Armenian’s “The Bloody Khana Sor Campaign”  – The Massacre of the Kurdish Mazrykan Tribe

Armenian’s “The Bloody Khana Sor Campaign”  – The Massacre of the Kurdish Mazrykan Tribe



Latif Mammad

  1. Kurds, as a rule, war (campsite for tents, camp) are picking closer to water sources, on the hills at the foot of mountains, ravines, to protect themselves from cold winds and at the same time to protect themselves from large streams suddenly formed after rain (water avalanche and mudflows). They also try to turn the con (tents) in such way to forme a natural hedge in the shape of a horseshoe, so inside sheep’s shelters are protected from wolves, thieves, and also from uncontrolled care of the hungry flocks at night.
  1. Night comes quickly in the mountains and if there is no moonlight, it is impossible even to see your own hand. So the milkings, food intake and simple deeds of the nomadic life the Kurds of the Mazrykan tribe tried to complete before dark. After that, gathered in separate groups, the old men, men and women peacefully talk around the campfire, the youths hang out with dances and songs, the children, having lowered their feet in the still warm tandoor, talk about their own things, secretly listen to adult conversations or listen to stories with bated breath… Part of tired  people is going to bed early to get up in the morning for their urgent business… Young women on the sidelines are feeding babies…
  1. According to Armenian sources, on July 24, 1897, after taking a solemn oath, a group of 253 Fedayeens[1], mostly from the Armenians of Transcaucasia, crossed the Iranian-Turkish border and went to the Khana Sor valley, where the Kurdish Mazrykan tribe was located.
  1. The ideological inspirer and one of the organizers of the Khana Sor campaign in 1897 to exterminate the Kurdish Mazrykan tribe was Ter-Hovhannisyan Nikoghayos (Nicol Duman), a native of v. Gshlag and a resident of the village of Khachen from Northern Azerbaijan. Sarkis Megrebian (Vardan) was appointed commander, his deputy Argutyan, and Duman and Christophor Ohanian took part in the campaign as squad leaders (Ohanian was also a group doctor). The spiritual leader of the crusade was the priest Father Ter-Grigor (Grigor Ter-Avagyan) from the village Artabuynk, Zangezur [2].
  1. The absolute majority of the participants in the Armenian detachment were Armenians from Transcaucasia – Akhalkalaki, Akhaltsikhe, Erivan and Elizavetopol provinces.
  1. “Armenians attacked Kurds unexpectedly …” [3].
  1. Surrounding the camp from three sides of the outside of “horseshoe”, Armenians began to shoot at all moving targets … In the pitch darkness it is impossible to identify who the teenager is, who is the old man, who is the man, who is the woman, especially many Kurdish women are dressed in “derpi” (unique wide trousers) and “Women in their clothes are not much different from men, and in battles they quite often follow them; and sometimes, led the troops “[4]. The Armenians first shot at the silhouettes of people sitting by the fire, cigarette lights, and after the outbreak of panic, at all the goals lurking around the camp and then at random directions of the voice and screaming. …

Armenian fighters – participants of the bloody campaign

  1. Armenians were armed with the latest types of rapid-fire weapons, well equipped with ammunition. Although the Kurds were able to respond immediately, but armed with pistols and a small amount of the old type guns for close fighting and with a small number of cartridges they could not withstand for a long time. “This battle lasted for 12 hours, and by the morning of July 25 the Kurds were completely destroyed [5]” …
  1. The sound is heard far away In the mountains and when other tribes arrived, it was too late. There was no one to save… This tribe is no longer on the lists of Kurdish tribes. Etem Xemgin also writes about this and claims that actually no one survived from the tribe [6].

What military-political expediency dictated the destruction of almost 6,000 [8] Kurds by Armenians, including infants and the elderly?

Armenian sources claim that the Khana Sor campaign was a punitive expedition to exterminate the Kurdish Merzik tribe, because:

  1. Sharif-bek lived with his Mazrykan tribe (constituting at the same time his Hamidiye corps) in the Khana Sor valley near the Turkish-Persian border. He actively interfered with the supply of weapons from Persia to Turkey and in 1895 destroyed the Dashnak fighting groups of Avetisyan, Peto and Martik. [9]
  1. The goal was to hit the Mazrykan nomadic tribe, which under the leadership of Sharif Bek, played a decisive role in the destruction of the Armenian fighting groups participating in the Van resistance [10].
  1. Sharif-bek detachments regularly engaged in battle with Armenian fedayeens, killed civilians [11].
  1. The campaign was a punishment operation for the Kurdish leader Sharif-bek, the commander of the irregular Turkish cavalry Hamidiye, in 1895 with his squad he destroyed the partisan Dashnak groups [12].

Until the second half of the 19th century the Khana Sor valley belonged to the Salmast region of Persia, located between the area of Chehrik and Deyrik and was the place of the sardsir (summer pasture) of the Kurdish Lek tribe[13].

In the years 1849-1850 Khana Sor was taken from Persia by the Ottoman Empire. Abdul-Hadi, the Kurdish Albac leader (mudir), built four villages there and settled down there people, persian subjects, from another Kurdish tribal union Shikkyakov (Shekkaki), among five thousand families [14].

The Kurdish Mazrykan (Mezrikan) tribe headed by Omar-Aga from the Avdoi clan (leaders of the Shikkyak (Shekkaki) tibe union a from this clan) of the Shikkyakov tribe with the permission from the Turkish authorities settled in Albac after they occupied the Kotur valley of the Khoy district in about 1840, ten years before these events [15]. Up to the end of the 19th century, people of this clan “lived in the Bashkale area” [16]. The Kurdish historian Etem Xemgin in his book indicates that the Mazrykan tribe is quite numerous and by the time of their mass destruction by Armenians lived in 800 tents [17] (250 tents at the time of the attack indicate by Armenian sources [18]). If you take an average of 7 people in each tent, the number of Kurds of the Mazrykan tribe was at least 5,600…

Thus, the Kurdish Mazrykan tribe belonged to the Kurdish Shekkyaks tribal union, lived mostly in Iran, and some – within the Ottoman area.

Currently, among the clans of the Shekkaki tribe [7] – Avdoy, Badinan, Bhutan, Gavok, Gourek, Delan, Kardar, Kirghi, Mamedi, Mandolek, Nisan, Pachik, Fanak, Khaluf, Henare and Sheran – only Mazrykan tribe  completely destroyed by Armenians is missing.

The Kurdish tribes Mikori, Takori, Şemsiki, Milan and Şikevft from the Kurdish  Shikkak (Shekkak) tribal union, which also included the Mazryk tribe destroyed by Armenians, give one regiment each, and it’s not surprising that then that 5 regiments cruelly revenged the Armenians for their blood of their tribesmen.


Hamidiye Cavalry List [19]


There is no Mazryk tribe in this list…



During of the Ottoman-Russian and Ottoman-Persian Wars from 1801 to 1900 these regiments took part in the wars, but they had no relation to the Armenians and were created not against the Armenians. The empire was falling apart and it needed military units. The Kurds did not go to the regular troops, refused to recruit, rebelled and for this reason the Turkish government was forced to create Hamidiyah regiments to engage Kurds to defend their territorial integrity.

Before the bloody campaign, the Armenians as a whole had quite friendly relations with the Kurds, including the Shekkyak tribe. According to the Armenian sources, “The well-known Armenian philologist Stepan Malkhasyan writes that in the early 80s a number of Armenian political figures, going from Transcaucasia to Turkey,privately negotiated with a Kurd named Simco Bey, who promised to raise Kurds to help the Armenians to fight against the Turks”[20]. Simko was the leader of the Shekkyak tribes union and in fact was the absolute master of the territories on the Iranian-Turkish border and behaved like an independent ruler. This testifies in favor of the fact that, prior to the tragic events of 1897, the Kurdish Shekkyak tribe, including the Mazrykans, did not show any hostile relations towards the Armenians.

The Kurdish sources also testify abot good Armenian-Kurdish relations (where, thanks to the Armenian parties and the foreign Armenian diaspora, the Armenian-Kurdish relations were not destroyed). Here are a few examples: “In 1894, Yagub Raghib Pasha of Besni, the leader of the Kurdish Rishvan tribe, took the necessary measures for the safety of the Armenians living in Malatya, Besni and Adiyaman (Semsur). He even killed 16 people from another Kurdish tribe of Huweidi, who tried to attack his protégés. Another leader of the Kurdish Direjan tribe Shatyre Mustafa also made a lot of efforts to protect the Armenians from pogroms. Despite of the fact that three years passed from these events and propaganda of the necessity of rapprochement between Armenians and Kurds was carried out, on July 25, 1897, in the area of Khana Sor all members of Kurdish Mazryk tribe living in 800 tents were killed by Armenian forces, who asserted that this tribe were responsible for the death of several fedayeens, and not one Kurd was not saved from this slaughter”[21].

The true reasons for the massacre of Kurds from the Mazrykan tribe in the Khana Sor Valley

At the end of the XIX century the Dashnak party (committee in Tabriz) in Iran, where bases to transport people and weapons to the Armenian-populated zones of Turkey were established, was operating very actively. In Iran, on the border with Turkey, were set up groups to move weapons through Khoi, Salmast, and Maku. Most of the groups included Armenians from the Transcaucasia, some of them served as non-commissioned officers in the Russian cavalry in the past and were experienced professionals,expert in different types of weapons. After leaving the service, they moved to Iran and, acting under cover as teachers, priests, doctors, etc., “took up an urgently important task of supplying the fedayeens with weapons.” [22] Later, these transit points were established in Kars, Yerevan and Surmalu. From 1895, Armenian committees and groups also acted on the territory of the Ottoman Empire and were concentrated in Trabzon, Erzrum, Van, Mush, Bitlis, Khnus, and other areas.

Groups were created, equipped, received weapons and ammunition at the expense of the Armenian national parties. Their main task was to deliver weapons and organize combat groups to commit armed attacks against the Kurds and Turks, to organize terrorist acts. Some of the activists brought various parts and equipments for making weapons to weapons workshops in Iran. Both, the Turks and the Russian border authorities, hindered to dispatch groups with weapons and ammunition to Turkey from the Transcaucasus and from Iran [23]. In addition, the frequent armed attacks of Armenians against the Kurds gradually replaced the quite friendly relations between the two peoples with hostile ones, and the Kurds became suspicious of any armed Armenian. As a result, the expeditions undertaken by Armenians often failed.

The Mazrykan Kurds lived on the Armenian gun traffic and their presence interfered the flow of weapons from Persia to Turkey. This is the reason why the question of the destruction of the Kurdish Mazrykan tribe, which prevented the transfer of weapons, became a matter of fact. And most importantly, according to Nicol Duman, one of the three members of the Dashnak Committee in Tabriz, who put forward the idea of punishing Sharif-bek and his tribe, this act, in his thought, should have a double meaning: to discourage Kurdish leaders from fighting with Armenians and serve to promote reform in Armenia [24]. On the other hand, the Armenian movement needed an “inspiring example”, the victim of which became the Kurdish Mazrykan tribe.

According to Armenian sources, “the moral significance of the campaign was enormous, demonstrating the readiness and ability of Armenians to successfully defend their interests. The Khanasor campaign was sung in the songs and became a symbol of the struggle of the Armenian Fedayeens” [25]. According to the same Armenian sources, some fedayeen operations received a broad response, the boldest of which was the Khana Sor campaign – one of the glorious pages in the history of the Armenian national liberation struggle.

In the opinion of the Armenians, the “Khana Sor campaign” was an unprecedented phenomenon for the Armenian national movement of the 19th century, which was distinguished by lower losses in case of large-scale operation. He had a deterrent impact on the nomadic tribes living in the Iranian-Turkish border area”[26].

But, according to sources, the main goal of the campaign was not to punish allegedly guilty  members of the Kurdish tribe of killing fedayeens, but to restore the weapon transfer to Turkey on the Persian-Turkish border. This is openly written with reference to Armenian sources: And the most important thing is “The success of the Khana Sor campaign led to the resumption of weapon transportation to Western Armenia on the Persian-Turkish border” [27].

These are the reasons why in one night were killed about 6,000 innocent Kurds, victims of the Armenian crazy idea about the mythical “Great Armenia from sea to sea”. And the glorified “heroism” of the Armenian fighters is a mass extermination of innocent people, whose only fault was that their presence prevented weapons transportation from the Armenians from Iran to Turkey, sent for the ethnic cleansing of the same Kurds…

In the same way, in 1918, all the inhabitants of the Kurdish village Sorkuly (a large village – hundreds of houses) were exterminated. At night, the Armenian fedayeens invaded there and exterminated everyone – including the elderly, women and children, and the village itself was burned to the ground… (

Even Armenian apologist Mrs. Khomizuri G. P. (Armenian citizen, husband is Armenian) is forced to admit that “I’m not at all going to idealize Armenians … Chalhushyan (1919, p. 72) wrote: “The horrors  Armenians lived through, were really shook them up… as chance offers, they also responded the Turks with atrocities. There were such cases. But they are insignificant” Yes, there were such cases. But they were rare – they were not the System, and certainly not the genocide of the Turks” [28].

Sometimes, some Armenian intellectuals dare to admit the facts of the Armenian atrocities, what immediately has refuted by Armenian society. Here is a characteristic letter from a teacher Vazgen Kazaryan to a well-known Armenian scholar – academician, former chairman of the Radio Television Committee of the Armenian SSR, former First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Armenia Stepan Poghosyan: “Dear Stepan Poghosyan! … From your article it follows that the Khana Sor campaign was not such (a glorious deed. – AM), how did it remain in the memory of the Armenian people? What are you trying to say? … You want to say: “Armenians, if you still thought that the Armenian fedayeens (hajduks) did not shoot at women and children, then you were mistaken. They shot! And how they shot!” Do you want to say this? Do you want to belittle the bright image of our fedayeens in the eyes of the people? .. ”(Newspaper” Հայ Արիներ “(“Armenian Aryans “, No. 63, 64, October, 2005).

For more than a century and a half, the Armenian side has accused the Kurds of their direct participation and complicity to Turkey in the mass destruction of the Armenians, while presenting Armenians as innocent victims … On the other hand, the same Armenian sources in unison presented  the victims of the “Khana Sor campaign” – total destruction of the Kurdish Marzikan tribe with up to 6 thousand people – as one of the greatest heroic battles in the history of the Armenian people. At the same time, the Armenian side is still being silenced, how much did the “heroism” cost to the Armenian people as a result of the Kurdish response?

Which begs the question: What about a cause and a consequence?

Answering this question, the Vice-Consul of Russia in Van and Erzerum Mayevsky Vladimir Feofilovich directly blames the Armenian side of the Armenian-Kurdish  confrontation:

“The Kurdish anti-Armenian movement of 1895-1896, during which the latter showed their brutal inclinations, cannot be viewed from only one, so to speak, outer side.  it should be remembered that if a Muslim considers himself obliged to pay a Muslim with blood for the death of his murdered relative, then what should be the revenge of the Kurds and Muslims, in general, for the bloody sacrifices caused by restless Christians. And then, not only were they massacred, but they mocked these victims, disfiguring their bodies in the most outrageous way. The inevitable consequence of such desecration and importunate activity of Armenian agitators was a far outweigh revenge. According to the description of personal observations, I can formulate my own opinion about the relations of the Kurds to the Armenians in the situation of 1895 – in some regions of Turkey the Armenians and the Kurds lived quite amicably. At the end of 1895 the situation changed dramatically. The works of the Armenian leaders in the field of irritation of Muslims against Armenians resulted in the Kurdish anti-Armenian movement, which I have already mentioned many times on the previous pages. Beginning in 1897, where the Armenians do not inflame the Kurds, the both nations cohabitation gradually got back to normal. But in the place, where the anarchic activity of the Armenian leaders continues, the malicious mood of the Kurds does not subside, threatening with new complications. Finally, at present, it is possible to find some new data pointing to the willingness of the Armenian leaders to attract to their side at least a certain part of the Kurds, this is a completely new way of their activities, which has not yet been outlined” [29].

It is necessary that not only the Kurds, but also the Armenians themselves knew and studied these impartial facts of history, then they will differently evaluate their own history and Armenian-Kurdish relations at the present stage.

Our goal is not to show that Armenians are bad … No. Armenians and Kurds continue to work closely together, which means that we need to find a common language. But for this, first of all, it is necessary to objectively evaluate and draw appropriate conclusions from the heritage of the historical past…


[1] Khana Sor campaign.

[2] Armen Karapetyan. With love to a small fatherland.

[3] National liberation struggle. Sasun self-defense.

[4] Relocation of the Russian Department of the International Demarcation Commission from Constantinople to Baghdad. (From the M. A. Gamazov’s travel notes). XLIV. Travel Journal of E. I. Chirikov, Russian Commissioner-Mediator for Turkish-Persian Delimitation 1849-1852. // Notes of the Caucasian Department of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society. Book 9. SPb. 1875.

[5] National liberation struggle. Sasun self-defense.

[6] Etem Xemgin. Osmanli-Safevi Doneminde Kurdistan tarihi. Cilt III. SS. 231-256. Istambul, 1997 (in Turkish). (Etem Hamgin. History of Kurdistan in the era of the Osman Safavids. Volume 3, p. 246. Istanbul, 1997). The Armenian Question and the Kurdish People. option = com_content & task = view & id = 202 & Itemid = 1

[7] Modern Iran. Handbook.C. 631. M., 1957.

[8] Such a brutal attitude of Armenians towards defenseless people – in modern history, Armeniansshowed in Khojaly (population up to 6300 in 1991) on the night of February 25-26, 1992

[9] Khana Sor campaign.

[10] A bayonet and a scalpel. About one of the commanders of the Khana Sor detachment, included in the History of Armenia. Vigen Ohanyan, retired colonel. The newspaper “Noah’s Ark.”

[11] Artsakhs in the liberation movement of Western Armenia in the 19-20th century

[12] Vardan Hanasori.

[13] Travel Journal of E. I. Chirikov, Russian Commissioner-Mediator for Turkish-Persian Delimitation 1849-1852. // Notes of the Caucasian Department of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society. Book 9. P. 580. SPb. 1875.

[14] Travel Journal of E. I. Chirikov, Russian Commissioner-Mediator for Turkish-Persian Delimitation 1849-1852. // Notes of the Caucasian Department of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society. Book 9. APP ONE. The diary of M. A. Gamazov, conducted during the march, together with the Persian Commission, from Hammam-and-Ali to Sheikh-Ibrahim, in May 1852. P. 583.SPb. 1875.

[15] Ibid., p. 588.

[16] Menteshashvili A.M. Kurds. Essays on socio-economic relations, culture and life. P. 91. M., 1984.

[17] Etem Xemgin, ind. ess., p.246.

[18] A bayonet and a scalpel. About one of the commanders of the Khana Sor detachment, included in the History of Armenia. Vigen Ohanyan, retired colonel. The newspaper “Noah’s Ark.”

[19] Avyarov, Osmanlı – Rus ve İran Savaşlar’ında Kürtler 1801 – 1900, SİPAN, Ankara, 1995, ISBN 975-59829-1-0. Hamidiye Hafif Süvari Alayları listesiüvari_Alayları_listesi. [

[20] Mirzoyan A. R. From the history of Kurdish-Armenian relations in the early 20th century in Turkey. Paris, November 20, 1919 Magazine Friendship (DOSTANI). N. 4. P. 25 – 29. Moscow, 1998.

[21] Etem Xemgin, ind. ess., p.246.

[22] Ashot Melkonyan. Javakhians in the for Yerkir.

[23] Armenian Hajduk movement.



[26] A bayonet and a scalpel. About one of the commanders of the Khana Sor detachment, included in the History of Armenia. Vigen Ohanyan, retired colonel. The newspaper “Noah’s Ark.”

[27] Khomizuri G.P. Social upheavals in the fate of nations (on the example of Armenia). P. 47. M., 1997.

[28] Ibid., p. 47.

[29] Notes of the Consul General of Russia in Erzerum and Van General Mayevsky. Printing house of the Headquarters of the Caucasian Military District. G. Tiflis. 1912.

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