Kurdish Notables and the Ottoman State

Evolving Identities, Competing Loyalties, and Shifting Boundaries

By Hakan Ozoglu

Subjects: Middle East Politics
Series: SUNY series in Middle Eastern Studies
Paperback : 9780791459942, 202 pages, January 2007
Hardcover : 9780791459935, 202 pages, February 2004

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Table of contents


Note on Transliteration and Translation

List of Illustrations

1. Introduction


The Role of Kurdish Nationalism in the Emergence of the Turkish Republic
A Brief Discussion on Nationalism
Different Interpretations of Nationalism
Ethnicity, Nationalism, and the Development of Identity
Nationalism in the Kurdish Case
Nationalism and Notables in the Ottoman Empire
Boundaries of the Research
Organization and General Arguments of the Chapters


2. Evolution of Group Identity: The Kurds and Kurdistan in Historical Texts


Origin of the Kurds
Kurds and Kurdistan in Medieval Sources
Serefhan Bitlisi
The Seventeenth Century: Ahmed-i Hani
Evliya Çelebi: A View of an Ottoman Traveler
Kurds and Kurdistan in the Late Ottoman Period
Kürdistan: The First Kurdish Newspaper
Semseddin Sami
The Post-World War I Period


3. State-Tribe Relations: Ottoman Empire and Kurdish Tribalism Since the Sixteenth Century


Tribe, Emirate, and the Kurds
Theoretical Framework
Definition of Kurdish Tribes
Kurdish Tribalism Prior to the Ottoman Conquest
Ottoman-Safavid Relations and "Kurdistan"
Ottoman Administration in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
Classical Ottoman Administration
Ottoman Administration in Kurdistan
Decreasing Level of Kurdish Autonomy
Ottoman Administrative Policies in Nineteenth-Century Kurdistan
Conclusion: Consequences of Ottoman Rule


4. Kurdish "Protonationalism"?: The Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries


The Nationalist Dimension of Kurdish Militancy
Bedirhan Pasha and His Revolt of 1847
The Naqshbandi Semdinan Family and Sayyid Ubeydullah
A Transformation to Nationalism: Two Kurdish Cultural and Political Organizations, 1908–20
Kürt Teavün ve Terakki Cemiyeti, or the Society for the Mutual Aid and Progress of Kurdistan (SMPK)
Kürdistan Teali Cemiyeti, or the Society for the Advancement of Kurdistan (SAK) of 1918


5. The Role of Preexisting Ties and Notables in the Emergence of Kurdish Nationalism


The Naksibendi Semdinan Family
Sayyid Abdulkadir
The Bedirhani Family
Emin Ali Bedirhan
Celadet Ali and Kamuran Ali Bedirhan
Other Members of the SAK in the Bedirhani Family
The Cemilpasazade Family
Ekrem Cemilpasa
Kadri Cemilpasa (Zinar Silopi)
Shaykh Sefik Efendi
Mehmet Serif Pasha
Bediüzzaman Said Nursi
Hizanizade Bitlizli Kemal Fevzi


6. Concluding Remarks and Suggestions for Further Research


Directions for Further Research in the Republican Period





Examines early Kurdish nationalism within the context of the demise of the Ottoman Empire.


Kurdish nationalism remains one of the most critical and explosive problems of the Middle East. Despite its importance, the topic remains on the margins of Middle East Studies. Bringing the study of Kurdish nationalism into the mainstream of Middle East scholarship, Hakan Özogálu examines the issue in the context of the Ottoman Empire. Using a wealth of primary sources, including Ottoman and British archives, Ottoman Parliamentary minutes, memoirs, and interviews, he focuses on revealing the social, political, and historical forces behind the emergence and development of Kurdish nationalism. Contrary to the assumption that nationalist movements contribute to the collapse of empires, the book argues that Kurdish leaders remained loyal to the Ottoman state, and only after it became certain that the empire would not recover did Kurdish nationalism emerge and clash with the Kemalist brand of Turkish nationalism.

Hakan Özogálu is the Ayasli Senior Lecturer in Turkish Studies at the University of Chicago.


"Özogálu has produced a well-written, valuable study of a period in the history of Kurdish nationalism … [his] study is significant not only for understanding the early history of Kurdish nationalism but also for its contemporary context. " — H-Net Reviews (H-Turk)

"…both expands on existing studies and revises previous accounts in a concise, nuanced fashion. " — International Journal of Middle East Studies

"The author's discussion of the Kurdish notable families and the evolution of their ideologies is original and constitutes an important contribution to the literature. " — Reşat Kasaba, author of The Ottoman Empire and the World Economy: The Nineteenth Century

"The topic of the emergence of ethno-nationalism among a class of notables closely linked to the imperial state is significant, making this book of interest to students of ethnicity and nationalism, Ottoman historians, and specialists of Kurdish affairs. " — Martin van Bruinessen, author of Agha, Shaikh, and State: The Social and Political Structures of Kurdistan