Autonomy and Resistance in Ottoman Kurdistan

Episode 395

hosted by Matthew Ghazarian

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Zones of autonomy and resistance make up the region historically called Kurdistan - areas that can include parts of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Armenia - depending on whom you ask. This region, whose territory spans the boundaries of nation-states created after the First World War, continues to host conflict between powerful states and their opponents. Who ruled these areas in the past, and how did they become the rebel lands they are today? In this episode, we speak with Metin Atmaca about the rise and fall of Kurdish emirs who ruled in the Ottoman-Iranian borderlands, from their rise in the 1500s to their fall in the 1850s. We also discuss the afterlife of the Kurdish dynastic families who, in exile, re-invented themselves as political leaders, bureaucrats, and rebels in the Ottoman and post-Ottoman world.

Contributor Bios

Metin Atmaca is Assistant Professor at the History Department at Social Sciences University of Ankara. His work deals with the history of the Ottoman-Iranian frontier with a special focus on the Kurdish supra-tribal political structures and religio-political leadership in Ottoman Iraq. He was a post-doctoral researcher at Markaz-i Dāirat al-Maʻārif-i Buzurg-i Islāmī (Center for Great Encyclopaedia of Islam) in Tehran in the summers of 2017 and 2018 and Centre d'Études Turques, Ottomanes, Balkaniques et Centrasiatiques in École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in 2015-16.
Matthew Ghazarian is a Ph.D. Candidate in Columbia University's Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, African Studies. His research focuses on the intersections of sectarianism, humanitarianism, and famine in central and eastern Anatolia between 1839 and 1893.


Episode No. 395
Release Date: 29 December 2018
Recording Location: Ankara
Audio editing by Matthew Ghazarian
Music: "Gede Dino" by Şeroyê Biro and Şebabê Egid and "Keleşo" by Dengê Jinên Kurd
Images, music, and bibliography courtesy of Metin Atmaca


Maps of Kurdistan and Diyarbekir published in 1683 (Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France. Alain Manesson Mallet, Illustrations de Description de l'Univers contenant les différents systèmes du Monde, Paris : D. Thierry, 1683, p. 239)
The lodge of Naqshbandi-Khalidi Sufi Order in Nehri, Hakkari (Source: Metin Atmaca, 2013)
A drawing by the Russian painter Grigory Grigorievich Gagarin (1810-1893) of a young Kurdish notable with his advisor and his tribe while passing through Aras River (Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France,  reproduction by Célestin Nanteuil, Tribu kurde passant un gué sur l'Arax, Paris, 1850)

Select Bibliography

Alsancakli, Sacha. "Matrimonial Alliances and the Transmission of Dynastic Power in Kurdistan: The Case of the Diyādīnids of Bidlīs in the Fifteenth to Seventeenth Centuries." Eurasian studies, 15 (2017): 222-249.

Ateş, Sabri. Ottoman-Iranian Borderlands: Making a Boundary, 1843-1914. Cambridge: New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Atmaca, Metin. "Fragile Frontiers: Sayyid Taha II and the Role of Kurdish Religio-Political Leadership in the Ottoman East during the First World War." Middle Eastern Studies 54, no. 3 (2017): 361-81.

Atmaca, Metin. "Resistance to Centralisation in the Ottoman Periphery: the Kurdish Baban and Bohtan Emirates." Middle Eastern Studies, (2019) Online version:

Bajalan, Djene Rhys and Sara Zandi Karimi, Studies in Kurdish history: empire, ethnicity and identity. London: Routledge, 2017.

Eppel, Michael. A People Without a State: The Kurds from the Rise of Islam to the Dawn of Nationalism, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2016.

Izady, Mehrdad R. The Sharafnam̂a or The history of the Kurdish nation, 1597. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda, 2005.

Jongerden, Joost and Jelle Verheij. Social Relations in Ottoman Diyarbekir, 1870-1915. Leiden: Brill, 2012.

Kieser, Hans-Lukas. "Réformes ottomanes et cohabitation entre chrétiens et Kurdes (1839-1915)." Études rurales, no. 186 (March 29, 2011): 43–60.

Klein, Janet. Margins of Empire: Kurdish Militias in the Ottoman Tribal Zone. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011.

Özcoşar, İbrahim and Shahab Vali (eds.) Osmanlı Devleti ve Kürtler. Istanbul: Kitap Yayınevi, 2017.

Özoğlu, Hakan. Kurdish Notables and the Ottoman State: Evolving Identities, Competing Loyalties, and Shifting Boundaries. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004.

Özok-Gündoğan, Nilay. "Ruling the Periphery, Governing the Land: The Making of the Modern Ottoman State in Kurdistan, 1840-70." Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 34, no. 1 (2014): 160-175.

Maisel, Sebastian. The Kurds: An Encyclopedia of Life, Culture, and Society. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2018.

McDowall, David. A Modern History of the Kurds. London: I.B.Tauris, 2004.

Scheref, Prince de Bidlis, Scherefnameh ou Histoire des Kourdes, V. Véliaminof-Zernof (ed.), Vol. I. St.Pétersbourg: Académie Impériale des Sciences, 1860.

Soleimani, Kamal. Islam and Competing Nationalisms in the Middle East, 1876-1926. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Yadirgi, Veli. The Political Economy of the Kurds of Turkey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Zekî, Mihemed Emîn. Kurd û Kurdistan. Mehabad: Intishārāt-i Sayyidiyān, 1931.


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