It was, rather, rooted in the lived experience of speech communities that have communicated mostly through the oral, rather than written, medium.

Western Constructions of Hewrami Genealogy. The non-Kurdish identity of Hewrami was first problematized by European philologists in the nineteenth century. An early major Western work on Hewrami was apparently the short grammatical survey of the dialect written by Rieu in his Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the British Museum (1881). This pioneering work compared Hewrami (called the "Guran dialect" by the author) with Persian and classed it, without hesitation, as a Persian dialect. Interestingly, Rieu, "Keeper of the Oriental MSS." in the British Museum, noted that C.J. Rich, the buyer of one of the Hewrami manuscripts, had identified the work as Kurdish: "Two poems in the Guran dialect of the Courdish Language; purchased at Sine, August 1820." Rieu added, however, that "[A]lthough spoken in Kurdist~n, the dialect is essentially Persian. In its vocabulary and grammatical structure it agrees in the main with the language of Iran, from which it differs, however, by certain phonetical changes, by its verbal inflexions, its prepositions, and some other peculiar words" (Rieu 1881:728). Using Persian grammar as a touchstone, Rieu recorded Hewrami phonetic and morphological features as variations or transformations of their Persian counterparts. Almost all the brief grammatical descriptions are stated in the following ideologically slanted rules, in which Persian is the standard and Hewrami its dialectal deviation or derivation (Ibid., pp. 729, 730):

Persian /gh/ is often replaced by /kh/, as in /dagh/ 'burn' (/dakh/)..
Most Persian words beginning with /khu/ have in Guran a /w/ alone...
The Guran word has still less declension than Persian...
The past adds, as in Persian, u or a to the root...
In a few words /l/ appears to have taken the place of Persian /r/ ...

It is remarkable that, more than a century later, the construction of Hewrami genealogy by Western linguists was no more than a reiteration of Rieu, which MacKenzie (1965:255) assessed as a "masterly grammatical sketch."2

Unlike Major E.B. Soane, another contributor to Hewrami studies, Rieu had not experienced the linguistic and cultural life of Hewrami and its neighbouring communities. Much like Rieu, however, Soane declared categorically in 1921 that Hewrami was a non-Kurdish language, a "Persian variant":

The Grn language itself has been termed a Kurdish dialect. It is, however, not so at all. Kurmnj has its characteristic grammatical forms, vocabulary, and idiom which have nothing in common with Grn. The latter, however, shows in its grammatical forms that it is but a Persian variant, long separated from the mother tongue, and having borrowed widely in more recent times both from Kurmnj and from Persian. It is the most northerly of the group of Persian dialects represented by Luristn and comes very close to the Lur languages of extreme northern Luristn. At the same time it is the least affected by later Modern Persian, or else split earlier from the original mother tongue (Soane 1921:59).

Soane was writing these words in Sulemani (Sulaymaniyah) while working on a photographic reproduction of the British Museum manuscript of Hewrami poems published in this volume. At the time, he was an official of the British Mandate over Iraq. Before his assignment to Kurdistan during the last stages of the First World War, Soane had lived in Kirmashan (Kirmanshah) where he learned Kurdish. In 1907, he disguised himself as a Persian merchant and travelled to Halabja, a small town close to the foothills of the Hewraman mountains. There, he became the scribe of Adila Khan, whose court was a centre of Kurdish literature in both Hewrami and Sorani Kurdish (see Edmonds 1957:139-182, on life in Halabja and Hewraman). The story is narrated in his To Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in Disguise (Soane 1912; 1926). Having lived at Halabja for at least six months, he had not depicted a Hewrami identity problem or an ethno-linguitic conflict in the mixed Sorani-Hewrami environment. In fact, the two sons of Adila Khan, Tahir Beg and Ahmed Mukhtar Beg, who were in close contact with Soane, composed poetry in both Hewrami and Sorani (Tahir Beg 1966).

Next came Vladmir Minorsky, a diplomat and a brilliant scholar who made significant contributions to the study of Kurdish history. He, too, was quite certain, in his major work on "The Guran," about the identity of Hewrami: "That Grn is very distinct from Kurdish there cannot be any doubt..." (1943:88-89). Like other students of Kurdish society, he was familiar with the inseparability, in the minds of the native speakers, of Hewrami and Kurdish. Still, he tried to correct those who use the two names interchangeably. He wrote, for instance:

In prose we know only the religious tracts of the Ahl-i Haqq. The copy of their religious book Saranjm, of which in 1911 I published a Russian translation, is in Persian... Hjj Ni'mat-allh, author of the Firqn al-akhbr, says that he wrote in "Kurdish" a Risla-yi tahqq, and by "Kurdish" he most probably means Grn, for elsewhere (p. 3) he writes that "Kurdish" was the language (zabn-i zhir) of Sultan Sohk, whom we know to have spoken Grn. The "Kurdish" quotations in the Firqn prove also to be in Grn (Ibid, p. 89).

Elsewhere, he notes that "[T]he same MS. contains a "Kurdish" (i.e. Grn) alphabet in 20 verses" (p. 92, note 4).

The most important refinement of Rieu's discovery can be found in the work of D.N. MacKenzie who, since the 1960s, has emphasized the non-Kurdish character of Hewrami. His Kurdish Dialect Studies, a comparative and descriptive survey of the Northern (Kurmanji) and Central (Sorani) dialects, is based on field work in Iraqi Kurdistan. Although an excellent descriptive study, it has been criticized by some descriptive linguists for its preoccupation with philological considerations (Paper 1962; McCarus 1964). While other philologists generally mention, at least in passing, the Hewrami speakers' self-identification as Kurds, MacKenzie consistently rejects it as an error. For instance, in his very brief note on the "Iranian dialects" spoken in Iraq, he wrote: "Two other Iranian languages, often erroneously classed as Kurdish, are Grn and Lur" (MacKenzie 1971:1261).

MacKenzie's major work on the genealogy of Kurdish (1961a) is summarized in his article on Kurdish in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, where he denies the existence of a single Kurdish language:

The many forms of speech known to outsiders as Kurdish do not constitute a single, unified language. Instead it can be said that the various Kurdish dialects, which are clearly interrelated and at the same time distinguishable from neighbouring but more distantly Western Iranian languages, fall into three main groups (MacKenzie 1986:479).3

Underlying this statement we find a view of language as a (dialectally) unified speech, and a strong comparativist bias (to qualify as a language, Kurdish must be clearly distinguishable from other "Iranian languages"). After presenting a geogrphical distribution of the northern, central and southern dialects, and identifying Hewrami as a "non-Kurdish speech," MacKenzie presents the dialects in historical-comparativist terms. A few examples will suffice.

Northern Kurdish is more archaic than the other dialects in both its phonetic and morphological structure, and it may be inferred that the greater development of the Central and Southern dialects has been caused by their closer contact with other (Iranian) languages... The common "Iranian" inventory of Northern Kurdish is: a i u, , ... In Central and Southern Kurdish the distinction between v and w is lost, in favour of w. A new distinction is made, however, between palatal l and velarized l () ... (Ibid.).

What makes a "form of speech" Kurdish? According to MacKenzie, "historical sound change" is the main distinguishing feature:

There is no single early historical sound change which characterises Kurdish but a combination of two later changes and one conservative feature serves to identify a dialect as Kurdish, viz. (i) -m-, -$m-, -xm- > -v- (-w-), e.g. nv/w "name", P[ersian] nm; v/w "eye", P a_m; tov/w "seed", P tuxm; (ii) Iranian initial x- > k-, e.g. kar "donkey", P xar; kn "spring, source", P xn; ki^r n "to buy", P xardan; (iii) Ir y- > (other West. Ir. > s-), e.g. n "to go", P $udan (Ibid).4

Even if we accept "historical sound changes" as relevant indicators of Kurdishness, one may ask if these three features are adequate yardsticks. In his more detailed study of the features, MacKenzie (1961a:72) writes:

In short, apart from this -, and the treatment of -$m and -xm, I can find no feature which is both common to all the dialects of Kurdish and unmatched outside them. To isolate Kurdish convincingly, therefore, would seem to entail comparing it with at least each West Ir. dialect, listing the common and divergent features. For practical purposes, however, taking Kurdish as 'that which is generally recognized, by Iranists, as Kurdish', it is necessary to consider for comparison only its immediate neighbours, past and present.

When the comparison is done (mostly for Central and Northern dialects), he finds out that Kurdish does not lend itself to a neat genetic classification. MacKenzie admits that "every feature of Kd. has its counterpart in at least one other Ir. dialect" (p. 70). It seems, therefore, that if Kurdish dialects do not fit the phonetic spaces created by comparative reconstructionists, they cannot belong to the same language. Not surprisingly, MacKenzie identifies Zaza and Hewrami as non-Kurdish languages, and argues that the remaining dialects "do not constitute a single, unified language" (1986:479). He has also looked at the non-linguistic, i.e. historical and geographical, evidence, which to a large extent corroborates his genealogy. This is Minorsky's hypothesis of a Gorani and Zaza migration from the Caspian regions of Gilan to Kurdistan (MacKenzie 1989; 1961a:86).

Resentment and Resistance. The most detailed linguistic counter argument was offered by Hewramani (1981), who rejected the historical and linguistic accounts of Soane, Minorsky, MacKenzie and others. By the mid-1990s, many researchers referred to the controversy and, quite often, decisively rejected the philological account (see, e.g., the Kurdish version of Muhemmed's 1990 doctoral dissertation). The Kurdish cultural and literary journals also cover the debates on the status of Hewrami, Zaza and Luri extensively. Part of this effort is the translation of some of the academic research which treats Hewrami as Kurdish, e.g., Osip [Yusupova] (1990) and Smrnova and Eyb (1989). Another instance of resistance is the publication, as genuine Kurdish literature, of this volume, which is based on one of the manuscripts Rieu identified as the Gorani dialect of Persian.

The case of Dimili is more complicated than Hewrami. The formation of identity (cultural, linguistic, political, gender, etc.) is a complex and ever changing process of social and historical development. For instance, under the conditions of political conflict since the 1980s, some Dimili speaking intellectuals have formed a non-Kurdish ethnic and linguistic awareness. This is best seen in the active Dimili publishing and cultural effort, especially in Europe. Although the number of activists is not significant, the development and the struggle is important. To the disappointment of many Kurds, including Dimili intellectuals, there is, thus, some resistance to the Kurdish nationalist construction of a unified nation based on a single language.

One relevant question is the political role of linguistics, which enjoys the credibility of the academy and the authority of a science. The philologists' position on Hewrami was, for example, consciously used by the Pahlavi regime in the 1960s and 1970s for the denial of the language rights of the Kurds (Hassanpour 1992:287-88).

According to Todd (1985:vi), "Dimili speakers today consider themselves to be Kurds and resent scholarly conclusions which indicate that their language is not Kurdish. Speakers of Dimili are Kurds psychologically, socially, culturally, economically, and politically."5 Leezenberg (1993:13) notes that the "growing acquaintance with the work of Western authors seems to have been instrumental in the rise of a specifically Zaza nationalism among educated expatriates in recent years." Obviously, no one can predict how a ceratin body of knowledge will be used. However, it is not difficult to discern from the Hewrami case that the kind of knowledge in which the expert does not exercise a monopoly of power is more likely to meet the requirements of democratic scholarship. A discipline of linguistics which treats the speakers' knowledge as valid or relevant as the linguist's judgment would probably be less likely to be used against the wishes of the speakers.6

In our times, the upsurge of nationalism among the Kurds is an important factor behind rejections of the philologists' genealogies. Nationalists in Kurdistan, as elsewhere in the world, envision their people as a linguistically, culturally, ideologically and politically united entity. This nationalism emphasizes language as a major indicator of Kurdishness (a Kurd is one who speaks Kurdish, according to Haji Qadiri Koyi). It is well known that the idea of "one nation, one language" is an ideological, clearly nationalist, position.7 Equally ideological is the rejection of Kurdish linguistic unity when the speakers of Kurmanji, Sorani, Southern, Hewrami, and most of the Dimili identify themselves as Kurds. On the non-academic front, a diverse group of journalists, army generals, parliamentarians, judges, politicians and many others in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria have declared Kurdish a non-language.8

Issues in Theory, Ideology and Epistemology. The philologists' claims about Hewrami invite criticism on different levels. Theoretically, one may raise questions about the contribution of genetic classification to our understanding of language in general and Kurdish in particular. Why is the placement of a language on a family tree so central in comparative philology?9 How can such placements, whether based on a few phonetic isoglosses or even an extensive grammatical reconstruction, decide the status of Hewrami either as a dialect of Kurdish or an independent language? Admitting that knowledge about the world's language families is useful, why is genetic classification used as the main or only explanatory framework in presenting a living language like Kurdish (e.g., in MacKenzie 1986)? Are official or state languages like Persian, Arabic, Danish or English treated in a similar manner?

All knowledge forms including "the exact sciences" are ideologically constructed and utilized; in other words, it is not possible to create objective or neutral knowledge. There is a growing literature on linguistics as an ideological and mythical body of knowledge.10 Research has also been conducted on the mythical and ideological roots of comparative philology (see, e.g., Crowley 1990; Cunningham 1994).

Epistemologically, one may look at the relationship between the philologist/linguist, the "informant" or "native speaker," and the object of research, i.e., the language itself. Who problematizes? Who conceptualizes? Who decides the method of research? Whose knowledge counts? What is the subjectivity of the linguist? Is the native speakers' construction of their own genealogies considered to be as valid as the philologist's comparative reconstruction?11 In this unequal distribution of symbolic-political power, who exercises "authority?"

The conflict between the linguist and the native speakers of Hewrami is by no means unique to the Kurdish case.12 While Kurdish nationalists criticize the philologist's claims from a primarily political perspective (its negative implications for Kurdish nation-building), this paper is concerned with theoretical and epistemological issues. From this perspective, the conflict is, in part, related to the cleavage between expert and indigenous knowledge systems, i.e. the distribution of power in the production of knowledge and its democratization. The struggle for the democratization of knowledge, which inspires this paper, has been going on in the West since the Renaissance, taking numerous forms from the secularization of learning to today's efforts aimed at the feminization of social theory and methodology.

Resolving the Conflict: A few Probes. How can the conflict over the genealogy of Hewrami be resolved? One alternative is a statement of the theoretical-methodological limitations of the approach, knowing that all disciplines have their own constraints. For instance, one may state that the data generated by the theory and the method (i.e., the placement of Hewrami or Dimili on a family tree) are not relevant bases for making claims about the ethnic, cultural or national identity of the speakers of the two speech forms. That such claims cannot be made is further corroborated by the findings of other branches of linguistics. Neither structural criteria (Hudson 1980:30-37) nor mutual intelligibility (Simpson 1994) is an appropriate basis for distinguishing between language and dialect. The speakers of Hewrami alone are in a firm position to decide whether their speech is a dialect of Kurdish or an independent language.13 Indeed, some students of the language (e.g. Blau, Kreyenbroek, Leezenberg) distinguish, to varying degrees, between indigenous and expert (philological) genealogies.14 Leezenberg (1993:7), for instance, has pointed to the web of conflicting interpretations, and has given equal space (symbolic rather than physical) to indigenous perceptions of their language:

The nomenclature of this group (or these groups) of dialects is rather confusing, as are the precise relations between the ethnic groups speaking them. Western authors use 'Gorani' as a generic term for all of these dialects, but none of my informants (save those familiar with European writings on the subject) ever used it in that way; instead, the expression 'Hawrami' or 'Hewramani' is used as a collective term by Iraqi Kurds (as well as by Hassanpour 1989:139-51), but also more specifically, to indicate the dialects spoken near the border with Iran... here, I will be conservative, and stick (albeit reluctantly) to 'Gorani' as a generic label, while keeping in mind that few locals use it in that way, and that no conclusions as to the ethnic affiliation can be drawn from it.15 At present, the Gorani speakers think of themselves as Kurds, even though they are aware of speaking dialects which are not mutually comprehensible with Kurmanci or Sorani...(emphasis added).

The lines are carefully drawn here; as a result, a much more complex picture of the situation is provided by stating the limitations of the method, the genealogical claims of native speakers, and at least one element in the subjectivity of the linguist (reluctant preference for a potentially inappropriate label).16 Leezenberg's approach leaves little room for the political use of his findings against the aspirations of the native speakers.

Hewrami and Dimili provide ideal contexts for a critical examination of the state of the politics of linguistic theory in general and comparative philology in particular. I have tried to highlight aspects of a conflict which is well known but not adequately discussed. I suggest that the philologist's construction of Hewrami genealogies is no less ideological than the native genealogy.17 Such a claim does not detract from the value of comparative philology as a source of knowledge. Indeed, an appreciation of the social construction of our disciplines will put us on a much firmer ground in the challenging task of knowledge creation.18


1. By "Western," I do not mean a geographic or racial division of linguists. Iranian linguists ofa nationalist persuasion, for example, use and create philological evidence, to deny the existence of a distinct Kurdish or Baluchi language. "Western" implies, here, the theoretical and methodological claims of "historical and comparative philology" and its various forms and practices that originated in the West and has been institutionalized in the academy throughout the world. My own critique of Western constructions of Hewrami is rooted in the equally Western traditions of critical social theory,ethnomethodology, qualitative methodology and research ethics. (Return to main text)

2. It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine the work of all linguists who have studied thedialect (e.g., O. Mann, A. Christensen, and K. Hadank). (Return to main text)

3. Compare, also, the following statement: "Kurdish has -- or, more precisely, certain dialects ofKurdish have -- a literary tradition. Nevertheless the language has achieved no unity and, since the literature has been somewhat neglected, most work on Kurdish has been on a dialectal basis..." (MacKenzie 1969:460-61). (Return to main text)

4.Compare this quotation with the examples from Rieu's grammatical study quoted on page 2,above. (Return to main text)

5. Todd's study was based on work with Dimili speakers living in Europe, mostly in Germany. (Return to main text)

6. The question of power in the production, transmission and utilization of knowledge has beenincreasingly examined since the 1960s. A body of research critically examines the androcentric, ethnocentric and ideological nature of knowledge. While these studies are mostly focused on Western societies, it is obvious that all knowledge, Eastern, Western or Indigenous, is socially conditioned. Research on the political and ideological components of linguistics has also appeared in recent years (see, e.g., Newmeyer 1986; Joseph and Taylor 1990). Taylor (1990), for instance, examines an episode in the history of the "institutionalization of authority in the science of language." (Return to main text)

7. In a review of the literature on this issue, Woolard and Schieffelin (1994:60) write: " It is atruism that the equation of language and nation is a historical, ideological construct, conventionally dated to Herder and eighteenth century German romanticism, although the famous characterization of language as the genius of a people can be traced to the French Enlightenment and specifically Condillac. Exported through colonialism to become a dominant model around the world today, the nationalist ideology of language structures state politics, challenges multilingual states, and underpins ethnic struggles to such an extent that the absence of a distinct language can cast doubt on the legitimacy of claims to nationhood." In the case of Kurdistan, the perception of the unity of various dialects under the common name of Kurdish was formed before the age of colonialism, when feudal disunity was rampant in Kurdish society. (Return to main text)

8. For a survey of the "Turkish scientific and political discourse" on the Kurdish language see Akin(1995). (Return to main text)

9. See, e.g., Bichakjian (1992) and Ruhlen (1994) and Cunningham (1994) for different assessmentsof the assumptions and methodology of this area of language studies. (Return to main text)

10. Risking oversimplification, ideology refers, here, to beliefs, views, and consciousness whichreflect the experience or interests of particular groups; ideology legitimizes social power, often through intellectual practices involving mystification or rationalization. For a recent review of the research on ideological construction of linguistic knowledge, see Joseph and Taylor (1990), Woolard (1992), Woolard and Schieffelin (1994). In recent years, there is renewed debate on the "scientific" status of linguistics. See, for example, the contributions under the rubrics of "on moving linguistics into science" in Communications of the Workshop for Scientific Linguistics (Chicago), 1992. See, e.g., Di Pietro (1990),Hagman (1992), Levin (1992), Read (1992), Sullivan (1992), Yngve (1992a; 1992b). (Return to main text)

11. In recent years, linguistics has made some progress in democratising the relationship bypromoting, conceptually at least, the status of the "informant" to "native speaker" (Yngve 1981). At least one linguist has suggested a "colleague" role for "informants, the unsung heroes of so much linguistic research." But, even in this case, informants can become colleagues only if they attain some expertise: the informants, according to Nida (1981:169), can "make a much greater contribution if only their latent capacities are adequately developed through sufficient informal training by collaborating linguists." (Return to main text)

12. Such conflicts have come into the open especially in the theory and practice of "economicdevelopment" in the developing world (see, among others, the special issue of IDRC Reports on"Indigenous and Traditional Knowledge," Vol. 21, No. 1, April 1993, published by International Development Research Centre of Canada). In fact, a "participatory research" methodology has been developed to deal with the researcher's monopoly of power in the creation of knowledge (see, e.g., Hallet al 1982). In the positivist, "scientific" tradition of knowledge production, "ordinary people are rarelyconsidered knowledgeable, in the scientific sense, or capable of knowing about their own reality... Experts' assessment of common people's inability to 'know' becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy" (Maguire 1987:36). (Return to main text)

13. Hewrami and Zaza are not the only bones of contention in the world of comparative philology. Brukman (1970:1165), in his review of the genealogy of Koya (spoken in India), critiqued the classification of the dialect according to linguistic criteria, and wrote: "[Native speakers'] judgements may be purely political or cultural; but these are in fact the only relevant judgements that can be made about the relation of Koya to either Gondi or Telugu, since we have no clearly established linguistic criteria that serve to differentiate languages from dialects. Such considerations may produce an embarrassing proliferation of 'languages,' but they are the only basis for realistic evaluation we have. Non-native-speaking linguists are in general much more arbitrary about their decisions in this regard than native speakers." (Return to main text)

14. In the latest major reference work on "Iranian languages," Compendium Linguarum Iranicum(R diger Schmitt 1989), Kurdish and Gur n/Z z appear under two separate sections. According to Blau (1989:336), "in spite of the linguistic proximity and the speakers' profound feeling of belonging to the Kurdish national entity, these two languages cannot be linked to Kurdish because they have not undergone the typical transformations of Kurdish." According to Kreyenbroek (1992:70), "[B]oth Zaza and Guran are normally identified as Kurds, and regard themselves as such. From a purely historical and linguistic perspective, this is probably incorrect, but such considerations seem insignificant in comparison with the feelings of the people concerned." However, in dealing with Kurmanji and Sorani, he notes that it "may be somewhat misleading to speak of 'the main dialects of Kurdish'. Firstly, the only obvious reasons for describing Sorani and Kurmanji as 'dialects' of one language, are their common origin, and the fact that this usage reflects the sense of ethnic identity and unity of the Kurds. From a linguistic, or at least grammatical point of view, however, Sorani and Kurmanji differ as much from each other as English and German, and it would seem more appropriate to refer to them as 'languages'..." (p. 71). (Return to main text)

15. This is a refreshing statement about yet another conflict between native speakers and thephilologists. Hewrami is the name used by most of the Sorani and Hewrami speakers to refer to the speech and culture of Hewraman. Different ethnic and religious names (Kakeyi, Bajalani, Shabak, etc) are used for small groups who speak varieties of the dialect and are widely dispersed outside Hewraman (see Leezenberg, n.d., on some of these groups and the shifting politics of their ethnic affiliation). (Return to main text)

16. By contrast, the author of a relatively long encyclopedia article about Dimili does not mention,even as myth or controversy, the native speakers' identification of their speech as Kurdish (Asatrian 1995). (Return to main text)

17. I have provided further detail about the ideological constraints on philological constructions ofHewrami genealogy in an unpublished paper (Hassanpour 1996). (Return to main text)

18. The ethical dimensions of research have received increasing attention in recent years (see, e.g.,Kidder 1981). It would be useful to examine ethical issues in philological approaches to Kurdish language in general and Hewrami and Dimili in particular. (Return to main text)


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The Debate on the Ethnic Identity of the Kurdish Alevis

By Martin van Bruinessen

The existence of Kurdish- and Zaza-speaking Alevi tribes, who almost exclusively use Turkish as their ritual language, and many of which even have Turkish tribal names,2 is a fact that has exercised the explanatory imagination of many authors. Both Turkish and Kurdish nationalists have had some difficulty in coming to terms with the ambiguous identity of these groups, and have attempted to explain embarrassing details away. Naive attempts to prove that Kurdish and Zaza are essentially Turkish languages have not been given up, and have after 1980 even received a new impetus.3 Kurds, on the other hand, have emphasized the Iranian element in the religion of the Alevis and suggested that even the Turkish Alevis must originally have received their religion from the Kurds.4 Several articulate members of the tribes concerned, appealing to alleged old oral traditions in their support, have added their own interpretations, often all too clearly inspired by political expediency.5 The tribes have never had a single, unambiguous position vis-i-vis the Kurdish nationalist movement and the Turkish Republic. The conflicting appeals of these two national entities (and of such lesser would-be nations as the Zaza or the Alevi nation) to the loyalties of the Kurdish Alevis have torn these communities apart. The conflict has thus far culminated in the Turkish military operations in Tunceli and western Bingl in the autumn of 1994, which were continued through 1995.

Who are the Kurdish Alevis?
I shall use the term 'Kurdish Alevis' as a shorthand for all Kurmanci- and Zaza-speaking Alevis, irrespective of whether they define themselves as Kurds or not. My use of this term does not imply any claim that they are 'really' or 'essentially' Kurds or whatever. The heartland of the Kurdish Alevis consists of Dersim (the province of Tunceli with the adjacent districts of Kemah and Tercan in Erzincan and Kigi in Bingl). The Dersimis themselves perceive a cultural difference between the (Zaza-speaking) Seyhhasanan tribes of western Dersim (Ovacik and Hozat with parts of emisgezek and Pertek) and the Dersimi tribes proper of eastern Dersim (Plmr, Nazimiye, Mazgirt), among whom there are both Zaza and Kurmanci speakers.

From Dersim, a series of Alevi enclaves stretches east, through Bingl, northern Mus, Varto all the way to Kars. The largest and best known of these tribes, the Kurmanci-speaking Hormek (Xormek, Xiromek) and the Zaza-speaking Lolan (see Firat 1970 and Kocadag 1987, respectively) claim Dersim origins, and there are in fact sections of the same tribes still living in eastern Dersim (in Nazimiye and Plmr, respectively).6

Further west, we find another important Kurdish Alevi population, the Kogiri tribal confederation, in and around the Zara district of Sivas. The Kogiri claim a relationship with the Seyhhasanan of western Dersim, although they presently speak a Kurmanci rather than a Zaza dialect.7 There are several other small Zaza- and Kurmanci-speaking enclaves in Sivas, that also claim Dersimi origins. Another indication of their relationship with the Dersim Alevis is the presence of seyyids of the same lineages (notably Kureysan) living in their midst.8

Another series of enclaves stretches south, through Malatya, Elbistan (in Maras) and Antep to Syria and Adana. Little more is known of these tribes than the names of the most important among them. According to Dersimi (1952: 59-60) these tribes, all of which allegedly speak Kurmanci, also claim an old connection with Dersim. We do not know to what extent their religion corresponds with that of the Dersimis and how it relates to their Yezidi and Nusayri neighbours. At least some of these communities were served by seyyids of lineages based in Dersim, but there were also other ocak (seyyid lineages) among them.9 The American missionary Trowbridge reports that the Alevis of Antep, whom he knew well, considered the Ahl-i Haqq seyyids of Tutshami (near Kirind, west of Kermanshah) as their highest religious authorities.10

It is only about the religion of the Alevis of Dersim and the Kogiri that we have more than superficial information; we do not know to what extent these beliefs and practices are shared by the other Kurdish Alevis.11 Most of our information is from older travellers' and missionaries' reports or in the form of memories of what people "used to believe" and "used to do", for, as Bumke aptly remarks, the Dersimis seem to adhere to "a religion that is not practised" (Bumke 1989: 515). This statement is perhaps taking it a little too far, for certain practices like the pilgrimage to mountain sanctuaries, small offerings at numinous spots to prevent bad luck, and making vows at holy places, are still very much alive, although perhaps only a small minority takes part in them.12 It is true, however, that for most Dersimis the food taboos and the veneration due to sun, moon and fire are items frequently mentioned but rarely respected in practice.13

The beliefs and practices of the Alevis of Dersim, as they are known to us from 19th and early 20th-century sources, appear to be more heterodox and 'syncretist' than those of the Tahtaci and the central Anatolian Turkish Alevis -although this may of course in part be due to the fact that the latter have hidden their beliefs better or have gradually been further islamicized. The belief in metempsychosis, for instance, was more pronounced among the Dersimis; the Armenian author Andranig (1900) gives a fascinating account of the belief that human souls are reborn in animals.14 The Dersimis apparently recognized, like the Ahl-i Haqq, various degrees of divine incarnation or theophany, from the full manifestation of God in Ali and possibly in Haci Bektas, to a more modest but nonetheless significant divine presence in the seyyids. Mark Sykes, usually a good observer, wrote of the Dersim tribes that they were in name Shi'is but appeared to him to be pantheists.15

Sun and nature worship appear to have had at least as prominent a place in the life of the Dersimis as the ayin-i cem and other common Alevi rituals.16 Andranig adds to this the worship of the planets, of thunder and rain, fire, water, rock, trees, etc. (1900: 169). Worship of the sun, however, was the most regular of these rituals, taking place each morning at sunrise. The form of this worship varied from place to place. Ali Kemali writes that the Dersimis worshipped the first spot that was touched by the sun's rays (Kemali 1992[1932]: 152). Melville Chater, who spent the night in a Kurdish Alevi village near Malatya in the 1920s, gives a slightly different description of this morning worship. The villagers woke well before sunrise and went to work in their fields. "As the sun rose, each man, woman and child turned eastward, bowing to it a polite good-morning, then resumed to the day's routine" (Chater 1928: 498). More reliably perhaps, a study of the traditional religion of Dersim by a person of local origins has it that "when the sun comes up, people turn towards it and utter prayers and invocations; or they prostrate themselves and kiss the earth, or each brings his hand to his mouth and utters a supplication".17

Dersimis explained their sun worship to Ali Kemali with a legend according to which Ali after his death had risen to heaven and changed into the sun -an interesting statement for those who wish to recognise remnants of the worship of (old Turkish) Gk Tengri or (Iranian) Ahura Mazda in the Alevis' veneration for Ali. ztrk, however, reports that in Dersim the sun is associated with Muhammad and the moon with Ali, which appears to defy such simple single-origin explanations. The Kurdish Alevis' sun worship especially is strongly reminiscent of identical practices among the Yezidis, about whom more will be said below. It also brings to mind a now extinct sect called Semsi (i.e., sun-worshippers?), that is known to have existed in the districts of Mardin and Diyarbekir at least into the 19th century.18

Moon worship, though less frequently mentioned in the literature, is perhaps even more typical of the Dersim Alevis. Our sources do not make clear whether this also was a daily ritual or took place on certain nights only. Melville Chater gives the only eyewitness account, from the same Malatya village. He noticed the villagers climbing on their roofs in the evening, waiting for the moon to appear. As soon as it became visible, "simultaneously the Kurds arose, making low bows and salaaming profoundly to the risen planet; then they descended their stone stairways and disappeared for the night" (Chater 1928: 497).

Yet another minor but distinctive trait of religious practices in Dersim consists of the remnants of what may be called a 'snake cult' (which also once existed among the Armenians of this region). Several tribes have their own centres of pilgrimage, where the image of a snake is an object of veneration. The best known is that at the village of Kistim near Erzincan, where a wooden snake known as the 'saint of Kistim' (Kistim evliyasi) appears to come alive during pilgrimage rituals at the shrine. The Bektasi elebi Cemalettin, the nominal head of the rural Alevi communities, in the 1910s made a vain attempt to have the centre at Kistim closed and the piece of wood destroyed.19

The more specifically Alevi rituals, however, appear to connect the Dersimis with the Turkish Alevis. Most of their glbank (invocations) and nefes (religious songs) are in Turkish, and they were so well before the first efforts at assimilation under the Republic. According to Ali Kemali, who had been vali of Erzincan and knew the region very well, there were no Kurdish glbank at all (Kemali 1992: 154-5); the same observation was made by Mehmet Zlf Yolga, who was born in Pertek and became kaimakam of Nazimiye (1994: 99). Nuri Dersimi contradicts this and claims that the seyyids of the Kureysan and Bamasor (Baba Mansur) lineages always recited glbank in "an archaic form of Zaza" (Dersimi 1952: 24). Hasan Resit Tankut, writing in 1949, claimed that the Dersimis had only recently, at the instigation of the nationalists Alisr and Seyyid Riza, begun to replace the Turkish nefes with poems in their own language.20

Another practice connecting the Alevis of Dersim with Turkish Alevis was the relationship with the central tekke of Haci Bektas. This is mentioned by Molyneux-Seel (1914: 66) as the chief place of pilgrimage outside Dersim.21 In theory, the Dersimi seyyids, who acted as rehber and pir to the common tribes, recognized the elebi at Haci Bektas as their murid, but in practice they all took seyyids of other lineages as their pir and murid and had little to do with Haci Bektas. Three minor ocak of western Dersim, however, the Aguan, the Dervis Cemal and the Saru Saltik, claimed descent from khalifa appointed by Haci Bektas (Dersimi 1952: 27-8; cf. Birdogan 1992: 152-7).

Turkish or Kurdish origins?

The Kurdish Alevis are commonly called Kizilbas by their neighbours. This is also the term by which they occur in Cuinet's late 19th-century population statistics, without further ethno-linguistic designation. This name of course associates them with the Safavids, whose followers were mostly Turcomans. Smer mentions in his study of the Safavids' Kizilbas supporters (1976) only two Kurdish tribal communities, and those were relatively insignificant: the +inislu and the emisgezekl. Many of the latter must have followed the shah into Iran, for we find in the 16th century a large emisgezek confederation living south of present Tehran, whence they were sent by Shah Abbas to Khorasan in order to protect Iran's northeastern border against Uzbek incursions.

The present Kurdish Alevis are too numerous to be the descendants of only the remaining parts of those two tribes. This raises the question where the Dersimis came from, and the answer suggested by most Turkish scholars, both of the official history school and liberal ones, is that they are kurdicized (or zazaicized) Turcoman Kizilbas tribes. This assumption appears so reasonable that is has been unquestioningly accepted by some western scholars as well (e.g. MSlikoff 1982a: 145). However, it is hard to imagine from whom these tribes could have learnt Kurdish or Zaza, given the fact that social contacts with Shafi'i Kurmanc and Zazas are almost nonexistent. In Sivas, on the other hand, Kurdish (and Zaza) Alevis have long been in close contact with Turkish Alevis, without the latter being assimilated. I propose the alternative hypothesis that a considerable part of the ancestors of the present Alevi Kurds neither were Turcomans nor belonged to the followers of Shah Isma'il, but rather were Kurdish- and Zaza-speaking adherents of other syncretist, ghulat-influenced, sects. I shall presently present some evidence to support this hypothesis.

It has too often been taken for granted that the Kurdish tribes were, at least by the time they were incorporated into the Ottoman Empire (roughly 1515), staunch Sunnis, whereas the Turcoman tribes had an ineradicable tendency towards heterodox ideas. The idea of the Kurds as strict Sunnis may have been put into circulation by Idris Bitlisi, the diplomat who brokered the alliance of leading Kurdish families with Sultan Selim and his successors. Idris, and in his tracks other Ottoman historians like his son Eb'l-Fazl, Sa'deddin, Hseyin Bosnevi and Mneccimbasi, as well as the historian of the Kurdish ruling families, Sharaf Khan Bidlisi, attributed the Kurds' preference for the Ottomans as against the Safavids to their religious convictions.22 A profession of Sunni orthodoxy was a transparant promise of loyalty to the Sultan, and the Kurdish historians' insistence on the Kurds' orthodoxy may reflect what they wished the Sultan to believe rather than what they themselves knew to be the case. Even Sharaf Khan, who himself had spent a considerable part of his life in the service of the Safavids, emphasized that the Kurds' abhorred (Shi'i) heterodoxy. On the other hand, he made no attempt to hide the prominence of Yezidism among the Kurds, perhaps because this did not represent a political threat to the Ottomans.

Heterodox Kurds in pre- and early Ottoman history

There are, in fact, indications that extremist Shi'i ideas were more widespread among the Kurds than the said Kurdish authors were willing to concede. Bitlis, the home town of both Idris and Sharaf Khan, has produced its share of unorthodox thinkers. The Hurufi text Istivaname, written around 1450 by Ghiyathuddin al-Astarabadi, speaks of a certain Darvish Haji 'Isa Bidlisi as the originator of a deviant doctrine, which declared the shar' obligations not binding to true believers because these already lived in Paradise.23 This resembles what one may still hear present-day Alevis in Dersim say: "heaven and hell are here." Secondly, there are reasons to believe that the religious ideas of the well-known 15th-century heterodox mystical teacher, Shaikh Bedreddin, reflected views that were well-established in the same region: Bedreddin's chief mystic teacher was Hseyin Akhlati, a peripatetic scholar and mystic hailing from a district near Bitlis.24

There are yet other indications that Kurdish tribes have played a part in the propagation of certain forms of Alevism (though not necessarily of the Safavid variety). As Irne Beldiceanu-Steinherr gathered from her archival research, the major Bektasi communities of the 15th and 16th centuries appear to have consisted of nomadic tribes.25 Ottoman documents contain numerous references to these tribal groups (named Bektas, Bektaslu or Bektasogullari) and associate them with a wide range of localities, in an arc from Sivas by Malatya, Mar'as and Antep to Aleppo and Adana and incidentally even further west. Most surprising, perhaps, is the explicit reference to the Kurdish element in these tribes. Cevdet Trkay classifies them as Konar-ger Trkmn Ekrdi taifesinden, "nomadic Turcoman Kurds."26 This term, which occurs often in his list of tribes, appears to refer to tribes of mixed composition.

As Xavier de Planhol was one of the first to observe, the arrival of large numbers of Turcoman tribesmen in eastern Anatolia from the 11th century onward gave rise to intensive cultural exchanges and the emergence of a new type of pastoral nomadism (combining the vertical, short-distance transhumance of the Kurds and the horizontal wanderings of the Turcoman) and of new tribal formations, incorporating smaller groups of various origins. The Karakoyunlu and Akkoyunlu must have incorporated Kurdish clans in their outwardly Turkish component tribes, and in the Ottoman period the large tribal confederation Boz Ulus is known to have had Kurdish as well as Turkish sections. Some tribes that can be traced through the centuries changed their language, from Turkish to Kurdish or the other way around; the composition of their members may also have shifted over time.27

The said tribal Bektasis were found in the same regions where we later encounter Kurdish Alevis. But they must be only one of numerous Kurdish tribal elements that went into the formation of the present Kurdish Alevis. Several major Dersimi tribes are found by name in Ottoman sources. Trkay lists, for instance, numerous occurrences of the Lolan, Dirsimli and Dujik/Dusik (a name that we find used in the 19th century to refer to the tribes of Dersim collectively), and all of them he classifies as Ekrd taifesinden; only one major Dersim tribe, the Balaban, are listed as Yrkan taifesinden.28

Alevis and Yezidis

The fact that some of the present Yezidi leaders represent their religion as extremist anti-Alid sect (a member of the amir's family is even named Mu'aviye) should not blind us to the close similarity in ideas and practice with those of the Kurdish Alevis and the Ahl-i Haqq or Kaka'i of southern Kurdistan. The now extinct Semsis were mentioned above as a fourth, perhaps similar religion.29 The relationship between these religious groups may even be more intimate than has thus far been assumed. The German anthropologist Felix von Luschan, who travelled through Anatolia measuring skulls around the turn of the century, noticed that Yezidis and Alevis were, at least by some of their neighbours, considered as one and the same sect:

"In some places in Western Kurdistan, people that are exactly like the Kyzylbash are called Yezidi, and protest that they have nothing at all to do with the Kyzylbash; in other places, so I was told one day at Kiakhta on the Bilam River and again near Diarbekr, that Yezidi and Kyzylbash were two words for the same thing, the one being Arabic, the other Turkish. I do not know if this is correct, but, as far as I could ascertain, the creed and the social condition of both groups are fairly identical." (von Luschan 1911: 231)

An aged Zaza Alevi whom I interviewed in a village in Tercan (east of Erzincan) in 1977, though disclaiming any contact with Yezidis, appeared to know the name of Melek Ta'us and some legends that struck me then as Yezidi-flavoured. Yolga, writing in the 1940s, in fact claimed that there were some Yezidis among the Dersim tribes (1994: 96).

Luschan's observation that the Yezidis were "exactly like the Kyzylbash" referred to their measured skulls. He found that the cranial indexes of all the sectarian Shi'i groups of Anatolia - the Tahtaci and Bektas of Lycia, the central Anatolian Kizilbas (and the Yezidis who so much resembled them), as well as the 'Ansariye' (i.e. Nusayri) - were highly similar to each other, and contrasted strongly with those of the neighbouring Arab and Kurdish groups. All sectarians whom he had measured were brachycephalic, and their Sunni neighbours dolichocephalic. Von Luschan concluded that the former represented "the remains of an old homogeneous population, which have preserved their religion and have therefore refrained from intermarriage with strangers and so preserved their ancient characteristics" (ibid., p. 232). Later Turkish nationalist authors were to see in the same skulls proof of the Turkishness of all these groups - with the exception, perhaps, of the Yezidis and Nusayris.

Shifting views of self

Some of the local historians of the Kurdish Alevi tribes, notably Firat, Risvanoglu and Kocadag, have forcefully emphasised the Turkish origins of their tribes, claiming to base themselves at least in part on oral tradition. Their works contain useful bits of information but have to be used with extreme caution because of the politically motivated desire to 'prove' the Turkishness of these tribes, in conformity with the official kemalist view of history. Other local historians such as Dersimi, on the other hand, have emphasised their Kurdishness, and more recently there is a school of thought among people of Dersimi origins that stresses Zazaness as distinct from Kurdishness (Pamuku, Selcan, Dedekurban).

I have found no references prior to the republican period that call these tribes anything other than Kurds or Kizilbas.30 Writing in the mid-19th century, Alexandre Jaba, the Russian consul at Erzurum, who had good local informants, refers to them as 'the Dujik tribe' (thus named after Dujik Baba, a mountain in central Dersim that by extension referred to the entire mountain range of Dersim). Jaba comments that "the Turks call them Dujik or simply Kurds (Ekrad), whereas the proper Kurds give them the name of Kizilbas."31 Taylor, the British consul at Diyarbakir, who visited Dersim in 1866, speaks exclusively of Kizilbas (with Seyhhasanli and Dersimli proper as subdivisions); the Austrian officer Butyka, who travelled there in 1879, speaks of 'Dersim Kurds' and 'Seyyid Hasanli Kizilbas Kurds'.

There were oral traditions, however, which appeared to suggest that at least some of the tribes had foreign origins. Taylor (1868: 318) already was told that the Seyhhasanan were originally from Khorasan, and had come to Dersim more recently from the Agcadag region near Malatya. (The Dersimi proper were, in his view, descendants of an "original pagan Armenian stock".) The Kurdish nationalist Nuri Dersimi also, without a trace of scepticism, mentions this tradition. In his description the belief in Khorasani origins appears even more widespread. Not only the Seyhhasanan but also several eastern Dersim tribes, the Izoli, Hormek and Sadi, as well as the major seyyid lineages, Kureysan and Bamasoran, claimed to have come from Khorasan many centuries ago (1952: 24-5). Dersimi associates these Khorasani origins with the popular Alevi hero, Abu Muslim of Khorasan, whom many Kurds believe to have been a Kurd, and secondarily with Haci Bektas. This is no doubt one reason why the tradition was popular and appears to have spread further from the seyyids to the tribes who were their 'disciples': Khorasan was felt to be the original homeland of the Alevis. Dersimi also emphasises that these tribes already spoke Zaza when they arrived and that even in his day the said seyyids could not even speak Turkish. This is a hardly veiled reaction to the official Turkish view that declared these tribes to be Turkish and pointed to the Khorasan connection as a corroboration. (It appears that before the republican period, people never equated Khorasani with Turkish origins.)

In the 1930s, several authors mention tribes considering themselves the descendants of troops of the Khwarizmshah Jalaluddin, a military adventurer who had moved to eastern Anatolia before the Mongol invasion.32 A Turkish intelligence report of the early 1930s has it that old men in the Plmr district still remembered legends about the Khwarizmshah Jalaluddin, and that the mountain Dujik Baba was considered as his grave and therefore also known as Sultan Baba.33 It is not clear to me whether this really was a living tradition or one recently invented by amateur historians embellishing the Khorasan theme with historically possible Turkic ancestors.34

The First World War and Turkey's War of Independence, in both of which a strong appeal was made to Sunni Muslim solidarity, did not have a great impact on Dersim society as a whole. The Young Turks, seeking to recruit Dersimi support for the struggle against Russians and Armenians, and clearly believing the Dersim Alevis to be something like village Bektasis, invoked the support of the Bektasi elebi Celaleddin Efendi to incite the Dersimis to war. According to Nuri Dersimi, who accompanied the elebi, these efforts remained almost completely without success, showing that the Bektasi mother tekke had little authority in Dersim (1952: 94-103). Firat (1970) claims that his own tribe, the Hormek, did take active part, but the generally apologetic character of his book warrants some scepticism.

If there was any participation by the Dersim tribes in the War of Independence, it was at best half-hearted. The assertion by Baki z that the Alevis of East Anatolia at this early period considered Mustafa Kemal as a reincarnation (don degistirmesi) of Ali and Haci Bektas (z 1990: 29) probably is an anachronism and refers to a later period. Ali Kemali, who was one of the first (republican) governors of the region and who wrote his book only a decade after the war, is a more reliable source; he only mentions Kurdish separatist rebellions against the Ankara government. It is true that Mustafa Kemal managed to coopt several important Dersim chieftains and made them deputies in the National Assembly.35 But as long as the kemalist movement had the character of a movement of (Sunni) Muslims it did not generate much enthusiasm in Dersim; its becoming a new government can only have made it less attractive to the average Dersimi.

Kurdish nationalism did find a certain following among the people of Dersim and Sivas in this period. The first rebellion of an expressly Kurdish nationalist character in the emerging new Turkey took place among the Kogiri, with some reverberations in Dersim.36 Nuri Dersimi, who was one of the organisers of the Krdistan Te'ali Cemiyeti, relates that in Sivas not only Kurmanci and Zaza-speaking Alevis, but also Turkish Alevis joined this Kurdish nationalist association and began calling themselves Kurds - apparently in opposition to the new Ankara government that was seen as Turkish (Dersimi 1952: 64-5). That this was a Kurdish rebellion receives confirmation from Ali Kemali (who, writing in 1932, was one of the last Turkish official authors to call a Kurd a Kurd). But it was clearly as much an Alevi rebellion as a Kurdish rebellion, judging from the alleged participation by Turkish Alevis, and the absence of response among Sunni Kurds. The most charismatic leader, Alisr, as said before, began composing nefes in Kurmanci instead of Turkish, which also indicates that his orientation was not a secular Kurdish nationalist one, but at once Alevi and Kurdish.

The Kurdish Alevis who lived further east (Bingl, Mus, Varto), surrounded by Sunni Zaza and Kurmanci-speakers with whom they had a long history of conflict, were less inclined to see themselves as Kurds. When their traditional enemies took part in Shaikh Sa'id's Kurdish nationalist-cum-Sunni rebellion, these tribes, notably the Hormek and Lolan, opposed the Kurds and threw their lot in with the kemalist government (Firat 1970[1945]). Both these Alevi tribes and Shaykh Sa'id's supporters were, incidentally, Zaza speakers, but this clearly was not sufficient reason for expressions of solidarity; there were persons who pleaded for unity against the Turkish state, but they did this in the name of common Kurdish, not Zaza identity. Sections of the leading elite of these tribes have emphatically defined themselves as Turks at least since the 1930s; it cannot yet be established whether this was only as a response to the emerging official policy of defining the Kurds out of existence or had older roots.

Kemalist officialdom defines the Alevi Kurds

The Kemalist view of the Kurds has always been marred by internal contradictions. On the one hand, the official view came to declare them Turks, on the other hand they were always mistrusted because they were not, and deliberate attempts were made to assimilate them and make them lose all non-Turkish traits. The attitude towards the Alevi Kurds has been even more paradoxical and inconsistent. On the one hand, being Alevis they have been hailed as adhering to a really Turkish variety of Islam and as natural allies of the kemalists' program of secularisation, on the other hand their Zazaness or Kurdishness made them alien and unreliable. The fact that the language used in ritual by the Kurdish Alevis was Turkish appeared to offer promising prospects for their easy assimilation, but on the other hand their history of opposition to the state made them highly suspect. Thus a study of Dersim prepared by the Gendarmerie in the early 1930s made the following observations:

"[As for the Zazas,] with them the language used for religious and customary purposes is Turkish. Those taking part in the rituals are obliged to speak Turkish. It is due to this obligation that the Alevi Zazas, in spite of centuries of neglect, have not moved away too far from Turkdom. Among the Alevis of Dersim it is possible to make oneself understood in Turkish, though one cannot expect an answer [in the same language]. It is noteworthy and regrettable that, whereas one can reach mutual understanding in the Turkish language with everyone over 20 or 30, their Turkish is being completely Zazaicised, so that it is impossible to come across the Turkish language in children below the age of 10. This proves that the Alevi Turks of Dersim have started losing their language, and if [this problem] remains neglected the day will come when no Turkish speakers will be found here."37

Thus the Zaza Alevis are represented as Turks by origin, who were gradually being Zazaicised. The paragraph that immediately follows, however, asserts that it is more than language that divides them from Turkdom:

"The worst aspect of Alevism, and one that deserves analysis, is the deep abyss separating them from Turkdom. This abyss is the Kizilbas religion. The Kizilbas do not like the Sunni Muslims, they bear them a grudge, they are their archenemies. They call the Sunnis 'Rumi'. The Kizilbas believe that divine power is embodied in [human] carriers, and that their imams have been tortured to death at the hands of the Sunnis. Therefore they bear the Sunnis enmity. This has gone so far that for the Kizilbas, Turk and Sunni are the same, as are the names of Kurd and Kizilbas."38

This last observation is the reverse of what later written apologetic works like Firat's assert: for the Dersimis, Kurd and Kizilbas are identical, and so are Turk and Sunni.

The report just quoted owes much to the work by one of the architects of official history, Hasan Resit Tankut.39 From the late 1920s to the 1960s he wrote a series of research papers and policy counsels on 'ethnopolitics', i.e. on how to turkicise the other ethnic groups. A number of his previously unpublished, mostly confidential papers have recently been published by Mehmet Bayrak. The quotations above echo an anonymous report, probably by Tankut, submitted to the Birinci Umumi Mfettis (the 'super governor' of those days), Ibrahim Tali, in 1928 (Bayrak 1993: 510-23). Tankut, who knew eastern Anatolia well, in his confidential reports never pretended that the Kurds were Turks, but he wrote that the Alevis' use of Turkish in their rituals should make the task of assimilation much easier than it would be in the case of the Shafi'i Zazas (ibid.: 515).

In all his writings Tankut made a point of distinguishing between Sunnis and Alevis, Kurds and Zazas -although he often subsumed them all under the blanket term Kurds. In a study of the Zazas, both Shafi'i and Alevi (1994a), he emphasised the Iranian background of their religion (as exemplified by their use of the term 'Homay' for God). In spite of his explicit recognition of Zoroastrian influences in the religion of the Alevis, he thought that they were originally Turkic and could (should) be made into Turks again. His advice was to keep (Sunni) Zazas, Kurmanc and Dersim Alevis as far apart as possible in order to turkify them more easily. In a policy paper written in the wake of the 1960 coup he proposed to literally drive a wedge between the Zazas and Kurmanc by resettling Turks in a 50 kilometers wide corridor between these linguistic groups' major settlement zones (1994c).

Execution of this proposal appears never to have been considered seriously, but there certainly have been less drastic state-sponsored efforts to dissociate the Zazas from the Kurmanc and the Alevis from the Sunnis. The Alevi revival of the late 1980s as well as the recent movement proclaiming the Zazas to be a distinct people have had complex causes but both received encouragement from circles within the state apparatus intent on reducing the danger of Kurdish nationalism.

Zaza, Alevi and Dersimi as
deliberately embraced ethnic identities

Until the 1930s, Dersim had never been completely brought under control by the central government, and it was the major target of the kemalist government's efforts to pacify the eastern provinces and assimilate the non-Turkish population. The great Dersim rebellion of 1937-38 was in fact little more than some low-intensity resistance to the pacification program but it was suppressed with great excess of violence, resulting in the massacre of at least 10 per cent of the population (van Bruinessen 1994a). Mass deportations -only a part of the deportees returned to Dersim, now named Tunceli, after a decade -contributed to the relatively successful assimilation of the Dersimis and their integration into the public life of Turkey. As Alevis with a libertarian streak of mind, many educated Dersimis no doubt felt closer to the secular kemalist reformers-from-above than to the, in their eyes, bigoted Sunni Kurds - in spite of the memory of 1937-38.

When the political liberalisation of the 1950s and 1960s made a wider spectrum of political organisations available, the Dersimis generally tended to end up on the left or extreme left of that spectrum. In most of the left-wing movements since 1960 the Dersimis have been represented, often in leading positions. Dersimis were also actively involved in the rise of Kurdish nationalism as a mass movement towards the end of the 1960s. Perhaps the most radical of Kurdish political leaders of those days, known by the code name of Dr. Sivan (Sait Kirmizitoprak) was a Dersimi.40 In fact he belonged to Nazimiye branch of the Hormek, the same tribe as M.S. Firat, who a generation earlier had insisted on their Turkishness! Several of the Kurdish movements of the 1970s again had Dersimis in their leadership, from the intellectual zgrlk Yolu movement to the activist PKK.41

It is true that more young Dersimis in the 1970s were active in 'Turkish' radical left movements than in Kurdish nationalist ones, but this did not appear to reflect disagreements about their ethnic identity. The leftists did not deny being Kurds but they simply did not consider this identity as relevant for the political struggle. They condemned Kurdish nationalism as a feudal and petty-bourgeois movement - not because it was Kurdish but because it was nationalist. Something similar was true of their Alevi identity: they were proudly aware of the Alevis' history of rebellion against the state but rejected Alevi belief and ritual as well as the traditional enmity towards Sunnis. The movement that found the most widespread support in Dersim, TKKO/TKP-ML, was a maoist movement believing in rural guerrilla, the following of which initially cut across ethnic and religious boundaries.

In the course of the 1980s this began to change, at least in part as a result of the collapse of virtually the entire left movement in Turkey and the rise of the PKK as the single most important opposition movement. Tunceli remained the last stronghold of TKKO/TKP-ML, which elsewhere practically disappeared. The organisation became so closely identified with Dersim that its character changed: from part of the 'Turkish left' it became an organisation of secular, radical Alevis. By the end of the decade some of its leaders were talking about the Alevis as an ethnic group, on a par with (Sunni) Turks and Kurds, others about the Dersimis as a distinct group.

Although both left-wing and Kurdish nationalist parties and organisations retained a measure of support among the young people in Dersim, many others turned their backs on radical politics. The politicisation of the 1970s had only resulted in more repression, for which the elder generation blamed the left youth movements. Their reaction was a return to religion - an emphasis on the Alevi identity as a religious, not necessarily ethnic, identity. This response was no doubt influenced by the wider Alevi resurgence elsewhere in Turkey and among migrants in Europe: the mushrooming of Alevi associations, a flood of publications on Alevism and the public celebration of cems. The Alevi resurgence was further reinforced when government authorities in the late 1980s began openly endorsing it. This official support probably was not only meant to counterbalance the growth of Sunni Islamism but also to stop Kurdish nationalism making further inroads among the Kurdish Alevis. There was some pressure to emphasise the Turkishness of Alevism.

Meanwhile in Europe Zaza-speaking Kurds - some of them Sunnis, others Alevis -were bringing about a minor revival of Zaza literature, in the margin of the remarkable resurgence of Kurmanci literary activities. A minority among them began perceiving the Zaza as a distinct ethnic group that had to liberate itself from cultural domination by Kurds as well as the Turkish state. This Zaza 'nationalism' still is largely a matter of exile politics, and it may still appear as a marginal phenomenon, but gradually it is also influencing the debate among Dersimis inside Turkey.

The recently emerging Zaza and Alevi nationalisms in Turkey are best understood in their dialectical relationship with the development of Kurdish nationalism. The same process of urbanisation and migration that gave rise to a modern Kurdish awareness in the large cities also brought Alevi villagers (Turkish as well as Kurdish or Zaza speakers) to the Sunni towns of the region and into direct competition for scarce resources with their new Sunni neighbours. The political polarisation of the 1970s aggravated Sunni-Alevi antagonism as rightist and leftist radicals chose these communities as their recruiting grounds and contributed much to the mutual demonisation ("fascist" Sunnis versus "communist" Alevis). A series of bloody Sunni-Alevi clashes, perhaps better called anti-Alevi pogroms, did much to strengthen a common Alevi awareness.42 In the region where these clashes took place, it did not matter much whether one was a Kurd or a Turk, one's primary identity was the religious one. There were Turks and Kurds on both sides of this divide - which gave rise to such surprising phenomena as Sunni Kurds supporting the pan-Turkist Nationalist Action Party and young Turkish-speaking Alevis declaring themselves to be Kurds.

The 1980s witnessed a veritable cultural and religious revival of Alevism, beginning among the Turkish and Kurdish immigrant communities in western Europe. Activists of various persuasions -leftist, Sunni Muslim, fascist, Kurdish nationalist -had earlier made some attempts to organise these communities, but the 1980 military coup in Turkey represents a real watershed. Unprecedented numbers of experienced organisers came as refugees to western Europe. The most successful among them were radical Sunni Muslim groups and Kurdish nationalists, among whom the PKK gradually became dominant. The Turkish regime meanwhile attempted to regain some control of the immigrant communities by taking over the major mosque federations and sponsoring an ultra-conservative and nationalist brand of Sunni Islam known as the "Turkish-Islamic synthesis".43

It was probably as a reaction to, and in part in imitation of, increased Sunni religious activities in Germany that Alevis also began organising, after long having kept a low profile or even hidden their religious affiliation. For the first time, large Alevi religious ceremonies were held in public (in republican Turkey these ceremonies were officially banned and could at best be held semi-clandestinely). Alevi associations were established, and these attracted many young Alevis who previously had been prominent in various leftist or Kurdish organisations. A few of the smaller leftist organisations were entirely Alevi in membership; these too now tended to emphasise their Alevi identity in combination with their marxism-leninism, and to think of the Alevis as a sort of nation, to the extent of speaking of Alevistan as their homeland.44 These activities abroad stimulated an Alevi revival in Turkey too, where the gradual political liberalisation made the establishment of religious and social Alevi associations possible.

In the late 1980s, the Turkish government began making conciliatory gestures towards the Alevis, and granting Alevism a certain formal recognition, in a transparant effort to neutralise the community's alienation from the state and to prevent the radical Kurdish movement PKK from making further inroads among the Kurdish (and Zaza) Alevis. In fact, the one region where the PKK has had great difficulties in establishing itself, and where it always has had to compete with other radical political movements, was Dersim (i.e., the present province of Tunceli and neighbouring districts), which is largely Zaza-speaking and Alevi. The people of Dersim had, at least since the 1960s, always been more inclined towards left radicalism than Kurdish nationalism. The PKK, which initially had been militantly antireligious, had in the late 1980s moreover adopted a conciliatory attitude towards Sunni Islam, in a successful attempt to gain more grassroots support in the Sunni region. This obviously did not contribute to its popularity among the Alevis, and it may even have strengthened Alevi particularism.

In the perception of the PKK, the entire Alevi revival was directly engineered by the state in order to sow division among the Kurds, and its protagonists were all agents. This has also led to suspicions, and purges, of Alevis in the party's own ranks, which in turn did little to warm the Alevis' hearts to the PKK. The renewed emphasis on Alevism as one's primary identity, with an increasing awareness of the religious dimension of that identity, is largely a reaction to Sunni fundamentalism and inclusive Kurdish nationalism.

There has always existed a distinct Alevi awareness, although sometimes submerged under other ethnic loyalties. The present Zaza nationalism, however, is something entirely new, and it is still forcefully opposed by numerous Zaza-speakers who stick to their self-definition as Kurds. For the conditions of its emergence we shall again have to look to the migrant communities in Western Europe rather than to Turkey (unless one subscribes to the popular conspiracy theory that blames it all on the Turkish intelligence services).

In Turkey, where all local languages besides Turkish were banned, it did not appear to matter much whether one originally was a Kurmanci or a Zaza-speaker. In Europe however, one of the issues with which Kurdish activists attempted to mobilise Kurdish migrant workers was the demand for mother tongue education, i.e. for official recognition of the fact that Turkish is not the native language of every immigrant from Turkey, and for the acceptance of Kurdish among the immigrants' mother tongues taught in school. This placed the Zaza-speakers in an awkward dilemma: should they also demand that their children in German schools be taught Kurmanci instead of Turkish as their 'mother tongue'? Some in fact did, like generations before them had always learned Kurmanci as the lingua franca in their region, but a certain uneasiness remained. This was clearly an issue on which the interests of Zaza-speakers and Kurmanci-speakers were not identical.

A related issue that contained the seeds of conflict was the language to be used in Kurdish journals published in Turkey and especially in European exile. Several journals appeared during the 1960s and 1970s, and most of them were exclusively in Turkish, with at the most an occasional poem in Kurdish.45 The first periodical that completely avoided Turkish was the short-lived cultural magazine Tirj, published in Izmir. This was also the first significant modern Kurdish journal to have a small section in Zaza.46 After the 1980 military coup, Kurdish publishing activities no longer were possible in Turkey, but writers and journalist carried on in European exile, especially in Sweden. A true revival of Kurmanci literature took place here. Children's books, collections of folk tales, and the first novels were published, and a whole range of journals appeared.

The Iranian revolution and the Iraq-Iran war also brought large numbers of intellectuals from the other parts of Kurdistan as refugees to Europe. For the first time since the early twentieth century, there were common Kurdish cultural activities on a significant scale. In Paris a Kurdish Institute was established, the first significant all-Kurdish institution, with an important library and various periodical publications. The old dream of a common standard language resurfaced, but since neither Kurmanci nor Sorani-speakers were likely to make concessions to the other, journals targeting readers from all parts of Kurdistan had sections in both Kurmanci and Sorani. The literary magazine published by the Kurdish Institute then decided to add a section in Zaza, as the third relevant Kurdish language.47 This led to strong negative reactions from certain nationalist intellectual circles, which for political reasons fiercely opposed linguistic fragmentation. Some of them strove for a synthetic unified Kurdish language, others believed they could put up with two written Kurdish languages, but agreed that developing Zaza, which previously hardly had any written tradition, as another written language amounted to sowing division among the Kurdish nation.

The debate on the development of, or ban on, written Zaza made a strong impact in the small circle of Zaza intellectuals in exile, causing a parting of the minds among them. In the late 1980s, the first Zaza journal was published, and it was emphatically non-Kurdish. It carried articles in Zaza, Turkish and English but not in Kurdish, it spoke of the Zazas as a separate people, whose identity had too long been denied not only by the Turkish state but by the Kurds as well, and it coined the new name of Zazaistan for the ancient homeland of these Zazas, indicating its rejection of the term Kurdistan as a geographical name.48 The journal at first had only a very small circle of readers, but the many angry Kurdish reactions suggested that the journal did have a point after all, and gradually growing numbers of Zazas were won over to its views. There appears not to be an organised Zaza nationalist movement yet, but the publishing activities go on increasing, with two new journals appearing in Europe and recently a series of booklets in Turkey, all of them proclaiming the Zazas to be different from the Kurds.49

Thus there were, by the late 1980s, three competing national or ethnic movements that appealed to the loyalties of the Alevi Kurds: Turkish, Kurdish and Zaza. The Alevi identity represented a serious fourth option, with a potentially stronger emotional appeal than the bonds of language alone. This situation gave rise to an intensive debate among Dersimis (and Kurdish Alevis in general) about their 'real' or 'original' identities and a quest for their roots. One aspect of the quest was an analysis of the names by which, before the arrival of Turkish and Kurdish nationalism, their grandparents referred to themselves and their neighbours. Not surprisingly, the results were inconclusive; earlier generations obviously did not think in contemporary ethnic terms. The names used and their referents appear to vary from valley to valley, and moreover are also different depending on the context and language of discourse.50

When speaking Zaza, Dersimis often refer to themselves as Kirmanc and to their language as Kirmancki, which are almost the same names as those by which Kurdish speakers refer to themselves and their language (Kurmanc and Kurmanci), but which obviously have different referents.51

When speaking Turkish or other foreign languages, both may in fact translate these names as Kurd and Kurdish, which appears to support the Kurdish nationalist viewpoint. However, the Dersimis (when speaking Zaza) call the Kurmanci language Kirdasi, and they refer to the Sunni Kurdish tribes as Kir
or Kur. Their eastern Zaza-speaking but Sunni neighbours, in the districts astride the Murad river, are called neither Kur nor Kirmanc but Zaza and their language Zazaki, although it is practically identical with the Kirmancki spoken in Dersim. Another term used by some Zaza speakers (mostly in the Siverek region, but apparently here and there in Dersim as well) is Dimili, which as some orientalists (Hadank, Minorsky) have suggested could possibly derive from Daylami and thus point to Daylam as the Zazas' region of origin. 'Zazaists' have not failed to appeal to this name as proof of the distinctness of the Zazas.52

The identity debate, especially among Dersimis living in European exile, tended towards the ever more forceful assertion of the distinctness of Dersim (and the Kurdish Alevis in general): Alevi, but unlike the Turkish Alevis, Zaza or Kurdish, but unlike the Sunni Zazas or Kurds. Some of the protagonists in the debates were quite aware of how their perceptions of their own ethnic identity were shifting. A revealing illustration is given in a programmatic statement by the editor of a new journal addressing specifically the Zaza Alevis, Desmala Sure. Like many others of his generation, this man had begun his political career in a Turkish left-wing organisation and later moved to the Kurdish left. In the course of the 1980s he evolved to a Zazaist standpoint, and more recently yet he developed the view that centuries of Sunni-Alevi conflict had divided the Zaza 'nation' into two 'nations' of different creeds. Reviewing his earlier analyses, the editor writes:

"There was a time when I defended the view that the Dersim rebellions did not have a 'national' character [meaning here: 'Kurdish national'], but I have since quite some time changed my mind. In one of my writings I characterised the Dersim rebellions as 'Zaza movements'. I now feel obliged to correct myself on this point: the Dersim rebellions were Kirmanc-Alevi rebellions. I include the Kogiri rebellion among the Dersim rebellions, for Kogiri is [culturally] a part of western Dersim. I now consider the Shaykh Sa'id rebellion as a national rebellion [i.e., of the Sunni Zaza 'nation']. In 1987 I described the Shaykh Sa'id rebellion as a Zaza rebellion; I still adhere to that view."53

At least some former activists of TKKO/TKP-ML and other left organisations appear to be receptive to such views.

Although the Zazaist and 'Kirmanc-Alevi' movements still appear to be marginal in Dersim and elsewhere in Turkey, Kurdish nationalists perceived them to be potentially dangerous and suspected the Turkish secret police of being the true motor behind this separatism in Kurdish ranks. For obvious reasons, they were equally distrustful of the official sponsorship of the Turkey-wide Alevi resurgence, which they considered as an ill-disguised attempt to drive a wedge between the Kurdish Alevis and the other Kurds. The recent accommodation of the PKK, the most important Kurdish nationalist movement, with Sunni Islam54 had stirred up old Alevi fears, making a rejection of Kurdish nationalism more likely.

To counter these dangers, the PKK launched an ideological counter-offensive with an appropriately named journal Zlfikar, which specifically addressed the Alevi Kurds.55 With the well-chosen slogan 'Aslini inkar eden haramzadedir!' in its masthead, and in a language rich in Alevi symbolism, the journal warned them not to forget that they were Kurds and to beware of state propaganda associating Alevism with Turkdom as well as of bourgeois Alevi leaders collaborating with the (Sunni and state) establishment.56 The journal specifically attempts to disassociate the Kurdish Alevis from Bektasism, which it represents as the state-dominated variety of Alevism.

The debate on the ethnic identity of Dersim was not carried on with words alone. In 1994 the PKK stepped up its guerrilla activities in the greater Dersim area, in what probably was a deliberate effort to force the Dersimis to make a political choice, for or against the Kurdish movement. It had since 1984 done this with some success in the districts north of the Iraqi border, where it gained popular support precisely because of the Turkish army's brutal reprisals against the civilian population. The government responded by one of the most massive military operations since the establishment of the Republic, forcibly evacuating and partially or completely destroying around a third of Dersim's villages.57

The debate on the identity of the Kurdish Alevis still is in a state of flux. Among no other group in Turkey is there such an intensive and self-conscious search for the most appropriate way to define oneself. The gradual evacuation of Dersim -there are far more Dersimis elsewhere in Turkey and in Europe now than in Dersim itself -probably means that much of the traditional culture and religious practices of Dersim has gone, or will soon be, lost. Young Dersimi intellectuals have, it is true, made efforts to record and preserve oral tradition, but these very efforts show that much of the tradition is dead already. Another aspect of this effort to preserve is the deliberate intention to reinvent Dersim and its culture and to reaffirm its origins. Oral tradition is directly relevant to the debate on the ethnic identity of the Kurdish Alevis, and representatives of all rival views have had recourse to it, systematising and interpreting it in the light of their own ideological positions. Thereby they are contributing to a new living tradition, one that is written and stripped of elements that are too strictly local. It is unlikely that the question of the origins of the Kurdish Alevis will ever be unambiguously and convincingly answered, however; the debate is likely to continue.

1. This is an extended version of a paper originally presented at the conference on Bektashis and similar syncretistic groups in the Middle East, held at the Free University in Berlin in April 1995. A shorter version of this paper will appear in the proceedings of that conference.
2. Names like Kousagi and Asagi Abbasusagi are common in Turkish-language sources (see the tribal lists in Kemali 1992[1932]: 157-65, Yavuz 1968: 351-96 and Dersimi 1952: 46-69), and local people themselves refer to their tribes by these Turkish names when speaking Turkish. When they speak Zaza, however, they do not use these Turkish forms but say, e.g. Kozu instead of Kousagi, Abasan Cr instead of Asagi Abbasusagi. It is not clear whether these are more authentic forms or, to the contrary, bastardisations of the Turkish. Mustafa Dzgn (1992) gives the local (Zaza or Kurmanci) equivalents to many of the Turkish names occurring in Nuri Dersimi's well-known history of the region.
3. The semi-official Trk Kltrn Arastirma Enstits in Ankara has published a long series of books on this and related themes.
4. See e.g. Cemsid Bender's books and articles, especially Bender 1992b.
5. E.g., Dersimi 1952; Firat 1970 [1946]; Kocadag 1987; Pamuku 1992; Selcan 1994, all making contradictory claims concerning the 'original' ethnic identity of Kurdish Alevis.
6. Dersimi (1952: 65) also notes Hormek at Refahiye, and there is another Lolan enclave near Yozgat in Central Anatolia.
7. See Dersimi 1952: 61-2. Tankut, though usually well-informed, calls the Kogiri Zaza-speakers, perhaps because of this relationship with western Dersim (1994a: 415). Sykes remarks that their language is "seemingly a dialect of Kurdish, but hardly comprehensible to Zazas or Baba Kurds, or Diarbekir Kermanjis" (1908: 479).
8. The Kureysan, perhaps the most important seyyid lineage of the Dersim Alevis, have their largest concentration in Mazgirt and Nazimiye, but there are also sections of them in Kigi, Hinis and Varto, Plmr, and Sivas (Jandarma Umum Kumandanligi, n.d.: 33).
9. The Baliyan tribe of southwestern Malatya considered Hseyin Dogan Dede (d. 1983), a seyyid of the Aguan lineage, as their mrsid-i kamil
but also had dedes of local lineages such as the Kalender (Sahhseyinoglu 1991: 83-8). The Aguan are one of the minor Dersim ocaks, identified there as the descendants of an eponymous khalifa of Haci Bektas.
10. "The Geographical Centre of [the Alevi] religion is in the town of Kirind, Kermanshah province, Persia. Four of Ali's male descendants now reside in Kirind. They are by name, Seyyid Berake, Seyyid Rustem, Seyyid Essed Ullah, Seyyid Farraj Ullah. (...) These men send representatives throughout Asia Minor and northern Syria for preaching and for the moral training of their followers" (Trowbridge 1909: 342-3). Sayyid Baraka (d.1863) and his grandson and successor Sayyid Rustam (still alive in 1920) had established themselves as the chief religious authorities of the Guran Ahl-i Haqq, and commanded great respect among other Ahl-i Haqq communities in Iran (see my "Satan's psalmists").
11 See however Trowbridge 1909 (on Antep), Chater 1928 (on a village between Elazig and Malatya), and Sahhseyinoglu 1991 (on a tribe living between Malatya and Elbistan).
12 For a description of perhaps the major pilgrimage of Dersim, to the mountain sanctuary of Dzgn Baba, see Ferber & Grsslin 1988: 145-156.
13. Recent publications referring to these taboos and forms of 'nature worship' are Bumke 1979; Feber & Grsslin 1988: 138-41; zkan 1992: 259-74; Dzgn 1988; Dzgn et al. 1992; Dedekurban 1994.
14. Andranig 1900: 167-70. I wish to thank Professor Jos Weitenberg of Leiden University for translating these passages for me. One of Andranig's interlocutors, a seyyid, told him that humans return after their deaths as mammals, then as snakes, birds, insects, butterflies, mosquitoes and finally as flies. Another claimed to still remember a previous existence as a donkey. He had been reborn human again because a previous human existence had ended unnaturally, in the war, and had therefore not been properly completed.
15. Sykes (1908: 479) wrote of the Kureysan, Balaban and Sadilli that they were "Shias or Pantheists" and noted of the Kogiri, "In religion I take them to be advanced Pantheists, who recognize nature as a female principal and God as male. This opinion I give with every reservation as the result of interpreted conversations with well-to-do elders."
16. Riggs, one of the best informed missionary writers, emphasizes the worship of sun and fire and only later mentions the ayin-i cem (1911).
17. "Sabahlari gnes dogarken karsisina geilip dua edilir ve salavat getiril1?. Ya yerde secde edilerek yer plr veya her kes elini agzina gtrerek niyaz eder" S. ztrk 1972: 100.
18. These Semsi are mentioned by the 17th-century Polish Armenian traveller, Simeon (ed. Andreasyan 1964: 100), by Carsten Niebuhr, who also met them at Mardin (1780: 376-8), and by the Italian missionary Campanile (1818: 194-200). An old Semsi place of worship near the city of Diyarbakir was only recently destroyed when the Mardin road was widened. Niebuhr remarked that many Semsi converted to Jacobite Christianity; others may have merged with the Yezidi or with the Alevi. A major tribe among the Yezidi of Armenia is presently named Semsiki, but nothing is known of their relation to these earlier Semsi.
19. Dersimi 1952: 96-8. The cult of the 'saint of Kistim' is also decribed by Asatrian & Gevorgian 1988: 588. Another 'snake' pilgrimage centre, Bone Ocak in the district of Hozat, is briefly described in Kaya 1995: 97. On the snake cult among the old Armenians, see Abeghian 1899: 74-6.
20. Tankut claimed they wrote in Zaza (1994b: 292). His editor, Mehmet Bayrak, corrects him and states that Alisr's poems were in Kurmanci; he also claimed that Turkish had never been the only language used in ritual. Informants from Dersim give contradictory accounts regarding the use of Zaza and/or Kurmanci in the ritual of the cem. Very few prayers and nefes in these languages have been published, however (Dzgn et al. 1992).
21. The list of other pilgrimages given by Molyneux-Seel -Hasan(?) at Sivas, Ali at Kufa (sic!), Musa [Kazim] at Baghdad and Husayn and Abbas at Kerbela -gives the impression of having been mentioned by the author's informants to satisfy his curiosity only. The number of Dersimi actually visiting them must be minimal (although a few Dersimi later did claim to have visited Kerbela and to have been imparted important esoteric knowledge there). This makes one wonder how popular the pilgrimage to Haci Bektas ever was.
22. Idris gave his account in a report to the sultan published by Sevgen (1968) and in his Salmnme; this account was incorporated by Eb'l-Fazl in his Zayl-i Hasht Bihisht (which probably was the source for von Hammer's account in GOR II, 432-4), by Sa'deddin in his Tc'l-tevr and by Hseyin [Bosnevi] in Bedyi''l-vakyi'.
"Seine Behauptung war, dass es im paradies kein unterworfensein unter das gesetz (taklf) ge2?. Wir sagen aber, dass wir im paradiese sind, und daher kann es fr uns kein taklf geben. Diese fnf gebete gehren zu unserm taklf (va n pan namz bar m taklf ast), sie brauchen also nicht verrichtet zu werden ..." (Ritter 1954: 42?.
24. Babinger 1921: 1032?. Akhlat was at most times in Bitlis' sphere of influence. It was, of course, also an important Seluk settlement, but Sharaf Khan, who mentions Hseyin of Akhlat with great respect ("the most prominent among the 'ulama of his age in both the exoteric and the esoteric sciences"), appears to imply that he was a fellow Kurd (Bidls 1860: 351). In the 16th century, the most conspicuously heterodox Kurdish tribe mentioned in the Sharafnme, the Pazuki, also were based around Akhlat.
25. Beldiceanu-Steinherr 192?. This finding is based on a painstaking combing of the available tax registers and other documents for Amasya; Beldiceanu-Steinherr's research did not cover the other provinces where Bektaslu communities are mention2?.
26. Trkay 1979: 22?. Unfortunately Trkay gives no indication of the dates and type of documents in which he found the references to these tribes. It is not so surprising that there were Kurds among the early Bektasis, for the Vilyetnme also relates that Haci Bektas first visited Kurdistan before moving further west to central Anatol2?.
27. Examples are mentioned in van Bruinessen 1989.
28. Altan Gokalp has suggested that the terms Trkman and Yrk as used in these documents were not ethnic-linguistic labels but referred to different statuses for purposes of taxation; he believes that neither Yrk nor Trkman were necessarily turcophone (personal communication; cf. Gokalp 1989: 530-2.
29. Among the scholars who have commented upon these similarities are Ivanow, Mokri, and MSlikoff. Izady (1992) goes further and subsumes the three under the name 'cult of angels', which in his view represents an old Kurdish religious substra3?.
30. With the exception of the Balaban who, as said, are listed as Yrk in Trkay's work, although other sources call them Kurds too.
Jaba 1860: 6n-7n. As important component tribes of the Dujik Kurds, Jaba mentions the Balaban, Kureysan and Glabi. See also the observations in Blau 1862: 621-7, where the Dujik (or Du+ik) Kurds are described as a subgroup of the Kurdish tribes.
32. Jalaluddin is a historical person, and his peregrinations in eastern Anatolia are well-documented. After his death his troops, mostly Kipchak Turks, entered the service of the Seluk ruler Kay-Kubad, who gave them his eastern marches, Erzincan, Amasya and Larande-Nigde as a fiefdom (iqt') (Cahen 1968: 245-3?.
33. Jandarma Umum Kumandanligi n.d.: 32, 38. The association of the Dujik Baba with Jalaluddin Khwarizmshah is also noticed by Tankut (1994a[1937]: 442-3), who appears to consider the Bahtiyar tribe as descendants of Jalaluddin's companions. Yolga, a former kaimakam (district governor) of Nazimiye, goes even further and makes most of the tribes of eastern Dersim the descendants of Jalaluddin's armies (1994: 83-4).
34. Edip Yavuz, a former kaimakam of Plmr and vali of Tunceli, who attempts to prove the Turkishness of all Dersim tribes, also mentions the belief that Jalaluddin Khwarizmshah is buried on the Dujik Baba (1968: 368), but he does not relate this to any tribe's claims of descent -perhaps because of his wish to prove the Dersimis to be Oghuz rather than Kipchak Turks, as Jalaluddin's men were.
35. Dersim, with five deputies, probably was even overrepresented in the first National Assembly. The names of these deputies, as well as those in the earlier Ottoman parliament and in later republican assemblies, are given in Kalman 1995: 483-8.
36. See Kemali 1992[1932]: 125-43; Dersimi 1952: 120-68; Komal 1975; Kieser 1993).
37. "[Zaza alevilere gelince:] Bunlarda mezhep ve det dili Trkedir. Ayinlerde istirak edenler Trke konusmak mecburiyetindedirler. Bu mecburiyettirki alevi zazalik asirlardan beri ihmal edildigi halde trklkten pekte uzaklasmamis. Dersim alevileri arasinda cevap istememek sartile Trke meram anlatmak mmkndr. Sayani nazar ve esef olan nokta sudurki 20-30 yasindan yukari yasli her fertle Trk dili ile mtekabilen anlasmak ve dertlesmek mmkn oldugu halde bunun [...(?)] trk dili tamamen Zazalasmakta ve hale 10 yasinda kk ocuklarda ise trk diline rastlamak imkni kalmamaktadir. Bu netice Dersim alevi trklerinin de benliklerini kaybetmege basladiklarina ve ihmal edilirse gnn birinde Trk dili ile konusana tesadf edilemeyecegine delildir."
(Jandarma Umum Kumandanligi n.d.: 38-39).
38. "Aleviligin en kt ve tefrika deger cebhesi Trklkle aralarinda derin uurumdur. Bu uurum kizilbaslik itikatid[idir. Kizilbas, Snni mslimini sevmez, bir kin besler, onun ezelden dsmanidir.
Snnileri rumi diye anar. Kizilbas ilahi kuvvetin hamili bulundugunu ve imamlarinin snnilerin elinde iskence ile ldgne itikat ederler. Bunun iin snnilere dsmandir. Bu okadar ileri gitmistirki kizilbas Trk ile snni ve Krt ile kizilbas kelimesini ayni telkki eder." (ibid., emphasis added).
39. Hasan Resit Tankut is best known as one of the fathers of the pseudo-scientific Sun-Language Theory (which holds that all languages derive from Turkish and all civilisations from the Turks). Brought up as a young orphan in an Alevi Kurdish family in Elbistan, Maras, he later travelled extensively in eastern Turkey. See the biographical notice in Bayrak 1994: 197-204.
40. Dr. Sivan led the left-wing branch of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Turkey and began preparing for a prolonged guerrilla struggle as early as 1969, from a base in Iraqi Kurdistan. He was killed there in 193?. One of the major movements of the 1970s, DDKD, acknowledged him as its ideological leader.
41. zgrlk Yolu leader Kemal Burkay is a Dersimi, as are many of his associates; among the founders of the PKK we find the Dersimis Mazlum Dogan and M. Hayri Durmus, who both were killed in Diyarbakir prison in 1982.
42. On the clashes, see Lainer 1978, 1989.
43. On this semi-official state ideology, see Ahmad 1988; Toprak 1990.
44. I first encountered the name of Alevistan in the Turkish newspaper Hrriyet in 1976, in a report on subversive activities in Germany. Maoist enemies of the state allegedly conspired to divide Turkey into Kurdistan in the east, Alevistan in the centre, and a Sunni Turkish remnant in the west. In the 1980s there was an ephemeral ultra-left organisation in Germany, Kizil Yol, that similarly proclaimed its intention to liberate Alevistan. Many Kurdish nationalists and leftists of other persuasions suspected that these were machinations by the Turkish intelligence services, designed to provoke a Sunni and Turkish nationalist reaction.
45. The most complete survey of periodicals published by and for Kurds in Turkey is given by Malmsanij & Lewend, (1992). They list 65 periodicals published between 1960 and 1980, many of them appearing semi- or illegally.
46. Only three issues of Tirj could appear in Turkey in 1979 and 193?. A fourth and final issue was published in Swed3?. There was in fact one earlier journal that published a few brief pieces -a song text, a folktale and a word-list -in Zaza. This was the short-lived Roja Newe, the first and only issue of which appeared in Istanbul in 1963 (see Malmsanij & Lewend 1992: 159-61.)
47. This magazine, Hv/Hwa, began publication in 1983. Its Zaza section appeared under the responsibility of Malmsanij, who had also written the Zaza contributions in Tirj, and was later also to contribute Zaza material to various other journals. While continuing his efforts to preserve Zaza oral tradition and to win more respect for Zaza culture, Malmsanij was to firmly oppose Zaza separatism when this emerged.
48. Ayre and its successor Piya were published monthly in Sweden from 1987 on. The editor, Ebbekir Pamuku, was a Sunni Zaza speaker who had previously been marginally involved in Kurdish cultural activities and had at a yet earlier stage in his life been attracted to Turkis,. His most substantial contribution to the journal, an analysis of the Dersim rebellion from a Zaza nationalist point of view, later appeared as a book in Turkey: Dersim Zaza ayaklanmasinin tarihsel kkenleri
(Istanbul: Yn, 1992).
49. The most substantial of these booklets is Selcan 1994. Presently the most important Zaza journals are Desmala Sure and Ware (both published in Germany).
50. See Malmsanij 1992 and Selcan 1994 for two such analyses, reaching opposite conclusions in support of the Kurdish resp. 'Zazaist' positions of their authors (who both are Zaza speakers).
51. In Kurdish, the term 'Kurmanc' frequently refers to peasants as opposed to nomads, who are then called 'Kurd'. This could also be the primary meaning of Zaza 'Kirmanc'. However, as early as the 17th century the Kurdish poet Ahmed-i Khani used the names 'Kurd' and 'Kurmanc' interchangeably to refer to the collectivity of the Kurds.
52. A difficulty with this explanation is that most Zaza speakers do not even know the name of Dimili Sevgen (1950) distinguishes three

"ASLINI NKAR EDEN HARAMZADEDR!" The Debate on the Ethnic Identity of the Kurdish Alevis, was first published by the Kurdish Study Group in August 1996.



Dynamics of the Kurdish & Kirmanc-Zaza Problems in Anatolia

By Paul White

Dynamics of the Kurdish & Kirmanc-Zaza Problems in Anatolia was first published as a booklet in English in 1996 by the Kurdish Study Group. Apart from the 'Introduction', only the 'Interview with Seyfi Cengiz' and the essay 'Workers Movements in Turkish Kurdistan' are reproduced here from the KSG booklet. As explained further below, this latter essay is itself a translated excerpt from a now out-of-print book by Cengiz. Copies of the complete booklet, which includes pages of tabulated strike statistics, can be obtained from the KSG.

This booklet is a contribution to the difficult task of a fully nuanced understanding the rich nature of Kurdish society and politics. Focussing on Turkish Kurdistan (or 'Kirmanciye and North Kurdistan' as Seyfi Cengiz would prefer), this publication appears at a fortuitous time; recent publications by some leading Western Kurdologists indicate that scholars in this hemisphere are finally beginning to move beyond the trite socio-political paradigm of Kurdish nomadic society and peasant-based guerilla politics.

This publication's author, Seyfi Cengiz, is well known in Kurdish circles for stressing the existence of a Kurdish industrial proletariat. In the material translated and reproduced herein, he demonstrates this by charting its actions between the key years of 1964-80, immediately prior to Turkey's last military coup d'Stat, which temporarily stifled such activities.

Cengiz is also well known for his insistence on the separate (non-Kurdish) identity of the Zaza and Krmanc (pronounced Ker-manj) or Kizilbas (pronounced Keh-ziehl-baash) living in the eastern part of Anatolia, in the Turkish state. The origins of these nations are obscure, but both probably originated from a region south-west of the Caspian Sea known as 'Daylam' in contemporary Iran, before emigrating westwards into Anatolia.

The distinct identity of both of the Zaza and Kizilbas was denied by Ottoman rulers and Kurdish aristocrats and landlords in the past. In Cengiz's view, they face the same problems today from extreme Turkish nationalists and their Kurdish analogue. Due in large part to Seyfi Cengiz's pioneering work, the Kirmanc and Zaza questions have shaken politics throughout Anatolia of the past few years.


It is hoped that the material in the present booklet will give English-speaking readers valuable insights into the politics and work of the KCM and the DCM. The lengthy interview by the editor and the large segments of Cengiz's book Trkiye Krdistani Isi Hareketleri [The Workers Movement in the Kurdistan Part of Turkey, Yeni Gn Publications, n.d.] have never appeared in English before, nor has the completely new, updated table "Table of Workers Actions: 1964-80". Other material reproduced here has been published previously in the papers of leftists. The present collection puts them together for the first time, so as to facilitate a less fragmented picture. Readers interested in pursuing some of the questions discussed here might also with to read the editor's article in volume 2, number 2 of the Journal of Arabic, Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies, entitled "Ethnic Differentiation among the Kurds: Kurmanc, Kizilbas and Zaza", also published by the Centre for the Study of Asia and the Middle East (CSAME) and to follow the debate which this article sparked in the Kurdish Newsletter, produced by CSAME's Kurdish Study Group.1

Acknowledgment must be made of the efforts by several people for their translations of original texts from Turkish which make this publication possible. Senem Gneser translated the large sections of Trkiye Krdistani Isi Hareketleri, while Endercan Dal translated much of the remaining material, with Ali Saati, Cihangir zlk and Sehergl inar also rendering valuable assistance. Some minor translations were also made by the editor.

This booklet grew out of the editor's research for a doctoral dissertation on leadership in the Kurdish national movement in Turkey. It is produced solely in the hope of promoting understanding of the complex ethnic politics of Eastern Anatolia. Neither the Centre for the Study of Asia and the Middle East nor the editor or any of the translators in any way endorse the viewpoints or activities of any political grouping or trade union cited herein.

1. This issue of JAIMES can be obtained by sending $15.00 to the KSG, made out to JAIMES . Overseas readers should add a further $Aust.5.00. The Kurdish Newsletter can be obtained free of charge from the KSG.

Paul J. White, Melbourne, June 1996.


This is the slightly edited text of an interview with Seyfi Cengiz by the editor, on 19 May 1992.

Interview with Seyfi Cengiz

PW: What is the history of your organisation?

SC: First, I myself was a member of the Kurtulus organisation. In 1978 the organisation split. We left the organisation and founded another organisation, Tkosn, which means struggle, or, sometimes, armed struggle. Then, after 1983, we were in exile, mainly in Europe, and we had discussions about our past views. We came to an agreement on the Manifesto of the KCM, which we worked on for a long time, through discussions. Then, in 1989 and 1990, we officially established the KCM [Kurdistan Communist Movement - Krdistan Komnist Hareketi]. Since then we have a publication called Kurdistanli Marksist, and now another publication, which is called Desmala Sure. Now the movement is being called, briefly Communist Movement, without any country's name in front, We have two national sections at the moment, one is the Kirmanc section, the other is the Kurdish section. These are known as Kurdistan Communist Movement, the other is known as the Kirmanciye Communist Movement (or Dersim Communist Movement).

PW: What can you say about Kurtulus? What was its politics?

SC: Kurtulus was the name of the journal. And the group itself became known by the same name. Now they call themselves Trkiye ve Kuzey Krdistan Kurtulus rgt [Turkey and North Kurdistan Liberation Organisation], not only Kurtulus. This organisation was established in 1975-76, and I was among the half a dozen people who founded it.

But, two or three years later I left Kurtulus, and together with some other comrades I founded Tkosn. Kurtulus is a Stalinist group. Now, of course, it doesn't openly defend Stalinism, but in essence its policies on Russia and some other issues were Stalinist views. They were pro-Soviet . At the moment, of course, things are changed. They talked about a working class party in Turkey, first of all, when the Trkiye Halk Kurtulus Parti-Cephesi [THKP-C] Turkish Peoples Liberation Party-Front] was founded by Mahir ayan. Kurtulus comes from that background. The THKP-C split into three main groups. One was Dev Yol [Devrimci Yol - Revolutionary Path], one was Kurtulus, the other one was known as Halkin Yolu [People's Way].- and later that [latter] group was weaker, and dissolved itself.

Kurtulus and Dev Yol were the main ones, which emerged from the THKP-C, and Kurtulus criticised some of the THKP-C's views. Dev Yol defended all of the views; that was the difference at the time. When the group emerged in the Left, the differences came out mainly on the Chinese question, or the Russian question. Some of the Left was pro-Russia, and some was pro-China. At the time, Kurtulus didn't take any stand on that division. We said 'we are neither pro-Chinese nor pro-Russian; we don't take sides'. That was one of the main differences that was distinctive about Kurtulus, but there were some other circles that had the same stand, of course. [But], at the time, our criticism of the past, and having a different stand on the Chinese-Russian conflict were enough difference to have a different group.

PW: When you say "criticism of the past", does this mean that Kurtulus was criticising Mahir ayan's guerilla strategy?

SC: They were criticising guerilla strategy, and they were saying that we must work within the working class and establish an industrial working class party. Without that party, we can't give leadership to a people's movement, and so on. But, in practice, actually they didn't encourage their members to work within the working class movement. They simply tried to get stronger by working among students, the teachers' union and other middle class people. It was a middle class movement, actually - mainly a student and teachers' movement, and still is, but much weaker then before, and getting more and more weaker.

PW: So, you and a group of people left Kurtulus. Was it because of this question, or were there other questions as well?

SC: The Kurdish question was the main question which we split on. They were talking about Kurdistan, they were saying that the Kurdish question was an important question, but, actually, although there were many articles in the journal of Kurtulus about the national question - and it was one of the first groups which dealt with the Kurdish question. It wasn't members of Turkish background, but it was myself and a few others, members from Kurdistan, who wrote about the national question and who dealt with it, and who posed questions and tried to get the others to understand that this question is an important question and that the group must take a stand on it.

They accepted the stand that we put forward, but in time - because they weren't honest on that point - we had many problems with them. In practice we saw the signs of their behaviour that they didn't accept the question as an important question. Then we suggested some discussions - on paper, in the journal, in front of the members, in front of the Left generally - but they didn't accept the discussions, and we split.

It was mainly the Kurdish question. But, generally, the strategy of Kurtulus there wasn't a clear strategy, there wasn't a program; you can't discuss anything, actually. There were many problems, many disagreements, but nowhere can you see a program, a strategy. We were insisting that we must have a program and a clear strategy, we must have an organisation, because at the time there wasn't even an organisation. There was just some responsible individuals who led the movement, and it was up to them to decide [everything]. Actually, that was the most important question that we discussed and also the conflict between their practice and the group's theoretical stand, the inconsistencies between theory and practice. They were saying that we must work among workers, but the group wasn't working among workers, it was working wholly among students and teachers and became a teachers' organisation, a students' organisation. And on other issues, it was always the same; they were saying one thing but in practice it was always another.

PW: So Kurtulus came out of the 1960s radical movement in Turkey, that started with publications like Ant and Solu, then came Mahir ayan, then came Kurtulus and other organisations?

SC: Yes.

PW: Kurtulus came out of this, so we can say in a sense that Tekosin came out of that same process?

SC: Of course, in that sense, of course.

PW: How was it different? Was Tekosin very different from other organisations in the Turkish state, in Anatolia?

SC: Well, the difference you know, actually many other groups in Anatolia, like us, emerged from different general tendencies in Anatolia, mainly Turkish tendencies - different backgrounds, different traditions. For instance, there is an organisation called Trkiye Krdistan Sosyalist Partisi, TKSP. That group emerged from a group called TP, the Turkish Workers Party. [Editor's note: Previously known as the Partiya Sosyalista Kurdistan in Kurdish, the TKSP changed its name to the Partiya Sosyalist a Kurdistan at its Third Congress, in October 1992.]

Other groups mainly emerged from Kurdish tendencies. There wasn't a Kurdish political party, of course. In 1961 there was a party which was founded at the same time as TP and Demirel's party called the Adalet [Justice] Party were established. That party's name was the Yeni Trkiye Partisi, New Turkey Party, founded by Yusuf Azizoglu, who was from Diyarbekir [Diyarbakir] and was a Kurd. The party itself, its composition, was mainly from Kurdistan. That was the first Kurdish party in Turkey. It was a party of the Kurdish nationalist bourgeoisie.

Later, another Kurdish party was founded, named the Trkiye-Krdistan Demokrat Partisi, T-KDP. This KDP was [established] in connection with Barzani's party in Iraq [of the same name]. It was founded by two individuals, Sait Eli and Faik Buak, in 1965. Later, it split, and two parties emerged, with the same name, from that tendency. One of them was headed by Dr. Sait Kirmizitoprak, who was from Dersim [now officially called Tunceli]. [Editor's note: Actually, there was a very slight difference in the two parties' names. The one led by Sait Kirmizitoprak was known as the Trkiye'de Krdistan Demokrat Partisi (Kurdistan Democratic Party in Turkey, while the other, led by Sait Eli, which presented itself as the legitimate Barzani-ite party, called itself the Krdistan Demokrat Partisi-Trkiye (Kurdistan Democratic Party - Turkey).]

Then during the late Sixties, (in 1969-70), an association - mainly of Kurdish intellectuals and Kurdish students - was founded. It was the Devrimci Dogu Kltr Ocaklan (DDKO - the Revolutionary Cultural Centres of the East]. That association became strong quickly . It was founded in Istanbul and in Ankara, centrally, but then they had branches in many areas of Kurdistan. But when the 1971 military coup occurred, like many other left wing organisations and trade unions, that Association as well was abolished.

In the Seventies, when the rule by the military was over, and the period of civil rule began, we had many groups again emerging from different tendencies, from different traditions. Many Kurdish groups like Rizgar [Liberation], Ala Rizgar [Banner of Liberation], and many other groups emerged from that association (DDKO). They became political tendencies and became political circles, parties, and so on. And from the original KDP, another group emerged called KUK [Krdistan Ulusal Kurtulusculari - Kurdistan National Liberators]. So, I mean to say that the Kurdish groups mainly emerged from two different tendencies. One is from an association established in the late Sixties; the other is from the Turkish Left movement.

Tekosin's background was different. Our tradition was different; we had a radical background. Our stand on international questions was quite different. All the Kurdish groups were pro-Soviet, for example. At least we weren't pro-Soviet., we were in the middle. A centrist position, actually; it wasn't a proper position, but, that was a position, anyway, an important position, at the time. Our views were different because we came from different traditions. Every single group had something which it was still defending from its own [ideological] background.

On other issues, the Kurdish issue, we were defending that you must have a working class party in Kurdistan itself, All of the groups claiming to be socialist were saying the same thing. But, in practice, none of us, none of the groups, dealt with the working class movement, worked within the working class and tried to have a working class party.

The understanding of a party, because of Stalinist understanding of socialism, was different as well. Without working in the working class, you can have a working class party, according to that understanding of socialism. Some groups were simply defending a guerilla strategy, and because of that they were specially working among the peasants in the countryside, but, when you asked them, they used to say they were communists and they were trying to establish a working class party. And many groups and circles were composed of intellectuals and students, but they were calling themselves communist groups. And there are still such communist groups there.

After the 1980 military coup, we began guerilla warfare for three years. We were alone, at the time; other groups didn't resist against the military coup. They tried to, but they couldn't.. After a short time, nearly all of them were eliminated by the military junta.

We stood alone by ourselves. Of course, we couldn't change the situation and we decided to withdraw. Some cadres, including myself, went into exile, first in Syria, in Damascus, Beirut, then in Sweden. Some are still in Sweden, some in Germany, in Holland, and I am here [in Britain].

In exile we had long discussions, a period of discussions. We exchanged views, we came together, we discussed, in meetings and so on. We criticised our past, as I told you before, we came to a conclusion of the Manifesto.

PW: During your guerilla period, was your activity based in the city or the countryside - or both?

SC: We were defending a guerilla strategy which was almost the same as in Cuba, in China, in Vietnam. We were saying that the countryside has the central importance for guerilla strategy, because the countryside is the weakest point of the state. We must have our base first in the countryside - surrounding the cities, in time from the countryside, but step by step, not all at once, of course, by establishing liberated areas, and in time surrounding the city and taking the power.

Yes, although we were emphasising that political work in the city, in the working class, is very important, and saying this isn't going to be exactly like China - the revolution in Kurdistan and Turkey is not going to be exactly like China, we might have risings in the cities and in the countryside at the same time, and both the city and the countryside have a role to play at the same time, and only by that combination, can we have a revolution. We were saying this; it was different, actually [from a classical Maoist or Guevarist strategy].But, in practice, we were in the countryside, we were working among peasants; there was no difference, at the time, at that stage.

PW: The first Kurdish nationalist movements in the late nineteenth century were very religious, very autocratic. How does that compare with today?

SC: Well, at the moment, when you talk about the Kurdistan Communist Movement and the Dersim Communist Movement, we don't yet have an organisational structure, actually. We mainly call ourselves a movement of discussion and cadres. We need to organise ourselves, in time. Of course, our organisational principles and our understanding of the party is quite different from the others. All others are organisations of the Kurdish nationalist bourgeoisie and, some of them, organisations of the Kurdish petty bourgeoisie, Kurdish middle class. Their class structure, their class base is quite different from ours, their class milieu is quite different from us.

At the moment, we say that the theoretical struggle, and winning cadres, are the main duties of the socialist. And that's why, at the moment, we don't have a structure for our organisation, [But] we have an understanding of [party] organisation which is quite different from theirs and in time we are going to organise ourselves into a party, of course. [At the moment] we mainly defend that opinion - that we must work in the working class movement, among workers and try to organise the advanced workers, the intellectual workers, into a party. We can only organise ourselves, together with those advanced workers, into a party. This means we need some time; it's a process, and we are still in the beginning, in the first stage of the process.

PW: What is your organisation's goal?

SC: We are socialists, we are communists. Our goal is to establish a socialist society, to fight for a socialist society, to fight for a classless society - I mean communism. But we can't achieve our goal at this stage by simply ignoring the immediate questions of society. There are national questions [relating to Kurds, Kirmanc-Kizilbas and Zazas], there is a question of religious minorities, and so on. These are important and immediate questions. We must deal with them in a socialist way. That is why we must have some immediate demands, in order to lead the democratic political movement. At the same time, by working in the working class movement, and trying to bring together the advanced workers, organising them into a party. This is not something against socialism; there is nothing in it [against socialism].

PW: Is it absolutely important to strive for either autonomy or independence now?

SC: We say this is not the time to discuss autonomy, federation, or an independent state. We must defend each nation's right to self-determination. It's their right to self-determination, first of all. Without having their right to self-determination, they can't decide whether, autonomy, federation, or an independent state, are in their interests. Without having the right to chose, they can't chose anything. First of all, they must have the right to chose, and only when the conditions are right and they have that right, can they decide which one is going to be right for them. They can only decide that at the time, after having the right to self-determination, At present we demand national self-determination, and it (autonomy, federation or independence) is not a practical question at the moment.

But, generally, as a principle, at the same time, by defending nations' right to self-determination, at the same time, we always say we are for unity, for equal and voluntary unity. As a principle, we defend this, because without defending this, when the time comes, people will decide something else - a solution that's not going to be in the interests of socialism. In order to have the right decision, in the interests of the working class movement for socialism, we must fight from now for voluntary unity, for equal unity between peoples, between different nations. The right to self-determination, doesn't mean to invite nations to separation. On the contrary it's a way to avoid that result.

PW: Under what circumstances would your organisation support autonomy?

SC: First of all, let me tell you this. Under these conditions, without having a revolution - without having working class power - we never support autonomy. Without a revolution, defending autonomy as a solution means defending a reformist solution, not a revolutionary solution, because ultimately autonomy is something which is within the framework of a capitalist state; it is not a revolutionary solution, before a revolution. Federation is the same, and it fits in with the interests of the bourgeois class, with the middle class [also] sometimes, but not with working class interests, It's not in the interests of revolution against the state. All of the groups that defend not national self-determination, but autonomy, or which interpret national self-determination in practice to mean autonomy, and federation - they are reformist organisations. They don't have a revolutionary perspective; they don't have a revolution in their perspective; they are not revolutionary. The only revolutionary solution at the moment must be formulated as national self-determination.

PW: Under what circumstances would your organisation negotiate with the Turkish state?

SC: On this question we must talk about the working class, not my organisation. In principle, can a working class party negotiate with the state? I can't say that there are no conditions where this could occur. It depends on conditions.

PW: Are there any circumstances in which your organisation would support a struggle for an independent Kurdish state?

SC: As Lenin said, the Marxist program on the national question must not suggest independence as a permanent demand, as a binding demand. The binding demand of a Marxist program must be national self-determination. But there can be some specific conditions, under which we can defend independence, separation. This can only be defended under very specific conditions, and when it is in the interests of the socialist movement. In principle, we can't defend independence and, as you know, we don't put forward that slogan of an independent Kurdistan, for example, and we don't defend it [at the present time]. We could only support it under certain specific conditions, if these emerged, and if the interests of the fight for socialism impose the necessity to defend independence, then, at the time, we must defend independence.

PW: What sort of conditions would they be?

SC: During the Spanish Civil War, there was a time, for example, when fascism was in power, but in the other non-Spanish countries [within the Spanish state], Catalonia, the Basque country, there was a resistance against the fascism in power in Spain. Just think, for example, of conditions like these in Anatolia: that fascism is in power in Turkey; a racist party is in power, but in Kirmanciye (Dersim), in Kurdistan and in the Zaza country, there is a significant democratic resistance to fascism. And if this fight goes on, and if Turkish people [i.e., the ethnically-Turkish citizens of the Turkish state] are behind the fascist regime this is just speculation, but you asked me under these conditions, if there isn't a working class [i.e., socialist] alternative in Turkey, and one does not appear to be close, then in those conditions, we can defend independence.

PW: So, you're stressing national self-determination above everything else, and class struggle, and Marxist strategy, so it seems that you don't consider yourself a nationalist?

SC: Of course not!

PW: Why not?

SC: We are socialists. You know, defending national self-determination doesn't make one a nationalist. It means being against the foreign occupation, it means favouring the people's own power, in their own country. This is defending democracy, defending democratic principles; it has nothing to do with nationalism. Nationalism is something that emerges in strategy, in solutions, in program. Our program, as you know, is there, our strategy is there. If that is a nationalist program, and nationalist strategy, then we are. I don't think it is; the only socialist program and strategy in our conditions, can be that strategy and that program. And we have a socialist goal, of course, so we try to have a solution, have demands, that fit our socialist goal, the working class struggle for socialism.

PW: What is your attitude to the rebellion in nineteenth century and early twentieth century Anatolia - and to their leaders, like Sheikh Said and Shaikh Ubeydullah,?

SC: Well, you know, Ubeydullah, who was a sheikh, a Kurdish sheikh, and he was defending his previous rights under the Ottomans - they were like princes, [these sheikhs]; they had small kingdoms within the Ottoman Empire. From the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Turkish rulers tried to abolish the Kurdish principalities, and all the Kurdish sheikhs and princes resisted that. I find nothing in it to admire, for a socialist. It was a resistance for their own class interests.

Sheikh Said, he was right, defending some rights against Turkish rule, but I find nothing in Sheikh Said's way of thinking, or way of acting to admire. But there was someone in Kirmanciye called Seyit Riza. Although he seemed to be a religious man, he wasn't a man like Sheikh Said, like Sheikh Ubaydallah. Between "Sheikh" and "Seyit" there is a big difference. That man (Seyit Riza) resisted against Turkish rule not once, but dozens of times, and he was the leader of the resistance - the most popular leader of the resistance. He died in a way you can admire. When he was executed in the city of Harput, he was very brave. He put the noose on his neck, then he pushed the executioner [out of the way], and then he himself kicked his chair away, executing himself. The words that he said, before the execution, and at the time of execution, were quite brave words. In that man - he was a nationalist, I am not a nationalist, I have nothing to admire in nationalism, in that sense - his courage, his determination, I find something to admire in it.

PW: What strategy does your organisation have to achieve its goal? What is the role of armed struggle? What is the role of workers' strikes?

SC: In our strategy, we are planning to organise an uprising, led by the working class movement, by a working class party and the working class itself. This uprising must mainly be based on the cities, of course, and must have the support of the countryside. We are trying to organise an uprising, led by the working class movement and we accept armed struggle when conditions are right, when working class interests impose it. Some populist people, think the only form of the armed struggle people to be guerilla war, and this war must be centred in the countryside. This is not true.

In Russia, for example, in Moscow, in Petersburg, there were times when wars of barricades, and in some ways guerilla wars, were fought by the working class, and by communists. Eventually, I think there is only one way that people can liberate themselves, the working class can liberate itself. It is by force and by arms. This is why we accept using force. We are going to be forced to use force; this doesn't depend on our wishes, but it is dictated by others.

PW: So, the armed struggle is not the dominant aspect of your strategy, its subordinate to the political considerations.

SC: Of course.

PW: Many tendencies claiming to be Marxist believe that, since there is very little industry in Turkish Kurdistan, and Kirmanciye, and consequently little resident working class, there is little basis for class struggle politics at this point? 'Socialism' is therefore irrelevant. What do you say to this?

SC: This is entirely wrong, to me. First, they don't know working class history in Kurdistan, in Kirmanciye, they don't deal with the working class movement. That's why, according to them, there isn't a working class movement, or it isn't a force in the country itself. It's wrong; they don't know who are the working class. I wrote a book [Trkiye Krdistani si Hareketleri - a condensed version of which appears as the last two sections of the present work], about the working class movement in Kurdistan - including also the Kirmanc and Zaza working class movements, It's a significant movement there, and we have a significant working class. Besides, we have Kurdish, Kirmanc and Zaza workers in Turkish cities, like Istanbul, Izmir, Mersin, Ankara. The working class in Anatolia is not mainly made up of Turkish workers. It's made up of non-Turkish nationals, mainly.

Those workers in those Turkish cities - in Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara and so on - have relations with the countryside, with Kirmanciye (Dersim), with Kurdistan. They still have relations. There are millions of workers from Kirmanciye, from Kurdistan, from the Zaza country in Europe, for example in Austria, especially in Germany, in Holland, in this country. Those are Kirmanc, Zaza or Kurdish, but nearly all of them are workers. They have relations with their own countries. They earn money and they send it to Kirmanciye, to Kurdistan, for their relatives there. It's a different culture, different society, and they find themselves responsible for helping their relatives in the country. One of their feet is in the country; the other foot is in Turkey and so on. They have something for the liberation of Kirmanciye, of Kurdistan, of the Zaza country, and they have a role to play in it.

PW: So, when you talk about an uprising, led by the working class, this would mean throughout the present Turkish state?

SC: We mean we should organise an uprising in the whole of Anatolia. And we try to prepare a working class leadership for that uprising. But we are, for example, some of us, from Kirmanciye, we should mainly work in Kirmanciye. Some of us are Kurdish from Kurdistan. They must work in Kurdistan itself. They must try to organise a working class leadership in their own country. Internationalism must be interpreted in that way. I mean, everyone, not all the time, but mainly, should work in his or her own country and try to establish a working class alternative in his or her own country. Beginning with that point, we can have an international worldview. It's about strategy, it's about program. Marx was an internationalist, but he was working with the German party, mainly. That wasn't something wrong.

PW: Why are the Kirmanc and Zaza questions now coming forward?

SC: Both of these questions are national questions. One of them - the Kirmanc question - is also an Alevi-Kizilbas question, as I told you before. Both of these questions were raised by myself, as an individual. Why? Simply because I had to fight against Kurdish nationalism, because I am from the east; I am not Turkish. It is a Turkish socialist's duty to fight against Turkish nationalism. Of course, I fought against Turkish chauvinism in the past, and I still fight against it now, and I will [continue to do so]. But our main duty - Kurdish socialists, Kirmanc socialists, Zaza socialists - is to fight against their own nationalism, in order to get the leadership of the movement, in order to unite workers from different nationalities.

We mainly fight in our own countries to get leadership in the arena. [Since] Kurdish nationalism was becoming more dominant, we had to fight against Kurdish nationalism. I wrote some articles which talked about the Zaza question and the Kirmanc question put forward [into public view] the Zaza question, the Kirmanc question. These articles were polemics against Kurdish nationalism, because the Kurdish nationalists denied the history of Kirmanc, the history of Zaza, and tried to show them as [part of] Kurdish history.

For example, the Dersim uprising. They say it's a Kurdish uprising. It's wrong history; you must correct it. And they're making propaganda around it. They are saying the Sheikh Said uprising is a Kurdish uprising, and they are making nationalist propaganda around it - in exile, in the country itself. This is not right. The Dersim uprisings - there were a series of them, from the 1820s to the 1930s which never ceased, you see. These were Kirmanc uprisings, those were Alevi uprisings.

There is one - only one - Zaza uprising, the Sheikh Said uprising in 1925. In Turkish Kurdistan, I can only remember the Agri uprising in 1926-1927, which was Kurdish. There are some other minor Kurdish uprisings, very local uprisings. Those are not big uprisings, history doesn't mention them too much. The only uprisings which history mentions and which were quite important were the Dersim uprisings, and there were dozens of them,. as I said, since the nineteenth century they continued as an uninterrupted uprising process. Those are Kirmanc uprisings, those are Alevi uprisings.

But Kurdish nationalists claim that all those Kirmanc uprisings were Kurdish uprisings. They have no uprisings of their own, actually. They didn't make any uprisings against the Turkish state, against the Ottomans, because they were in power at the time. The Kurdish aristocracy had a strategic alliance since the beginning of the sixteenth century with the Ottoman rulers.

The Kurdish aristocracy has been used against the Armenians - they've been used in Armenian massacres, in Kirmanc massacres, in Alevi massacres, in Yezidi massacres, in Assyrian massacres. The Kurdish aristocracy has the blood of these massacres on its hands. We told Kurdish nationalists: "You must think on this. Your aristocracy played a role in those massacres, to put down those uprisings, and you are still trying to escape from this question. You are trying to share your aristocracy's views."

Their aristocracy, together with the Ottoman-Turkish aristocracy, suppressed those uprisings. Now they say those were Kurdish uprisings. This is ridiculous! When they try to revise history, we try to correct it. That was a duty, and it was a fight against nationalism. They said Zazas are Kurds. We said: "the Zaza language, according to many foreign linguists, is not a dialect of Kurdish, but a different language.You are acting like Turks! Turks were saying that Kurdish and other languages are different dialects of Turkish, and by this way they were denying the very existence of the people who spoke those languages, and their rights. Now, your way, denying other nations, other languages and their equal rights, your way of doing that is to claim that those are not separate nations, those are not separate languages, those are part of the Kurdish language and Kurds."

Nationalism was very strong at the time when those questions were put forward.

PW: When was that? In the Eighties?

SC: Yes, it was in the second half of the Eighties. For the first time, I wrote about the Zaza question, in an article in 1987, called "Tarihte Krt ve Zaza Hareketleri" [The Kurdish and Zaza Movements in History] in the magazine Sosyalist si, number 38, in 1987. The first article on the Kirmanc question was written in the first issue of Desmala Sure, in December last year [1991], called "Dersim Sorunu: Kirmanc-Alevi Ulusal Sorunu" [The Dersim Question: the Kirmanc-Alevi National Question]. At the time of the first article, about the Zaza question, there was the Iran-Iraq war. It was right before the Halabja massacre, and Kurdish nationalism was quite strong and everywhere Kurdish nationalists were saying that a [Kurdish] state is about to arise, with Iranian support. They took the side of Iran against Iraq, as you know, Talabani, Barzani, all the Kurdish groups, including the PKK [Partiya Karkren Kurdistan - Kurdistan Workers' Party, the largest Kurdish organisation in Turkey] , TKSP and others. Nationalism was quite strong. They had an illusionistic way of thinking. I wrote the article at that time.

PKK fanaticism made me talk about the Kirmanc question, because they attacked Dersimlis [people from Dersim - now known officially as Tunceli]. You should be aware that Dersimlis describe themselves as Kirmanc, their language as Kirmanci or Kirmancki (Dimli) and their country as Kirmanciye or Dersim. They do not define themselves as Kurdish. On the contrary, they reject this identity. Dersmilis call Kurds Qurr-Kurr, and the Kurds' language Kirdaski. This is discussed in my article "Dersim Sorunu", in Desmala Sure number one.

But the PKK said that Dersimlis are hain [traitors], Alevis are hain, are state agents. smail Besiki attacked Dersimlis, he attacked Alevis, in a book, Tunceli Kanunu (1935) ve Dersim Jenosidi [Tunceli Law (1935) and the Dersim Genocide]. He was accusing all the Dersimli Marxists of being under the influence of Kemalism, under the influence of Turkish nationalism. He was asking why the Dersimlis don't support the PKK, because he became a PKK man. He was talking in a ridiculous way, a quite nationalistic way. In Serxwebn ['Independence' - a PKK publication] and other journals, there were attacks against Kirmanc people and against Alevis. There needed to be someone to come out and have the courage to say something about these attacks. That happened to be me. I'm sorry, but I had to accept the risk! And I brought out the Kirmanc question. Now they've got trouble!

PW: What section of Kurds are represented in your organisation: speakers of which dialect, mostly? Kirmanci speakers mostly?

SC: Well our movement is mainly made up of Kirmanciye revolutionaries, Kirmanci-speaking] revolutionaries, Alevi revolutionaries. As I told you, in Anatolia as a whole, in the Turkish Left, in the Kurdish movement, Alevis make up a large part of its left movement. We have a few Kurdish comrades, only a few - several comrades in the country itself, working for the Kurdistan Communist Movement and some comrades in exile. Others are mainly Kirmanc.

But now our potential . We were guerilla fighters during the Tekosin time, and there are still hundreds of villagers, peasants and youth who are our supporters in the country. They are still there, they are in contact with us. We have a potential. We can measure hundreds of individuals, and outside, in exile, we were tens of individuals, up to [the launching of Desmala Sure]. Since then, we brought up the Kirmanc question, and we made it known for the first time. It was already there, but no-one dealt with the question. Because we dealt with it for the first time, now hundreds of people are supporting us, supporting Desmala Sure.

Desmala Sure's ideas are getting stronger, gaining support - in exile and the country itself. Now we can measure it [i.e., the level of support] in hundreds of supporters, hundreds of sympathisers. After every issue [of Desmala Sure], I go abroad and have meetings with people in different cities, in different countries. I talk with hundreds of people, and I know the situation quite well. I've just come back from a trip. There are hundreds of people who sympathise with our views and who distribute Desmala Sure. It's being discussed quite widely - beyond our expectations. We could measure our potential in thousands; it's only the PKK's threats and the general threat from Kurdish nationalism - especially the PKK's threats -that makes people hesitate in taking a side, immediately.

PW: Some organisations of Kurds which are nationalist encourage Kurds to discover what asiret (tribe) they come from. Do you do this?

SC: We don't do such a thing. The tribal spirit must be overcome; the nationalist spirit must be overcome. But these are different questions. For instance, as a researcher, I deal with the tribes.

It has been over for some time, because now it's something, mainly, [that] belongs to the past. For example, in Kirmanciye, a Kirmanc identity emerged, which is something that overtook the tribal structure. Whatever tribe they belong to, they came to a conclusion; they all agree that one identity defines them - Kirmanc identity. Tribal structure is getting weaker and weaker, all the time. We always fought against tribal splittism. In Kurdistan, it's the same. It must be overcome, of course we fight against tribal spirit, and nationalism, as well.

But this doesn't mean that we should deny the national identity of the others; we can't gain anything! There is nothing that socialism gains from this. It is the state which makes people forget, you see. Forbidden languages, forbidden cultures, forbidden national identities, trying to Turkify them forcibly for centuries. Fighting against chauvinism, fighting against racism, against Turkish chauvinism, and Turkish colonialism, you must deal with those problems. You must bring them out and talk about them. That this land is not only Turkish land; there are other nations, other languages. You are suppressing them; you suppressed them in history. You massacred them. There were not only Armenian massacres; there were Kirmanc massacres. There are Alevis, there are Kurds. It's not only Kurds, there are others.

To have democracy, you must defend equal rights for all the nations. We can't just deny their identity; it is already there. When you talk to them - especially people belonging to the older generations - they say: "We are Kirmanc. You are saying that we are Kurdish. We are not Kurdish." They always said this to us. When you say "you are Turkish", they are against you, and they say they are not Turkish, they are not Zaza, they are not Kurdish, they are Kirmanc, some of them. If Zaza, they say "we are not Kurdish, we are Zaza. This is in people's knowledge; in their oral, common knowledge. It isn't a hundred people who are saying this, it's hundreds of thousands, it's millions that agree on this identity. Kirmanc and Zaza peoples speak the same language, which is called Dimli. The dialects are different, known as Kirmancki and Zazaki. So, the Dimli-speaking people is divided into two main groups. This is not the only difference between Kirmancs and Zazas. The two peoples also differ religiously from one another. Kirmanc people as a whole belong to a faith called the Kizilbas or Alevi religion, whereas the Zazas are Sunni Muslims, adhering the Safii [Shafi'i] school of Islamic law.

Although the two seem to be mainly of the same origin, they do not share a common history. Ultimately, they do not identify themselves as one nation. I speak of them as separate nations, because that is how theypresent themselves. It is their self-identification. Yet, at the same time, in order to bring them closer to each other and bend the stick towards voluntary unification, I spoke of them as Dimli people (Kirmanc-Zaza people) in my writings. The term "Dimli" as a common name defining the two people, is being used by their Kurdish neighbours. In some places, some small sections of both Kirmanc and Zaza peoples name themselves, especially their language, as Dimli as well.

PW: But why do these identities suddenly, now, blossom? Surely it's not just because of your articles? There must be some deep changes in material conditions?

SC: Of course, in the world situation, you know. In the world generally, national movements have been getting stronger for some time. It's been some time since those questions have come up. But we thought that the national questions were solved, in Soviet Russia, for example. Now what do we see? Nothing was solved. It was already there. Now this is what I mean. In Anatolia, if you try to cover-up, if you try to suppress those questions, you might have the illusion that you solved them, but in the future, those questions come back again. That's why you must see them, you must bring them forward, and you must deal with them.

PW: I know that the Turkish part of Kurdistan is very under-developed. This is well known, economically. But it is still not the same now economically as it was before WW II, for instance. There has been some modernisation, although very, very small. Do you think that this very limited modernisation that has occurred since 1945 has caused many changes in the consciousness of Kurdish people? Or has it been insignificant?

SC: Of course, the changes - especially since the 1950s, because the capitalist mode of production started to get stronger in Kurdistan, in Kirmanciye, within Alevi society, within Kirmanc and Kurdish society. Class divisions started to clear up, since that time. And now in Kurdish society, within Kirmanc society in general, there are clear class distinctions; we can easily distinguish the three main classes from each other. There is a bourgeois class, there is a working class, and there is a petty bourgeois or middle class.

In the political arena, you can easily distinguish the political circles and movements by their class background, by their class connections. Some of them defend petty bourgeois interests. Some of them are bourgeois nationalists - they defend the interests of their nationalist bourgeoisie. It's a section of their bourgeoisie, because other sections of these bourgeoisies, in Kirmanciye, in Kurdistan, always collaborate with the Turkish bourgeoisie, with the Turkish state, as before. But a section broke from that bourgeoisie, because the national movement is getting stronger, and the bourgeoisie divided, and one section of it began to be nationalist, in order to lead the movement, to take the leadership, and to maintain their traditional authority in society. There are these main classes, and every group has connections with those classes.

PW: With one class, or another?

SC: Yeah. For example, the PKK defending an independent Kurdistan were originally, if you ask me, a petty bourgeois movement, because it wasn't the demand of the Kurdish nationalist bourgeoisie. They [the Kurdish nationalist bourgeoisie] are demanding a sort of autonomy, a sort of federation, at the moment. They are quite a reformist tendency. Their interests are represented by the TKSP, by Tevger [pro-TKSP] groups, by HEP [People's Labour Party - a pro-PKK legal party, which has since changed its name to Demokrasi Partisi (DP) for legal reasons] and other groups. But they didn't look upon the PKK as an important movement. But when the PKK got stronger than the others, so that now it's the only group that represents Kurdish struggle in the eyes of the world and other surrounding states, the nationalist bourgeoisie made connections with the PKK.

Now the PKK is becoming a bourgeois nationalist party; they are ready to adopt a reformist political line, if the Turkish bourgeoisie accepts that the PKK is the only legitimate representative of the Kurdish people, and accepts to solve the question, by talking to the PKK. For that reason, their leader, Abdullah calan, has said many times that his party is ready to give up the slogan of independence and to become a legal party. He has said that Turkey and Kurdistan might stay together for forty years, and so on. They are ready to change their strategy, towards reformism, like others. They were against federalism, now they are defending federalism. Their reformist tendency is becoming stronger. They are becoming more representative of the nationalist bourgeoisie of Turkish Kurdistan.

Of course, there have been many changes: class structure is quite changed since the 1950s. A working class emerged, and trade unions emerged, a working class movement came about. Before the Fifties, there was a feudal class, a Kurdish aristocracy. There were some individual bourgeois Kurds, but you couldn't talk about a Kurdish bourgeoisie, as a class, at the time. But, since the Fifties, there is a bourgeois class in Kurdistan. Class structure, politics, is quite changed,. Tribal structure began to dissolve since then. and now it's quite weak, compared with before the Fifties.

PW: What are the problems of leading your organisation?

SC: I am quite enthusiastic about revolution; I'm a revolutionary, first of all. I like the struggle, the time of struggle, the struggle itself; it's my life. I'm happy being a revolutionary. If I was born again, I would begin sooner to do the same. It doesn't matter where I am; it depends on my comrades. I ask comrades: "Comrades, please do my work; allow me to do other duties. Prepare yourself for what I am doing now, collectively".

I encourage comrades to write articles, to advances their qualities as soon as possible. And, I tell you what, I don't think I am going to live for a long time, because as a revolutionary, I am dealing with risky questions. I know the risk, and I have enemies, too many enemies. I'm doing my revolutionary work, whatever risk that work brings with it, I am ready to face that risk.


Workers Movements in Turkish Kurdistan

Seyfi Cengiz

The objective of the following sections is to try to identify the specific weight of the working class in the Kurdistan part of Turkey, its fighting power and the level of the struggle reached. Without these, at this present time, where the working movement is at the stage of a new ascent within Turkey and the Kurdistan part of Turkey, we will not find correct answers to the problems we are faced with.

This study covers Turkey's twenty administrative provinces. At this point, I must point out, in order to avoid any misunderstandings, that I do not see twenty within the Kurdistan part of Turkey. This would not have been right, either from an historical or an ethnic point of view. The reason I have used the twenty provinces as my basis was due to the difficulty I was faced with, in distinguishing the workers' movement in this area.

Seyfi Cengiz
The first recorded workers' movements in Turkey began in 1872. Workers' actions were seen very rarely from 1872 to 1908. In thirty-six years, only twenty-eight strikes and one rally took place. The majority of these actions occurred in stanbul and its surrounding area.

The first great ascent of the workers' movement came in 1908. At least twenty-eight strikes occurred in 1908 alone. This is equal to the number of strikes which occurred in the thirty-six years between 1872 and 1908.

The 1908 strike movement - which was similar to a general strike - overflowed from the main industrial centres of the [Ottoman] Empire. Strikes were witnessed all over Ottoman Turkey and in various Ottoman countries. Besides Selanik and stanbul, Varna, zmir, Aydin, Zonguldak, Adana, Balya-Karaaydin and many other places experienced workers' movements one after another. The first strikes in some working industries were also seen in this period.

The 1908 strike wave had its affect in Ottoman Kurdistan as well. The workers went on strike in one of the oldest industries - the Ergani Copper Mine, at the end of September, when strikes were very intense. The strike at Ergani seems to have been the the first workers' movement in the Kurdistan part of Turkey.

After a long time, the strike in Ergani was followed by the strikes listed below which broke out under conditions of great oppression:

August 1924: Ankara-Sivas railway construction workers' strike;
July 1925: Erzurum telegraph workers' strike;
August 1927: Adana-Nusaybin railway construction workers' strike.

Apart from these three strikes, no other workers' movement emerged in the Kurdistan part of Turkey until 1950. Those strikes that are mentioned faced the harsh attacks of the Kemalist army, police and courts (Istikll or Supreme Courts).

Of these strikes, the Adana-Nusaybin railway strike was put down bloodily by the army.

In Turkey, approximately 10 years of the 23 years between 1925-48 passed under martial law against the uprisings in the Kurdistan part of Turkey. [Two years, eight months and twenty-eight days of this period is within 1925-27, and seven years, one month and eleven days of it is within 1940-48.]

Waging a colonialist war in Kurdistan, the Kemalist bourgeoisie did not let Turkey's working class breathe either. The workers' movement, which appeared occasionally up until 1938, was hardly encountered during the period 1938-48.

On 20 February 1947, an amendment was made to the Corporations Act, to permit the formation of trade unions without the right to strike. Due to this change, workers' unions generally started to be formed in Turkey. Workers' activity, which restarted in 1948 and continued until the 1950s, although scarce, was in addition to the formation of unions.

This process, which was experienced generally throughout Turkey, was shortly reflected in Kurdistan as well. The Tobacco and Cigarette Industry Workers Union in Malatya, and the State Railway Industry Workers Union in Sivas were established in 1949. This was followed by the establishment of the Textile Industry Workers Union in Gaziantep, in 1950. These unions were the first workers' unions established in Kurdistan, which happened in parallel with developments occurring in Turkey. Over the following years, the unionisation movement spread to other cities of Kurdistan.

The first workers' movements in Kurdistan after 1927 come onto the agenda in the 1950s, with the effect of the process in Turkey. Three workers' actions occurred - two in Antep (Gaziantep) and one in Sivas that were recorded in those years:

1950, the textile workers' rally in Antep.
1952, the Bakery workers' resistance in Antep.
1959, Sivas railway workers' rally.

These are the first workers' movements in the industries mentioned (textiles, food, transport) in the Kurdistan part of Turkey. Workers' movements which were encountered before only in the areas of mining and construction were now also witnessed in the industrial sector in those years. These were the first workers' actions in the form of resistance and the protest rally in the Kurdistan part of Turkey.

The working class of Turkey falls in a new and a forward stage of its history after 1960. After 1961 a new ascent starts in the workers' movements; until 1963 about 40 strikes and demonstrations took place. The working class raised its demand to have the right to strike and collective agreements as soon as possible. In 1963, Section 274 of the Trade Unions Act and Section 275 of the Strike and Collective Agreement Act became effective. These victories were great contributions to rousing the workers' movement. The working class movement won a new acceleration.

Stopping after 1959 in Kurdistan of Turkey, workers' actions started again in 1964, following the Strike and Collective Agreement Act becoming effective in Turkey, in 1963. After this date, workers' movements in Kurdistan were not seen to be rare events any longer. As an organic piece of the general movement of the working class around Turkey, more than ever before under this general influence, the workers' movement took on the quality of a continuous phenomenon in Kurdistan. So much that, working class activity gained a power and intensity, especially in Kurdistan in 1975-80, which could be noticed easily at all times.

Social Weight of the Working Class in Kurdistan
Before going into the workers' movements of 1964-80 period, it might be useful to give a rough idea about the working class's numerical power, level of intensity and geographical distribution in Kurdistan with the datum available.

The table below contains datum from the Employment Ministry for December 1951. The datum in the tables covers workplaces that have at least 10 workers and the Work Act which became effective in 1936 was applied. It is indicated that workers of agriculture, transport, small businesses, those who work at small businesses and people who work at home and the unemployed were not included in the table:

Regions under the control of the Employment Administration

Number of Workers

Ratio to the Total Number of Workers in Turkey













Total in Republic of Turkey

36,597 (53, 838)

8.6 (12.6)

Total in Kurdistan of Turkey



SOURCE: statististik Yillligi, C.20, 1952, DE as it is from ͡[i Sinifi Mcadeleleri Tarihi, p. 83, TB [The Working Class of Turkey and its Struggles].

According to the datum, something like 8.6% (except Sivas) of the total of 427,364 workers (those who work in large enterprises) in Turkey in 1951 are in the mentioned regions. When the fact that nearly half the total number of workers are concentrated in stanbul, zmir and Zonguldak regions is taken into account, the above datum is significant.

In 1951, population in the regions of Diyarbakir and Sivas was especially observed to be intensifying, which could be considered important.

Besides this geographical density, the density of workers in the public workplaces also attracted attention. Y. N. Rozaliev notes that there were 20 workers in the Elazig Wine Factory, 140 in the Bitlis Tobacco Factory, 505 in Malatya Tobacco, 127 in the Diyarbakir Alcohol-Vodka Factory, 97 in the Gaziantep Alcohol-Vodka Factory. At the time, one of the 10 largest textile factories which had 1,200 workers was the Malatya Cotton Textiles Factory.

Kurdistan's first trade unions, (if the ones under union, association or similar names, as we saw in the example of the Adana-Nusaybin railway line, were not taken into account), established in Sivas, Malatya and Antep, where the intensification of workers started in 1949. This process continued by gaining momentum in the later years.

Kemal Slker gives information below about the dispersion of unions and numbers of workers who were members of a union, in the provinces and regions in 1954.

Number of unions and workers belonging to a union in 1954 in the provinces.


Provinces connected to regions

Number of unions

Number of union branches

Number of workers that are members

Total number of workers


Diyarbakir, Mardin, Mus, Siirt, Bitlis, Hakkari, Van






Elazig, Malatya, Tunceli, Bingl, Adiyman






Erzurum, Agri, Erzincan, Kars






Gaziantep, Maras, Urfa






Sivas, Tokat





Kurdistan total



7,031 (9,130)

51,772 (69,634*)

Turkey total





SOURCE: Kemal Slker, Trkiye'de Sendikacilik, pp. 109-10. (See also: TB, pp. 107-09.) *Sivas Region is included in the figures in parentheses, and Sivas is excluded in the figures without parentheses.

Number of paid workers in the Kurdistan part of Turkey


Employment type

Number of workplaces

Average of paid workers



74 (20%)

29,366 (69%)


288 (80%)

13,411 (31%)


362 (100%)

42,777 (100%)



439 (5%)

277,641 (34%)


9,047 (95%)

539,990 (66%)


9,486 (100%)

817,631 (100%)

SOURCE: 1981 Yillik Sanayi statistikleri Geici Sonular, DE, pp. 63-99. (1981 Annual Statistics of Manufacturing Industry, Temporary Results)

The above datum only covers manufacturing industry workplaces, (that is, large scale enterprises), which have ten or more workers.

According to this datum, a total of around 42,000 workers (if we assume all the paid people to be workers) work in large manufacturing industry in Kurdistan. This is 5 per cent of the total in Turkey.

Sixty-nine per cent of industrial workers in Kurdistan are congregated in public sector workplaces, which comprise only 20 per cent of the total number of workplaces. In private sector workplaces, which are 80 per cent of the total workplaces, only as small a portion as 31 per cent of industrial workers work.

If one looks at Turkey in general, it is seen that 66 per cent of the workers in large manufacturing industry are congregated in the workplaces that belong to the private sector. However, only 34 per cent of industrial workers work in the public sector, which covers a very small part (5 per cent) of the total number of workplaces. In a way, the situation in Turkey in general is contrary to the situation in Kurdistan. (Before we continue, let's note that this phenomenon shows that the biggest employer in Kurdistan is the government itself, and that the proletariat of Kurdistan very often faces the government as a capitalist also.

As a matter of fact, when the chronology of the workers' movement is studied, you very often come across the example of a direct lock-out by the government against the working class. This situation seems meaningful, in order for the working class to understand very quickly the personality of the government's bourgeois class nature.)

The number given above was indicated to show the number of workers in the workplaces where only ten or more workers work. In order to reach the total, there is a need to add the number of small manufacturing industries which have between one to nine workers. Therefore, it can be seen that industrial workers in Kurdistan numerically form a potential that should not be despised.

The numbers of workers in large manufacturing industries particularly built up in the centres listed below.


Number of workers


Number of workers















K. Maras






There were no manufacturing workplaces with ten or more workers in Bingl in 1980. Consequently, the numbers that were given in the previous table covered only 19 provinces.

While the number of large enterprises in the manufacturing sector increased in the other cities in Kurdistan in the early 1980s, Bingl had its first similar type of workplaces functioning. Taking these developments which occurred after 1980 into account, it is possible to assume that the number of workers in the big manufacturing industry in Kurdistan, today, had reached at least fifty thousand.

It is clear that socialists' practical actions should intensify firstly in the working class of the Kurdistan part of Turkey. It should start, as I have mentioned earlier, in the big cities and the biggest factories in these cities.

Number of Insured workers in 1970 and 1980









36, 222

123, 430





64, 107



84, 400

SOURCE: The related volumes of the Yurt Ansiklopedisi (Yurt Encyclopedia), 1972-80.

According to this datum, there are 123,430 insured workers in 1970 and 207,037 insured workers in 1980 in the Kurdistan part of Turkey. It is obvious that the total number of workers is not constituted of the above number in Kurdistan. It is known that to employ an uninsured worker is a common practice throughout Turkey.

It has been indicated in the above source that the proportion of workplaces that made reports was around 24 per cent in 1980 in Turkey. In 1982 only 32 per cent of the workplaces registered at the SSK [Social Insurance Association] handed in reports. The proportion not submitting reports is much higher in the building industry.

If the proportion not submitting reports is assumed to be even higher in Kurdistan, then the number of workers in reality is quite higher than the number of insured workers given number of insured workers.

The number of insured workers increased to 210,625 in 1981. Of this number, 7,692 are women workers. In Kurdistan the number of insured workers in 1981 is 9.45 per cent of the total number in Turkey. While the proportion reached 10 per cent for male workers, this proportion dropped to 3.86% for female workers.

In 1970 there were no insured women workers in two of Turkey's provinces (Mus and Hakkari). However, in 1980 Hakkari was the only province in Turkey which did not have any insured women workers.

The high number of uninsured workers also shows that the proportion of workers who were not members of a union is also quite high. These are the phenomena that undermine the working class's situation.

The provinces in which the number of insured workers was highest in Kurdistan in 1980 were:


Number of insured workers


Number of insured workers










20, 966











The increase in the number of workers attracts one's attention mostly in Diyarbakir, Erzurum, Antep, Maras, Malatya and Urfa in 1970-80.
The number of collective agreements in 1972-80

Total number of agreements











































Total workers

































Total workplaces

































The table above gives the number of workplace collective agreements signed in 1972-80 and the number of workers and workplaces these agreements cover.

According to these datum, the number of workers taking advantage of collective agreements does not show a regular development. It follows a line which increases and decreases from year to year. the reason for this is that datum is not included in the table for some of the provinces after 1976. Apart from Diyarbakir, Elazig, Erzincan, Erzurum, Gaziantep, Siirt, Sivas, Van, Kars and Malatya, only the datum for 10 provinces from 1972 to 1976 is included in the above table. However, from ten of the provinces mentioned, the figures for Diyarbakir, Elazig, Erzincan, Erzurum and Antep from 1972-79 are included in the table. The figures that are included for the years 1972 to 1980 belong only to Siirt, Sivas, Van, Kars and Malatya.

However, progression by increasing and decreasing from year to year also occurs for the figures up to 1976. One of the reasons for this is that the agreements are usually made in a two year cycle. From 1972 to 1980, 56% of the awards are signed in the public sector and the rest are signed in the private sector. Approximately 75% of the workers took advantage of those collective agreements signed in the public sector. This shows that the number of workers per workplace in the public sector was much higher.

1978 was the year that the number of workers taking advantage of collective agreements was the highest. This situation had occurred in the period of 1976-78.

A Brief View of the Workers Movement in the Kurdistan Part of Turkey During the Period of 1964-80

During the period of 1964-80, a total of two hundred and four [instances of] workers' [industrial] actions took place in the Kurdistan part of Turkey. Out of these, one hundred and fourteen were strikes, seventy-seven were boycotts or other forms of resistance, four were rallies, three were meetings and the rest were different kinds of actions. (Two telegrams were sent, [plus] one press release and two announcements were issued.)

The distribution of these activities, according to years, can be followed from the table below, where workers' [industrial] activity from 1964-80 is given in three different periods.

Summary: Industrial Action 1964-80


Number of strikes

Number of boycotts

Number of rallies

Number of meetings

Other actions

Total actions





























Approximately 18 per cent of the workers' activity took place in the period of 1964-69, 13 per cent in 1970-74 and 69 per cent in the period of 1975-80. The working class actions did not stop in the period of 1970-74, which also covers 12 March, the period of the military dictatorship. (1972 is excluded.). However, due to the characteristics of this period, there had been reductions in the number of actions. It is quite clear that this relative reduction had fallen to a parallel level around Turkey.

After 1974-75 a new ascent in the workers' movement was experienced, in which the same parallellism also occurred. The most intense workers' activity was staged precisely at this period in the history of the Kurdistan part of Turkey. Approximately 52 per cent of the total of one hundred and fourteen strikes and 90 per cent of the sixty-nine boycotts which took place in the seventeen years between 1964-80 coincide with the period of 1975-80. This period is significant from the point of view of participation in strikes and boycotts, and due to other considerations.

Two key points of Turkey's workers' activity can be identified between the years of 1960-80; specifically 1967-70 and 1976-78. These years were also the summit of the Kurdistan part of Turkey's workers' activity. In order to be able to comprehend the situation in 1976, 1977 and 1978, one would need to take note of postponements of strikes and also the number of strike decisions in the table section. [See the Table of Workers Actions: 1964-80, in the following section.]

The 1976-78 period forms a special phase in the history of Turkey's workers' movement. Each important workers' action in this period of time in Turkey were accompanied by parallel actions in the Kurdistan part of Turkey. This was the situation on May Day 1976, the DGM Boycott (16-21 September 1976) [a reference to the campaign to dismantle the military courts left operating despite the formal return to civilian rule after the 1971 military coup], the Warning Action to Fascism (20 March 1978) and May Day 1978.1

While we look at the sectoral distribution of the strikes (between 1964-80) in the Kurdistan part of Turkey, we see this: The trade, transport and service sectors are leading with thirty strikes (26 per cent), followed by the mining industry, with nineteen strikes (17 per cent), the food industry with eighteen strikes (16 per cent), construction with ten strikes (9 per cent) and textiles, with nine strikes (8 per cent). Then comes the petrol, machine-metal-iron/steel, stone-soil and other industries.

However, with the sectoral dispersion of resistance, the leading industries respectively are: construction (nineteen); textiles (twelve); trade, transport and service (eleven); mining (seven); machine-metal, goods/iron-steel (six); agriculture (five); food (five) and other industries with a lesser number of struggles. From the point of view of total industrial actions, the leading industries are, respectively: trade, transport, services (forty-one); construction (twenty-nine); mining (twenty-six); food (twenty-three); textiles (twenty-one).

The industrial distribution of workers' activity gives us a concrete idea about the economic structure of the Kurdistan part of Turkey. The same thing can be seen by looking at the general figures in relation to numerical power, numbers and density of workers in different industries.

It is also useful to look at the geographical distribution of workers' [industrial] activity. These are the cities in which activity intensified:

Geographical Distribution of Workers' Industrial Activity


Number of strikes

Number of boycotts

Number of rallies

Number of meetings

Other actions

Number of actions






































































While there were only 4 strikes and one meeting in Diyarbakir between 1964-75, it was the leading city from 1975 to 1980 where workers' [industrial] activity was intense. One the other side, there is a need to indicate that common actions took place in many provinces at the same time. Because of this, most of the common actions were recorded under Diyarbakir. According to one source, a total of thirty-nine strikes took place in Diyarbakir between 1976-80. Seventeen of these strikes were encountered in 1980. According to the same source, 5,357 workers participated in these strikes. [See the Yurt Ansiklopedisi, Diyarbakir section.] This figure for the number of strikes in Diyarbakir was well above the findings of this study for the period of 1975-80. This shows that the results obtained from this study were below the real figures.

From the point of view of the number of insured workers, it is interesting to see Diyarbakir after Antep, Sivas, Malatya, Erzurum and Elazig, when it [Diyarbakir] was the leading city in workers' activity. One of the reasons for this could be that Diyarbakir is a city where all the public institutions and regional trade unions are. Without any doubt, the most important reason is that it [Diyarbakir] functions as a political centre in the Kurdistan part of Turkey. It is important in a sense that it is one of the political centres for the leftist movements. As one of the most important political centres for the Kurdish movement, Diyarbakir has an original place in Kurdistan's history. It is also very meaningful for Diyarbakir to be one of the centres for workers' action after 1975. This shows that class consciousness weighs heavier.

Following Diyarbakir, workers' activity intensified mostly in Antep, Malatya, Elazig, Erzurum, Sivas, Urfa, Maras and Siirt. The workers' movement is seen in only nine provinces in the Kurdistan part of Turkey between 1964-69, until 1974 [when] it is seen in eleven provinces. However, workers' [industrial] activity seems to be apparent in almost all provinces and become more common until 1980.

From Kurdistanli Marksist number 2-3, February 1990.


1. On 30 April 1976 workers of the Hitit Ecza Deposu [Hittite Medicine Warehouse] in Diyarbakir who were on strike, enlarged DSK's [Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions] emblem and then hung it on the picket line. One of the [industrial] actions organised by DSK all over Turkey, to protest the DGM's acts becoming effective, took place in Antep between 16-21 September 1976. Fifteen thousand workers from Kurdistan's various cities joined the Warning to Fascism action on 20 March. The May Day of 1978 was celebrated by rallies, meetings, meetings in halls and demonstrations in many parts of Kurdistan.



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Book reviews

Zlf Selcan: Grammatik der Zaza-Sprache. Nord-Dialekt (Dersim-Dialekt). Berlin: Wissenschaft und Technik Verlag, 1998. xiii + 730 pages. ISBN 3-928943-96-0.

Zazaki (also known as Dimili) is a northwest Iranian language spoken across a large area of central Anatolia centered on the towns of Tunceli, Erzincan, and Bingol. Estimates of the number of speakers range from one to four million, making Zazaki the second largest minority language in Turkey. Despite the size of the speech community, Zazaki has until very recently been extremely poorly documented. The neglect of Zazaki is in part due to the policies of the Turkish government, which has consistently obstructed research on all its minority languages, but also to the misconception that Zazaki is a "Kurdish dialect." The present book goes a long way to putting the record straight on this and many other issues and is therefore of considerable import, for general linguists, scholars of Iranian languages, and all those interested in the minority languages of Turkey. The book under review can claim to be the first comprehensive grammar of Zazaki, though it shares this honor with another book, Paul (1998b). Fortunately Paul's book concentrates on the southern dialects of Zazaki, while Selcan's book covers the northern dialects, so the amount of overlap is limited. Furthermore, the two books embody quite different approaches: Paul's book is a classical corpus- based grammar while Selcan, a native speaker active as an author in Zazaki for 25 years, relies extensively on his own intuition. Selcan's book calls itself a "grammar of the Zaza language," but it is in fact much more than that: "compendium," or "handbook" would have been equally fitting titles. The book begins with a 100-page critical review of "all previous known research" (p. 7) on Zazaki. The reason for an overview of this depth is not simply linguistic, but in large measure political. As mentioned above, there is a widely held misconception that Zazaki is a dialect of some other language, most particularly of Kurdish.

Linguistics 39-1 (2001), 181-197 0024-3949/01/0039-0181
Walter de Gruyter

182 Book reviews

This view has been all-too-willingly accepted by Kurdish nationalists, who have used it to justify extending their territorial claims to include the Zazaki speech zone. Selcan vehemently rejects what he refers to as the "Kurdocentric" viewpoint, and the entire 100-page section can be considered a rebuttal of that standpoint, meticulously cataloguing over a century of European (including Russian) research on the subject, before deconstructing most of the politically tainted efforts of Kurdish and Turkish writers (pp. 64-103). The sheer weight of evidence Selcan has amassed to prove that Zazaki is a language in its own right is impressive (see Paul 1998a; Gippert 2000 for further justification). But this section makes heavy reading, at times repetitive and polemic. One wonders, for example, whether the patently ridiculous attempts of one scholar to prove that Zazaki is a "Turkic language" are really worth a nine-page criticism (pp. 95-103). Although this section will leave little doubt in the reader's mind that Zazaki is not a Kurdish dialect, it is far less clear what, if any, the political implications of Zazaki's genetic affiliation should be. People's loyalties are not solely determined by the linguistic affiliation of their mother tongue. Ethnic, political, and religious factors also play a prominent role, as demonstrated by examples such as Hindi and Urdu. In the case of Zazaki, it has been noted that the religious split among the Zazas (Alevi Islam versus Sunnite Islam) is at least as important as language in shaping the Zazas' self-identification (see e.g. Firat 1997; Paul 1998b; xiii). Thus while on purely linguistic grounds Selcan is right to emphasize the independence of Zazaki, the fact remains that many Zazaki speakers do identify themselves as Kurds and have even been active in Kurdish nationalism (Van Bruinessen 1997: 209). For example, the writer of the most widely-used Zazaki dictionary (Malmisanij 1992) has no qualms about referring to Zazaki in the foreword of his dictionary as a "dialect spoken in Kurdistan." It is very significant that Selcan makes no reference to this dictionary, or its author, anywhere in his book. The simple fact is that, in spite of the linguistic evidence, some Zazas do consider them selves Kurds, a fact that deserves more mention than it gets in Selcan's book (just a footnote on page 36). These comments aside, Selcan has compiled the most comprehensive survey of the literature on Zazaki available, which will remain an invaluable source for future reference. The grammatical description begins with a detailed description of sources (see below), and of autonyms used by Zazaki speakers (a very complex issue), before moving on to a dialectological survey of Zazaki (pp. 123-136). The detailed phonology section (pp. 137-222) covers traditional segmental phonology and phonotactics, details of allophonic variation and discussion of dialectal differences, and an extensive section

Book reviews

on stress (pp. 192-203), as well as information on the relative frequency of individual phonemes in texts. A quirky feature of this section is Selcan's notion "minimal pair": he only accepts a contrast as phonemic if it occurs in two words which are SYNTACTICALLY AND SEMANTICALLY cornmutable. He would not, for example, consider a preposition and an imperative verb form as candidates for a minimal pair. This is an original, and in many respects perfectly logical, extension of the notion of functional phonemic contrast, though I am unaware of any theory that applies it consistently. One of the immediate results of this approach to Zazaki phonology is to reduce the number of phonemes. For example, Selcan does not count the aspirated/nonaspirated distinction in the voiceless stops as phonemic, although they are considered so by Paul for the northern dialects (Paul 1998b: 183). The bulk of the grammar is made up of the section on "Morphology and syntax" (pp. 228-696), beginning with a discussion of the classification of parts of speech based on traditional German grammar. There is no clear section on word formation or derivation (except pp. 571-575 on derived adjectives); "morphology" appears to be restricted to the expression of inflectional categories. The Izafe construction (section 17.1.2), one of the most fascinating aspects of Zazaki grammar, is for some reason treated in chapter 17, "Definiteness." Izafe is the traditional term in Iranian philology for the vocalic particle by which posthead nominal modifiers arc linked to their head nouns. In Persian, the Izafe particle is invariant; in Kurmanji Kurdish it inflects for gender and number of the head noun; but in Zazaki, it inflects for
(i) gender and number of the head;
(ii) category of the modifier (adjective vs. noun);
(iii) syntactic function of the entire NP in the clause.
Chapter 18 deals with case, including a row of suffixes/clitics somewhat confusingly called "postpositions" on page 273, but later "secondary case" (p. 291). An interesting feature of Zazaki is the importance of the feature [+animate] in the inflection of masculine nouns: in direct object function, inanimate masculine nouns take no oblique suffix, while animates do (p. 279):
(1) televe kitav ceno 'the pupil takes the book' (kitav-0, masc.)
(2) televe malim-i vineno 'the pupil sees the teacher' (malim-ob., masc.) Intriguingly, the constraint on inflecting inanimate masculines is only operative with direct objects of present tense verbs. Unfortunately Selcan refers to this particular SYNTACTIC function as obliquus, that is, the name of a particular morphological case. Later it transpires that masculine

Book reviews 184

inanimates CAN take the oblique case (e.g. as subject of ergative constructions, or as genitive attributes, cf. p. 284). This chapter also includes a more detailed discussion of ergativity in Zazaki, another typologically interesting aspect of the language. The next major division is the discussion of verbs and related topics (pp. 340-546). The Zazaki verb system is morphologically considerably more complex than that of Persian, or of Kurdish. Verbs in Zazaki have a morphological passive (restricted to transitive verbs) and in some tenses also inflect for the gender of the morphological subject (third person only). For example u manen-o 'he stays' versus a manen-a 'she stays'. Using a list of 533 basic verbs, Selcan undertakes a detailed classification of the verbs into eight conjugation classes and two transitivity classes (pp. 364-374), noting correlations between the two.

Like other Iranian languages, Zazaki also makes extensive use of so-called preverbs, particles of various provenance that modify the semantics of the basic stem. Section 21 deals with preverbs in some detail, and Selcan presents a highly original analysis whereby the preverbs are likened to vectors in a grid of spatial orientation (p. 414), expressing horizontal, vertical, and rising and falling motion. Also noteworthy is his explanation for the order of preverb relative to verb stem (they occur both before and after the verb stem). He links this to a more general principle of the Zazaki clause according to which elements that express the end result of a state of affairs are postpredicate, while those that contribute to a particular state occur before the verb (p. 433). The description of tense follows traditional German grammar, likewise the terminology. Notable is the lack of a formal category "future." Interestingly, Selcan describes tense from the point of view of entire clauses and explicitly includes temporal and modal adverbs as part of the inventory of the tense system. At this point, however, a major weakness of the book becomes apparent (see below): there are very few examples that go beyond a single sentence. Rather, Selcan presents a series of examples and then gives short rules for explaining the combinability of various tense forms with various types of adverbs, summarizing the results in tables (e.g. p. 449). This seems to me to be taking the principle of "segmentation and classification" to an extreme. A reader wishing for a clear statement regarding, say, the difference between the use of the imperfect and the preterit, perhaps illustrated with some longer text passages, will be disappointed (see for example the description of the semantics of the imperfect, pp. 458-460). Section 28 (p. 547) is headed "Adjectives." It begins with an attempt to distinguish adjectives from adverbs, focusing mainly on the lack of inflectional potential of adverbs, for example comparative and case (p. 547). However, the argument is considerably weakened when we learn

Book reviews 185

later (p. 564) that adjectives in the northern dialects do not have a special comparative form. In fact, the comparative construction conforms to hat has been suggested is an Anatolian areal type (see Haig forthcoming). It is somewhat irritating to find in this section yet another treatment of the Izafe construction under the heading "declination of the adjective" (pp. 549-552). The extensive tables here repeat information already given on pages 256-257 and 284. In fact the contents of the "Adjective" section are altogether rather surprising, including for example the extensive section on numerals and expressions for dates and times, pages 586-613. The remaining sections are "Adverbs," "Adpositions," "Negative expressions," "Terms of address," "Interjections," and an extensive section on various types of ideophone. The section on adpositions is the most disappointing part of the book. The definition of this word class ("words that express the relationship of one word to another") obviously cannot be taken literally. Closer inspection reveals that Zazaki uses a variety of structural means for expressing relationships covered in English by prepositions, but Selcan is committed to a purely linear classification based on a three-way distinction between preposition, postposition, and circumposition. He fails to make the crucial distinction between genuine basic prepositions and strongly grammaticalized Izafe constructions. Because in both cases the first element occurs before the lexical head, both wind up as "prepositions." Thus ve 'with, through, towards' is a simple preposition (ve cti 'with the stick') and is simply preposed to its noun, while seweta, glossed 'because of, is actually the first element of an Izafe construction, as in sewet-a Sileman-i 'because of Sileman', lit. 'the reason-of Sileman' (p. 649). This presentation obscures the interesting fact that Zazaki has very few simple prepositions; it would appear that at least the northern dialects are moving toward a postpositional type. Another unfortunate feature is the use of the term "circumposition," a relic of Kurdish linguistics. What Selcan refers to as circumpositions could in my opinion be better analyzed as NP/PP + the secondary case clitics -ra, -ro, -de, etc. Consider for example (p. 653) bin-e dare-ra, 'from under the tree'. Dare is 'tree' and bin is a noun meaning 'base'. Selcan analyzes this construction as a circumposition around a noun, that is, bin-e [dare] ra. But the more logical analysis is [bin-e darej-ra, that is, an Izafe construction consisting of two nouns, meaning 'the base of the tree', plus a secondary case clitic indicating 'source'. Despite the lack of analytical finesse, this section is amply illustrated so that the reader is in a position to draw her own conclusions. Much the same can be said of the section on Konjunktionen (pp. 661-676), essentially an inventory of conjunctions illustrated with extensive examples. Although the book gives an extremely comprehensive account of Zazaki grammar, the material is not always presented in reader-friendly

Book reviews

fashion. I would estimate that 60-70% of the grammar consists of tables and lists. Likewise, the terminology is distinctly idiosyncratic. The "continuative" is hardly a "mood," and it actually looks like a cleft construction (pp. 478-480, 530-531). What Selcan refers to as a "relative pronoun" (p. 334) is in fact the pronominal head of a relative construction, as in English the one who is coming. The organization of the near 500-page section on "Morphology and syntax" is likewise confusing: it appears to be based on word classes (noun, adjective, verb, etc.), each of which gets a major chapter, but other same-level chapters are distributed among them. The result is that morphological and syntactic topics are mixed throughout the book. For example the Izafe construction is tucked away in chapter 17, "Definiteness," the syntax of relative clauses in chapter 33, "Conjunctions." In fact, the book simply lacks a roper section on syntax dealing with complex clauses, deletion rules, word-order variation, etc. Syntactic typologists will not find it easy to work with this grammar, but admittedly, Selcan did not write the grammar primarily for syntactic typologists. Finally, a critical word on the use of sources, and the objectives of the grammar. Selcan claims to have 250 hours of recorded material at his disposal (p. 118; the demographic details of the informants are listed on pp. 704-705). Yet apart from in the dialectology and phonology sections, virtually no reference is made to this corpus. Most example sentences in the grammar are not sourced, so I assume they are constructed by the author himself. Where examples are sourced, they are mostly from written sources, often texts written by Selcan himself under the pseudonym Zilfi, a fact that severely diminishes the book's value for historical and comparative purposes. More worrying is the fact that not a single extended text sample of authentic spoken Zazaki appears in the entire book. The whole grammar is based on mostly short, and presumably constructed, sentences. Typical examples are 'The child gives the book to the teacher' (p. 323), or 'The wolf eats the abandoned lamb' (p. 346). As has been pointed out many times (see e.g. Chafe 1994: 84), such sentences (e.g. with two or more definite full NPs) are extremely rare in natural discourse. The importance of basing grammars on authentic texts is being increasingly recognized, for both discourse and functionally based grammatical theories, but also as an integral part of the documentation of poorly documented languages such as Zazaki (see Himmelmann 1996 for explicit justification). Surely a book of this length could have accommodated some representative samples of actual language usage (compare the 70 pages of texts in Paul's [1998b] Zazaki grammar). The above comments on sources also raise the issue of the objectives of the grammar. For example, Selcan describes in detail how mathematical equations such as

Book reviews 187

"the square root of 25 equals five" (p. 609), or the numeral 1,002,003,000 are expressed in Zazaki. Now Zazaki has never been a language of education, so such expressions can hardly be considered part of established usage. What the author appears to be doing here is not so much describing actual usage but making recommendations of how a hypothetical "standardized Zazaki" should be. In this connection we could also note the complete absence of any reference to Turkish influence on Zazaki, although this is undoubtedly a feature of the modern language. In other words, the grammar is, at least in parts, prescriptive rather than descriptive. Writing a prescriptive grammar is of course a perfectly legitimate exercise for a native speaker, but the reader could expect a clearer statement on the aims of the grammar, and a clearer distinction between descriptive and normative sections. These critical comments are not intended to detract from my overall positive assessment of the book. Grammatik der Zaza-Sprache is a truly monumental achievement, which will undoubtedly prove an essential source for Zazaki for many years to come. Selcan has done an excellent job of compiling, analyzing, and presenting a vast amount of data, rounded off with maps and extensive indices and bibliographies. The book is attractively and professionally finished, with very few typos or other errors (and is, incidentally, very good value for money). I sincerely hope that Selcan will complement this impressive achievement with a collection of spoken Zazaki narratives in the near future. in chapter 33, "Conjunctions." In fact, the book simply lacks a proper section on syntax dealing with complex clauses, deletion rules, word-order variation, etc. Syntactic typologists will not find it easy to work with this grammar, but admittedly, Selcan did not write the grammar primarily for syntactic typologists. Finally, a critical word on the use of sources, and the objectives of the grammar. Selcan claims to have 250 hours of recorded material at his disposal (p. 118; the demographic details of the informants are listed on pp. 704-705). Yet apart from in the dialectology and phonology sections, virtually no reference is made to this corpus. Most example sentences in the grammar are not sourced, so I assume they are constructed by the author himself. Where examples are sourced, they are mostly from written sources, often texts written by Selcan himself under the pseudonym Zilfi, a fact that severely diminishes the book's value for historical and comparative purposes. More worrying is the fact that not a single extended text sample of authentic spoken Zazaki appears in the entire book. The whole grammar is based on mostly short, and presumably constructed, sentences. Typical examples are 'The child gives the book to the teacher' (p. 323), or 'The wolf eats the abandoned lamb' (p. 346). As has been pointed out many times (see e.g. Chafe 1994: 84), such sentences (e.g. with two or more definite full NPs) are extremely rare in natural discourse. The importance of basing grammars on authentic texts is being increasingly recognized, for both discourse and functionally based grammatical theories, but also as an integral part of the documentation of poorly documented languages such as Zazaki (see Himmelmann 1996 for explicit justification). Surely a book of this length could have accommodated some representative samples of actual language usage (compare the 70 pages of texts in Paul's [1998b] Zazaki grammar). The above comments on sources also raise the issue of the objectives of the grammar. For example, Selcan describes in detail how mathematical equations such as

"numeral 1,002,003,000 the square root of 25 equals five" (p. 609), or the are expressed in Zazaki. Now Zazaki has never been a language of education, so such expressions can hardly be considered part of established usage. What the author appears to be doing here is not so much describing actual usage but making recommendations of how a hypothetical "standardized Zazaki" should be. In this connection we could also note the complete absence of any reference to Turkish influence on Zazaki, although this is undoubtedly a feature of the modern language. In other words, the grammar is, at least in parts, prescriptive rather than descriptive. Writing a prescriptive grammar is of course a perfectly legitimate exercise for a native speaker, but the reader could expect a clearer statement on the aims of the grammar, and a clearer distinction between descriptive and normative sections. These critical comments are not intended to detract from my overall positive assessment of the book. Grammatik der Zaza-Sprache is a truly monumental achievement, which will undoubtedly prove an essential source for Zazaki for many years to come. Selcan has done an excellent job of compiling, analyzing, and presenting a vast amount of data, rounded off with maps and extensive indices and bibliographies. The book is attractively and professionally finished, with very few typos or other errors (and is, incidentally, very good value for money). I sincerely hope that Selcan will complement this impressive achievement with a collection of spoken Zazaki narratives in the near future.

Universitat Kiel



Chafe, Wallace (1994). Discourse, Consciousness and Time: The Flow and Displacement of Conscious Experience in Speaking and Writing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Firat, Gulsun (1997). Soziookonomischer Wandel und ethnische Identitat in der kurdisch-alevitischen Region Dersim. Saarbrucken: Verlag fur Entwicklungspolitik.
Gippert, Jost (2000). The historical position of Zazaki revisited. Paper presented at the First International Workshop on Kurdish Linguistics, 12-14 May, Kiel.
Haig, Geoffrey (forthcoming). Linguistic diffusion in modern East Anatolia: from top to bottom. In Areal Diffusion and Genetic Inheritance: Problems in Comparative Linguistics,
Alexandra Aikhenvald and R. M. W. Dixon (eds.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Himmelmann, Nikolaus (1996). Zum Aufbau von Sprachbeschreibungen. Linguistische Berichte 164, 315-333.
Malmisanij (1992). Zazaca-Turkce sozluk/Ferhenge Dimilki-Tirki.
Istanbul: Deng.
(Orginally published 1987 in Uppsala.)
Paul, Ludwig (1998a). The position of Zazaki among West Iranian languages. In Proceedings of the 3rd European Conference of Iranian Studies, 11-15.09.1995, Cambridge,
Nicholas Sims-Williams (ed.), 163-176.
Wiesbaden: Reichert.

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(1998b). Zazaki, Grammatik und Versuch einer Dialektologie. Wiesbaden: Reichert. Van Bruinessen, Martin (1997). Kurden zwischen ethnischer, religioser und regionaler Identitat. In Ethnizilat, Nationalismus, Religion und Politik in Kurdistan, Carsten Borck, Eva Savelsberg, and Siamend Hajo (eds.), 185-216.
Munster: Lit.



By Faruk Iremet
From the book: and in the hunger of love, Stockholm 1994

Translation: Fred Dufva


The day is here now
the searching is over
to the last point in my sheet
The Fairy-tales which I was listening to
in my cradle
I will give you
in inheritance


You have the changing
like the spring weather
but the old time
has gone
our youth songs
that became snow
with the lost time


I am so full of joy today.
I do not know why
in my innermost inner
I will laugh
and be enthusiastic.

Earthdust to smoke,
stone to dust
I want to mix them all together
I do not know why
I am so full of joy today.

In my heart there is no hate
in my eyes there is no tears.
Of joy I will fly
into the Endless blue sky
With all my peaceful thoughts.


The love for you gives me
the longing force
when Tigris pours from above
and draws the borders together
with Eufrat.

My love, do you remember?
We walked together
over the bridge of the ten eyes
and looked down
at the whirling water of Tigris
we wondered about our fate

We thought about children, a family
the fate whirled us to exile
we walk along the town wall
of Diyarbekir
A circle is closing
and here I can't see
an end or a beginning.

The love that we had in mind
is filled with shadows now
everything can changed
but not the love for Zazaistan.

Yet another day has passed
we have got a new page
to write upon
the day that has passed
brought grudge.
when that grudging turns against love
the thuja blooms on our mountain
that day the sun shines upon our country.

The love for you my love
the longing for freedom
without fear.
Karacadag's extinct volcano
now has it's eruption in me.

Don't forget me
I never forget
our mulberry tree's
have maybe withered
but the birds hasn't stopped
twittering on the bough.


I have loved
as much as I could
from the spine of an hedgehog.
To the pain of a fight
from a mourning mother
to an orphan child.
So what is the crying
in the stinking smell of the world.
That human being that hasn't
run from that fear
that human I love.

Well, that's the way a courageous human is
hasn't felt fear
with her young hands
fresh is love like a
budding bough in the spring.

A long way to walk
blood has penetrated
tears has been demanded
I cant say that one don't
cry of longing.
But the meaning will then become a lie

my love becomes a lie
it will be a lie...lie
A budded bough in spring time.

I have loved
as much as I could
from our homes canary,
to a wild bear on the mountain,
from the bud's by the gravestone
to the moons light over the jail
what is there to love in that love
that they didn't fled from
I became enchanted.

For that is the way the rose is
full of vitality is the bud
dried out is the past
from the wind of the April storm
the remaining is desertrain.


You came with the winds
that blew in from the horizon
you were Demeter
laid untied or something...like that
how could the time get pregnant in my heart?
And how could I be guilty
to the stunging longing?

Now I must pray to Helios
no more twilight to love
the wind, storms,
want to live my caresses with
your scent.

Were picked off my bough,
I have severe pain since then
was that the pain of love?
But I will never love so
and never drink that way
of anyone's heart to forget
but still I have tears left to shed...
If I'll fall in love again.

Forgive me my love, early I learnt
to doubt about everything
the dreams of my life has been
desert and this has been my companion.

To dance with an open embrase
in the middle of the desert storm
and sing out your name by
the horizon write with tears in
the sand in the darkness of
the Milky Way's eternity.
May I say how it feels to be
to heavy for once own grapevine
Or to be a well of shiver drying out
to feel you so close to me is a
dream and so intimate
to my eternal solitude I initiated you.


Hug me dearest
as much as you can
I want to feel
how much I am worth
in your warm embrace

Do not let me go
I do not wont to
fly away with the wind
hold me tight
in you embrace
on the Earth
among moistly rotes
I want to die like this
I want to own a grave like this
I want to rest in your heart like this.

Faruk Iremet


Back To Zazaistan

Susanne Ayata

You were a fine human beeing
You emaneted calm and harmony
You had a wonderfull wife who
Gave birth to your four children

But now you are no longer here
The cancer took your life
Maybe it was the longing for your land
You could never return back home
Home to Zazaistan

They put you in prison and they tortured you
But you never gaved upp.
You moved to Sweden and continued your battle.
Here you could talk, here you could write.
Write and for ever write
Your own language Zazaki

You could never return home, home to Zazaistan.
You could never see your beloved Zazaistan a last time
The cancer took your life, to fast you were too young.

(Piya, Amor 15-16 P.21, 1992)

The Zaza flag

The Alevis or Zazas are a minority (70.000) according to Le Monde) that live in the territories that were the old turkoman emirate of Danishmend. Their name mean "Ali partisan" and they emigrated from Babylon in VIIth century and were later converted to shiism. The Zazas are divised on 28 tribes each one directed by an important clan. Around 1917 the rebels used plain red flags and these flags were roll up in their heads during the fight against Turks, who called the Zazas the Kizilbach (Red Heads). In1921 Ismail Aga directed the revolt in the region of Kochgiri, that was repressed in blood (20.000 deaths). During this revolt was created the flag with Z that is in fact a traditional embroidery in the zaza clothes. The flag was used during the followings revolts: 1934 Kocj Asireti in Dersim; 1937-38 Seyit Riza also in Dersim; 1978 Haliloztoprak in Marach; Sivas city in 1979; revolt of Tchorum in 1980. The Zaza flag is banned in Turkey and is used mainly in the zaza emigration in Germany and other countries. (from an article by Lucien Philippe).

Jaume Oll, 10 October 1998

The situation of Zazas is better explained in a paper by Martin van Bruinessen, from the Turkish and Kurdish Studies Department, Utrecht University (The Netherlands):

"Meanwhile in Europe Zaza-speaking Kurds - some of them Sunnis, other Alevis - were bringing about a minor revival of Zaza literature, in the margin of the remarkable resurgence of Kurmanci literary activities. Aminority among them began perceiving the Zaza as a distinct ethnic group that had to liberate itself from cultural domination by Kurds as well as the Turkish state. This Zaza 'nationalism' still is largely a matter ofexile politics, and it may still appear as a marginal phenomenon, but gradually it is also influencing the debate among Dersimis inside Turkey."

"This debate on the development of, or ban on, written Zaza made a strong impact in the small circle of Zaza intellectuals in exile, causing a parting of the minds among them. In the late 1980s, the first Zaza journal was published, and it was emphatically non-Kurdish. It carried articles in Zaza, Turkish and English but not in Kurdish, it spoke of the Zazas as a separate people, whose identity had too long been denied not only by the Turkish state but by the Kurds as well, and it coined the new name of Zazaistan for the ancient homeland of these Zazas, indicating its rejection of the term Kurdistan as a geographical name. The journal at first had only a very small circle of readers, but the many angry Kurdish reactions suggested that the journal did have a point after all, and gradually growing numbers of Zazas were won over to its views. There appears not to be an organized Zaza nationalist movement yet, but the publishing activities go on increasing, with two new journals appearing in Europe and recently a series of booklets in Turkey, all of them proclaiming the Zazas to be different from the Kurds."

Original footnotes: "Ayre and its successor Piya were published monthly in Sweden from 1987 on. Presently the most important Zaza journals are Desmala Sure and Ware (both published in Germany).

Therefore, it seems that the caption Zazakistan (Alevistan) - Alevis or Zazas (Kizilbashes) of the flag showed above in the Flags of Aspirant Peoples chart [asp] is simplistic if not completely erroneous.

Caker and Ivan Sache,
10 May 1999



Notes on some religious customs and institutions


0.1. The present article is based mainly on the archives of Gevorg Halajyan -a former inhabitant of Dersim- kept in the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian Soviet Republic. The archive includes materials on the etnography, demography, topohraphy, religious beliefs and language of Dersim and its Zaza and Armenian population. G. Halajyan was born in 1885 in Dersim and lived there almost until his thirtieth year - up to the Armenian Genocide in Turkish Armenia in 1915. He died in 1966 in soviet Armenia.

0.2. G. Halajyan's archives, which contain interesting, sometimes entirely new data, are of particular importance because this Dersim region and much of Eastern Turkey is not easily accessible to scholars. The data of this archive can be verified in large part by other Armenian sources, the latter also unknown to most specialists, but very important for the investigation of both the Zaza and the Kurds.

It must be stressed that Halajyan's materials should be regarded as historical: no doubt many of the rites, customs, etc. described have by now disapperared, whilst others have changed their forms and functions in the eighty years and more that have elapsed.

1.1. The Zaza, who call themselves dimli or dimla , inhabit mainly Dersim (modern Tunceli), in the far west of Upper Armenia (Barjr Hayk); and in the territory between the two branches of the Euphrates: between Erzincan -Arm. Erznka- in the north, and the Murad su -Arm. Arcani- in the south. The Zaza live also in Bingl, Mu, in the province of Bitlis, in the environ of Diyarbakir, in Siverek, and in other parts of Eastern Anadolu

1.2. Zaza is possibly a pejorative nickname given them by their neighbours. K.Hadank, with reference to Rich, a traveller of the beginning of the XIXth century, notes that zaza means "stutterer" ("stotterer"). Although it is very likely that zaza is really a nickname (Spitzname), it seems to have been inspired, as D.N.MacKenzie suggests, by the sibilant character of their language. The Armenians call the Zaza dlmik (see below) or zaza-krder. In the latter case, the second part of the composite name, krder (Kurds), denotes social status or mode of life rather than nationality. Thus, the same Armenian authors who use the term zaza-krder in fact are distinguishing the Zaza from the original Kurds

The exact number of the Zaza at present time is not known, but can be estimated to be around half a million.

1.3. The appearance of the Zaza in the territories they now inhabit seems to be connected to waves of migration from the highland of Gilan-Daylam of the Daylamite population in the Xth-XIIth centuries. This historical fact is reflected also in their name for themselves, dimli, dimla < Daylam (F. C. Andreas), more precisely, from the adjectival form delmik (from the original form of the name of the province, Delam or Delim, attested also in the Armenian tradition.

1.4. The Zaza language belongs to the north-western group of the Iranian languages and is closely related to Talishi, Harzani, Gilaki, and Samnani. The Zaza language cannot be regarded as a Kurdish dialect. The valid linguistic evidence for the exclusion of Zaza, as well as of Gurani and Luri, from the system of Kurdish dialects, was first presented by D. N. MacKenzie

1.4.1. The Zaza language, as we can judge from the scanty materials available (texts, glossaries, etc.) contains, besides original vocabulary (Wortschatz), and Turkish and Arabo-Persian borrowings, also a large number of Armenian loan-words. The latter reflect the age-old Armeno-Zaza relationship. Among the archive materials of G. Halajyan, there is a succinct glossary of Armenian loanwords in Zaza, comprising 50 lexical items.

A very interesting facet of Armenian influence upon Zaza can be observed also in the morphological system, i.e. in the formation of the partic. praes. form the past stem with the suffix -(v)ox/v (
The suffix -ox in Kurdish cannot be the fricative variant of the original -ok (<*-aka-), which forms nomina agentis from the present stem of the verb, cf. garok "vagrant, vagabond", gazok "one who bites" (<*gaz-aka ), etc.

2.1. We possess rather scarce information about the religious beliefs and customs of the Zaza. Only superficial remarks are to be found in works dedicated to the Kurds and to the extreme Shi'a sects in Turkey and in Iran. The archive of G.Halajyan, supported by data from the other Armenian sources, remedies this deficieney considerably.

To begin with, some authors, e.g. V. A. Gordlevskij, call the Zaza kizilbas, although this term is inappropriate to them. The term kizilbas implies simultaneously extreme Shi'ite religion and Turkish etnicity. It is preferable to regard the Zaza as an isolated ethnic group of Iranian origin, who confess a certain form of extreme Shi'ism with a great admixture of indigenous, primitive religious elements.

The religious ideas and beliefs of the Zaza are characterized by great variety, as is true of most extreme Shi'a sects. All these sects doctrinally deify Ali, for instance, professing on the same level various substrative primitive and Christian beliefs which are closely interlaced. At the same time, the cult practise of the inhabitants of each individual region displays its own special features, which bear witness to the lack of any unified institution to standardize cult practice and dogma, in contrast to the institutions of Christianity or Islam

Many Christian elements, mainly Armenian, are obvious in religious beliefs of the Zaza. These elements either came to be amalgamated with the usual extreme Shi'a ideas, or else were directly adopted from the Armenian population of Dersim

Due to limitations of space we are unable to mention all the etnographic materials on the Zaza, such as worship of trees, mountains, springs, snakes, etc, assembled by G. Halajyan. For the same reason we shall avoid either making extensive etnographical comparisons (parallels) or offering comprehensive interpretations of the origin of certain customs or beliefs. As to the Sufi (Folk Sufi) influence on Zaza religious beliefs, it is apparently confined only to some elements not incorporated into any other system, and seems to be too greatly blended with indigenous beliefs to allow confident identification

2.2. The prerogatives of cult among the Zaza are traditionally assigned to representatives of certain clans. The keepers of the Zaza religious doctrine are four clans -Avajan, Bamasur (Bamasuran), Kures (Kuresan), and Derves Jamalan. There are others clans too, namely Devres Gulabian and Sare Saltik (Turk. Sari Saltuk), but they play but a minor role in cultic affaires. Religious offices are hereditary. As to the supreme order -Piri Piran (the Elder of Elders)- it may be both hereditary and conferred by ordination. The hierarchy of priesthood is as follows: Rahbar, Mursid, Dede, Seyid, pir, and Piri Piran
28. Terms such as mulla, Seyx, and Ulem, are never used in Zaza cultic practice.

2.3. The order of Piri Piran is inherited by the heir apparent in the elder male line of the Kuresan clan at maturity (i.c., not younger than 18), provided the candidate is without corporal defects. Otherwise, another, younger heir may be raised to the office. When there is no heir apparent, the order of Piri piran is handed down to a near relative in the male line. The ceremony of ordination takes place as follows: The Council of Elders (a mixed secular and clerical body) summons the Supreme Council Jama'at, whose seven superior clergymen consign the authoritiy of chief of the clan to the heir. Before the ordination, the hair and beard to the candidate for Piri piran must be shaved, except for his moustache -the sign of masculinity. Then, the afore-mentioned clergymen with saz in hands to the left and right of the burning hearth and ask the kneeling candidate to approach the hearth. At the same time, spiritual songs which bring tears to the attendants eyes are being sung. Then, the eldest of the order come, to the candidate and lays his right hand on his head. The other six clergymen do the same. During this ceremony prayers in Zaza are offered. The ceremony of ordination is concluded with the tying of a red, triangular shawl sar -on the newly-ordinated Piri Piran's neck. Then the Piri Piran sits to the right of the hearth on a rug-covered cushion and al the attending clergymen kiss the new Lord's shoulder by way of congratulation. Shots are fired outside to inform laymen of the election of a new Piri Piran. In honour of this event a public feast with songs are dances is organized, the food contributed by laymen according to their means. Everyone strives to offer as much as he can for this sacred meal.

2.4. The Piri piran is the religious and secular head of the tribe (Asirat). When he marries, his wife (ana) enjoys almost equal rights in the family together with her husband. If the heir has not come of age when the Piri piran dies, the Ana assumes those powers he had exercised in secular affairs, but not others; she has no authority in the religious life of the asirat . Nevertheless she always wins the respect of all tribesmen

2.5. According to G. Halajyan, rahbars -the representatives of the lovest clergy- do not differ in social respect from the common mass of laymen (talibs). They have a household, livestock, etc. Their duties are to visit the congregation, to perform daily religious rites, and to admonish laymen in the religious and ethical norms of the community. Usually, they are not paid for these functions. It is noteworthy that rahbars have the right to punish guilt, and are not allowed to show clemency. The prerogative to forgive sins attaches only to the Piri Piran upon the application of the Jama'at.

The works of domestic economy of rahbars are performed by their family members or by volunteers from the talibs
. Once or twice in a year the Zaza have to visit the chief of the clan and to present gifts to him according to their prosperity. It may be a sheep or a goat , wool, a bit of linen, a carpet, etc. These offerings are connected with the belief that they can prevent calamity, ward off cattle-plague etc, and guarantee a rich harvest.

2.6. Some authers (G.Halajyan, V. Gordlevskij) mention the existence of communion and baptism among the Zaza. That is only approximately true, because even if there are some possible typological parallels or even genetic relations to Christian cult practice, still these rights among the Zaza have differet functional content. On communion among the Zaza we have only descriptive evidence from G. Halajyan. He considered this communion rite a means for purification from sins. It is possible that the rite goes to the early Christian agape, or to the "Carmat's meals". It has the same meaning as amongst all the other extreme Shi'a sects, e.g., the "love mean" among the Karakoyunlu in the region of Maku. Besides, amongst the Zaza of Dersim, communion was administered formally like that of the Christian one. The Host,which is called by the Sufi term lovmeye haqi ("God's Portion"), is made of fluor, clarified butter, without salt and leaven, and is baked in the hearth of the Piri Piran' s house. The thickness of the Host is about 5 cm. The Host is assigned first of all for the ceremony of initiation of the musahib ("God-brotherhood") and for the Eucharist of the dying. The Host used for the musahib-ceremony is named gulbang, a term designating also "choral songs" amongst the dervishes of Asia Minor. It is possible that among the Zaza the term gulbang corresponds to Arm. Awetis (Gk), ef. NP. At this ceremony the musahibs ("God-brothers") swear eternal fidelity to each other. Then a rahbar, sayid or pir crumbles and dispenses the Host among the attending musahibs, who kiss the hem of the cleric, and eat the Host while seated.

2.7. The rite of Baptism is not universal among the Zaza, but is practiced mainly by those who seem to be of Armenian origin and to retain rudiments of their ancestral Christian customs. As G. Halajyan states, the rite of Baptism is practiced only by women, who secretly administer it to new-born children of either sex from eight to forty days after birth, as follows: The mother of the new-born child and the midwife collect seven sorts of field flowers and take water from seven springs. This water they pour into a jar and put in it the flowers and keep it in a private place. Then the oldest woman in the family, with theassistance of her daughter-in-law and of the midwife, prepares boiled water and adds seven drops from from the infusion of water kept standing with flowers. Holding the child by his hands and feet they dip him thrice into the water. Then with a feather they daub the sign of the Cross with the flower-water on the forehead, feet, breast and lips of the child, and swaddle and bathe him only after three days. The used water, as amongst the Armenians, is poured over the extinguished ashes of the oven or into a pit where the foot of man never steps. The tradition of Baptism is preserved by the feminine line, and if the daughter from such a family marries a genuine Zaza, she carries on the tradition in her husband's family, but secretly, with the help of women from her own parent's house. If proselytes take a bride from an orthodox Zaza family, her children also secretly undergo the Baptism by her mother-in-law or by her husband's sisters. Although aware of their Armenian origin and sometimes preserving former customs, proselyte Armenians still speak sometimes preserving former customs, proselyte Armenians still speak only Zaza and perform all Zaza religious rites.

2.8. One of the features which distinguish the Zaza from other extreme Shi'a sects is the existence of the institution of musahib (perhaps "God-brotherhood") among them. A similar instition called bire axirate and xuska axirate ("Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Next World"), apparently connected with Sufism, exists also among the Yazidis.

In contrast to the Yazidis, however, the institution of the musahib amongst the Zaza exists only for the male sex. The musahib is chosen by a teenager without his parents' interference. After the decision is made, the two teenagers declare it to the family cleric -rahbar- who blesses the spiritual union. In honour of this event a celebration is arranged. Henceforth the relations of the two musahibs will be closer and more durable than blood-bonds. The musahib ceremony must be performed before marriage.

The relationship musahib entails the following reciprocal obligations: 1) to safeguard the safety and honour of the co-musahib' s family; 2) in case of death, to look after the co-musahib' s wife and children like his own; 3) and in an emergency the musahibs must spare no efforts, risking their very lives, to rescue each other. Sexual and matrimonial intercourse with the dead musahib' s wife is strictly forbidden, but levirate marriage is widespread among the Zaza, as well as among the Kurds.

2.9. The institution of kirva ("godfather") plays a very great role in the spiritual life of the Zaza. It is the formal conclusion of a relationship between the Zaza and the Armenians, or between the Kurds and the Armenians, and has been described in detail

2.10. Because of limited space it is not possible to describe here in detail the primitive beliefs and customs of the Zaza, which are abundantly treated in the materials of G. Halajyan. Nevertheless, at the end of this article, it is suitable to describe the cult of the snake in the sanctuary of the village Kistim. Religious mysteries in this sanctuary are performed on the Zaza feast of Xizirilyas , which coincides with the Armenian Feast of Surb Sargis (St. Sergius) and is celebrated after a three-day fast. On this day many Zaza pilgrims gather in the village to see the Holy Staff (Evliya Kistimi , "te Saint of Kistim" or Cuve haqi , "the Staff of Truth", i.e., "God"). The sanctuary is a great stone building in which the representatives of priesthood sit around the Holy Hearth and begin the sima' (lit., "hearing") to the accompancment of musical instruments. To the right of the hearth on the wood-pillar (erkvan ) hangs a green clothbag, in which is a staff. The top of this staff is carved in the form of a snake's head; this is the Cuve haqi . N. Dersimi and G. Halajyan report that because of the great number of people crowded here, the heart-rending spiritual songs, and the mourning and lamentation, congregants enter into trance and see the staff become a snake, leave the bag, and after some miraculous acts, return into the bag and change back into the staff. Halajyan further reports that the rite of the musahib is timed to coincide with this celebration.

A separate work might be written on each problem here discussed, but it is hoped that these brief notes might at least serve to encourage the further investigation of this interesting and quaint people, the Zaza.



A Panorama of Indo-European Languages

Albert Von le Coq

Albert Von le Coq was in Zincirli in 1901 when the Committee of the Orient were excavating near Maraş (the excavations of Karkamış). Le Coq took part willingly in the excavations. In his lecture in the Oriental Languages that was delivered in Arabic and Persian, as Le Coq could not speak neither Turkish nor Kurdish at that time. However, within the period of four months in Zincirli, Le Coq could learn Turkish and he collected some Kurdish texts. After four months he went to Iskenderun, Beirut and Damascus accompanied by a Kurdish teacher named Yusuf Efendi.

In Damascus, Le Coq was acquainted with Omar ibn Ali who was called "Xalo", the Catholic Priest of Beirut Johann Babtist Muradyan and the attache Selim R. Khair. In a meeting with Omar ibn Ali, Le Coq could enrich his collection and information about the Zaza. And with the assistance of the other persons who was bilingual, speaking Turkish and another Europen language, Le Coq could translate the writings he collected from Kurdish into German.

In our possession there are two volumes entitled "Kurdisch Texte" that contain 19 Kurdish, 3 Zaza,that is 21 short stories and epics. The volumes contain even four jokes that were translated from Turkish into Zaza by Omar ibn Ali. One of the Zaza stories (Ibrahim Paşa) was related by Omar ibn Ali in Zaza languages. The other stories (Dunya Guzeli, Yusub Eziz) were translated by the same person from Kurdish into Zaza. Also, the volumes contain comparisions between Zaza, Baba Kurdi and Lolo Kurdi, and a list for the spelling of numbers. Le Coq made comparisions between German, Zaza, Baba Kurdi and Lolo Kurdi, something like a mini dictionary. There is also a comparision between phrases in the four languages.

The person who assisted Le Coq in his work on Zaza, was Omar ibn Ali. Omar ibn Ali introduced himself in Kurdish in the wolumes (p.63) that he originally came from the town of Cermik. He went to Damascus to earn his living. He confessed that he was 78 years old when he helped with the volumes, and lived in Salihiye, a block in Damascus.

From "A Panorama of Indo-European Languages"
(W. B. Lockwood, A Panorama of Indo-European Languages,
London, Hutchinson University Library, 1972, s. 243-244)



Gorani and Zaza


The area of the north-western dialects of Iranian was largely overrun by Turkish, subsequently known as Azeri or Azerbaijani, introduced in the eleventh century. By the sixteenth century, this language had ousted the indigenous Iranian except from the peripheral area along the Caspian coast. Two of these north-western dialects, however, survive outside the area; they are Gorani and Zaza. The Gorans moved south, but their language, now much declined, survives only in the neighbourhood of Kermanshah. As the language of an obscure sect, Gorani became the vehicle of a considerable literature, but is no more than a patois today. The Zaza people, living in some small communities among the Kurds of Eastern Turkey, are descended from immigrants from Dailam on the southern shore of the Caspian and have in part retained the language of their ancestors, which they themselves call Dimli. It is an almost unwritten language.



Internationale Presse-Korrespondenz

1925, no.31, p.458)

A joint work by Oskar Mann and Karl Hadank has been published entitled "Mundarten der Zaza". The following is its fourth part "Kurdisch-Persische Forschungen". In this work Oskar Mann concentrates on the folklore in the villages of Siverek, Bucak, Kor, apakur and Kii. Based on this, Karl Hadank produces a kind of lingustic appendage to the abovementioned book.

Oskar Mann opens his book by throwing light on Zaza in July 1906. The manuscripts that he collected were written originally in Zaza, to be translated latter into German by some persons in the area who could Persian and Turkish. These writings drawed the attention and the interest of Karl Hadank, and that is why he preserved them. Karl Hadank left these writings aside for a while because the under taking seemed to him difficult and demanding at the time. After many years, he took up the same subject. In order to establish the grammar of the Zaza, he compares it with Gurani, Gilaki, Mazenderani, Asterabadi, Semnani, Nayini, Kurdish, Ossetish, Armenish, Turkish to discover the unique aspects of the Zaza. And this has been the focus of his work. Eventually, he produces a long book entitled "Mundarten der Zaza" with 398 pages.

The remarkable research of Karl Hadank penetrates even in the Academic Seiences in Prusya in October 1931. However, Karl Hadank elucitades in the intreduction of his book that to arrive at a thorough understandins and appreciation of his book, the manuscripts of the book ought to be taken into consideration.


 Our language Zaza

By Faruk Iremet

Why this work? One might ask. Its all because our language Zaza is said to be a dialect.
Through my work I want to show the big difference between our language Zaza and other languages.
The little dictionary after the article may be helpful for various authorities
and others, so that the Zaza language not will be mixed up with other languages.
I hope my little work will be helpful, and it's my duty as a Zaza to make the facts known.

The difference between Zaza, Kurdish and Turkish

To find similarities between two languages, you have to check which languages they come from and developed from. You do that by studying old words and expressions. It's for that reason linguistic researchers always investigate the original words, such as the names of flowers, animals, natural phenomena and the grammar structure. In that way the research-workers define and reinforce their theories about a language's origin.

A language's development starts with images. Mankind developed the written language through images. The pictures became the foundation of the written language. At the same time language has become the key for communication among people.

Mankind's social life begins with the clan. People who landed up in remote regions, away from the clan, took with them their language's character. Banishments, coercion transfers, exile or pure love of adventure are some of the factors that have made people meet other cultures. When mankind entered unknown provinces, it also caused the spread of the language.

Thomas Young, linguistic researcher, submitted in 1813 his theory in the following way: "Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Germanic, and Persian (Iranian) are from the same group of languages". He has given this group the name "The Indo-European language". According to Young, those who speak Indo-European languages are "Aryan"



There is


Esto (est)
Hag, hak
Nak, navik
Por (pr)


Est (r)




The Zaza language has borrowed words and has been affected by ethnic groups who have settled down between the Euphrates and the Tigris (Mesopotamia) in front of and behind the Zaza people. These following languages, for example, have had influence on the Zaza: Persian, Armenian, Hurish, Hitish, Sumerian, Greek and Turkish. In contemporary Zaza, borrowed words exist and are used. That doesn't mean that Zaza is a dialect of these languages. The presence of borrowed words in a language doesn't prove that it is a dialect. The land of the Zaza people has been at the centre of wars and capitulations, the Silk Road and a place for rest for nomadic people. This is the reason why the Zaza has been enriched with words from other languages. Neither the Zaza people's cultural life nor their language has been substantially affected, and the changes have not been lasting ones.

In Europe some "intellectual" Zaza people attempt to form theories about the Zaza language. They want to see the Zaza as a dialect of some other languages. This shows that they havent fully understood the Zaza language and the culture . If they really want to see Zaza as a dialect, and if they do their research properly, they cannot overlook the fact that Zaza is close to the Persian language (because it belongs to the Indo-Iranian language-group). So, is it not more logical to say that Zaza is a Persian dialect ? There remains just one more thing; they would have to prove this with historical research. Researchers in the Indo-European language have, with their work, presented and proved that Zaza is one of the older languages spoken in the Middle East. If one reads the works of Oscar Mann, Karl Hadank, CI.J.Rich, A.V.Le Coq and Peter Lerch about languages, one can see that according to these linguistic researchers Zaza is a separate language.

In page 4780 in the book "Encyclopaedia of languages and linguistics" one finds the following "The languages spoken in Turkey are Turkish, Kurdish (Kurmanchi), ZAZA, Cherkess, Ayhbas, Laz, Georgian, Arabic, Armenian e.t.c". Further down on the same page one can read "Turkish is spoken throughout the country. Kurdish, with its dialects, and Zaza are spoken mainly in eastern and south-eastern Anatolia". In the same book one can read this sentence: "the illiterate speakers (principally women and children) of Kurdish, Zaza etc in rural regions, are generally monolingual". In other words, they speak Zaza or Kurdish and they don't understand each other. If one opens at "Zaza" in this ten-volumed encyclopaedia, one sees Zaza in the list of world languages , in other words, not among the dialects. Under "Zaza" it says "see Dimli" and there it says briefly that it is an Iranian, Indo-Arian or Indo-European language. Accordingly the Zaza is not a Kurdish, Turkish, Assyrian, Armenian, Persian or Arabic dialect. When they speak about Zaza they speak about a language, not a dialect.

One should not think that we are just copying the ideas of European linguistic researchers and relying on their works to convince the public that our language is not a dialect. On the contrary we turn to our people. If we ask about our "dialect" Zaza the answer will indeed be interesting. If we ask such a question to a Zaza ( who doesnt speak either Turkish nor Kurdish):

-Tı bı kamcin leheya qısey ken/kena? (Which dialect do you speak?). The first reaction from the Zaza will most likely be a smile, and he/she will ask this question back:

-Lehe ıi yo? (Whats a dialect?). But if we change the question and put it this way:

-Tı bı kamcin zıwana qısey ken/kena? (Which language do you speak?). The answer will be:

-Ez bı zıwan Zazaki qısey kena. (I speak Zaza). This question I myself have asked and their laughter over the word dialect I still can't forget. Can they who have Zaza as a mother tongue without manipulation put such a question to their parents?

Now we shall see which answer our "intellectual" university graduate will give.

Language: What the people think and feel can bring a mutual communication key. If one uses the theory of Stalin one explains language in this way: "Jointly language is the foundation of a nation". In other words, a people who are a nation also have a joint language.

Dialect: Language in local design. A dialect is a part of a language and doesnt differ so much from its mother tongue. What differs is the pronunciation and some local expressions. (E.g. Sausage/Krv, Good/ Gtt).

The Swedish and the Norwegian languages are so close to each other that it would be better to say they are one language with different dialects. But, when the Swedes talk about the Norwegian language, they dont say that Norwegian is a dialect of Swedish, but a totally separate language.

Another example is the Finnish language. Finns never say that Estonian, Lettish and Lithuanian are dialects of Finnish. (These languages are very close to each other). This is because these countries have their own states. If I should give a simple explanation of how I perceive the modern definition of a language to be, I would say as follows:

Language: The communication key between a people who have a state, a flag and an army is called language.

Dialect: A people that dont have a state, a flag (maybe exists but is not accepted) or an army is called a dialect.

I cant avoid joking here. I know it is a very interesting explanation, but it seems to fit in to todays society.

In order to explain my attitude Im forced to go back in time. Maybe in such a way that you, at first, might not understand what all this history has to do with this. I have to rely on your patience, dear reader. The pieces of the puzzle will fall into place. Before the renaissance in Europe, before the reforms in the 16th century, Copernicus (1473-1543) wrote his theories about the solar system. When he wrote down his theory and publicised it, he provoked the church and was sentenced to death. Copernicus just said this: "The world doesnt stand still on its location, on the contrary it twists in its course and in the suns course. The orbit around the sun takes a year." Copernicus, like Galileo, couldn't rescue himself out of the clutches of the church, the priests and the fundamentalists. After Copernicus, Galileo Galilee (1564-1642) with his research, helped and given his time renewal?? (I dont understand what this sentence is supposed to mean). The standpoint of his research was "Dynamics". In one way Copernicus and Galileo were able to rescue themselves from the courts of inquisition. Their destiny was not that of Giordano Brunos. After seven years in prison, G.B. was burned alive. Up until the year 1835 it was forbidden to print or publish books that claimed that the earth turns around the sun. Books that nonetheless succeeded to reach the readers were burned. For 200 years the church forbade such ideas.

"When mankind thinks then it is free or can become free" says Albert Bayet. What a beautiful explanation of the whole. When mankind can' t freely think and develop its opinions, and when new theories cannot be developed from free thoughts, then mankind is not free. Therefore free thoughts and theories must be expressed, be brought up for discussion without obstacles. Then one can develop the thoughts even more and maybe see what what is correct or wrong. The other important question is whether opinions can be correct or wrong? No, correct or wrong do not exist. Here I think as J.P. Satre and Shakespeare. "Correct or wrong do not exist. What is wrong for me can be correct for somebody else and what is correct for me can be wrong for somebody else." If we accept this theory, we can understand each other and then we can sit down and proceed with our discussion. When we speak badly of each other, calling each other traitors, speak about each other without knowledge, we just show a persons empty innate quality. Reading books or getting an employment in government service doesnt mean that one is automatically an intellectual person. In order to become a renewer and an intellectual one has to be able to listen without prejudice and really want to try to understand other peoples opinions. Only in being together and in a constant discussion with other people can ones thoughts be developed. Furthermore it demands a big portion of courage. Courage to express ones opinions and courage to take in others opinions. It also demands courage to stand up for the opinions one really believes in. Just saying yes all the time doesnt help anybody , because then nothing can develop further. intellectualism indeed put its demands on the intellectuals.

We just try to express opinions that many not have dared to express for years, other than in close friends company. From the night's treacherous dark deep, from the tyrants blood-sucking claws, from the mist we will pull out our free thoughts and tell where our roots come from. This can just be done with the courage to express our opinions and the courage to listen.

During the 13th century Aristotles ideas and thoughts were forbidden. Those who read the philosophers publications got the death sentence like a gift. What happened during this long period? What changes did we experience? Could the ideas of Aristotle, Galileo, Copernicus, Copernic, Nicolas d'Autrecourt, Civan Aucassin, Michel Servet and Giordano Brunos be destroyed? (Not forgetting the fact that the free thoughts of Michel Servet and Giordano Brunos and their longing for free thoughts led to their burning). No! Could oppression and torture change mankind's free thoughts? Were not these philosophers called the children of Satan and morons? Now its time to look at the following question a little closer. -Yes, what happened during these years? Who judges history today? The young knight La Barne was killed by order of the church. What had he done? His crime was that he had read "The dictionary of philosophy", which the church had banned. Do you know what happened to the young knight? First his tongue was cut out and then his head was separated from his body. Thereafter his dead body was tossed on the fire. The young man who was treated so cruelly, was guilty of reading a banned book. We are not equally bestial today, or?

In this way some of the European intellectuals express themselves over the reactionary opinions and fanatic political ideas:

Montesquieu; "A reactionary opinion is a backward opinion."

Voltaire; "Reactionary opinions have coloured the world with blood."

Diderot; "A reactionary opinion is a opinion that make me sick."

Helvetius; "A reactionary opinion means, like a knife, worries for mankind."

I think that those who put obstacles in the way of the development of the Zaza language and culture are equally reactionary. I think that the statements of these European philosophers are still true today.

Voltaire also says; "If mankind not can say its opinions freely in a society, then the people can not talk about freedom." Dear reader, now you maywonder; -Why do you write about these things we already know about? If you are wondering just this, I answer you; -That which was experienced in the 13th and the 19th century is actually not just of historic interest. It still continues today in our developed society. In todays society, it is however not only the spokesmen of God who ban opinions, but above all the great god of the ageCapitalism. It is said that we learn from history, but occasionally one wonders.

I will now try to abbreviate my discussion. Despite "mud-throwing philosophy", new modern torture methods and oppression methods during history, it has not been possible to kill free thought. Our work for the language and culture of the Zaza people has already caused disturbances in many reactionary and nationalistic circles. Let me answer those who do not want to listen to what I want to say. I want to say to those who, rather than objectively discuss, begin a "pie-throwing contest"; we dont want to throw back. We want to cooperate and expose the whole truth. I also want to say these words to those who want to blacken our name by saying that we are spies, that we receive support from the Turkish security police (MIT) and that we work together with them - it's not true. Instead of developing lies about people who work with the Zaza-question, its better to go to mass media with the documents you have (such a presentation of documents will give pleasure also to us Zazas). Once more I want to put my question: - The people who come with their humiliating spy-theories about us Zazas - How can they get such secret documents from MIT? First they have to show how they have been able to find such documents about us Zazas. Here I dont want to discuss "who" can obtain such documents. The matter must be left open how one can produce required information from the security police, thats up to the readers own fantasy.

Those who write and are politically active have to be very careful with their statements. Otherwise they will cause needless doubts. Through handing over false information the confidence in that person will disappear. The most important thing is that they not will think that the people are morons that not can think for themselves. Our people havent forgotten these peoples hostile behaviour in old times.

We are not incapable of developing new thoughts, politics and a new history for us. On the contrary, with our work we elaborate a new methodology with a new systematic work. With this work we will maintain our peoples identity. With our democratic perspective we will be defenders to world fraternisation. We will not tire of defending and calling out our brotherhood-slogan. We knew what awaited us when we came through with our Zaza peoples identity-wish, and we knew well which obstacles we would come up against regarding our language theory. We knew that what we wrote and expressed would bother and disturb many nationalists (they who think they are humanists and socialists). The national identity of minority people and languages and dialect theories in the Middle East have a dirty state tradition that only serves to exterminate minorities. The Turks, Iranians and Arabs have, for centuries, been saying: -We are not different people. We are a single people. We havent got different languages. Kurdish is our dialect. (What irony of fate that the Kurds now say the same thing to the Zaza).

Thanks to our work for our people and for our language we will not become a toy for the Middle East states, nor play in their political games. The game is over. Thanks to us, a new era will begin for the Zaza. That is how it is, my ladies and gentlemen, we have also awoken to the dream of being a people. We have also ascertained that those who write about the Zaza have learned the game from their colonialist rulers, and they have had a good teacher. This they prove through writing and disceiving the mass media with false theories and this they do with great pride. BRAVO...

"The one who knows why one lives, also knows how to live" says Nietzsche. Of todays 6000 different languages there are at most 600 that can be considered to have such vitality that their futures are secured, predicts Michael Kraus, linguist at the University in Fairbanks, Alaska. In the periodical New Scientist (96.01.06) he put out his research about these 600 languages and proves this scientifically. Of these languages, many are spoken by such a limited group of people that they are under threat of extermination. The worlds smallest language, Aoreish, is spoken in the Island State Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean.

Some languages disappear, but many renew themselves. The renewal is influenced by the achievements in the field of technology and science. The development of technology and science doesnt just change mankinds everyday life. Simultaneously it affects and changes mankinds language; new terminology is created. The new terminology usually becomes international. The European countries wanted for centuries to create a common language. Thanks to the development of technology and science, this ideology has almost succeeded. In todays research, scientists from several countries cooperate and then its natural to find common terms. This I personally think is a very wise concentration (but I dont mean that a language should not defend its origin). E.g. in Zaza we can say "bewnayox" for TV, or "gosdayox" for radio, but these words are so artificial that they will not live long in spoken and written language. Because they can be difficult to pronounce and they can change the words meaning. This is not good for a language. The door of the language has to be kept open for foreign words. There are thousands of examples of foreign words that work in the language in its original shape and only have to change to the languages grammatical shape. Some words can fit to another language without customs duty. This doesnt mean that the language is poor, on the contrary this language is rich. For example, in the Swedish language Turkish words still are preserved in their original form: kalabalik, kiosk and dolma. Todays English does not just have hundreds of foreign words, it has thousands from different languages. These words come from Latin, Greek, Gaelic, French, Spanish etc, and have been adopted by the English language. Its not only a linguistic alteration, but also a change that is reflected in food customs and culture. Mankind is a animal of the flock, and in a modern society communication has enabled us to associate more easily, and then the different languages and cultures begin to influence eath other. Each influence renews the culture and the language. The renewal of the language is like a blood transfusion. This is like blood running through the language's veins; the people are the veins and the language is the blood. The blood in the veins and the language among the people receive vitality. Therefore each human being has to think, write and speak in their own language. People who are educated and conscious of their heritage and culture will never be ashamed of their language.. Those who are ashamed of their language, transfer their shame to their own children and the children grow up with their shame. Children who grow up with this way of thinking in society, lose their roots from the past and thereby a big part of their identity. Obviously this is not the children's fault, the fault is the parents. The families who have Zaza as a mother tongue and teach their children another language preventtheir children from learning to speak, write or read their mother tongue, and these children lose their connection with their historical roots. In this way a language is erased. When the parents dont use the language, the children dont want to use it either, and nor can they learn it. For me that means denying ones roots and language. In other words, its disrespectful.

In Europe all languages and dialects (e.g. Sorani and Kurmanji in Sweden) have the right to be taught in school. The families who want their children to learn their mother tongue, receive immigrant language teaching. Even if one of the parents is from Europe, the children have the right to immigrant language teaching, to keep both parts of their identity alive. The parents however often choose the language that is spoken in the country where they live. The reason for this is that there are no Zaza teachers or education in the schools. Here I want to point out another thing: some Zazas that I know who are married to people with other nationalities and have another language as mother tongue, also have other problems. For example one of the Zazas I know is married to a Turkish woman, the second is married to a Zaza woman, and the third is married to a Kurdish woman. In the family where the father is Zaza and the mother is Turkish, the child speaks the respective language with the respective parent. With the Zaza who is married to a Zaza woman, they speak just Zaza. For the Zaza who is married to a Kurdish woman, the matter is a little different. There are conflicts. In that family, only Kurdish is spoken, and the immigrant language teaching is in Kurdish. I can give more examples of such conflicts. E.g. where both parents speak Zaza, but for political reasons choose to send their children to Turkish or Kurdish schools. Where this is the case, it means that one loses contact with ones mother tongue. The children learn one language entirely, or mix it with all these languages. But what happens to these children? Which identity do these children have? To which nationality do they belong? Obviously its not the children who should be answering all these questions. But one shall not forget that in the children it creates a psychological identity crisis. When the children are among other nationalities, they feel themselves that they dont have a nationality. This is where their "-Who am I?"conflict begins. This conflict makes the children aggressive, violent and hard to get close to. The children, our flowers of the future, the hope of the future and our future generation in this way become totally destroyed. At the root of the childrens bad future is unfortunately ignorant parents.

When I began to write, I took Nietzsches words: "The one who knows why one lives, also knows how to live". Maybe you wonder why I wrote this. I wrote down these words to point out an important thing. What will be left after us when we die areour deeds. With deeds, I mean our children and our written documents in our language. Therefore we always have to defend our language to the utmost, and in this way prevent the Zaza language from dying. In our day-to-day speech we use at most 300-500 words and I think that it will not be hard to teach our children these everyday words. Give the children their Zaza roots. Give them their national identity and pride. Ally yourselves with the Zaza language and its dialects. Teach your children to play with Zaza children and create contacts betweeen children. From to today this is the investment you shall make for your children. Its an investment for the future, and one of the wisest you can make. The words I write can be understand as nationalistic. I dont myself see it as nationalistic to protect ones language. Then the worlds countries' language institutions would be nationalistic. Here I would like to quote the philosopher and thinker Bertrand Russell. This quotation is Bertrand Russells answer to Woodrow Wyatts question.

Wyatt - "Do you think that nationalism is good or bad?"

Russell - "...You have to separate the nationalism in cultural- and political in certain respects. In the cultural way its insipidly that the world is so one-coloured...." and then he continues; "- Within literature, art, languages and all culture you can accept nationalism. But if you look on the thing from the political way nationalism is obviously not good. You cant show one sole thing that can prove that nationalism is good".

One will not find nationalism in our obvious nationalistic identity wishes and the right to use our language. The nationalism can be found in the theories that want to extinguish us, our language and our culture. To deny us Zaza our rights, that's nationalism.

Now we will compare our "dialect" (so that the person who calls our language a dialect can check properly) and other "DIALECTS". We will now look together at the similarities and dissimilarities.




at the back
to be
peasant, pawn
they weave
doesnt work
a bit
a, an
am, are, is
are not
people, folk
from her
from him
fortress, fort
cry, weep
pass by
he walk
keep, hold
the day after tomorrow
soil, land
(under) pants
knead dough!
come, arrive
pal, buddy
vomit, be sick
woman, wife
to land
like, alike
long, tall
mummy, mum
almond tree
very much
on its spot
stir, mix
mix together
collect, pick
fragile, frail
twilight, dusk
let go!
let go
rapid, quick
sloping, skew
stingy, scant
staff, truncheon
that much
wound, cut
take down
rag, tear
chewing gum
what did they say?
what did they say?
to be late
crochet hook
weaving mill
Yoghurt drink
outer door
donkey, ass
donkey foal
knead, knead
apple tree


N beno
Kosewi, xonzıl
O, y
O şıno

Bı alawı!
Zey p
May, ma
Dihir, re
Herun dı
Varıt, varan
Tot kerdeni
Vera şan
ekı!, Berzı!
Kır, juşem
War kerdış
Tırotık, xırxız
Verdim, serbın
Se va?
Se vano?
Aya biyayış
Berey amyayış
Koli, boli
Xele, (ğele)


Xebitandin, karkırın, Kar
Tevin dikin
Djnik, tere
Dims, mot
Ji bo w
Til, b

Ji w
Ji w
Şv kirin
Kel, qele
Baca, pencere
Berbang, şefeq
Derbas bn
Bie, heri!
Derbas dibe
Ew, w
Ew, w
Duh, do
Du sibe

Hevr ke!
Gir kir
hembz kirin

D, dayik
Peya, mr
Dara bihva
Kelek, qavn
Xirxir kirin
Zahf, zde
Cy xwe da
Kr kirin
Ban kirin
Tevhev kirin
Tevhev kirin
Berev kirin
Kut kirin
R, r
Roj, tav
Diz kirin
Jin bira
Xwan kirin
Xweşk, xweng
Birin, dibin
Jr ann
i go?
i dibje?
Şyar bn
Dereng hatin
zing, ker
Karker tevn
Tevin kirin
Tevin kirin
Caj, kurik
Hevr kirin
Dara sva


Dere otu
Bir para
Szl, nişanlı
Szl, nişanlı
O (erkekler iin)

At (Atmak)!
Teyze kızı
Amca kızı
Kadın, eş,
Badem ağacı
ok, fazla
Ad, isim
Tıraş etmek
At (Atmak)!
O kadar
Aşağı indirmek
Kalın barsak

Ne syledi?
Ne diyor?
Ge gelmek
Sancı, acı
Dış kapı
Eşek yavrusu
Elma ağacı



brother child

cousin (mask.)
cousin (fem.)
pal, buddy
uncle whife

Waşti, waştu
Embaz (olwaz)

Xwışk (xweng)
Law xweng
Law bıra
Jin bira

Amca oğlu
Amca kızı



rabbit, hare
donkey, ass
donkey foal

Dıce (diji)
Sipe (chş)

Caj, kurik
Berez (xenzr)




autumn, fall







Doşi (kıft)
Este, aste

R, r
Pışt (mil)
Ser (kele)

Gz yaşı
Kamış, sik
Vajina, am
Kalın barsak
Bacak, ayak
Mide, karın
Yrek (kalp)



before dusk
twilight, dusk

Vera dihir
Dihir (tiştare)
re, perroz
Vera re
Vera şan
Şan (şa)

Ber bi nvro
Ber bi var
Ber bi esir
Sibe, sibey

ğleden nce
ğleden sonra
İkindiden nce




Estare (astare)
Yaxır varan

Ro, tav





Qorri (mşe)
Hendi (zebeş)


Ax, her
Kelek, qavn
Bihv, badem

Nehir kıyısı
Dere otu

Grammatic difference between
zazaish, kurdish and turkish.

Sentence structure


She is my sister-in-law..
With your pain..
What are you reading?
A drip of your blood.
From your friends.
Steal it!
Im coming down the mountin.
Did you come?
What are you eating
Were are they going?
Were are you going?
It warmed my blood.
We are going.
From this day forward.
Who are coming?
She went.
What are your dad doing?
What are you doing?
How are you?
Were are you from?
With you.
cousin, (uncle daughter)
As we said.
From Ceren
From them
What are they doing?
Im not hungry.


Bırarcınya mın a.
Bı şan to ya
ıi wanen?
Dırop goni ya to ra
Enbazan ra
y /ay bıtırawı!
Ez koyan sera yena war.
Şıma amey?
Şımay ıi wen?
Şımay şın koti?
Şın koti?
Goniya mı kerdı germ
Ma y şır.
Nıka ra
O kamo yeno?
A şi
Piy to seken o?
Tı y koti ra yen?
To hetı
Zekı ma va
Ceren ra
İna ra
İna y seken?
Ez vyşan nya.


Benim yengemdir.
Senin acılarınla.
Ne okuyorsun?
Senin kanından bir damla.
Onu al!
Dağlardan aşağı iniyorum.
Siz geldiniz.
Siz ne yiyeceksiniz?
Siz nereye gidiyorsunuz?
Nereye gidiyorsun?
Kanımı ısıttı.
Biz gideceğiz.
O gelen kimdir?
Yryerek (yaya) gitti.
Baban ne yapıyor?
Elma ağacı.
Ne yapıyorsun?
Nereden gelisyorsun?
Senin yanında.
Badem ağacı.
Dayı kızı.
Benim dediğim gibi
Onlar ne yapıyorlar.
Ben a değilim.


Jina bir min e.
Tev şa te
ı dıxwini?
Dilopek ji xwna te
Jı hevalan
Wya dızi bike!
Ez jı ser iyan tme xwar.
Hn hatın?
Hn ı dıxwın?
Hn dıın ku?
Dı i ku?
Xwna min germ kir
Em herın.
Ji nuha ve (ji ana)
Ew kye t
Bi p
Bı hevra
Bav te ı dıke?
Dara sva
ı dıki?
Tu jı ku t?
Cem te
Dara behiva
Wek min got
Jı Zeki
Jı wana
Ew i dikin?
Ez ne birme.

PS: If you want to be respected by other people and get your national identity known among the world's countries, first of all you have to maintain your national identity.