sábado, 14 de noviembre de 2015

Kurds, Zazas, Qashqais, Aimaaqs, Gilakis, Mazandaranis, Hazaras, Yaghnobis, Tatis, Laris, Kizilbash, Talish, Lurs, Laks

The Kurds are the descendants of Gutis, which in turn were the descendants of Israelites taken captive to Media. The Kurds are said to be the descendants of Medians & partially rightly so, because the multitude of captive Israelites must have mingled (at least a little bit) with the local Median population.

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". Three centuries later, Haji Qadiri Koyi, in one of his poems extolling the great literary figures of Kurdistan, did not hesitate to include Hewrami poets among them. 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.

The history of Judaism in Kurdistan 

The history of Judaism in Kurdistan is ancient. The Talmud holds that Jewish deportees were settled in Kurdistan 2800 years ago by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser Ill (r. 858-824 BC). As indicated in the Talmud, the Jews eventually were given permission by the rabbinic authorities to convert local Kurds. They were exceptionally successful in their endeavor.

Kurdish Jews trace their history back to the conversion of Queen Helene of Adiabene

The illustrious Kurdish royal house of Adiabene, with Arbil as its capital, was converted to Judaism in the course of the 1st century BC, along with, it appears, a large number of Kurdish citizens in the kingdom (see Irbil/Arbil in Encyclopaedia Judaica). The name of the Kurdish king Monobazes (related etymologically to the name of the ancient Mannaeans), his queen Helena, and his son and successor Izates (derived from yazata, "angel"), are preserved as the first proselytes of this royal house (Ginzberg 1968, VI.412). But this is chronologically untenable as Monobazes' effective rule began only in AD 18. In fact during the Roman conquest of Judea and Samaria (68-67 BC), it was only Kurdish Adiabene that sent provisions and troops to the rescue of the beseiged Galilee (Grayzel 1968, 163)-an inexplicable act if Adiabene was not already Jewish (see Classical History). Many modern Jewish historians like Kahle (1959), who believes Adiabene was Jewish by the middle of the 1st century BC, and Neusner (1986), who goes for the middle of the lst century AD, have tried unsuccessfully to reconcile this chronolgical discrepancy. All agree that by the beginning of the 2nd century AD, at any rate, Judaism was firmly established in central Kurdistan.

Like many other Jewish communities, Christianity found Adiabene a fertile ground for conversion in the course of 4th and 5th centuries. Despite this, Jews remained a populous group in Kurdistan until the middle of the present century and the creation of the state of Israel. At home and in the synagogues, Kurdish Jews speak a form of ancient Aramaic called Suriy,4ni (i.e., "Assyrian"), and in commerce and the larger society they speak Kurdish. Many aspects of Kurdish and Jewish life and culture have become so intertwined that some of the most popular folk stories accounting for Kurdish ethnic origins connect them with the Jews. Some maintain that the Kurds sprang from one of the lost tribes of Israel, while others assert that the Kurds emerged through an episode involving King Solomon and the genies under his command (see Folklore & Folk Tales).

The relative freedom of Kurdish women among the Kurdish Jews led in the 17th century to the ordination of the first woman rabbi, Rabbi Asenath B5rzani, the daughter of the illustrious Rabbi Samuel Bârzâni (d. ca. 1630), who founded many Judaic schools and seminaries in Kurdistan. For her was coined the term tanna'ith, the feminine form for a Talmudic scholar. Eventually, MAMA ("Lady") Asenath became the head of the prestigious Judaic academy at Mosul (Mann 1932).

The tombs of Biblical prophets like Nahum in Alikush, Jonah in Nabi Yunis (ancient Nineveh), Daniel in Kirkuk, Habakkuk in Tuisirkan, and Queen Esther and Mordechai in Hamadân, and several caves reportedly visited by Elijah are among the most important Jewish shrines in Kurdistan and are venerated by all Jews today.

The Alliance Israélite Universelle opened schools and many other facilities in Kurdistan for education and fostered progress among the Jewish Kurds as early as 1906 (Cuenca 1960). Non-Jewish Kurds also benefitted vastly, since children were accepted into these schools regardless of their religious affiliation. A new class of educated and well-trained citizens was being founded in Kurdistan. Operations of the Alliance continued until soon after the creation of Israel.

Many Kurdish Jews have recently emigrated to Israel. However, they live in their own neighborhoods in Israel and still celebrate Kurdish life and culture, including Kurdish festivals, costumes, and music in some of its most original forms.

Kurds are the Closest Relatives of Jews

In 2001, a team of Israeli, German, and Indian scientists discovered that the majority of Jews around the world are closely related to the Kurdish people -- more closely than they are to the Semitic-speaking Arabs or any other population that was tested. The researchers sampled a total of 526 Y-chromosomes from 6 populations (Kurdish Jews, Kurdish Muslims, Palestinian Arabs, Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazic Jews, and Bedouin from southern Israel) and added extra data on 1321 persons from 12 populations (including Russians, Belarusians, Poles, Berbers, Portuguese, Spaniards, Arabs, Armenians, and Anatolian Turks). Most of the 95 Kurdish Muslim test subjects came from northern Iraq. Ashkenazic Jews have ancestors who lived in central and eastern Europe, while Sephardic Jews have ancestors from southwestern Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East. The Kurdish Jews and Sephardic Jews were found to be very close to each other. Both of these Jewish populations differed somewhat from Ashkenazic Jews, who mixed with European peoples during their diaspora. The researchers suggested that the approximately 12.7 percent of Ashkenazic Jews who have the Eu 19 chromosomes -- which are found among between 54 and 60 percent of Eastern European Christians -- descend paternally from eastern Europeans (such as Slavs) or Khazars. But the majority of Ashkenazic Jews, who possess Eu 9 and other chromosomes, descend paternally from Judeans who lived in Israel two thousand years ago. In the article in the November 2001 issue of The American Journal of Human Genetics, Ariella Oppenheim of the Hebrew University of Israel wrote that this new study revealed that Jews have a closer genetic relationship to populations in the northern Mediterranean (Kurds, Anatolian Turks, and Armenians) than to populations in the southern Mediterranean (Arabs and Bedouins).

A previous study by Ariella Oppenheim and her colleagues, published in Human Genetics in December 2000, showed that about 70 percent of Jewish paternal ancestries and about 82 percent of Palestinian Arabs share the same chromosomal pool. The geneticists asserted that this might support the claim that Palestinian Arabs descend in part from Judeans who converted to Islam. With their closer relationship to Jews, the Palestinian Arabs are distinctive from other Arab groups, such as Syrians, Lebanese, Saudis, and Iraqis, who have less of a connection to Jews.

A study by Michael Hammer et al., published in PNAS in June 2000, had identified a genetic connection between Arabs (especially Syrians and Palestinians) and Jews, but had not tested Kurds, so it was less complete.

Many Kurds have the "Jewish" Cohen Modal Haplotype

In the 1990s, a team of scientists (including the geneticist Michael Hammer, the nephrologist Karl Skorecki, and their colleagues in England) discovered the existence of a haplotype which they termed the "Cohen modal haplotype" (abbreviated as CMH). Cohen is the Hebrew word for "priest", and designates descendants of Judean priests from two thousand years ago. Initial research indicated that while only about 3 percent of general Jews have this haplotype, 45 percent of Ashkenazic Cohens have it, while 56 percent of Sephardic Cohens have it.

In short, the CMH is a genetic marker from the northern Middle East which is not unique to Jews. However, its existence among many Kurds and Armenians, as well as some Italians and Hungarians, would seem to support the overall contention that Kurds and Armenians are the close relatives of modern Jews and that the majority of today's Jews have paternal ancestry from the northeastern Mediterranean region.

The Jewish Kingdom of Adiabene in Ancient Kurdistan

In ancient times, the royal house of Adiabene and some of the common people of Adiabene converted to Judaism. The capital city of Adiabene was Arbela (known today by Arabs as Irbil and by Kurds as Hawler). King Izates became closely attached to his new faith, and sent his sons to study Hebrew and Jewish customs in Jerusalem. His successor to the throne was his brother Monobazos II, who also adopted Judaism. In her 2001 study, Oppenheim references the kingdom of Adiabene, but suggests that while Adiabene's conversion to Judaism "resulted in the assimilation of non-Jews into the community... This recorded conversion does not appear to have had a considerable effect on the Y chromosome pool of the Kurdish Jews."

Research has just begun into the ancient ties between Kurds and Jews. It would be interesting to see if the various Jewish groups have as strong a family tie to Kurds in the maternal lineages as they do in the paternal lineages. Preliminary studies indicate that Jewish populations in eastern Europe and Yemen have maternal origins that contain much more non-Israelite ancestry than their paternal origins. Despite this admixture with other groups, the Jewish Judean people ultimately began their existence in an area within or nearby Kurdistan, prior to migrating southwest to Israel. This exciting research showing that Kurds and Jews may have shared common fathers several millennia ago should, hopefully, encourage both Kurds and Jews to explore each others' cultures and to maintain the friendship that Kurds and Jews enjoyed in northern Iraq in recent times.

Kurdistan is the one place in Iraq that is thriving. Just like Israel made a modern, western oasis in the desert, the Kurds are doing the same thing in the mountains. It's interesting but you can also look at the data the other way - that the Jews are an amalgam of various splinters of the Hebraic peoples - some of whom became Israelites, while others went on to become Kurds, Armenians, etc. According to the Bible, Abraham was born in Ur, believed to be in Northern Iraq -- where the Kurds are -- and then moved to Harran, in eastern Turkey -- where the Kurds are. It would be a surprise if the Jews were not ethnically related to the northern/eastern Mediterranean peoples and the Kurds.

I wonder if the "Muslim world" made most of its progress when the Kurds were in charge (Saladin) and ceased to do so when the Arabs took over. I haven't studied the history of the rise and stagnation of Islam enough to know.

I thought the Kurds were the descendants of the ancient Medes and therefore Indo-European. But since the Ten Lost Tribes were initially exiled by the Assyrians (northern Mesopotamia) then I suppose they left some genetic evidence behind.

The genetic populations that have the highest chance of red hair: Anglo-Saxons (last I heard, it was actually higher than celtic chance), celtic, Western Russians, Ashkenazic Jews and Swedes (but not Norwegians or Finns, particularly).

As far as the lost tribes go, Simha Jacobovici (local Toronto academic & filmaker) had an interesting take on the subject in a two hour documentary called Quest for the lost Tribes. Controversial, but certainly worth a look. Josh Bernstein (digging for the truth show) had a nice presentation in one episode on the Lembe - a bit lightweight, but worthwhile.

The bible, and later migrations of people, can, together tell us why this is so (Kurds and Jews are closely related).

The Bible identifies the birthplace of Abram (Abraham) as Tell al-Muqayyar (ancient city called Ur). It lies near the city of Nasiriyah in the southwestern floodplain of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, 140 miles south of Babylon.

So, there are two possibilities.

One of those possibilities is that while Abraham went south out of the area (Iraq), the later building and destorying of various empires in the area, led his closest relatives that remained in Ur, to migrate north, into what is now the Kurdish area and Armenia.

The other possibility is that the ancestors of Abraham began in the Kurdish area and migrated down to Ur before he was born.

But, either way, what seems to have allowed the gene pool of Kurds, Jews and Armenians to retain the markers of their closely related ancestry is that all three groups have always, like Abraham's descendents, resisted total assimilation into those around them.

There may even be very ancient and common religious components as to why those three groups have resisted assimilation.

Given Abraham's migration path, his life leading to both Ishmael and Issac, followed centuries later by the empire of the Assyrians (indo-Europeans, closer to Greeks and Persians), north of Israel (souce of what became "Syria"), it is not politics or surprusing to me that people of Israel and Arabs in Palestine would be more closely related than Arabs in Palestine and Syrians.

The Kurds and the Ottoman Empire -- even if the Kurds and Turks don't get along. I'm more and more convinced that the problem with Islam isn't Islam, but the Arabs.

I've never understood the argument made by some that the Palestinians are a totally deperate people from the Jews. The chronicles of both sides of the Islamic takeover descibe the Muslims as giving people the choice of conversion or death, and that after the invasion many Jews were permitted to live in relative peace. It's obvious that many chose conversion over death, and in the following centuries it was practically assured that there would be at least some intermarriage between the two populations. While there are many Palestinians are of completely Arabian descent, it's all but guranteed that at least some of the Palestinians are closely related...and even descended from...the Jews.

The forced conversion of the Jewish community of Persia and the beginnings of the Kurds 

The Assyrian & Babylonian Exiles

A significant majority of the Ten Tribes of Israel who constituted the northern Kingdom of Israel during the Biblical Period were taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 721-715 BCE.  They were deported to areas adjacent to the place of exile: Media, Assyira and Mesopotamia.  This area is roughly what is today called Kurdistan.

The Jewish Roots of Kurdistan

The history of Judaism in Kurdistan is ancient. The Talmud holds that Jewish deportees were settled in Kurdistan 2800 years ago by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser. As indicated in the Talmud, the Jews were given permission by the rabbinic authorities to allow conversion from the local population. They were exceptionally successful in their endeavor. The illustrious Kurdish royal house of Adiabene, with Arbil as its capital, was converted to Judaism in the course of the 1st century BCE, along with, it appears, a large number of Kurdish citizens in the kingdom (see Irbil/Arbil in Encyclopaedia Judaica).

The tombs of Biblical prophets like Nahum in Alikush, Jonah in Nabi Yunis (ancient Nineveh), Daniel in Kirkuk, Habakkuk in Tuisirkan, and Queen Esther and Mordechai in Hamadân, and several caves reportedly visited by Elijah are among the most important Jewish shrines in Kurdistan and are venerated by all Jews today.

Kurdistan the Birthplace of the Babylonian Talmud

Under the rule of the Jewish Queen Shlomis Alexandra (also known as Shlomtzion,  the widow of King Yannai, grandson of Judah the Maccabee) 76-66 BCE, and under the advice of her brother Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach, the Pharisees (Rabbinical Jews) split with the Sadducees and other militant Jewish groups. Although the Pharisees opposed Roman rule, they preferred academic study to military revolt.

In the years prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, this rift in approach to Rome increased to the point of open conflict with Rome and between the militants themselves.  The Hellenists sought to assimilate or appease Rome through adopting its culture.  The Pharisees sought to preserve the spiritual heritage of Judaism through academies and study.  The Herodians, Sadducees and their Jordanian converts plotted revolt.   Even though the first revolt resulted in the destruction of the Temple, there was some recovery.  The second revolt under Bar Kochba in 135 CE, however, was utterly crushed by Rome.  There was a Jewish majority in Israel for hundreds of years after this, but Israel as a autonomous political entity ceased to exist.

After these events, the split became geographical.  The militant Jews headed south to Jordan and Southern Arabia, eventually founding the Jewish State of Himyar (the Biblical Sheba) in what is now Saudi Arabia and Yemen, still retaining the name "Iudean" or what has come down to us as "Jews". They practiced a modified form of nationalistic Judaism that was eventually transformed into Islam by the Prophet Mohammed.  The Rabbinic Jews moved first east, then north and eventually to Babylon.

Even after crushing the various Judean revolts, the Romans allowed the Pharisees to establish centers of learning in Yavneh (near modern Tel Aviv) and later in the Galilee and Golan heights.  The Roman conversion to Christianity under Constantine and its associated intolerance, combined with the military aggressions of the Jews of Southern Arabia led to a series of decrees essentially making Judaism an illegal religion.

Babylon, specifically the area near what is now called Kurdistan, provided a safe haven for Rabbinic - but not militant - scholars.    The Babylonian Talmud reflects a society preponderantly based agriculture and crafts.  They were learned in Jewish Studies and had produced in the past the books of Ezekiel, Daniel and Tobit.  At the beginning of the 3rd century CE, Babylon became the main center of Rabbinic studies. Academies were founded by R. Samuel at Nehardea and by Rav at Sura. In the later 3rd century, the academy of Pumpedita was founded to replace that at Nehardea (destroyed in 261 CE).  The importance of these communities was further enhanced with the abolition of the Israeli Patriarch (Local Ruler) in 425 CE, when Babylon became the spiritual center for all Jewry.

Islamic Conquest and the Babylonian Jewish Community

Persecutions in the 5th century CE led to the Jewish revolt under Mar Zutra II.  This leader held out for 7 years, but was finally captured and killed.  The development of the Talmud was discontinued about this time.  The position of Jews continued to be difficult until the Arab conquest (7th century).  When the Arab conquest began in 637 CE, the large and ancient Jewish and convert community of Kurdistan favored and even assisted the Arab advance in the hope that it would afford them deliverance from Sassanid persecution.  Shortly after the Arab occupation some Jews expelled from the remains of the Jewish State in Himyar (what is now Saudi Arabia) settled in Kufa.

The Jews were forced to convert by a series of discriminatory laws applied over the course of two centuries.  They suffered from the restrictions laid down by OMAR, and were excluded from public office.  Having no representation in government, unable to build any new schools or synagogues, subject to special taxes and occasional outbursts of religious violence -- the peasant community largely converted by the end of the 9th century.  Because of heavy taxation on cultivated land, a unique change occurred in the Jewish community.  For the first time a small minority of Jews left agriculture and concentrated in the larger towns, especially Baghdad, Basra and Mosul where they became traders and craftsmen.  The peasants, however, intermarried and became the core of what we call today "The Kurds".

Saladin al Ayyubi

When slah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub was born in 1138 to a family of Kurdish adventurers in the ( now Iraqi ) town of Takrit, Islam was a confusion of squabbling warlords living under a Christian shadow. A generation before, European Crusaders had conquered Jerusalem, massacring its Muslim and Jewish habitants. The Franks, as they were called, then occupied four militarily aggressive states in the Holy Land. The great Syrian leader Nur al-Din predicted that expelling the invaders would require a holy war of sort that had propelled Islam's first great wave half a millennium earlier, but given the treacherous regional crosscurrents, such a united front seemed unlikely.

Saladin got his chance with the death, in 1169, of his uncle Shirkuh, a one-eyed, overweight brawler in Nur al-Din's service who had become the facto leader of Egypt. A seasoned warrior despite his small stature and frailty, Saladin still had a tough hand to play. He was a Kurd (even then a drawback in Middle Eastern politics), and he was from Syria, a Sunni state, trying to rule Egypt, a Shiite country. But a masterly 17-year campaign employing diplomacy, the sword and great good fortune made him lord of Egypt, Syria and much of Mesopotamia. The lands bracketed the Crusader states, and their combined might made plausible Nur al-Din's dream of a Muslim-Christian showdown.

Ed Note: Many oriental Jews fought alongside the Moslems to repulse the crusaders.

He conquered Jerusalem, and it became even more central to the faithful. Saladin's family ruled less than 60 years longer, but his style of administration and his humane application of justice to both war and governance influenced Arab rulers for centuries. His tolerance was exemplary. He allowed Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem after its fall. The great Jewish sage Maimonides was his physician.

Ed Note: He allowed Jews to flourish in Jerusalem and is credited for discovering the Western Wall of the Jewish Temple after being buried by garbage under years of Roman-Byzantine rule.

"The Genetic Bonds Between Kurds and Jews"

Kurds are the Closest Relatives of Jews

In 2001, a team of Israeli, German, and Indian scientists discovered that the majority of Jews around the world are closely related to the Kurdish people -- more closely than they are to the Semitic-speaking Arabs or any other population that was tested. The researchers sampled a total of 526 Y-chromosomes from 6 populations (Kurdish Jews, Kurdish Muslims, Palestinian Arabs, Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazic Jews, and Bedouin from southern Israel) and added extra data on 1321 persons from 12 populations (including Russians, Belarusians, Poles, Berbers, Portuguese, Spaniards, Arabs, Armenians, and Anatolian Turks). Most of the 95 Kurdish Muslim test subjects came from northern Iraq. Ashkenazic Jews have ancestors who lived in central and eastern Europe, while Sephardic Jews have ancestors from southwestern Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East. The Kurdish Jews and Sephardic Jews were found to be very close to each other. Both of these Jewish populations differed somewhat from Ashkenazic Jews, who mixed with European peoples during their diaspora. The researchers suggested that the approximately 12.7 percent of Ashkenazic Jews who have the Eu 19 chromosomes -- which are found among between 54 and 60 percent of Eastern European Christians -- descend paternally from eastern Europeans (such as Slavs) or Khazars. But the majority of Ashkenazic Jews, who possess Eu 9 and other chromosomes, descend paternally from Judeans who lived in Israel two thousand years ago. In the article in the November 2001 issue of The American Journal of Human Genetics, Ariella Oppenheim of the Hebrew University of Israel wrote that this new study revealed that Jews have a closer genetic relationship to populations in the northern Mediterranean (Kurds, Anatolian Turks, and Armenians) than to populations in the southern Mediterranean (Arabs and Bedouins).

In spite of their conversion to Islam, the Kurds were never accepted as equals to other Islamic groups.  Islamic groups constantly feared a revival of the Jewish faith, and several Jewish pseudo-messiahs, such as Abu Issa Al-Isfahani c. 700 and Shabbetai Tzvi 16th CE looked to this community to "raise a Jewish Army to liberate Eretz Yisrael".  Islamic end-times theologians saw the former as the model of the "antichrist" Dajjal coming from Isfahan accompanied by 70,000 "Jews".  Thus Kurdistan's role as heirs to the Ten Tribes of Israel and a community of immigrants and converts who grew up around the academies of the Babylonian Talmud - the source of non-militant, Rabbinic Judaism of today - was effectively and completely suppressed.

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 Istiv¯an¯ame, 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'þ obligations not binding to true believers because these already lived in Paradise. 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 Hüseyin Akhlati, a peripatetic scholar and mystic hailing from a district near Bitlis.

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 Irène 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 Türkay classifies them as Konar-göçer Türkmân Ekrâdi 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.

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. Türkay 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 Ekrâd taifesinden; only one major Dersim tribe, the Balaban, are listed as Yörükan taifesinden.

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 (Pamukçu, Selcan, Dedekurban).

I have found no references prior to the republican period that call these tribes anything other than Kurds or Kizilbas. 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 (Ekr¯ad), 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 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 (Khorasan  is or was known as well as Khwarezm or Chorasmia & was one of the areas populated by the captive Israelites. The fact that this is regarded as the original land of the Alevis, plus their hidden practices reinforces the belief that the Alevis are Crypto-Israelites or simply Lost Israelites that deviated from the original Israelite religion.) 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. 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. A Turkish intelligence report of the early 1930s has it that old men in the Pülümür 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. It is not clear whether this really was a living tradition or one recently invented by amateur historians embellishing the Khorasan theme with historically possible Turkic ancestors.

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 çelebi Celaleddin Efendi to incite the Dersimis to war.

If there was any participation by the Dersim tribes in the War of Independence, it was at best half-hearted. The assertion by Baki Öz that the Alevis of East Anatolia at this early period considered Mustafa Kemal as a reincarnation (don degistirmesi) of Ali and Haci Bektas 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 Koçgiri, with some reverberations in Dersim. Nuri Dersimi, who was one of the organisers of the Kürdistan 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. 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, Alisêr, 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, 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. 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."

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."

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. 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 Müfettis (the 'super governor' of those days), Ibrahim Tali, in 1928. 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.

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, 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.

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.

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 Kurdistan, 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". 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:

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 assessed as a "masterly grammatical sketch".

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 Gûrânî language itself has been termed a Kurdish dialect. It is, however, not so at all. Kurmânjî has its characteristic grammatical forms, vocabulary, and idiom which have nothing in common with Gûrânî. 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 Kurmânjî and from Persian. It is the most northerly of the group of Persian dialects represented by Luristân and comes very close to the Lur languages of extreme northern Luristân. At the same time it is the least affected by later Modern Persian, or else split earlier from the original mother tongue.

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. 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.

Next came Vladmir Minorsky, a diplomat and a brilliant scholar who made significant contributions to the study of Kurdish history. 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. Hâjjî Ni'mat-allâh, author of the Firqân al-akhbâr, says that he wrote in "Kurdish" a Risâla-yi tahqîq, and by "Kurdish" he most probably means Gûrânî, for elsewhere he writes that "Kurdish" was the language (zabân-i zâhirî) of Sultan Sohâk, whom we know to have spoken Gûrânî. The "Kurdish" quotations in the Firqân prove also to be in Gûrânî.

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. 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 Gûrânî and Lurî" .

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.

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 uâ ‘ î ô û, ... 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 (Í) ... (Ibid.).

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". 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". 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.

Resentment and Resistance. The most detailed linguistic counter argument was offered by Hewramani, 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. 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. 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.

"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." "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 certain 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.

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. 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.

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? 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? Are official or state languages like Persian, Arabic, Danish or English treated in a similar manner?

Is the native speakers' construction of their own genealogies considered to be as valid as the philologist's comparative reconstruction?

The conflict between the linguist and the native speakers of Hewrami is by no means unique to the Kurdish case. 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.

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.

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, 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. 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...

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.

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.

Hewrami and Zaza are not the only bones of contention in the world of comparative philology.

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'..."

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).

The Debate on the Ethnic Identity of the Kurdish Alevis

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.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 Bingöl 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 Bingöl). The Dersimis themselves perceive a cultural difference between the (Zaza-speaking) Seyhhasanan tribes of western Dersim (Ovacik and Hozat with parts of Çemisgezek and Pertek) and the Dersimi tribes proper of eastern Dersim (Pülümür, Nazimiye, Mazgirt), among whom there are both Zaza and Kurmanci speakers.

From Dersim, a series of Alevi enclaves stretches east, through Bingöl, 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 Pülümür, respectively).6

Further west, we find another important Kurdish Alevi population, the Koçgiri tribal confederation, in and around the Zara district of Sivas. The Koçgiri claim a relationship with the Seyhhasanan of western Dersim, although they presently speak a Kurmanci rather than a Zaza dialect.7There 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.

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 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.

It is only about the religion of the Alevis of Dersim and the Koçgiri 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. 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". 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. 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 (traditions that the Jews practiced at some moment).

The beliefs and practices of the Alevis of Dersim 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 gives a fascinating account of the belief that human souls are reborn in animals. 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.

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. Andranig adds to this the worship of the planets, of thunder and rain, fire, water, rock, trees, etc. 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. 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" . 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".

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) Gök Tengri or (Iranian) Ahura Mazda in the Alevis' veneration for Ali. Öztürk, 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.

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".

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 çelebi 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.

The more specifically Alevi rituals, however, appear to connect the Dersimis with the Turkish Alevis. Most of their gülbank (invocations) andnefes (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 gülbank at all; the same observation was made by Mehmet Zülfü Yolga, who was born in Pertek and became kaimakam of Nazimiye. Nuri Dersimi contradicts this and claims that the seyyids of the Kureysan and Bamasor (Baba Mansur) lineages always recited gülbank in "an archaic form of Zaza". Hasan Resit Tankut, writing in 1949, claimed that the Dersimis had only recently, at the instigation of the nationalists Alisêr and Seyyid Riza, begun to replace the Turkish nefes with poems in their own language.

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 as the chief place of pilgrimage outside Dersim. In theory, the Dersimi seyyids, who acted as rehber and pir to the common tribes, recognized the çelebi at Haci Bektas as their murid, but in practice they all took seyyids of other lineages as their pir and muridand had little to do with Haci Bektas. Three minor ocak of western Dersim, however, the Aguçan, the Dervis Cemal and the Saru Saltik, claimed descent from khalifa appointed by Haci Bektas.

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. Sümer mentions in his study of the Safavids' Kizilbas supporters only two Kurdish tribal communities, and those were relatively insignificant: the +inislu and the Çemisgezeklü. Many of the latter must have followed the shah into Iran, for we find in the 16th century a large Çemisgezek 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. 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 Ebü'l-Fazl, Sa'deddin, Hüseyin Bosnevi and Müneccimbasi, 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. 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.

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 (do they have Danite ancestors like the Danish?). 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.

"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. 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".

"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".


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

Only after the military coup d‘ état 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 Pamukçu (d. 1993). Considered an outsider among the Zaza, or even a „Turkish agent" trying to split off the Zaza from their Kordi sister people, Pamukçu 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. 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.

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 separating 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).

A Grammar of Dimili 

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.

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. 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 that Dimili is not a Kurdish dialect and Hadank concluded that the name Dimili is most likely a metathesis "Daylemî", 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, that speakers of Dimili should be identified as Kurds today.

The language, however, is distinct from Kurdish dialects. MacKenzie 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."  Those features are not shared by Dimili. Tedesco based on Lerch's texts classified Dimili as a central dialect. Kurdish he classified as north-western (Azami and Windfuhr 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).

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

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 cliché 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.

Although European or Western 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. 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.

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. 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. 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 Özgürlük Yolumovement to the activist PKK.

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, T¡KKO/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 T¡KKO/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. 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".

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 transparent 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. The first periodical that completely avoided Turkish was the short-lived cultural magazine Tirêj, published in Izmir. This was also the first significant modern Kurdish journal to have a small section in Zaza. 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. 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. 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.

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.

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 fromDaylami 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.

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 Koçgiri rebellion among the Dersim rebellions, for Koçgiri 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."

At least some former activists of T¡KKO/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 Zülfikar, which specifically addressed the Alevi Kurds. 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. 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.

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.

I first encountered the name of Alevistan in the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet 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.

Dynamics of the Kurdish & Kirmanc-Zaza Problems in Anatolia

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.

"Ethnic Differentiation among the Kurds: Kurmancî, Kizilbas and Zaza", also published by the Centre for the Study of Asia and the Middle East (CSAME).

Interview with Seyfi Cengiz

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.

All the Kurdish groups were pro-Soviet, for example. At least we weren't pro-Soviet., we were in the middle.

We were defending a guerilla strategy which was almost the same as in Cuba, in China, in Vietnam. We were saying this; it was different, actually [from a classical Maoist or Guevarist strategy].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.

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: 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. 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.

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.
The Dersim uprisings - there were a series of them, from the 1820s to the 1930s which never ceased. 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.

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. There were attacks against Kirmanc people and against Alevis. In Anatolia as a whole, in the Turkish Left, in the Kurdish movement, Alevis make up a large part of its left movement.

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.


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".

This view has been all-too-willingly accepted by Kurdish nationalists, who have used it to justify extending their territorial claims. The sheer weight of evidence Selcan has amassed to prove that Zazaki is a language in its own right is impressive. 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. 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.

Notes on some religious customs and institutions

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 Bingöl, Muþ, in the province of Bitlis, in the environ of Diyarbakir, in Siverek, and in other parts of Eastern Anadolu5.

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

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, 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.

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

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.

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 heterodox 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 call the Zaza kizilbas, although this term is inappropriate to them. The term kizilbas implies simultaneously 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 elements.

The religious ideas and beliefs of the Zaza are characterized by great variety, as is true of most heterodox 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 heterodox 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 (ancient Israel worshipped on trees), mountains (a deviation from the worship on mountains like Sinai of ancient Sinai?), springs, snakes (wicked Israel worshipped snakes too), 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

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 other 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 (like the Israelite priesthood). 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,MursidDedeSeyidpir, and Piri Piran
. Terms such as mulla, Seyx, and Ulem, are never used in Zaza cultic practice.

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 (Israel would only sacrifice similarly animals with no blemish). 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 (fireworshipping was an acusation uttered to the Israelites) 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 all 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 & 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.

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.

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 (as in ancient Israel).

Some authors 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 different 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 heterodox 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 (like the israelite unleavened bread), 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.

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 (this number of eight days past the child's birth is the very number of number of days in which the Jews circumcize) 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 the assistance 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.

One of the features which distinguish the Zaza from other 
heterodox 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 (& like Free Masons).

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- (any relation with the rabbi?) 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 (6 among ancient Israelites).

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

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 (in the same way in ancient Israel the Holy Ghost was represented with fire in the temple or in lit candles) and begin the sima' (lit., "hearing") to the accompaniment 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 (the Israelites were also snake worshippers in their wicked times); 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.

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.

Internationale Presse-Korrespondenz

Oskar Mann opens his book by throwing light on Zaza. 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. 

 Our language Zaza

The difference between Zaza, Kurdish and Turkish

There is
Esto (estå)
Hag, hak
Nak, navik
Por (pår)
Est (är)

"Turkish is spoken throughout the country. Kurdish, with its dialects, and Zaza are spoken mainly in eastern and south-eastern Anatolia".



at the back
to be
peasant, pawn
they weave
doesn´t 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 it´s 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

Nê beno
Kosewi, xonzıl
O, êy
O şıno

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

Xebitandin, karkırın, Kar
Tevin dikin
Dêjnik, tere
Dims, mot
Ji bo wî
Tilî, bêçî

Ji wî
Ji wî
Şîv çêkirin
Kel, qele
Baca, pencere
Berbang, şefeq
Derbas bûn
Biçe, heri!
Derbas dibe
Ew, wî
Ew, wê
Duh, do
Du sibe

Hevîrê çêke!Çok
Girê kir
hembêz kirin

Dê, dayik
Peya, mêr
Dara bihîva
Kelek, qavûn
Xirxir kirin
Zahf, zêde
Cîyê xwe da
Kûr kirin
Ban kirin
Tevhev kirin
Tevhev kirin
Berev kirin
Kut kirin
Rû, rî

Roj, tav
Dizî kirin
Jinê bira
Xwanê kirin
Xweşk, xweng
Birin, dibin
Jêr anîn
Çi go?
Çi dibêje?
Şîyar bûn
Dereng hatin
Êzing, kerî
Karkerê tevnê
Tevin kirin
Tevin kirin
Caj, kurik
Hevîr çêkirin

Dara sêva

Dere otu
Bir parça
Sözlü, nişanlı
Sözlü, nişanlı
O (erkekler için)


At (Atmak)!
Teyze kızı
Amca kızı
Kadın, eş,
Badem ağacı
Çok, fazla
Ad, isim
Tıraş etmek
At (Atmak)!
O kadar
Aşağı indirmek
Kalın barsak
Ne söyledi?
Ne diyor?
Geç 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)
Lawê xweng
Lawê bıra
Jinê bira
Amca oğlu
Amca kızı

rabbit, hare
donkey, ass
donkey foal
Dıce (diji)
Sipe (céhş)
Caj, kurik
Berez (xenzîr)

autumn, fall

Doşi (kıft)
Este, aste

Rî, rû

Pışt (mil)
Ser (kele)
Göz yaşı
Kamış, sik
Vajina, am
Kalın barsak
Bacak, ayak
Mide, karın
Yürek (kalp)

before dusk
twilight, dusk
Vera dihir
Dihir (tiştare)
Êre, perroz
Vera êre
Vera şan
Şan (éşa)
Ber bi nîvro
Ber bi êvarê
Ber bi esir
Sibe, sibeyî
Öğleden önce
Öğleden sonra
İkindiden önce

Estare (astare)
Yaxır varan
Ro, tav

Qorri (mêşe)
Hendi (zebeş)

Ax, herî
Kelek, qavûn
Bihîv, 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!
I´m 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?
I´m not hungry.


Bırarcınya mın a.
Bı êşanê to ya
Çıçi wanenê?
Dıropê goni ya to ra
Enbazan ra
Êy /ay bıtırawı!
Ez koyan sera yena war.
Şıma amey?
Şımayê çıçi wenê?
Şımayê şınê koti?
Şınê koti?
Goniya mı kerdı germ
Ma yê şırê.
Nıka ra
O kamo yeno?
A şi
Piyê to seken o?
Tı yê koti ra yenê?
To hetı
Zekı ma va
Ceren ra
İna ra
İna yê sekenê?
Ez vêyşan nîya.

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

Jina birê min e.
Tev êşa te
Çı dıxwini?
Dilopekî ji xwîna te
Jı hevalan
Wîya dızi bike!
Ez jı serê çiyan tême xwar.
Hûn hatın?
Hûn çı dıxwın?
Hûn dıçın ku?Dı çi ku?Xwîna min germ kir
Em ê herın.
Ji nuha ve (ji ana)
Ew kîye tê
Bi pê çû
Bı hevra
Bavê te çı dıke?
Dara sêva
Çı dıki?
Tu jı ku tê?
Cem te
Dara behiva
Wek min got
Jı Zeki
Jı wana
Ew çi dikin?Ez ne birçîme.

Saladin the Great Muslim Israelite

Contrary to what the Christian Crusaders of the time did, Saladdin didn't allow his Muslim troops to defile women & children. He wasn't perfect, but which man on the face of the earth it is so? This leader is one of the most celebrated leaders of the Islamic world. Although this name had an arab origin, he was a Kurd, therefore Saladdin was an Israelite.

His personal name was "Yusuf"; "Salah ad-Din" is a laqab, a descriptive epithet, meaning "Righteousness of the Faith." His family was of Kurdish ancestry, and had originated from the city of Dvin in medieval Armenia. The Kurds are related to the Pashtuns as seen in different accounts. DNA relates them with Jews and many scholars consider them to be the offspring of the captive Israelites that were left in Assyria, corresponding nearly to parts of current Kurdishtan. The Arab name Saladdin (saladDiN) may conceal the name of DaN, making him of DaNite origin. Yusuf, his real name, translates as Joseph, father of the other two Israelite tribes of Ephraim & Manasseh. Maybe he belonged to some of these two other Israelite tribes.

He became Sultan of Egypt. Saladin left Cairo to take part in a joint attack on Kerak and Montreal, the desert castles of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, with Nur ad-Din who would attack from Syria. This place of Kerak in current Jordan is found as Karak in Afghanistan.

                                            The Eagle of Saladin in the Egyptian coat of arms.

Despite the Crusaders' slaughter when they originally conquered Jerusalem in 1099, Saladin granted amnesty and free passage to all common Catholics and even to the defeated Christian army, as long as they were able to pay the aforementioned ransom (the Greek Orthodox Christians were treated even better, because they often opposed the western Crusaders). An interesting view of Saladin and the world in which he lived is provided by Tariq Ali's novel The Book of Saladin. Something interesting about Saladdin is that his physician Maimonides was a Jew from Spain. Maimonides was very celebrated for his philosophical & rabbinical knowledge & writings, including the celebrated 13 principles of faith. Did he choose him for being a fellow Israelite?

The passion of Aramaic-Kurdish Jews brought Aramaic to Israel 

Trying to unravel the mysteries of Aramaic is like embarking on an odyssey across the deserts, mountains and valleys of the Middle East and onwards to Europe and North America. 

It is an intellectual adventure that leads to an array of secular scholars, devout clergy and laymen - Jewish and Christian - who are experts in the history of these Semitic languages, which in some places still survive. 

They tell of Israeli rock groups that sing modern Aramaic songs, of popular radio and TV programs in Aramaic or Syriac broadcast in Canada, the US and Scandinavia and of remote villages in Syria and Iraq, where Aramaic, rather than Arabic, is the local vernacular. 

Aramaic is revered by Jews because it alternates with Hebrew in the later books of the Bible, is the Talmud's principal tongue and comprises several of Judaism's most important prayers, including the mourners' kaddish. Christians respect it as the language spoken by Jesus Christ and his apostles, while its eastern version, Syriac, is used in the liturgies of the ancient churches of Iraq and Syria. 

Kurdish Jews brought Aramaic with them from northern Iraq, Iran and Turkey to Israel, where it is still spoken at home by the older generation, in much the same way Ashkenazi Jews speak Yiddish with their parents or grandparents. But they also regard it as evidence of their being descendants of the "Ten Lost Tribes" who were deported by the Assyrians nearly a century before the two remaining tribes of Judea were expelled by the Babylonians. 

Hezy Mutzafi, an expert in Aramaic, contends that contemporary Aramaic is in danger of extinction, as the younger generation of families that have left the Middle East assimilates linguistically. 

Prof. Geoffrey Khan of Cambridge University's Faculty of Oriental Studies has been mapping the neo-Syriac dialects linguistically for fear they may soon disappear. Mutzufi, who teaches Aramaic at Tel Aviv University, learned several of them and can converse fluently in each. Estimates of the number of Aramaic speakers in the world range from 500,000 to five million. 

The head of the National Organization of Kurdish Jews in Israel, Avraham Simantov, interviewed in his Jerusalem office, said he takes pride in the fact that his people "preserved the language of the Targum," referring to the monumental translation of the Torah into Aramaic, which is known as Targum Onkelos. The latter evidently is a misnomer, however. Experts believe this term was erroneously adopted from the Greek translation by Aquila, a work cited in both the Jerusalem Talmud and in Christian lore. 

Most scholars credit Rav Joseph, a third-century Babylonian scholar, and his students with having produced the authorized Aramaic translation attributed to Onkelos (a name possibly derived from Aquila). 

"We read the Torah twice in our synagogues," said Simantov, "Once in Hebrew and once in Aramaic. This is because the leader of the congregation must be sure everyone present understands the text." 

Simantov, who is the executive director of the Prazot housing company, arrived in Jerusalem from Kurdistan in 1951 with his family. 

"My Aramaic made it easy for me to pick up Hebrew," he said, recalling that he was admitted to Jerusalem's elite Ma'aleh school, where many of the teachers were German Jews and where he made a swift transition from a quasi-medieval lifestyle to a modern Israeli one. 

Unlike Jerusalem's Kurdish Jews, who speak Aramaic at home and Hebrew outside, their compatriots who settled in other parts of Israel use Aramaic in all facets of their daily lives.

"Generally speaking," Simantov explained, "our young generation speaks Hebrew. But even though it is the third generation since our mass immigration, its members still understand the language of the Targum. And in our synagogues, especially in the agricultural sector, they still alternate the text of the Hebrew scriptures with that of the Targum." 

IN NAZARETH, home of Atallah Mansour, the distinguished Israeli journalist who was on the staff of the Hebrew daily Haaretz for more than three decades and now serves as a columnist for Jerusalem's Arabic daily al-Quds, Aramaic is a constant feature of the linguistic landscape, especially its liturgical aspect. 

He cited an unusual source book published 14 years ago in Cairo by Izzat Zaki, in which the Nestorian Christians describe themselves as "the children of Israel" and claim they are the remnant of the Ten Lost Tribes. Zaki contends that they do not marry outside their religious faith and live in the most defensible mountainous regions of Kurdistan. Zaki quotes them as saying, "we use Aramaic just like the Jews." 

Mansour refers to these exotic Christians in his newly published book, Narrow Gate Churches, a history of Christianity in the Holy Land and the surrounding regions of the Middle East from the time of Jesus to the present era. He invited the local head of the Maronite Church, Abouna (Our Father) Yusuf Issa, to explain his 1,000-member congregation's integration of Syriac into its prayer services. 

"Only members of the clergy are taught the Syriac language," Abouna Yusuf said, noting that he learned it as a seminarian in Rome. 

"I don't speak it," he admitted, "but I understand every word." 

Abouna Yusuf pointed out that until a century ago, there were many villages in what is now Syria where Aramaic was the spoken language. Today, only three are left, all of them relatively close to Damascus. For political reasons, the Syrian authorities tried to shield them from inquisitive foreigners, especially foreign correspondents, but persistent requests by BBC Television to produce a documentary about their cultural traditions were eventually granted reluctantly. 

"We pray in Syriac," explained Abouna Yusuf, "but find it necessary to switch to Arabic more and more." 

We pray in Syriac," explained Abouna Yusuf, "but find it necessary to switch to Arabic more and more." 

He equated Syriac with Aramaic, allowing for the fact that it is a different dialect, but confessed, "I am very proud to be able to speak the same language in which Jesus Christ spoke." 

Outside of prestigious universities like Cambridge and Tel Aviv University, there are few, if any, schools where Aramaic or Syriac is taught as a language to read, write and speak. 

This is the educational reality that confronts most Jewish yeshiva students, whose primary goal is to learn the contents and theological principles expounded in the Talmud or the Gemara, as it is called in Aramaic. They are not taught Aramaic grammar, are not challenged with vocabulary enrichment and are not required to converse in Aramaic, despite the fact that the Talmud itself consists of rabbinical discourse conducted 2,000 years ago in that language. Instead, they learn Aramaic only in the Talmudic context and mainly by rote. 

"An experiment conducted at Cambridge to teach young Orthodox Jews Aramaic as a classical language and thereby enable them to peruse the Talmud's text independently, without rabbinical guidance, ended in failure," said Mutzafi. 

"The boys were not adept at grasping linguistic structures such as the verb categories or grammatical usage that could be found in the ancient text."

At the same time, he noted that the range of words used in the Talmud is "quite limited" to those that reflect Jewish religious life and observance. 

ARAMAIC MADE its debut 3,000 years ago as the language of the ancient Arameans, the nation that lived in the Bible's Padan-Aram and the Patriarch Abraham's Aram Naharayim. 

It served as the Assyrians' lingua franca soon afterward and became their imperial language as well as that of the Babylonians and Persians, all of whom applied it to diplomacy and trade from India to Ethiopia. Those within their respective imperial realms who could not speak Aramaic could at least read and understand it, one scholar said. 

By the Second Temple period, 2,000 years ago, Palestinian Aramaic was widely used by the Jews of the Land of Israel. After the birth of Christianity, its adherents developed their own dialect, which differed somewhat from that of the Jews. But Aramaic remained supreme in the Fertile Crescent until the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, after which it was gradually overtaken by Arabic. 

The very name of the Syriac translation of the Bible, the "Peshitta," is a derivative of the Hebrew word pshat, or simplification. 

Many of the common cognate words are easily comprehensible to Hebrew speakers. For example, toda raba ("thank-you") is pronounced with the accent on the first syllable of each word rather than on the second, as is the case in modern Hebrew. 

During Aramaic's linguistic heyday, when it enjoyed the same international status as English does today, it not only split into Western and Eastern versions (the former always known as Aramaic and the latter as Syriac), but Syriac spawned countless dialects, which were often unintelligible to close neighbors who spoke the very same language. By then, the alphabet used by the Jews to transcribe the Hebrew language was the Assyrian one they had encountered during their captivity, while the original one, which was of Phoenician origin, was abandoned. Syriac's linguists opted for a different alphabet. 

One consequence of these diversions was that Talmudic Aramaic was incomprehensible to Christians. Instead, they used the various Aramaic dialects, gradually incorporating foreign words from Greek and Arabic. 

A CHRISTIAN scholar based in Jerusalem, who also insisted on anonymity, said the Aramaic- or Syrian-speaking diaspora encompasses Canada, Sweden, Norway, Australia and England. (This list was extended by a secular colleague to include France, especially Marseilles, Lebanon and the southern reaches of the former Soviet Union.) 

He listed the four main eastern churches in which Syriac is the language of prayer as the Syrian Jacobite, Syrian Catholic, Nestorian and Chaldean churches (the latter previously known as the Church of Jerome). 

Judean or Palestinian Aramaic was the dominant language among the Holy Land's Christians until the 16th century, he explained, noting that their shift to Arabic was very gradual - faster in the highlands than in the valleys and plains. 

A similar process occurred in Syria, Iraq and Iran, where the descendants of the original Arameans and the successive Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian ethnic groups had converted to Christianity and adopted the northwestern Mesopotamian dialect of Aramaic, which is known as Syriac. 

The pervasiveness of Aramaic was such that it virtually replaced Hebrew as the preferred language of the Holy Land's Jews, a declining number of whom were familiar with the biblical tongue. This was also true of their coreligionists in Babylon and the surrounding regions of Mesopotamia - so much so, this scholar noted, that the Book of Daniel, which emerged from that milieu, "is more than 80 percent Aramaic."

Emanuel Doubchak, a linguist and translator who emigrated to Israel from France, attributes the spread of Aramaic in the ancient world to the fact that its namesakes, the Aramaeans, were merchants who plied the far-flung trade routes of the Fertile Crescent and Mediterranean Basin. 

"They did not engage in empire-building and never had an empire of their own," he contended, "but their language attained the status of being the main linguistic vehicle for diplomatic discourse" and international trade for nearly a millennium. 

He credited Aramaic's universality with the fact that many of the great philosophical, historical and scientific works of the ancient world were translated into it from Greek and Latin and thereby were saved for posterity. 

Despite the powerful cultural impact of Greek language and culture during the Hellenistic period, "Aramaic remained the dominant language of this country and its square alphabet replaced the cursive letters of the preceding Canaanite-Phoenician writing system originally adopted by the Hebrews," he said. 

The rise of Christianity and the fact that the New Testament was written in Greek posed "an obstacle" to Aramaic's local longevity, however. Concurrently, the eastern Christians had adopted a variation of the Assyrian alphabet, whose letters are reminiscent of the Hebrew ones, but not enough to make them legible to most Jews. The anonymous Christian scholar from the Old City, however, was able to jot them down in a jiffy. 

My big fat Aramaic wedding
There is no better proof of modern Aramaic's vitality than the spectacular weddings held by the Jewish "Nash Didan" community, which hails from the remote foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. 

"Nash Didan" means "Our People" and its distinctive music and dance have been immortalized by Nissan Aviv, a brilliant composer and orchestrator who arrived in Israel 55 years ago during the peak of the "Nash Didan" immigration, and has devoted his life to preserving and continuing this culture ever since. In addition to the many CDs he's put out over the years, Aviv was also the subject of a documentary by Channel 1's Gil Sedan. 

Soon after the late Naomi Shemer's Yerushalayim Shel Zahav ("Jerusalem of Gold") became a hit on the eve of the Six Day War, Aviv obtained her permission to render it in Aramaic. Translated as Yerushalayim Ai Dheba, it is a beloved staple at "Nash Didan" weddings. 

Aviv was born in Urmia, an ancient city in Iranian Azerbaijan. 

"We spoke Aramaic at home, Turkish on the street and learned Persian at school," he said. 

"I knew a fair amount of Hebrew when we came to Israel because it was taught in our Jewish schools. And partly thanks to my Aramaic, I was able to speak like a sabra in no time." 

Aviv's lyrics are written in modern Aramaic and his songs not only draw audiences from the various Aramaic-speaking communities in Israel - located in Holon, Givatayim and Jerusalem - but are also played on the Aramaic (or Syriac) radio and TV stations in Australia, Canada and Sweden. 

"Jerusalem of Gold is as popular abroad as it is here," he said. 

Aviv's music is based on three instruments: a drum known as a dair'a, a five-stringed instrument plucked like a balalaika or mandolin known as a kar kavkazi and a Central Asian version of the cello known as a kamanncha. 

Aviv has won the unstinting acclaim of one of Israel's leading experts in cognate Semitic languages, Hezy Mutzafi, who speaks half a dozen of the Aramaic and Syriac dialects fluently. Noting that the "Nash Didan" community consists of "only a few thousand" Israelis (its members constitute a relatively small percentage of the influx of nearly 200,000 immigrants from Iran, Turkey and the Caucasus), Mutzafi points out that it also is one of the least known Jewish ethnic groups.

Religions in Kurdistan

The infusion of an Indo-European (Iranic) language, culture, and genetic element into the Kurdish population over the two millennia preceding the Christian era also entailed the incorporation of Aryan religious practices and deities into indigenous Kurdish faith(s).

Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Manichaeism and Christianity successively made inroads into Kurdistan.

The most holy of Zoroastrianism's three grand fire temples, that of Azargushasp, was built at the holy site of Ganzak (modern Takab) in eastern Kurdistan in the northern environs of the Kurdish city of Bijr.

Despite this, Zoroastrianism did not succeed in converting any appreciable proportion of the Kurds.

In fact, it was the indigenous Kurdish religions that, in addition to deeply influencing Zoroastrianism, on two instances attempted to absorb that religion.

Nearly three fifths of the Kurds, almost all Kurmanji-speakers, are today at least nominally Sunni Muslims of Shafiite rite. There are also some followers of mainstream Shiitem Islam among the Kurds, particularly in and around the cities of Kirmashan, to Hamadan and Bijar in southern and eastern Kurdistan and the Khurasan. These Siite Kurds number around half a million.


The early history of Christianity in Kurdistan closely parallels to that of the rest of Anatolia and Mesopotamia. By the early 5th century the Kurdish royal house of Adiabene had converted from Judaism to Christianity. The extensive ecclesiastical archives kept at their capital of Arbela (modern Arbil), are valuable primary sources for the history of central Kurdistan, from the middle of the Parthian era (ca. 1st century AD). Kurdish Christians, like their Jewish predecessors, used Aramaic for their records and archives and as the ecclesiastical language.


The Babis, particularly the Kurdish Babis, believed in the transmigration of the soul, as do followers of the Cult of Angels. They did not mourn the dead, as they believed the soul of a dead Babi, after spending a few days in a transitional stage, enters the body of another Babi, usually a newborn.


The followers of the Yezidi religion, who have variously referred to themselves also as the Yazidi, Yazdni, Izadi, and Dasna'i, have often been pejoratively referred to by outsiders as "devil worshippers." They constitute less than 5% of the Kurdish population. At present they live in fragmented pockets, primarily in northwest and northeast Syria, the Caucasus, southeast Turkey, in the Jabal Sanjr highlands on the Iraqi-Syrian border, and regions north of the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Of the Yezidis' four major annual celebrations, two are of special interest here, the Jam and the feast of Yezid.


The history of Judaism in Kurdistan is ancient. The Talmud holds that Jewish deportees were settled in Kurdistan 2800 years ago by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser Ill (r. 858-824 BC). As indicated in the Talmud, the Jews eventually were given permission by the rabbinic authorities to convert local Kurds.

The relative freedom of Kurdish women among the Kurdish Jews led in the 17th century to the ordination of the first woman rabbi, Rabbi Asenath Barzani, the daughter of the illustrious Rabbi Samuel Barzani (d. ca. 1630), who founded many Judaic schools and seminaries in Kurdistan. For her was coined the term tanna'ith, the feminine form for a Talmudic scholar. Eventually, MAMA ("Lady") Asenath became the head of the prestigious Judaic academy at Mosul (Mann 1932).


Most non-Muslim Kurds follow one of several indigenous Kurdish faiths of great antiquity and originality, each of which is a variation on and permutation of an ancient religion that can loosely be labeled the "Cult of Angels," Yazdni in Kurdish. The actual name of the religion is all but lost to its modern followers, who retain only the names of its surviving denominations. The name Yazdnism or Cult of Angels is a variation of the Kurdish name of one of its isolated branches, Yezidism, which literally means "the Anglicans." There are some indications that Yazdnism was in fact the name of the religion before its fragmentation. An even older name for this creed may have been Hk (or Haq), which is the name given by this religion to its pre-eternal, all-encompassing deity, the Universal Spirit.


An overwhelming majority of Muslim and non-Muslim Kurds are followers of one of many mystic Sufi orders (or tariqa). The bonds of the Muslim Kurds, for example, to different Sufi orders have traditionally been stronger than to orthodox Muslim practices. Sufi rituals in Kurdistan, led by Sufi masters, or shaykhs, contain so many clearly non-Islamic rites and practices that an objective observer would not consider them Islamic in the orthodox sense.


The center of Yarsanism is deep inside the Guran region at the town of Gahwara (or Gawara), 40 miles west of Kirmashan. The shrine of Baba Yadigar, in an eponymous village 50 miles northwest of Gahwara, now serves as one of Yarsanism's holiest sites. Two days before the festival of the New Year, or New Ruz (see Festivals, Ceremonies, & CaIendar), believers visit the shrine and participate in chants that assume the form of a dialectic on the principles of Yarsanism.

The followers of Yarsanism are now found in one large concentration in southern Kurdistan and many secondary concentrations outside Kurdistan proper, in the Alburz Mountains, Azerbaijan, and Iraq.


A majority of the Dimila Kurds of Anatolia and some of their Kurmnji speaking neighbors are followers of another denomination of the Cult of Angels.The Alevis believe in Ali as the most important primary avatar of the Universal Spirit in the Second Epoch of the universal life), hence their exaggerated feelings for this first Shi'ite Muslim imam.

Despite the importance of Ali in the religion and its modern communal appellation, Alevism remains a thoroughly non-lslamic religion, and a part of the Cult of Angels. Like other branches of the Cult, the fundamental theology of Alevism sharply contradicts the letter and spirit of the Koran in every important manner, as any independent, nonSemitic religion might.

The followers of this religion constitute roughly 20% of all Kurds.

The Shabak and the Kakais: Dynamics of Ethnicity in Iraqi Kurdistan

The Shabak and the Kakais are two of the many heterodox communities in Iraqi Kurdistan. They probably emerged as distinct ethnic groups around the 16th century, against the background of Ottornan-Safavid rivalries in the region. Recently, they have had an ambiguous position amidst the ethnic diversity of the region. Special attention is paid to the destructive policies of ethnic homogeneization and assimilation carried out by the Iraqi government in the 1970s and 1980s. The paper concludes with some dialect samples, which show their vernaculars to be varieties of the Gorani or Hawrami dialects.


Very little is known as of yet about the small pockets of heterodox groups scattered along the fringes of Iraqi Kurdistan, stretching all the way from Tell 'Afar and Mosul over Kirkuk to Khanaqin and beyond. These communities, such as the Shabak, the Bajalan, the Sarli, the Kakais or Ahl-i-Haqq, and the Yezidis all have a hereditary class of religious specialists of different ranks; the laymen are associated with such religious specialists, who thus have an important role in maintaining group cohesion. In this, these groups resemble orthodox Sufi orders or tariqats, but their religious beliefs and practices form a mixture of heterodox Islam and pre-Islamic elements. Except for the Yezidis, who speak Kurmanci or Badinani Kurdish, they are also marked off by their dialect: many (though by no means all) of their members speak a variety of Gorani, or Hawrami or Macho as it is usually called by locals. However, the local varieties in religious doctrine and dialect, and the relations between these groups, have hardly received the attention they deserve. The present paper deals with some of the characteristics of two of them: the Shabak and the Kakais. A third, the Sarli, will appear to constitute an interesting area of contact between these two.

1. Historical background

Much of the history of the groups under consideration remains unclear, as they largely developed outside the major centers of the Islamic world. It has repeatedly been attempted to trace the origins of the heterodox communities in present-day Eastern Turkey, Northern Iraq, and Western Iran back to pre-Islamic times, but their emergence as distinct ethnic groups should primarily be seen against the background of the turbulent period between the Mongol invasions and the consolidation of the Ottoman and Safavid empires (13th-17th centuries CE). This period was characterized by political uncertainty, a quick succession of various local dynasties, and a relative power vacuum in the countryside. At the local level, intensive contacts between peoples of diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic backgrounds took place (as in the steppes between Israelites, Turks, Mongols, Persians...). These circumstances were a fertile ground for the emerging of new local forms of social organization, and the blending of divergent religious ideas. The Turkmen tribes that had started entering the region in the tenth century were outwardly orthodox Sunni Islamic mystics imbued with a strong ghazi (religious warrior) spirit, but in fact their religious beliefs were quite heterodox, and contained elements from Shiite Islam, Central Asian shamanism, and Christianity. They seem to have mixed freely with the rural population of Anatolia, which at first was still largely Christian, but quickly converted to these folk varieties of Islam. Several authors suggest that various Christian elements found their way into the religious practices of the newly emerging groups, and that these elements may have derived from heterodox Christian sects like the Paulicians living in the mountainous parts of eastern Anatolia, rather than from the orthodox Byzantine church which at that time still constituted the state religion in that area. Many of these practices of presumably Christian origin can still be found today among the Alevis, the Shabak, and the Kakais. ( Livanow discusses possible Paulician influences on the Kakai rites; Birge briefly discusses the question of Christian influences on the Turkoman tribes that developed into Bektashis. Sarraf mentions the drinking of wine during rituals, confession to the baba, and the worship of a 'Holy Trinity' consisting of Allah, Mohammed, and Ali as having a Christian origin.) Others, e.g. Roux 1969, stress the parallels between the religion of the Ahl-i Haqq and the Turkish Alevis on the one hand, and the pre-Islamic beliefs and practices of the Turkish peoples of Central Asia on the other.

In the countryside, wandering mystics (e.g. qalandars and babas) appealed to the peasant population with distinctly rnillenarian ideas, such as the promise of an end to injustice and the dawning of a new era for the faithful. These charismatic leaders organized their following largely in the form of Sufi orders. They tended to downplay the differences between mystical Islam and other religious ideas. Under the cover of orthodox Sufism, they spread doctrines that could hardly be called Islamic, such as the belief in metempsychosis and in the manifestation of the divine in human beings. Although the conceptual and doctrinal base of Sufism had been laid by the ninth century CE, Sufi orders or tariqats became widespread as a form of social organization from the twelfth century onwards, following the social upheaval caused by the Seljuk and especially the Mongol invasions. The rise of local orders in this period may perhaps be compared to the rapid growth of especially the Naqshbendi Sufi order in the power vacuum that followed the abolishment of the Kurdish emirates in the Ottoman empire in the nineteenth century. Hamzeh'ee specifically argues that the Ahl-i Haqq emerged as a social movement which proclaimed millenarism, egalitarism, nativism, and a dualistic theology during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; in this respect, he considers them comparable to earlier Iranian social movements like the Mazdakites. In his review of this book, however, Kreyenbroek (BSOAS 1991) argues that Hamzeh'ee overemphasizes the millenarian and egalitarian elements; likewise, the dualistic elements were probably not yet very explicit at this time.

One of these tariqats, headed by Shaikh Safi al-Din in Ardabil, developed into a militant movement of ghazis during the fifteenth century., Safi's descendants, the founders of the Safavid empire in Persia, started propagating heterodox Islam and portraying themselves as manifestations of Ali, in order to appeal to the Alevi predilections of the masses in Eastem Anatolia. The largely Turkoman warrior tribes that fought on their side were marked by their red headgear, and were consequently called Qizjbash ('redheads').

Over several centuries, folk Islam and Sufism thus grew at the expense of orthodox Sunni and Shi'ite Islam. Only during the 16th century did the Ottoman and Safavid authorities start to impose anything like a state religion on the local population. After the battle of Chaldiran (1514), Sultan Selim had thousands of Alevis massacred; the Qizilbash remaining in Ottoman territory thus had to hide their religious beliefs, e.g. by joining the (outwardly Sunni) Bektashi order, if they wanted to escape persecution.1 Most Sufi orders were not disbanded, however. The reason for this was obvious: they had been used, and continued to be used, as fighter bands by the central authorities. Thus, the Bektashi order continued to play a leading role in the janissaries, the sultan's elite troops, until the nineteenth century. Other groups whose orthodoxy could similarly be doubted likewise retained, or acquired, a privileged position: the Bajalan, who came to Mosul in the eighteenth entury, were reportedly employed as tax collectors; the Kakais also seem to have maintained good relations with the Ottoman vas, and at times even to have supplied local notables (Edmonds 1957: 190). This partly explains the fact that heterodox groups like the Shabak could continue to live without major problems in the plains near Mosul, and the Kakais around Kirkuk,- not exactly areas that are isolated from the rest of the world or remote from the central authorities.

The status of these groups as distinct ethnic entities leaves room for discussion. Because of the considerable dose of pre- and non-Islamic belief elements among them, it seems somewhat of an oversimplification just to call them ghulit (extremist Shi'ite) sects, as e.g. Moosa (1988) does; in fact, at present some of them have such heterodox beliefs that their neighbours do not see them as Muslims at all. There are indications, however, that several of these groups, e.g. the Kakais and the Yezidis, were at first still considered orthodox Sufi tarigats; in other words, the heterodoxy of these groups either increased over time, or came to be stressed more as the mark of a distinct ethnicity.2 Ethnically, however, the members of these groups that I talked to all appeared to consider themselves Kurds without hesitation; some of them had long been active in the Kurdish nationalist movement. Clearly, they saw no contradiction between themselves as members of a religiously and linguistically distinct group, and as Kurds in a more generic sense. There need of course not be any friction in seeing oneself as a member of different ethnic groups at different levels of integration: for example, an individual may equally well consider himself an inhabitant of a specific village, a Shabak, a Kurd, and an Iraqi national, and emphasis any one of these respective ethnicities in different contexts.

l). Cf. Trimingham (1970: 82-3). Vinogradov (1974: 210) states that the Shabak, Bajalan and Sarli also practised taqiyya (the dissimulation of one's real faith) under the protective cloak of the Bektashis, but I found no evidence that they ever had any formal ties with that order.
2). Van Bruinessen (n.d.) notes the apparently recent development of a dualist theology among the Yadegari and Khamushi Ahl-i Haqq in the Guran district of Iran, in opposition to the Ibrahimi subsect. He further argues that these doctrinal innovations are based on older, orally preserved dualist traditions, or are perhaps borrowed from the Yezidis with whom some Yadegari sayyids appear to have had close contacts in the nineteenth century.

The Shabak and the Kakais, like the other heterodox groups, thus occupy a somewhat ambiguous position in the ethnic mosaic of the region. At one point in the 1980s, however, the inhabitants of Northern Iraq were forced to make a single and unambiguous choice as to their ethnic affiliation,- a choice which, as we shall see, could have dramatic consequences.

The choice of a generic label for these communities deserves some further attention. AI-Shwani (1989) discusses the Arabic ethnic labels that could apply to the Kakais, but his discussion is equally relevant for the other groups. To begin with, the Kakais and other groups do not appear to think of themselves as having a separate 'national identity' (qawmiyya), as the Kurds as a whole or the Arabs would. Because of their nontribal organization, labels for tribes or subtribes such as ashaet or qabale do not fit either. Likewise, the term tariqat, cpath', the conventional label for Sufi orders, would present these groups as more orthodox than they really are (the notion of a 'path' to God suggests that each individual can experience the divine, whereas in fact the groups dealt with here are more esoteric, with only initiates of different ranks, such as the pa and babas, approaching full knowledge of the divine, expressed as haqq, or 'truth'), and downplay their features that cannot be traced to Islamic traditions. It also emphasizes doctrinal rather than organizational aspects. Al-Shwani concludes that the Kakais are best called a nihla (sect or creed); but this term also overemphasizes the religious aspect. In fact, the most appropriate term to cover all of these groups would be tayfa, a general expression that can refer to groups of different kinds, such as religious sects or denominations (Yezidis, Kakais, and Christians), and even to tribes and dervish orders.1 The main points to be kept in mind concerning these communities is that they do not have a tribal or kinship-based organization themselves, although some of their members may have tribal affiliations, and that they are considered separate ethnic groups in virtue of their religion rather than their language.

2. The Shabak

Traditionally, the Shabak mostly lived in a number of small villages east of Mosul, all the way up to Eski Kalak on the Greater Zab river. Their direct neighbors are Christians and Bajalan (with whom they sometimes live in the same village), Turkornans, Arabs, and a bit further northward Yezidis. Among his neighbours, one Shabak informant also mentioned Kakais, especially living near the Greater Zab river; by these, he presumably meant the Sarli living around Eski Kaiak. The present-day number of Shabak is difficult to estimate. My informant claimed a total of 100,000, living in 60-odd villages and including several thousands living in the city of Mosul. The 1960 Iraqi census listed 15,000, living in 35 villages; the British had estimated their number at around 10,000 in 1925 (Vinogradov 1974: 208).

Early ethnographic reports give scanty, and sometimes inadequate, information: Rich mentions that some of the villages he passed on his way from Arbil to Mosul were inhabited by 'Rozhbian and Bajilan Kurds' (groups that are close to the Shabak), but does not give any information about their dialects or religious practices. Austin Henry Layard (1867: 216), who spent considerable time conducting archaeological excavations in the Shabak area, considered them descendants of Kurds originating from Persia, and believed they might have affinities with the Ali Ilahis or Ahl-i Haqq.

Among the Kurdish tribes in the Ottoman empire, Sykes (1908: 455-6) lists 500 Shabak families, 'sedentary, said to be Shias by some, others affirm them to have a secret religion, others that they are Babis, others that they acknowledge a prophet named Baba'. Baba is in fact the title of their highest religious leader, rather than the name of a specific individual. Incidentally, all of these authors consider the Shabak, and their close neighbours the Bajalan, as Kurds.

There are also some studies in Arabic, e.g. al-Karmali 1902, ai-Ghulami 1950, and Sarraf 1954; these stress the Shabak's Turkoman features. Sarraf discusses the Shabak against the background of the Bektashi-Qizilbash. He offers several hypotheses regarding their origins, and tends to favour the view that they came to Nortern Iraq together with the Safavids. He does not consider the Shabak to be Kurds, because they 'speak a different language' (which he believes is a mixture of several languages, with Turkish predominating). Moosa, who largely relies on these works, argues that the Shabak are probably Turkomans originating from Anatolia, who became adherents of Shah Ismail, and consequently had to resettle in the Mosul region after the latter's decisive defeat by the Ottomans at Chaldiran (1514). As circumstantial evidence for this hypothesis, he also adduces their language (which he, like Sarraf, considers 'basically Turkish mixed with Persian, Kurdish, and Arabic'); the fact that their sacred book, the Buyruk or Kitab al-Managib ('Book of Exemplary Acts'), is written in Turkoman; and their doctrinal affinities with the Bektashis and Alevis in Turkey. This view is certainly an oversimplification: the spoken Shabak vernacular is, in fact, a Gorani or Hawrami variety, and there is no evidence that the Shabak already had contacts with the Bektashis in the early sixteenth century.

It is unclear precisely when the Shabak emerged as a distinct ethnic group, and what their ethnic background is. Likewise, the relation between the Shabak and the Bajalan (also called Bajwan & Bejwan) living in the Khosar valley North of Mosul, remains unclear. Sykes  appears to consider the two wholly distinct: he lists 800 Bejwan families, who 'speak a mixed language, apparently half Arabic, half Kurdish, said by neighbours to be of Turkish origin and to be followers of Hajji Bektash'. MacKenzie, by contrast, uses the two names as practically synonymous, or, perhaps, 'Shabak' as the word by which they call themselves, and 'Bajalan' as the name given them by their (Arab) neighbours. Undoubtedly, the two groups are quite closely related, but there is reason to keep them apart: the Bajalani vernacular is linguistically quite close to, but not identical with, the Shabak dialect. The Bajalan, unlike the Shabak, are organized tribally, and they seem to be heterodox Sunnis rather than Shi'ites. A Shabak informant spoke of three tayfa's of Shabak: the Shabak proper, the Bajalan, and the Zengana (which all speak Gorani), but did not elaborate on this. He also referred to the Shabak as an ashîet and as a mantiqa (territory) at times, and listed three tribes (ashket) of Shabak: the Hariri, the Gergeri, and the Mawsil î. Informants in Sfîye likewise considered the Bajalan a Shabak tribe. Taken as a whole, however, the Shabak have never been a tribe, so these remarks perhaps indicate the status of the Bajalan as a distinct tribal subgroup among the Shabak community.

Locals see the very name Shabak, which they derive from Arabic shabaka. 'to intertwine', as an indication that the Shabak are composed of many different tribes. For nationalists of various kinds, it has been tempting to overemphasize one of these component features, and to claim that the Shabak are 'really' Arabs, or Kurds, or Turkomans.

Although the Shabak's religious beliefs seem to be comparable to those of other groups with a Qizilbash background, so little is known with certainty that I will abstain from a more detailed description. The Shabak with whom I spoke were reluctant to talk about their religion, and claimed to be 'just Muslims'. Their social organization appears to be much like that of a Sufi order: adult laymen (mur îds) are bound to spiritual guides (pîs or murshîds) who are knowledgeable in matters of religious doctrine and ritual. There are several ranks of such pîs; at the top stands the Baba, or supreme head of the order. Theoretically individuals can choose their own pîr, but in practice the par families often become associated with lay families over several generations, and thus help to give some social coherence to the otherwise rather loose community. The Shabak maintain good relations with the Yezidis, and make pilgrimages to Yezidi shrines. This, incidentally, contradicts the beliefs of some scholars that the Yezidis are just extremist Sunnis, and thus hereditary enemies of everything Shi'ite.l The Qizilbash background of the Shabak also shows in the fact that they consider the Safavid Shah Ismael's poetry to be revealed by God, and recite it during meetings. Daad Chelebi  reported the Shabak as making pilgrimages to Shi'ite holy cities such as Najaf and Kerbela, rather than to Mecca.

Apart from these religious leaders, the Shabak also had two kinds of patrons in more worldly affairs. In pre-revolutionary Iraq, the Shabak were a rather lowstatus group; most of them worked as sharecroppers on land privately owned by orthodox holy families (sida, plural of sayyid) living in the city of Mosul. These sida, originating from Kufa and Hijaz, had been brought to Mosul by the Ottoman authorities, who also gave them land in return for their services; they acted as intermediaries between the Shabak and the government in case of conflicts with neighbouring tribes, and helped Shabak coming to the city to sell their products. Apart from these urban landlords, there also were rural patrons, themselves Shabak, who had been able to buy their own land. Interestingly, the Shabak who achieved such upward social mobility and moved to the city quickly became Arabized, and converted to orthodox twelver Shi'ism; some of them even started claiming sida status for themselves. These rural sida could also act as mediators in conflicts, but this bond of patronage was apparently less stable and institutionalized than that with the urban sida.

After the 1958 and 1963 land reforms, a good many of the formerly landless Shabak peasants bought their own land; others migrated to the city to find work in factories. Because of this new economic independence, traditional relations between sida and tenant started to disintegrate. To some extent, the ties with the urban sida persisted, the former landlords now providing food and lodging to rural Shabak visiting Mosul, and helping them with the sale of their products in the markets. In general, the Shabak appear to have steadily disintegrated as a social group in the republican period. Many Shabak who had moved to Mosul to find work quickly became assimilated to their predominantly Arab surroundings; as said, according to Vinogradov, many of them converted to Twelver Shi'ism. Another way of upward social mobility and integration into the state was the army. Many Shabak joined the armed forces, a development perhaps somewhat in contrast with the Shabak's traditional reputation: they were held in low esteem, and not considered fighters by their neighbours.

1). A Yezidi pî from Sheykhan, however, denied that Shabaks pray in Yezidi sanctuaries. He added that the two groups have close contacts (thus, the Mamusi tribe contains both Yezidi and Shabak members), but are not allowed to intermarry.

As a result of the changing social and economic environment in the Republican era, the traditional double patronage system either weakened or changed in character: the Shabak gradually became more directly integrated into the state, and started losing their status as a distinct group relying on its own middlemen. From the 1970s onwards, the Shabak gradually became entangled in the conflict between the Arabic-nationalist Baath government and the Kurdish movement led by Barzani. I have no information, however, that they sided en masse with either party. The government tried to co-opt them, and to impress on them that although they were religiously distinct, they were Arabs rather than Kurds. Apparently, however, it came to feel that it had been less than successful in these assimilation policies: in the late summer of 1988, it had many Shabak villages evacuated and destroyed, and their inhabitants deported. The reason for the Shabak being deported was, according to several informants, the fact that they had declared themselves Kurds rather than Arabs.

At least twenty-two Shabak villages were destroyed in whole or in part (variants of names in other sources appear in brackets): Baderna, Bajarbo, Barzikta, Baskhra, Bazwiya, Gogceri (= Gogjali, Tm. Gökcek?), Kani Kerwan, Karkashan, Keberlin, Minara, Muftiye, Qahrawa, Shaikh Emir, Shaikh Sheley, Shawkuli, Muftiyeh, Tercileh, Teyrawa, Toba Ziyaret (=Toprak Ziyaret?), Tobzawa, Xezne, Xrawa (= Orta Xarâb?), and Zara (name of one of the twin sons of Judah) Khatun. From these villages, an estimated 3,000 Shabak families were deported to the mujamma's or collective towns of Desht Harir and Basirma north of Shaqlawa (Arbil governorate), and to Bazian, Tekkiya and Chor near Chemchemal (Kirkuk). In these resettlement camps, they no longer had any sources of income, and became wholly dependent on the state. They were not given any compensation for destroyed or confiscated property, and not allowed to return or to buy cars. In the autumn of 1990, however, most of them were allowed to return to their home regions, reportedly after one of their leaders had said that they were Arabs after all. Another reason, probably more relevant for the government, may have been the fact that Iraq was facing an economic embargo since the occupation of Kuwait in August 1990, and therefore needed to stimulate the domestic agricultural sector, which in the North had been largely destroyed in the preceding years.

The fact that the Shabak were deported after declaring themselves Kurds suggests that the administrative basis of these deportations was the census held by the Iraqi government in October 1987. In this census, people could register their ethnicity as either Arabic or Kurdish; other options for indicating a distinct ethnicity based on either linguistic or religious criteria, such as 'Turkoman' or 'Assyrian', were not given.

II have not been able to locate all of these villages, but most of them lie near the Mosul-Arbil highway, i.e. East and Southeast of Mosul. A spokesman of the Iraqi National Turkoman Party confirmed some of these villages to have been destroyed (incidentally, he considered them Turkoman). Surprisingly, none of them appears in Rasool (1990), which does list 19 villages destroyed in the same period in the Sheykhan region, slightly further North.

In this way, the census forced the inhabitants of the North to 'rejoin the national ranks' by declaring themselves Arabs, or in the case of the Kurds living in 'prohibited zones' (i.e., areas under peshmerga control), to leave their villages for the mujamma's in government-controlled territory. Many whom the government considered to be Arabs, but saw themselves as Kurds were to be deported from their home villages. Those who lived in 'prohibited zones' and failed to register lost their Iraqi citizenship, and were from then on considered deserters; they became prime targets during the notorious Anfal operations

In this way, the census forced the inhabitants of the North to 'rejoin the national ranks' by declaring themselves Arabs, or in the case of the Kurds living in 'prohibited zones' (i.e., areas under peshmerga control), to leave their villages for the mujamma's in government-controlled territory. Many whom the government considered to be Arabs, but saw themselves as Kurds were to be deported from their home villages. Those who lived in 'prohibited zones' and failed to register lost their Iraqi citizenship, and were from then on considered deserters; they became prime targets during the notorious Anfal operations  local security branches, dated August 31, 1988, which was captured during the 1991 uprising. The full text of the document reads:

'We were informed as follows:

1. There are elements from the Shabak who joined the National Defense Battalions and who changed their ethnicity (qawmiyya) from Arab to Kurd and are residents of Nineveh governorate.

2. The Struggling Comrade All Hassan AI-Majid, head of the Northern Bureau, has ordered the destruction of all their houses, and their deportation to the housing complexes (mujammal) in our governorate. They will absolutely not be compensated.

For your information. Take whatever measures are necessary, and keep us informed.

[Signature] Colonel of Security/Director of Security of Arbil Governorate.

This document strongly suggests that it was indeed the 1987 census that determined the fate of the Shabak villagers who wanted to consider themselves Kurds rather than Arabs. The reason why the deportations were not carried out right after the census was probably that the Iraqi army was still largely preoccupied with the war against Iran at that time. After the armistice in August 1988, the Fifth Army Corps was moved to Mosul region in order to carry out the Final Anfal operation in the Badinan region, and these troops were also engaged in carrying out the deportations of the Shabak living in Nineveh Governorate slightly further South, which did not contain any 'prohibited zones'. No executions or mass arrests are claimed to have occurred in these operations. A Shabak interviewed in 1992, however, stated that the Fifth Army Corps was still stationed in the area at that time, and that it continued to terrorize the returned villagers.

The deportations of Shabak, then, were not part of the Anfal operations proper, but rather a final stage in the Arabization program of the entire Northern region that had been initiated by the government in 1975. In all likelihood, however, they were carried out on the basis of the same census that served as the basis for the Anfal, and the Arbil Security letter makes clear that the ultimate responsibility lies with the same individual that organized the Anfal operations: Ali Hassan al-Majid, Saddarn Hussein's cousin and at that time Head of the Northern Bureau of the Baath party.

The choice of which superordinate ethnic group one belongs to appears to have had particularly dramatic consequences for the Shabak. Deprived of the option to identify themselves as a distinct group, they were left with the choice of declaring their loyalty to the government by defining themselves as Arabs, or registering as Kurds and facing harsh government reprisals. It is impossible to measure the effects of the deportations on their (already eroding) specific ethnic identity, but it seems to have been further effaced. The Shabak in the liberated area see themselves more unambiguously as Kurds, and less as a distinct (sub-) group, than they did earlier. As one of them asked: 'if we are Arabs as they say we are, then why did they deport us like the other Kurds?' Their religious ties seem to have been partly severed by their dispersal. The majority, living in Mosul and its environs, undoubtedly continue to be subject to assimilation efforts; but as this territory is still under government control, hardly any information about their predicament is available.

3. The Kakais or Ahl-i Haqq

The Ahl-i Haqq ('People of the Truth') live scattered over Iraqi Kurdistan, and in various regions in Iran, especially the Guran district and Azerbayjan. Estirnates as to their numbers vary from several tens of thousands to over two million; the majority live in Iran. In Iraq, they are usually referred to as Kakais, whereas in Iran they are called Yaresan. Most descriptions focus on the Ahl-i Haqq on the Iranian side of the border: this holds for the earlier works, like Rawlinson (1839), Gobineau (1859), and Minorsky's important monograph (1920, 1921) as well as for more recent studies, such as Van Bruinessen (n.d.) and Hamzeh'ee (1990). The branches in Iraq receive due attention in al-Azzawi (1949), Edmonds (1957: 182-201),(1969), Hawramani (1984) and Moosa (1988: ch. 14-21).

Apparently, the order of the Kakais was founded in Hawraman by a Sayyid Ishaq (later also called Sultan Sohak) originating from Barzinja in the early fourteenth century CE.1 There have been doubts as to whether this Sultan Sohak was a historical person, but his name is mentioned in a 17th-century document concerning his successor Baba Yadegar (Mokri 1970). Interestingly, this text also suggests that at that time, the Kakais were still considered a Sufi tariqa rather than a heterodox group (cf. Van Bruinessen 1991: 68). Associated with Sultan Sohak were seven disciples called the Haft Tan; the most important of these, Daiad, becarne the superintendent of the Haft Khalifa ('seven vicars') selected by Sultan Sohak to be dolls (guides) for the whole Ahl-i Haqq community. Sultan Sohak's seven sons, called the Haftawana, are considered the basis of five 'founded families' of sîids; the Ibrahirni 'family' appears to be by far the most widespread of these in Iraqi Kurdistan. Later on, five other families of sayyids arose. The most important of these are the Baba Yadegari and Ateshbegi families, both concentrated in Iran; the latter in particular introduced a number of doctrinal innovations. These differences in doctrine and practices rnake it difficult to speak of a single Ahl-i Haqq tradition.

The Kakais, like the Shabak, have a hereditary group of religious specialists. Their social hierarchy contains four levels: sayyids, bawas (cf. Persian baba), mams, and murîds. Doctrinal expertise resides with the kalamkhwans, who may come from any of these classes. Kakai murîds must be associated with a sîid from one of the ten families who acts as their pî or spiritual guide, and also with a Khalifa family acting as representative of a dald; in theory, laymen are free to choose their own guides, but in practice these relations are usually passed on between the generations.

According to AI-Shwani (1989), the Arab historian al-Mas'udi (d. 346 AH) already wrote of the Kakaiyya as a distinct tribe rather than as a distinct religious group; but it may be doubted whether he was really referring to the same group as the present-day Kakais, who cannot be traced further back than the fourteenth century.

As individuals belonging to a sayyid are considered part of his 'family', murîds cannot intermarry with their pî or dalg. In this way, a symbolic kind of kinship is created among the adherents, who are otherwise not organized along kinship lines. According to some kalamkhwans, the pî is as God to his murîds. One of them once heard some muri'ds address their Ibrahimi sîid as 'son of Shah Ibrahim', the word Shah suggesting that Ibrahim had been an incarnation of the Deity; he corrected them and said that they themselves were Ibrahim's sons, because their sayyid was [the reincarnation of] Ibrahim himself. Organizationally, the Kakais are thus essentially a 'dervish brotherhood' or tariqa, but like the Shabak, they have more strongly esoteric beliefs, focused on a divine reality (Haqq) revealed to only a few members of the community. As seen above, the terrn tayfa is most appropriate to this kind of organization, but at times the Kakais are also referred to as a Kurdish tribe (ash7ret) by outsiders.

The most important Kakai area in Iraq is a group of villages around Taclq (also called DaqCiq), Southeast of Kirkuk. Interestingly, these settlements are relatively recent, the lands having been bought by some 19th-century Ibrahimi sayyids, and populated with Kakai mur7ds from the nearby hills. Other concentrations of Kakai villages, also mostly Ibrahimi, are around Khanaqin and Qasr-i Shirin. Of the original heartlands of the Kakai community on the border with Iran, near Halabja, only the pilgrimage center of Hawar rernains. Some Ibrahimis live in Tell 'Afar; these are probably largely Turkomans. Edmonds also lists seven Kakai villages ' on the banks of the Greater Zab near Eski Kalak, whose inhabitants are called 'Sarli' by their neighbours.

In the Ottoman period, several mayors in Tell 'Afar were elected from the Ibrahimi family of Taifa-i Wahhab Agha living there, who also mentions Ateshbegi Kakais in that town). In this period, and also in monarchical Iraq, the Kakai leaders seem to have maintained reasonably good relations with the central authorities, although they kept their independence. Their power base lay not only in their religious adherents, but also in their wealth: in 1958, the Kakai sayyids of Kirkuk province were among the most important land owners in Iraq, with almost 200,000 donums of land in their possession. It is unclear in how far this position was affected by the successive land reforms in Republican Iraq. Although the various Kakai communities may have lost some of their original cohesion because of the farreaching economic and political changes, their religious practices and political loyalty to the sayyids appear to have remained largely intact. The Ibrahimis in Arbil, for example, still have a monthly ritual, closed to outsiders, in which food is symbolically shared and, as their sayyid put it, 'all become equal'. There have even been conversions to the Kakai faith in quite recent times.

Apparently, the Kakais experienced no major frictions with their Muslim neighbours either. They were generally considered a Kurdish subgroup, and their religious beliefs and practices do not seem to have been considered as heterodox as e.g. those of the Yezidis, who are often not even thought of as Kurds by their Sunni Kurdish neighbours.

1).This view would contradict the opinion held by some that, strictly speaking, the name 'Kakai' does not apply to the community as a whole, but only to the sayyids.

2). Incidentally, there also are, or used to be, pockets of Bajalan around these places.

3). My informants in Sf8ye listed eight Kakai villages on the banks of the Zab: Sf8ye, Matrat, Tuieben (=Tell ai-Liban), Gezekan, QCjlebol, Wirdet, Zengerd, and Kebero. Only the first four of these coincide with names supplied by Edmonds.

The Kakais were usually quite secretive about their religious beliefs and practices: when asked by outsiders, they would often claim to be orthodox Sunnis or, sometimes, Twelver Shi'ites. Reportedly, one Kirkuki sayyid even bought up all copies of al-Azzawi's 1949 book that he could find and had them destroyed, because it betrayed religious secrets and argued that the Kakais were not Muslims. At present, the Kirkuk Kakais consider themselves very close to the ja'faris (Tweiver Shi'ites) in the neighbouring towns of Tuz Khormatu and DaclGq (TaCiq).

Linguistically, the Kakais are a quite heterogeneous community. They have their own language, Macho, which is a variety of Gorani. According to some, the Kakais mostly use this dialect among themselves, while they employ whatever happens to be the language of their surroundings for communication with their neighbours; others say they use Macho as a secret language (lisin alkhiss), especially during their rituals. However, Macho is certainly not the mother tongue of all Kakais; some groups speak it only as a second language, or perhaps not at all. Most Kakals also speak Sorani Kurdish, Turkoman, or Arabic. According to one Kakai informant, all Kakais around TaQq are fluent in Macho; with other Kurds they speak Sorani, while some of them also know Turkoman or Arabic. Another source claims that many, if not most Kirkuki Kakais speak Turkoman more easily than Kurdish, but consider themselves Kurds. Most 'Sarli' (Kakais from Eski Kalak) speak Macho, Shabaki, Sorani, and to some extent Arabic; none of them knows any Turkoman. Practically all Kakais know at least some Arabic as a second language; there are some Arabic-speaking Kakais in Khanaqin and Mendeli, but these are all 'awwamis (commoners), not sayyids. They are claimed to be relatively recent converts.

The sîids have also remained influential and largely independent, whatever changes in their original position as landlords may have occurred. Fattah Agha, who was one of the strongest Kakai leaders until his death in the 1950s, seems to have been something of a Kurdish nationalist; for example, he refused to join the neighbouring Talabani and DaCidi tribes, who had sided with the government against the rebellious Kurdish leader, shaykh Mahmoud Barzinji. One of his sons, Adnan Agha, has subsequently become the most active Kakai leader. Another branch of the Kirkuki sayyids had traditionally preferred to speak Turkoman', and only acquired fluency in Kurdish during the early 1970s; subsequently, these leaders joined the 'National Defence Batallions' (Kurdish irregulars), and started to proclaim themselves Arabs. The government was anxious to portray the Kakais as Arabs; it argued that their sayyids, being descendants of Imarn Ali and of the prophet Muharnmad as their title indicated, were Arabs by definition. Kakai religious specialists countered this claim by stressing that they believe their leaders to be sayyids in virtue of reincarnation rather than direct descent.

In the 1970s, the Kakais did not unambiguously side with the Kurdish movement. Some sayyids stayed neutral, while others openly sided with the Baath government. The oil-rich area around Kirkuk was a prime target area of the Baath government's Arabization policy in this period. Some Kakai villages around TaGq were evacuated; their inhabitants were taken to Sulaimaniya or Arbil.

I). These Shi'ite groups are for the most part Turkomans, and used to be Qizilbash who were in the present century 'converted' to Tweiver Shi'ism.

One sayyid started selling land to Arabs; the lands of another sayyid, who had joined the Kurdish movement, were seized and to some extent repopulated with Arabs. This sayyid got his lands back when his son joined the National Defence Batallions. Likewise, Khanaqin and Qasr-i Shirin have been subject to Arabization. Their inhabitants were deported to Kalar and Southern Iraq. In order to create a 'security zone' along the Iranian border, the Iraqi government also destroyed many villages in the original Kakai heartlands, among them the pilgrimage site of Hawar.

The Iraqi government and the Kurdish nationalists were not the only ones who attempted to coopt the Kakais, however. In the 1970s, Turkoman nationalists wanted to present them as a Turkornan subgroup: thus, the Kakai poet Hijri Dede, who had written works in Persian, Kurdish and Gorani (but not in Turkish) was made a member of the Turkoman Writer's Union in Baghdad. Hijri's offspring, who were stated to have become jash ('donkey foal', i.e. government agents) in the 1980s, consider themselves Turkomans. The Iraq National Turkoman Party, founded in 1988, continues this line of stressing the Turkoman side of the Kakais; it also considers the Shabak and other ghulit groups in the region to be Turkomans. A Turkoman informant (himself an opponent of Turkoman chauvinism) stated that many Kakais in Kirkuk, but also in Tell 'Afar, had started claiming to be Turkomans recently. This stress on their being Turkoman seems to have been used as a means of maintaining a neutral position in between the government and the Kurdish movement. Although the results of the 1977 and 1987 censuses were never made public, some Ibrahimis and sayyids are said to have been registered as Turkomans. The latter, as said, only gave the options of registering as a Kurd or as an Arab; at least some of the sayyids registered themselves and their adherents as Arabs.

The Third Anfal operation, conducted in the Germian region in April 1988, had as its targets the DaCidi villages East of the road from Kirkuk to Baghdad, and the area of the Talabani tribe. Apparently, however, the neigbouring Kakai area around Taiaq was not included in these operations. A main reason for this was probably the fact that Taoq nahiya, which was near the strategic oil-rich city of Kirkuk, had always remained under strict government control. For that reason, it did not form part of the 'forbidden zones' targeted in the Anfal operations. In other words, its inhabitants had been registered in the 1987 census, whether as Kurds or as Arabs, and did not run the risk of losing their Iraqi citizenship. Some of the Kakai sayyids had openly sided with the government, while even those who had not joined the National Defence Batallions apparently wielded enough influence with the authorities to rescue their community. Finally, the fact that there was a case for considering the Kakais to be Turkomans rather than Kurds may have played a role as well. After all, the Anfal operations were primarily directed at the Kurdish villagers, and to a lesser extent against the Christians in the Badinan area, who were believed to have sided with the Kurdish movement. Turkomans and Arabs in the region, or people who had registered as such, were hardly, or not at all, affected. A number of Kakai families were deported, because the Iraqi Security had found out that their relatives had joined the Kurdish insurgents.

1). Rasool (1990: 13-22) reports several of the Kakai villages in this region listed by Edmonds (1957: 195n) as having been evacuated in 1975; I could identify Barika, Dar-a-Khurma, and M&khas, but others may have been affected as well.

2). A senior PUK official claimed that a copy of the 1977 census results had been captured during the uprising; it showed the population of Kirkuk governorate to be 38% Kurdish, 15% Turkoman, and the remainder Arab.

According to local informants, these Kakais from Kirkuk were deported to BaqGq mujamma and later resettled in Halabja Taze a few miles west of Halabja, together with a nurnber of jafs from Hawar. Some appear to have been resettled near Chernchemal. In Halabja Taze and other nearby mujamma's, numerous (Sunni and Kakai) Hawrami speakers from the villages near the Iranian border, including Hawar, had also been resettled. Some Kakais returned to Hawar after the 1991 uprising; they fled the region again during the Kurdish internecine fights in the summer of 1994.

The Kakais from Eski Kalak, like the Shabak, appear not to have been affected by the Anfal operations proper. The Sarli villages were reported to have been evacuated in the summer of 1988,- that is, at approximately the same time as the Shabak. Presumably, they had also registered as Kurds in the 1987 census. The inhabitants of Sf8ye were deported to Halabja Taze, but could return after their sayyid, Adnan Agha, had intervened with the government.

4. Contacts between the Kakais and the Shabak: the 'Sarli'

The 'Sarli' deserve some further attention. on the whole, the Kakais are linguistically and religiously close to the Shabak; they are also geographically adjacent to them near Eski Kalak, and in fact significant interethnic contacts have been taking place there. As said, the Kakai inhabitants of this area are called 'Sarli' by their Sunni neighbours, but Edmonds already expressed doubts as to whether they themselves accept the name. Their sayyid, who himself lives in Arbil, confirmed that they don't. I found that the people living there are Ibrahimi Kakais, and unhesitatingly consider themselves to be such; the terms 'Sarli' and 'SarlCj' are used exclusively by outsiders, or rnore precisely, their direct (Sunni) Arab and Kurdish neighbours. By contrast, a Shabak informant called them 'Kakais' rather than 'Sarli'; I was also told that the Shabak, unlike the Yezidis, maintain good relations with the Kakais, and 'respect' them, despite some religious differences. As said, the 'Sarli' villages have survived, or recovered from, the Arabization operations, but after the liberation of part of the Kurdish region, they ended up right at the front line, established at the Zab river, between the Iraqi government troops and the Kurds. Many of their inhabitants sought a safer haven in the Tobzawa mujamma several miles down the road to Arbil. The villages near the river were periodically shelled by Iraqi artwery, but at the same time they became a focal point for smuggling activity, especially for an intensive traffic of petrol products across the river, often on makeshift rafts.

Edmonds remarks that 'the Sarli are quite distinct from the other group of unorthodox Kurds found in the Mosul liwa and known as Shabak, who are Kurdish Qizilbash', but at present at least, this distinction is much harder to make. Many inhabitants of the Sarli village I visited, including the younger ones, appeared to speak both Kakai and Shabaki (all of them also spoke Sorani). When I asked the mother of one family, which had been introduced to me as Kakais, whether there were many Shabak in their village, she said, surprisingly: 'We are Shabak ourselves'. Upon further questioning, it turned out that numerous Sarli families were of mixed Shabak-Kakai origin. Many of them had become Kakais in quite recent times, some less than a generation ago. Apparently, intermarriages between Shabak and Kakais have taken place as well. Nowadays, the inhabitants of these villages participate in Kakai rituals, and bring presents such as petrol to their sayyid.

These 'conversions' (or perhaps more appropriately, crossings of the low ethnic boundary between Kakais and Shabak) have taken place primarily under the abovementioned Ibrahimi sayyid Fattah Agha. Fattah was an enlightened man who, himself illiterate, had a school, a hospital and a mosque opened in his village of Topzawa near TaCjq in 1938; apparendy, he was also influential with the central government of the time. I was told that a fair number of families, both Arabs and Kurds (especially Barzinjis, jaf, and Hamawand), had become Kakais in this period. After Fattah's death in the late 1950s, the number of conversions decreased considerably; conversions of Shabak thus seem to have been due at least in part to his personal charisma, and to the possibilities of upward social mobility that the Kakais had in that period. But also more recently, in 1986, one Shabak and one Gergeri from Mosul became Kakais, apparently because of the greater opportunities for upward social mobility this crossing offered; another motivation seems to have been that they considered the Kakai faith a typically Kurdish religion, and wanted to become 'Kurdicized' rather than 'Arabized', which would be a likely concomitant of seeking social mobility in more stateoriented circles. In other words, the boundaries between some ethnic subgroups appear to be relatively permeable, and individuals can cross them without great difficulty. Such individual crossings, however, have not led to a total disappearance of the distinctions between the two groups. These intergroup contacts remain an intriguing subject for further investigations.

5. Dialect notes

A few remarks on the dialects spoken by the Shabak and the Kakais will conclude these notes. Little is known with certainty about the vernaculars of these and other heterodox communities in Iraqi Kurdistan. Minorsky mostly dealt with Turco- and Persophone Yaresan in the Guran district and Azerbaijan in Iran (but see Minorsky 1943 for some religious Ahl-i Haqq poetry or kalim in Gorani). Mokri has primarily studied the written Ahl-i Haqq literature, which is partly in Persian, and partly in a Gorani koine that does not coincide with any single spoken variety. About the spoken dialects, much less information is available. As seen above, even their nature was disputed; in the literature, claims appear that they are forms of Turkoman, Baluchi-related dialects, or 'mixtures of Turkish, Persian and Arabic'. These claims were rarely backed by dialect samples or analysis, and usually took the written documents as evidence.

From the samples I collected, it appears that the spoken dialects of the Shabak, (some of) the Kakais near TaCiq, and the 'Sarli' all belong to the Gorani or Hawrami branch of Indo-Iranian languages.1 The possibility remains, however, that more extensive investigation will yield further variations and complexities; for example, the Shabak seem to be linguistically somewhat more homogeneous than the Kakais, but there may yet turn out to be Shabak with Turkoman as their mother tongue, or at least as a second language. It should also be kept in mind that all of my informants were multilingual; the question of precisely where and when they speak Gorani rather than some other language remains unanswered.

1). Blau summarizes the main grammatical features of the Gorani dialects. Mann/Hadank 1930 mostly contains samples of various Gorani dialects spoken Iran, but includes Bajalani material from Bishkan near Zohab, Qasr-i Shirin, and Khorsabad north of Mosul. MacKenzie 1956 presents Bajalani material from Arpaopl (also near Mosul). The most detailed description of a single Gorani dialect, viz. that of NawsGda near Awroman in Persia, is MacKenzie 1966. The 'Kurdishness' of Gorani is still disputed; see Leezenberg 1993 for discussion.

Considerations of space, and the uneven quality of the data (mostly gathered amidst the euphoric confusion of the 1992 regional elections), preclude a fuller grammatical analysis, but some of their distinctive traits seem to be worth pointing out anyway.

My informants in Sf8ye distinguished between 'Shabaki' and 'Macho'; by the latter they meant the vernacular of the Kakais (as did my informant from Topzawa). According to Edmonds, the term 'Macho' is also used by locals as a generic label for all the dialects referred to as 'Gorani' in the scholarly literature. Most of my informants, however, used 'Hawrami' as a blanket term for these dialects; only those acquainted with Western literature on the subject used 'Gorani' in this sense. Here, I will use the label 'Macho' to refer indiscriminately to the Topzawa and Sf8ye Kakai dialects; the limited data did not permit me to compare them systematically, but a local informant who had contacts with both claimed that they are practically identical.

Abbreviations: M.: Macho from Topzawa; Sh.: Shabaki from Qahrawa; Sf.: Sfêye variety of Macho or Shabaki, respectively; B.: Bajalani from Arpaîi; H.: Hawrami from Byara.

The Old Iranian initial *hw- developed into w- in all Gorani dialects and into khw-lkho- in Kurmanji and Sorani Kurdish, viz. Shab./Kak. ward- vs. Km./Sor. khwar-, 'eat'. However, the reflexive pronoun (also with initial 'hw- in Old Iranian) does not follow this pattern: in fact, the Gorani dialects widely diverge here: M. yo-,Sh. hê-, B. hê, H. wê-, cf. Kurmanci xwe (without pronominal suffix), Sorani xo-.

The 'Sarli' I met were all fluent in the Arbil dialect of Kurdish proper; some of the phonetic peculiarities of that dialect could also be heard in their pronunciation of Macho and Shabaki, e.g. pem, 'eye', was pronounced as /tsem/, perme, 'white', as /tserme/. Otherwise, their pronunciation of both dialects differed little from the samples from TaClq and Qahrawa. They perceived the two as hardly different, and repeatedly mixed them up.

In conclusion, the differences between these Gorani varieties seem to be primarily phonetic; their morphology shows fewer variations, except in the reflexive and suffixed personal pronouns. Lexical differences may be related to borrowings from various sources, such as different dialects of Kurdish proper, Persian, and Turkoman. Hopefully, further gathering of data will lead to a fuller and more systematic treatment of these dialects on another occasion.

Some history & geographic distribution of Iranian languages & peoples with Israelite origin

The Iranian peoples comprise the present day Persians, Ossetians, Kurds, Pashtuns, Tajiks, Balochs, Lurs, and their sub-groups of the historic Medes, Massagetaes, Eranites, Ephtalites, Sarmatians, Scythians, Parthians, Alans, Bactrians, Cimmerians, Soghdians and other people of Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Iranian plateau. Other possible groups are the Cimmerians who are mostly supposed to have been related to either Iranian or Thracian speaking groups, or at least to have been ruled by an Iranian elite and Xiongnu of probable Saka origin.

The Sacae to the east of the Caspian are considered culturally Sarmatian and often counted with them though in fact they too were Scythians. They gave rise to the Arsacid-Parthians who later conquered Persia and created the Parthian Empire. Sarmatian troops were used by the Romans in the occupation of Britain.  A song in Gaul dated from about 350 c.e. or earlier equated the Franks with the Persians and Sarmatians. Persians and Sarmatians had indeed neighbored the Scythians in Scythia. Other reports (such as that of Nicholas Vignier ca. 1630) also said that the Franks were originally Scyths or Sarmatians. Herodotus asserted that the Sarmatians were the offspring of Scythian males with the Amazons (legendary female warriors) and that Sarmatian women learnt the Scythian tongue, but the men could not learn the women's language. Professor Lundman wrote that the peoples of Russia, today, around the Black Sea and the Don are "perhaps ... vestiges of the descendants of the Irano-Scythian tribes who inhabited southern Russia in ancient times." theories state that some Slavic nations formed under Sarmatian (Alanian) leadership, namely the Croatians, Serbs and probably the Polish. Thus, the Sorbs at the Elbe (the "northern Serbs") are an obvious proof, that Sarmatians were present in the area in the early Middle Ages. And they did practice skull deformation as well.  Out of the above groups Israelites were prominent amongst the Scythians, Alans, Goths, and Khazars. The Greeks called the Sarmatians "Lizard People" which could have been applied to the Scythians as well for the dragon scale armor look they fashioned just like Sarmatians.

These people called Goths wore Iranian style armor in combat especially the Kings. They were Semi-Nomadic, and were sometimes confused as being ether Scythians, or Alans by the Roman and Greek authors. Nether Romans nor the Greeks knew who the Goths were, but knew there was a connection to these Barbarians, and to the Barbarians in the east. Some of the Alans moved westward and some remained in the Caucasus area. We have identified the Alans as descendants of Elon from Zebulon. Those who moved west we traced  to France, Switzerland,  and Holland. In historical reports they are sometimes confused with the Allemans. The portion who remained in the Caucasus mostly joined the Khazars. Zebulon through the Alans and Alamans of Elon, son of Zebulon, merged with the Suebi from Jashub (pronounceable as Ja-sueb, Num. 26;24) of Issachar in Alsace and in Switzerland i.e. they bordered "Sidon", as Switzerland was referred to. In early Scythian times the name Zebulon was recalled in ZABULISTAN which was to the south and south-east of Hara in the Iranian area. The Alans, from north of the Caspian Sea and Caucasus, were to form settlements in Brittany (France) and Switzerland. Other groups (such as the Lombards) who also probably emerged from Scythia and seem to have been Hebraic were (via Scandinavia) to make incursions of their own. The Lombards, for instance, settled in North Italy. In short, the Israelites became Scythian and the Scythians were to become Northwest European. In 409 CE the Vandals, Suebi, and Alans invaded Spain. They were followed by the Goths or Visigoths who subdued the country by 585 CE.

The descendants of the Northern Hebrews today must be sought for in Europe more than anywhere else. The Netherlands is also popularly known as Holland. Strictly speaking the term Holland should apply only to part of the western region of the Netherlands. The name Holland first appeared in sources in 866 for the region around Haarlem. By 1064 it was being used as the name of the entire county. Holland is believed to be derived from the Middle Dutch term holtland ("wooded land"). It happens however that names have several origins or that an existing name is given a new rationalization in the light of changing reality. The name may well be derived from that of Elon son of Zebulon. In Hebrew "elon" is the name of the oak tree. ELON, son of Zebulon, was recalled in the names of Holland and Norway's Hallin, and the Alans of Scythia and later of Western Europe; also Halland in Sweden and the Swede associated tribe of Alands whose descendants are part of the population of modern Finland. At all events, Zebulon may well be considered to have gained ascendancy amongst the Dutch of Holland with their dykes and "SEA-SHORE" settlement.  "And the sons of Zebulon; Sered, and Elon, and Jahleel" (Genesis 46;14). ZEBULON = Zabulistan (Afghanistan in Scythian times), Sabalingoi (Denmark, Holland). Clans of Zebulon: Sered = Suardinoi (Sweden), Suardone, Suarini (Holland). Elon = Alan (Scyths, Khazar Jews), Aland (Sweden, Finland), Halin (Norway), Halland (Sweden), Holland (Netherlands). Yahleel (Yachlayl) = Chali (Denmark and Holland). I would add Sardinia next to Suardone. Zebulon, though dominant in Holland, is also present in Halland (Southwest coast of Sweden), the Aland archipelago, Sweden & Hallin in Norway. Holland, Halland, Aland, Hallin & Alan, the ancient people, come from Elon, son of Zebulon. As expected to Zebulonites, they all are in the coasts.

The Scythians in the Classical sense of the word were the group of peoples referred to as "Sacae" by the Persians.[The Alans and Khazars however were related to them and are also considered- Scythians even though they were not necessarily referred to as Sacae]. The peoples of Scythia whom we do identify as Israelites include the Royal Scythians, Alans, and Alazonians, and some others in the west and the "Sacae" in the east. The name of the god Jove of the Romans was derived from the name of the God of the Hebrews. What has been explained as a borrowing by the Goths from the Romans could just as easily reflect a native tradition of their own since some additional indications support such a possibility. It may be that at least some of the Goths worshipped the God of Israel. The Alans were also known as Alani, Halani, Alauni & later as Asi, As, Os, to be called finally Ossetians (Only the ones that stayed in the Caucasus). 

Similar (and perhaps stronger) finds have been found by the Alans who were allied to the Goths and later became part of the Khazars. Some Khazar groups were in the east bordering Mongolia and some were in the west by the Caucasus and Crimea. The same applies to other groups such as Alans, Huns, Turks, and Bulgars who were also split up. All of the peoples in question  were influenced by Turkish speakers and Turkish dialect. In the same way as it is agreed that most of the other peoples were not Turkish so too with the Khazars. Groups associated with the Alans (who may have been Israelites) as well as reports of Israelites federated with the Tartars and other peoples were also at times part of the Mongolian Federations. Alans and Goths entered Portugal who also included those of Israelite descent. Finally large numbers of Jews who converted to Catholicism settled in Portugal including those who were forced to convertand thousands of children who were taken by force from their parents, baptized and brought up as Christians. In other words there may be many amongst the Portuguese and those of Portuguese descent who are of Israelite stock. As the Roman Empire was crumbling, that a well documented Hun leader named Uldin, who, with his "Hunnish horde", composed of Alanic and Germanic allies, moved north after 408 at which point there is no further record of him in the Roman, Greek or Byzantine sources.  In the mid 5th Century the archaeological record shows, for example, a dramatic change in burial practices in Scandinavia consistent with the arrival of a Central Asian and Pontine steppe cultural tradition. The Alemans (also referred to as Alans or intermixed with Alans) were amongst the early settlers of Switzerland. Alemans may also have been important in the early settlement of Finland. After the death of the iudex Athanaric his Tervingi sought refuge from the Huns, according to the sources. But they did not vanish, as most scholars seem to imply, but moved westwards north of the Danube. Other tribal groups, like Suevi, Vandals, Alans did the same at around the same time.

The Alans who were closely associated with the Khazars were described by the Roman historian Ammianus Marcelinus as being blonde-haired like all the Scythians according to him. Ammianus includes the Agathysoi (Khazars) amongst the Alans. The "Dark Foreigners" called "Aunites" (Hunites?) in the Annals of Ulster, who defeated and even cannibalized the "FairHaired Foreigners", represented Huns who had gained control of Denmark, Gotland and Sweden, and the "Fairhaired Foreigners" were Norwegians, probably Germanic peoples like the Alans, who escaped from Hunnic control by fleeing over the mountains to Norway, where the Huns couldn't fight or travel easily with their steppe-adapted horses and warfare methods. The Norwegians, perhaps descendants of the Alans, colonized Iceland, Ireland and the Faroese, culminating in the West Norse language, while the Huns and perhaps their conquered Gothic peoples gained control of Denmark, Gotland and Sweden, resulting in the East Norse language. Alans, As,  and Yasses were all one. Named Alban which was also a name for Britain. Alans equated with the Khazars. Alans were blond. The Alans spoke Northern Iranian languages and used classical Iranian names such as "Guiw" or "Geev". The famous knoght lancelot may indeed himself have been of Iranian stock: Lancelot - Alan -CeLot. Littleton and Malcor give you more details on these interesting facts of course. Many icons of western and eastern European culture, folklore as well as technology can trace their roots to Persia and their Northern Iranian cousins (the Alans). The above text is a well researched academic text. You may find some of the following items of interest. The term "Scot" may have links to the ancient Persian Pahlavi term "Saka" or "Scythian". In some old Iranian dialects (such as some variants of Digor Ossetian) "Saka" means "Friend". The famous "Dutch" windmill was first constructed in Khorassan eastern Persia (circa 7th Century AD). Some of the Alans also fused with the Khazar Turks of the Caspian Sea. Many of the Polish aristocracy identified themselves with the ancient Iranian Sarmatians/Alans. y the name "as" there was  also described sarmatian tribe of alans >(halani, alanoi). The Normans really became recognizable to the historian when in 860 a band of Vikings led By Rollo received the area afterwards called Normandy from the King of France. Those Vikings who settled in Normandy together with those local inhabitants who intermarried with them and/or identified with them became known as the Normans. Dudo19 (ca 960), himself a Norman, said that the Normans came from Danes descendants of the ancient (Greek) Danae and had reached the north via the Balkans and that their forefathers were the Dacae. There are Danish traditions that trace their ancestry back to Israel.

         Within one or two generations of their first settlement the Normans were no longer recognizable as Scandinavian. They had changed their language, religion, and culture. They intermixed with the peoples of Brittany in France. These were Celts and Alans. The Alans had come from the Caucasus area at the time of Attilla the Hun and settled in Brittany. Their use of armored cavalry. These were Celts  and tactics were to influence the Normans. Those Alans who remained in the east were to confederate with the Khazars and to be identified with them. The Celts of Brittany (amongst whom first the Alans then the Normans settled) were to a degree descended from Celtic peoples of Britain and after conquering England the Normans would adopt the Celtic Arthurian legends as part of their own heritage. About the origin of the name Massagetae, scholars have emphasized that: "The classical and modern authorities say that the word "Massagetae" means "great" Getae. The ninth-century work De Universo of Rabanus Maurus states, "The Massagetae are in origin from the tribe of the Scythians, and are called Massagetae, as if heavy, that is, strong Getae." 

Ammianus Marcellinus considered the Alans to be the former Massagetae. At the close of the 4th century CE, Claudian (the court poet of Emperor Honorius and Stilicho) wrote of Alans and Massagetae in the same breath: "the Massagetes who cruelly wound their horses that they may drink their blood, the Alans who break the ice and drink the waters of Maeotis' lake".

"...Numbers 26:35-36 records that three clans of the Israelite tribe of Ephraim were named the Bachrites, the Eranites, and the Tahanites. The Seleucid province of Bactria, which revolted along with Parthia, bore the name of one of the clans of Ephraim in a Hellenized form. An Israelite origin for Bactria is supported by an account from Richard Frye's book, The Heritage of Persia, which states that the Bactrian language "...was related to Saka, or at least underwent strong influences from Saka tongues." The Persian word "Saka" referred to the Sacae Scythians. The record that the Bactrians welcomed a Scythian ruler who freed them from a Greek satrap, and the fact that the Bactrians shared a linguistic heritage with the Parthians argues that the Bactrians were also Sacae (or Saka) who had descended from the ten tribes of Israel.

Henry Rawlinson, in his book Bactria, states: "there seems to be very little doubt that the population of Bactria was largely Scythian"...[and cites Justin, a classical author, who wrote] "The Bactrian Empire was founded by the Scythians."

Numbers 26:36 also notes that another clan of the tribe of Ephraim descended from Eran and was known as the "Eranites." A group of people known as the Eranians were present in the region of ancient Persia and Parthia. Assyria had transplanted the defenders of Samaria (an Ephraimite city) into "the cities of the Medes."

Therefore, we should expect to see Ephraimite names in the Medo-Persian region. The "Eranians" manifested the exact Hebrew name of one of the clans of Ephraim in the area of Medo-Persia. This name has survived into modern times as the English name for modern Persia is Iran. The terms "Iran" and "Eran" are interchangeable. The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1943 Edition), in its Index section, simply states "Eran: see Iran." The capital of Iran, Teheran, also preserves the name of this Ephraimite clan. This book does not assert or imply that modern Iranians are Israelites as it is clear from history that modern Iranians are principally Medo-Persian in racial origins. However, the name "Iran" is derived from the name of a clan of Ephraim, which was placed in Medo-Persian territory by the Assyrians and lived there for many centuries.

Most historical accounts assume that the name "Eran" originated from the term "Aryan." However, historical accounts generally have not considered an Israelite alternative for the origin of the Eranians. Indeed, historical accounts seem unwilling to even look for the large masses of Israelites who were relocated into Asia. The case for an Israelite origin for the Eranians is very strong. Not only are the Eranians found in the correct geographical location where Israelite tribes and clans were placed (Medo-Persia), but there were many other ancient names in that region with an Israelite origin!"

Although Azeris speak a Turkic language (modern Azerbaijani language), they are believed to be primarily descendants of ancient Iranians.

The Shirazi are a sub-group of the Swahili people living on the Swahili Coast of East Africa, especially on the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Comoros. Local traditions about their origin claim they are descended from merchant princes from Shiraz in Persia who settled along the Swahili Coast. However some academics are skeptical of the claimed Persian origin. There are several different traditions about the settlement of the Persian merchant-princes in seven towns along the Swahili Coast.

Like the rest of the Swahili people, the Shirazi speak the Swahili language and practice Sunni Islam and Shia Islam.

Several ruins of settlements in Tanzania are attributed to the settlements of the Shirazi era, including the Tongoni and Kaole Ruins, as well as those found on Tumbatu and Pemba islands.

People of the Tajik nation are the descendents of  Scythians, Bactrians and Sogdians, peoples considered to be Israelites by the Two-Houser web Brit-Am lead by Yair Davidy, even if he doesn't consider Tajiks as Lost Israelites' offspring.

Indeed many Persian (or Iranian) speakers, or speakers of the same family of languages, are or were in reality Israelites like the Pashtuns, Tajiks, Ossetes, Kurds... They had Iranian speaking ancestors called Parthians, Sakas (Scythians), Sogdians, Bactrians, Massagetas, Gutians (Goths), Hephtalites... that were Israelites & apparently ancestors of British, Scandinavians, French, Dutch...& other western European peoples. The Farsiwan (also known as Parsiwan or Parsiban) is a Persian speaking people found in areas of Afghanistan, some of which were mentioned as areas of Israelite captivity. Parsibans are also related to & often considered as part of Tajiks, a people regarded as having Israelite origin. The main difference with the Tajiks is that the Farsiwans are Shii Muslims while the Tajiks are Sunni Muslims. The comment of Wikipedia clarifies it even more when it says that "they are of Mediterranean substock like the Pashtuns". Where was Israel? In the Mediterranean, of course. Some of their traditional locations are Herat in Afghanistan, Horasan & ancient Arachosia, between Iran & Afghanistan. We could say something similar regarding the Israelite origin of several other Farsi speaking peoples:

Qashqai (They are a mixture of peoples of different origin, like Arab, Kurdish Lori, but mostly Turkish, based in western Iran. They are celebrated for their carpet weaving)

Aimaaqs (Among them the Temuri [Named likely  taken from the celebrated Timur Lang or Tamerlan] Aimaqs are considered to have mostly Mongol origins because of their features, yurts...),

Baluches (or Baluchis. They even claim origin in the Middle East. Their women love gold ornaments. Do Baloch tribal codes have anything with the Israelite Torah?),

Gilakis (or Gilanis. Them & the Mazandaranis are closely related to each other & to the Caucasus peoples, especially the Georgians, Armenians & Azeris, being these three peoples Israelites. Gilaki & Mazandarani languages share typological features with the Caucasian languages. Linguistic evidence supports the believe in which the ancestors of Mazandaranis & Gilakis would have come from the Caucasus. Caucasus peoples are regarded as having come from the Near East orginally.),

Mazandaranis (They are mainly living in south east of the Caspian Sea coasts. Many of them live as farmers and fishermen. The Mazanderani and neighboring Gilakis are both closely related to particular other peoples of Iran, and Caucasus peoples, especially the three great Caucasian Israelites Georgians, Armenians, and Azerbaijanis. In the Safavid, Afsharid, and Qajar era Mazandaran was settled by large amounts of Georgians, Circassians, Armenians and other Peoples of the Caucasus, whose descendants still live across Mazandaran. Still many towns, villages and neighbourhoods in Mazandaran bear the name "Gorji" (i.e. Georgian) in them, although most of the Georgians are already assimilated into the mainstream Mazanderanis. The history of Georgian settlement is described by Eskandar Beyg Monshi, the author of the 17th century Tarikh-e Alam-Ara-ye Abbasi, in addition many foreigners e.g. Chardin, and Della Valle, have written about their encounters with the Georgian, Circassian and Armenian Mazanderanis.), 

Hazaras (Apparenly their ancestors were Persian speakers, Kushans, & Mongols. Genetically they are between east Asia & the Middle East/Caucasus/European clusters. Predominates female & male Mongol ancestry though. But them & even their name are considered to come from Khazar Israelites. They practice Twelver Shiism.),

Yaghnobis (They are descendents of Sogdians & practice Islam with the rests of their native religion, Zoroastrian probably. Part of their genes are Near Eastearn), 

Tats (or Tatis. They believe to come from Israelites taken captive by the Assyrians & displaced to the cities of the Medes, whom spoke a dialect of Old Persian),

Lari (or Larestani. They live in southern Iran & have migrated further south in great numbers to the small Arab countries of the Persian gulf. They are known as Hola [Huwala in Bahrain] & are trading business people that established in the Arabic states of the gulf in the 1800s.), 

Qizilbash (or Kizilbash. They were originally created as Shia military coalition of Azeri tribes, but also Turkmens, Tajiks [including as such Talish, Lurs, Kurds & other tribes] & others... They have been suggested to have been related in the past to secret societies. The word Kizilbash means "Crimson/Red Hed[ded]", Red Beards or Red Hats. They were great warriors. For example, 7,000 Turkmen Kizilbash from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq & Anatolia defeated an army of 30,000. In Afghanistan they play an important political role & are Persian speakers. The Qizilbash are related to Tajiks & Parsiwans in this country. Nowadays Alevi & Bektashi [Both considered practicioners of hidden Judaism by some] religious & ethnic minorities in Turkey, are called pejoratively Qizilbash because they are all practicioners of different Shia sects whereas the Ottomans were Sunnites. I say pejoratively because they had in common with Bektashis & Alevis an enmity against the Sunni Ottomans & from the Sunni Ottomans. The latter two ethno-religious groups still have enmity with & from the heir of the Ottoman government, the Turkish government. The Shiite Twelvers from Syria & Lebanon were also called Qizilbash in  the 1800s by the Ottoman authorities insspite their lack of relation with the real Qizilbash. The adoption of a dual religious identity, known as taqiyya, still occurs today. Obtaining accurate population figures for the Shia Qizilbash in Afghanistan and Pakistan is virtually impossible because they claim to be Sunni, Tajik, Farsiwan, or Pashtun, or they identify themselves according to their place of origin in India. Population estimates for Afghanistan range from 30,000 to 200,000, but some suggest the figure is closer to one million. The story is similar in Pakistan. Few influential Qizilbash live in Iran, their original home. The Qizilbash are no longer considered a warrior class, but they are still thought to be within the upper strata of power and among the intelligentsia. They also tend to be predominantly urban professionals—doctors, teachers, engineers, and lawyers. Because of physical dispersal and taqiyya, they are no longer a cohesive group; nevertheless, they have maintained their strong ethnic pride. They played a prominent role in the expansion of the Durrani [Pashtun] empire [did they help the Durrani empire because the kizilbash were felloew Israselites of the Pashtun Durranis?]. In Afghanistan they became administrators, clerks, traders & artisans. Eventually they were forced to become sunnis. The refusers were forced to wear red turbans. Persecution made them feign they were Sunnis, practicing Shiism secretly.),

Talish (or Talesh. They have been deeply influenced by the Azeris as seen in their clothes & food. Talish have important Near Eastern affinities & lesser ones with Indo-Iranians.), 

Lurs (Do they have any relation with the Scandinavian musical instrument called Lur? Two-Housers consider British, Scandinavians & other western Europeans to be descendents of Iranian speaking Israelites after all. Swabi, for example, is a Pashtun clan & it was a Germanic tribe. The name German is considered to come from the toponym Kerman found in current Iran. It's interesting that the Lurs were not distinguishible from the Kurds 1,000 years ago & Kurds are regarded as Lost Israelites, so Lurs should be Lost Israelites too. Moreover, two of five Kurdish dynasties were Lurish. The truth is Lurs & Laks are still usually regarded as Kurds. Boyer, one of their dwelling provinces is also a western European name. As in Kurd society, Lur women have much more freedom than women of neighboring ethnicities. Most Lurs are Shiites, but some are Yaresans, (Kaka'i or Ahl-e-Haqqs), a religion considered by some as forms of hidden Israelism),

Laks (They are considered to be Kurdish. Laks live in Lorestan, Iran, & are often confused with Lurs, after all both ethnic groups are considered to be Kurds. The Zand dynasty that ruled parts of southwest Iran had Laki origin. A Congolean-South Sudanese ethnicity is named Zande or Azande, very similar to Zand. Any relation or simple coincidence? Zand Lakis were skilled warriors & that's why they established a dynasty. They were originally in Lakestan, but expanded to areas of Iran like Kermanshah, Lorestan & Ilam. It's obvious that the name Ilam is an evolved form of the Elam of ancient Mesopotamia & environs.

The Laks from Dagestan, Russia, are different people from the Laks of Iran & speak a different language from the Caucasian group, a completely different linguistic group. Nevertheless they are not extremely far away from the Iranian Laks geographically & in the past they might have been together & the same people, but the Mesopotamian empires split them up & they ended up speaking different languages & being considered different people. Kumukh [ancient Gumukh], in Dagestan's high lands, was their capital & fortress-city of their independent state of Lakia. Has the Adat costumary law anything to do with the Israelite Torah? As ancient Israael marriages were arranged by relatives [in Israel were specifically the parents] & the spouses were usually chosen within their clan, so they were endogamic pretty much. Bride-price persists in some degree among the Laks. They made feudalism coexist with a more democratic system.     

The description of the coat of arms of Kulinskiy District reads: "In the gold field stands a green peaked mountain that has a gold chain with four clusters of pendants; above the chain mountain is silver and on a mountain top — an eagle, black, with golden eyes, beak and feet, facing to the right and turning with outstretched wings". Green mountain with silver snow-capped peaks corresponds to the lands of Kulinsky district. Eagle symbolizes freedom and spiritual uplift of Laks. Gold chain is the national decoration. Golden field symbolizes the space filled with sunlight. The flag and the coat of arms of the Lakskiy District is of blue color which depicts the fortress, two daggers, an eagle and the crown.

Because the traditional Lak lands are mountainous and very dry, agriculture was of secondary importance in the traditional economy. In the mountainous regions, the economy was dominated by the raising of sheep and goats, and also some horses, cattle, and mules. Meat and milk products were major components of the Lak diet, although they also grew barley, peas, wheat and some potatoes. Most animal husbandry was the responsibility of males, whereas agriculture was mostly that of women. The Lak territory had no forests, and there was a chronic shortage of wood for building and fuel. Wheat and fruits and vegetables were grown in the lower areas, especially in the new Lak areas in northern Daghestan.

The practice of transhumant sheepherding required that for several months each year, males moved to the lowlands to pasture their animals. Here they came into contact with different Daghestani peoples. Other Daghestani mountaineers grazed their sheep along with those of the Laks in the lands of the Kumyks. This is why most Lak males were multilingual.