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Turning the Heretics into Loyal Muslim Subjects: Imperial Anxieties, the Politics of Religious Conversion, and the Yezidis in the Hamidian Era*
Edip Glbas
History Department, Simon Fraser University

Introduction

n 1795 the Ottoman sultan was informed by the governor of Baghdad that seventy-four Yezidi bandits were killed in a punitive expedition and the cut-off heads of those killed Yezidis were sent to Istanbul to be exhibited at the Imperial Gate of the Topkap Palace, which was a traditional Ottoman political spectacle designed to demonstrate the absolute power of the sultan by making an example of alleged rebels and bandits.1 There is no further evidence that those cut-off heads were in fact brought to the capital city and exhibited at the gate. What we know is that, while the reason for this mass killing was political, i.e. banditry, rather than religious, the justication for the bloodshed of a group of Yezidis was made by referring to their apostasy and heresy. In fact, as can be seen in many Ottoman archival documents dating back to the nineteenth century, the Yezidis, who have always stressed the uniqueness of their religion, were believed to be indels (kefere), more importantly, apostates (mrted), and

* An early version of this article was presented at the 2010 World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies convention (1924 July 2010, Barcelona, Spain). I owe thanks to our panel organizer and chair, Birgit Schaebler, co-organizer and co-panelist Necati Alkan, and to my other co-panelists Laila Prager and Sebastian Maisel. My heartfelt thanks go to igdem Akanyldz, whose help, comments and suggestions were indispensible. 1 Basbakanlk Osmanl Arsivi ([the Prime Ministry Ottoman Archives] hereafter BOA.) Hatt- Hmayun (hereafter HAT.) 83/3430, 9 L. 1209 (29 April 1795): Yezid eskyasnn [. . .] ekserini tume-i sir-i simsir idp yetmis drt neferinin rus- maktasn tahriratyla Dersaadete irsal itmis oldgna [. . .] ve zikr olunan rus- makta dahi pis-gah bab- hmaynlarnda galtide-i hk-i mezellet klnacag. In another case, local authorities were recommended to punish the Yezidis by bloodshed, except for the children and the elderly, if they were to insist on indelity and disobedience. See BOA. HAT. 2088, 29 Z. 1216 (2 May 1802).
2013 Hartford Seminary. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148 USA. DOI: 10.1111/j.1478-1913.2012.01422.x

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deviant (dalle) from Islam. They were also referred to as mlhid, meaning, among others, hidden godless.2 The fact that the Yezidis were regarded as mrted, or apostate, has a political implication: if one was a mrted, then it was not illicit to shed his/her blood according to Islamic law.3 However, beginning from the mid-nineteenth century, the term apostate (mrted) would no more be used for the Yezidis and other groups regarded by Ottoman rulers as deviant. Along with the changing attitude of the state towards the life and death of its subjects, and with the transformation of state-society relations in the Ottoman Empire during the Tanzimat period when the political distinction between the Muslim and the non-Muslim was ofcially abolished, the meaning of apostasy (irtida) changed on the political scale. This term along with others like mlhid, kefere and zndk left its place to the key terms of the Hamidian period such as frka-i dalle or frka-i batla, meaning heretics. In fact, for Hamidian rulers and religious scholars, the Yezidis were a heretic group who had deviated from Islam centuries ago, and become clueless devil worshippers, a claim which was central to the Ottoman representation of the Yezidis.4 The reason why the Hamidian regime named its project of reformulation of the Yezidi religious identity as the correction of the beliefs, or tashih-i akaid, lies in the fact that the Yezidi faith

See, for instance, BOA. HAT. 3430A, 9 L. 1209 (29 April 1795): . . . Yezid eskyalar mecbul olduklar kfr ve seraret ve maktr olduklar ilhad ve sekavet iktizasyla . . . ; and, BOA., HAT. 2088 29 Z. 1216 (2 May 1802): Kefere-i mersme kitab olmayub mrted ve mteannid olduklarndan mcerred . . . 3 However, the category of apostate and in what conditions it is necessary to punish the apostate to death are controversial issues even among fakihs, or fkh experts. What is signicant for our discussion is that Ottoman rulers and ulema did not choose mrted as a random term when referring to the Yezidis but emphasized their deviance and apostasy in order to legitimize the punishment of the Yezidis by reference to Islamic law. This also applies to the legitimation of the enslavement of Yezidi women and children. 4 See, for instance, BOA. Yldz Parakande Evrak Mabeyn Baskitabeti (hereafter Y.PRK.BSK.) 22/57, 9 Z. 1308 (16 July 1891): Yezidilere nasihat tesir etmeyecegi [. . .] anlaslmasna [. . .] mebni is bu frka-i dalle amide-i tarikatlerinin telkinatdan uzak ve efrad- Islamiye arasnda bulundurulub kendlerine adeta ehl-i snnet muamelesi edilmek . . . ; BOA. Sadaret Mektubi Kalemi Mhimme (hereafter A.MKT.MHM.) 723/4, 9 Z. 1311 (13 June 1894): Yezidi frka-i dallesi meyannda Melek-i Tavus yani dirilen seytan tarafndan tebligata memur- itikad olunan ve Kek Mirza nvan ifa klnan sahsn Musuldan menfasna . . . Widely known as devil worshippers, the Yezidis essentially worship one god that they believe to have created the whole universe, though their cosmogony is different than that of Islam and Christianity, and has quite a syncretic character containing Zarathushtrian roots. While Yezidism refers to a religious identity, the Yezidis are ethnically Kurdish, a small section of whom speaks Arabic, though. The majority of the Yezidi population is living in Iraq, housing the sacred place of the community. In addition, Armenia, Georgia, Syria, Iran and Germany have Yezidi minorities. In a footnote it is impossible to describe the religious, ethnic, geographical and social background of the Yezidis. For an introduction, see John Guest: Survival among the Kurds: A History of the Yezidis (London: Kegan Paul, 1993), and Philip G. Kreyenbroek, Yezidism: Its Background, Observances and Textual Tradition (Lewiston: Edwin Melle Press, 1995).

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was considered by Ottoman political elites to be incorrect and deviant from its true way. When a group of Yezidi leaders approached the Ottoman military authorities to suggest joining the Hamidiye Light Cavalries, the tribal militias created in 1890 by the Hamidian regime as irregular armed forces consisting of mainly powerful Kurdish tribes, the committee that was established in the Yldz Palace in order to discuss this appeal described the Yezidi belief as weak as the cobweb in their nal report. According to the committee members, the conscripted Yezidis would give up the deviant way if they fullled their military service together with Muslims in regular army.5 Given this underestimation of Yezidi faith, one can argue that the Hamidian authorities believed that the conversion of the Yezidis to Islam would smoothly yield result. In fact, in the early 1890s Hamidian authorities had launched a conversion campaign targeting what were called in ofcial circles heretic groups starting with the Yezidis, most of whom lived, actually still do, in Mosul in tribal organizations with a sixty to seventy thousand population at that time. In order to make the Yezidis return to the true way, as often cited in ofcial terms din-i mbin-i Islama rcular in, Hamidian rulers applied a series of methods and instruments ranging from advice and persuasion to coercion and violence, from religious propaganda and schooling to rewarding Yezidi leaders. This article is about the systematic efforts of the Hamidian regime to convert the Yezidi communities to Islam in the early 1890s. It analyzes the broader context, strategies, and instruments of the conversionary polices that characterized the state-Yezidi encounters in the late Ottoman Empire. By focusing on an interesting story of the attempt at reformulating the Yezidi identity, the present study also demonstrates the discourses and representations that the Ottoman state designed for the Yezidi tribes during the Hamidian era. The Hamidian regime sought to implement its conversion policies toward the Yezidis of Mosul by means of two special committees: the Advice and Persuasion Commission, or Heyet-i Tefhimiye, and the Reform Force, or Frka-i Islahiye, the latter of which was also aimed to make larger reforms such as a population census, the collection of tax debts, the conscription of deserters, and the sedentarization of several nomadic groups, all targeting the tribal populations of the provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra. While the Advice and Persuasion Commission, established in 1891, attempted to convert the Yezidis to Islam by advice at the beginning, its methods turned into being more violent as the Yezidis strongly rejected the idea of becoming Muslim. However, the Reform Force founded in 1892, which might also be translated as the Taming Force, intended to correct their beliefs through much more coercive and violent methods and instruments, which provoked a series of incidents in which hundreds of Yezidis were killed, tortured, and terrorized by the commanders and

BOA. Yldz Esas Evrak (hereafter Y.EE.) 139/15, 23 S. 1309 (23 March 1892).

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soldiers of this special taming force. Moreover, the sacred places and items of the community were plundered, conscated, and converted to a medrese, or an Islamic school. Although the Yezidis were forced by a group of Muslim Kurdish tribes in the neighborhood to convert to Islam at different times, the Ottoman state had never made an effort in this direction by the end of the nineteenth century. This point takes us to the political background of the late Ottoman attempts to enforce a Sunni orthodoxy among heterodox communities.6 Before moving to this striking and, from the perspective of the Yezidis, traumatic story, I contextualize the politics of religious conversion by associating it to the Hamidian strategies of rule and hegemony, and to the regimes seek for imperial loyalty based on Sunni Muslim identity in a period when the Ottoman state sought to (re)conquest its periphery and attempted to reorganize its political control in the eastern provinces. In other words, this project, designed to impose Sunni Islam as a common value, is explained here as part of the attempts to expand the imperial domination more effectively in a region where Ottoman rule was relatively weak and facing challenges from Kurdish and Arab tribes and Armenian nationalists. Drawing attention to the cultural and political distance between the regime and the community, I also argue that the Hamidian politics of conversion was formulated to make this distance governable and to create, in a metaphoric sense, a common reference point or vocabulary through which two parts could understand each other. It is also signicant to note that Ottoman authorities assumed and expected that the internalization of Sunni Islamic values would facilitate the desired process of the integration of the Yezidis to the imperial order, and make them conform to the image of loyal Muslim subjects of the empire. The conversion campaign against the Yezidis and other heterodox groups also reects the efforts of the Hamidian regime to transform uid,

The attitude of the Ottoman state toward religious conversion, voluntary or forced, was neither well-dened nor institutionally permanent. Although there was no ofcial policy of conversion that organized the state-non-Muslim relations in terms of confessional divisions, the Muslim ruling elite mostly accepted conversions to Islam willingly, promoted mass conversion to Islam as seen in the period of the empires expansion in the Balkans, made systematic efforts to Islamize newly conquered lands, and applied forced conversion policies within the context of devsirme system, or boy levy, and towards what are called heterodox communities in the late nineteenth century, an example of which the present study is concerned with. On conversion to Islam in the Ottoman Empire in different periods, see, for instance, Marc D. Baer, Honored by the Glory of Islam: Conversion and Conquest in Ottoman Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); Tijana Krstic, Contested Conversions to Islam: Narratives of Religious Change in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011); Anton Minkov, Conversion to Islam in the Balkans: Kisve Bahasi Petitions and Ottoman Social Life, 16701730 (Leiden: Brill, 2004); Selim Deringil, There is no Compulsion in Religion: on Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire: 18391856, Comparative Studies in Society and History 42, no. 3 ( Jul., 2000): 547575. Deringil has also analyzed the Hamidian conversion policies in the case of the Yezidis, Istavris, Nusayris, and Kizilbashs: The Well-Protected Domains: Ideology and the Legitimation of Power in the Ottoman Empire 18761909 (London: I. B. Tauris, 1999), 6892.
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communal, and ambiguous form of identities into a xed and ofcially promoted category, though all these projects of reformulating heterodox identities proved to be difcult, and ultimately remained unaccomplished. Lastly, I suggest that the conversion policies were directly inuenced by the factors such as what is referred to as the Armenian question, and the presence of missionary organizations, especially the American Protestant missions, in the eastern provinces. Though this study deals with a particular community, it is essentially centered on the policy, discourses and practices of the Hamidian regime itself. The Yezidi case is particularly illuminating about how this regime represented heterodox and tribal population groups, and what policies it envisaged and formulated to consolidate state power and authority over such groups. Furthermore, the Yezidi-Hamidian regime encounters, I believe, allow us to draw conclusions about a series of questions regarding imperial identities, policies toward heterodoxy and heterodox communities, imperial techniques of pacifying and subjugating savage populations, disputes over confessional and legal statuses, as well as institutional violence in the late Ottoman Empire. Below there is consistent reference to a particular community or a group of people, namely, Yezidis or Yezidi tribes, without making any distinction among them. One might justiably question whether or not the conversion and taming policy equally affected the Yezidi population as a whole. In other words, are the differences within and between the tribes, inequalities along the castes,7 kinship afnities, and gender irrelevant to the discussion? I believe that, particularly with respect to the conversion policy, every member of the Yezidi community who shared this identity one way or another was an almost equal subject of that state policy. More precisely, as will be mentioned below, the sub-identities, tribal status, or individual histories of, for instance, ve hundred Yezidis who were killed during the attacks of the Reform Force are irrelevant to our discussion since the Hamidian rulers problematized the entire Yezidi identity. In addition, internal struggles over political leadership and economic resources among the Yezidis, too, will not be a part of the story told in this article.

Contextualizing Conversion Policies: Nineteenth-Century State-Yezidi Encounters and the Hamidian Strategy of Rule in the Eastern Provinces
The subjection of the Yezidis to the most systematic and violent conversion campaign in the late 19th century was not a coincidence. The reasons, I suggest, partly lie behind a series of problems characterizing the interactions between the Ottoman

Appealing such foundational categories of traditional sociology as tribe and caste is questionable as well. Given that my aim is not, however, to discuss the social organization of Yezidi tribes, appealing to these terms should be seen as a matter of translation.

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government and Yezidi tribes from the early nineteenth century on. Attempts to make the Ottoman central administration effective in the region covering Cezire, Botan and Mosul, where the powerful Kurdish emirates dominated the local politics by the early 1830s, had led to split the previous order and create new elds of conict. In fact, a large military campaign conducted by the Ottoman government in this period in order to weaken the Kurdish emirates in the region had also aimed at the Yezidi tribes of Mosul.8 The attacks carried out rstly by Resid Pasha, and then by Muhammed Hafz Pasha in 1837 were intended to maintain the order and security threatened by the Sinjari Yezidis, and to collect their tax debts.9 The state efforts to penetrate into the Yezidi tribes persistently became more evident during the Tanzimat period. Three concrete items of the agenda both in general and in the Yezidi case were indispensable: establishing a permanent and efcient mechanism of tax collection, providing recruitment for the Ottoman armies based on universal male conscription, and maintaining public security. Indeed, the Yezidi tribes had come up against the state more than ever before due to these three demands. For instance, from the 1850s on, when a new and strict taxation regime was introduced in the whole empire, there is substantial evidence that the Yezidis tax debts posed a serious problem for the state. The researcher feels as if he periodically came across almost the same story: rst, the Yezidis who failed to pay their taxes attract the attention of local and central administration; then, government ofcials or military authorities are sent to settle the problem but as it was of no use, the total sum or mostly a big part of tax debts are collected as a result of an effective military operation. Tax accrued debts in the coming few years are collected by use of the same method, i.e use of force (muamele-i cebriyye).10 Right in the early 1870s, Midhat Pashas appointment to the Baghdad governorship carried a different meaning for the Mosuli Yezidis as the new energetic governor launched decisive and efcient implementations in tax collection, public security, and obligatory military recruitment. Midhat Pasha was criticizing the Ottoman administrators method to collect the Yezidi tax debts, just as in the case of many other tribes, by a

For Ottoman military expeditions against major Kurdish emirates see, among many others, David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds (London: I.B. Tauris, 1996), pp. 4147. 9 See, for instance, BOA. HAT. 22332A, 13 Ra. 1253 (17 June 1837); BOA. HAT. 22378, 28 N. 1252 (6 January 1837); BOA. HAT. 22350F, 21 C. 1853 (22 September 1837) and BOA. HAT. 22350, 18 C. 1853 (19 September 1837). See also, Frederick Forbes, A Visit to the Sinjar Hills in 1838, with Some Account of the Sect of Yezidis, and of Various Places in the Mesopotamian Desert, between the Rivers Tigris and Khabur. Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, vol. 9 (1839): 409430. 10 For a few examples, see BOA. A. MKT. MHM. 757/21, 18 Za. 1269 (23 August 1853); BOA. MVL. 263/1, 5 M. 1270 (8 October 1853); BOA. A.MKT.MVL. 82/95, 17 Ra. 1273 (15 November 1856); BOA. A.MKT.UM. 396/1, 19 B. 1276 (11 February 1860); BOA. A.MKT.MHM. 224/86, 28 Z. 1277 (7 July 1861). See also, Edip Glbas, The Yezidis and the Ottoman State: Modern Power, Military Conscription, and Conversion Policies (MA Thesis, Bogazii University, 2008), 4252.

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sudden raid, appropriation of their animals and goods both for being ineffective and turning the Yezidis against the state.11 Among the actions that the Pasha tried to carry out during his relatively short term of ofce were regularly censuses, sedentarizing mountainous tribes, keeping an eye on the Yezidis by the help of a permanent administrative and military unit, and designating a tribe leader as the paramount chief who was responsible for collecting taxes and maintaining the order and peace. Though these new regulations and practices did not ensure a total control of the Yezidis, they formed the episodes of a process in which the Yezidis encountered a transformation that might be called the Ottoman modernization. Obligatory military service that was put on the agenda from the mid-1840s on was another issue that characterized the state-Yezidis encounters not only in the Tanzimat period but also until the end of the empire, even in the Republican Turkey. The strong reluctance and resistance displayed by the Yezidis to compulsory military service made it a long-standing problem and caused serious conicts between the government and the community throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. When the Yezidis rst encountered the phenomenon of universal military conscription, they claimed that they were not obliged to be recruited as an external sect just like Christians and Jews, and then tried to justify that their religious beliefs, taboos and rituals were not t for military service.12 The community that was never recognized by the Ottoman government as a separate religious group would be able to obtain exemption at certain times but each time when a new law of recruitment was introduced, their exemption would become controversial, and new bargains would be negotiated between the community and the government.13 Although it is possible to argue that many tribes were reluctant to be recruited, the Yezidis long-term resistance carried specic meanings for the Ottoman administration, especially for the Hamidian regime, which regarded

For the report of Midhat Pasha, see BOA, I.DAH. 41492, 25 R. 1286 (4 August 1869), folio 3. Yezidis were not the only community that resisted compulsory military service by referring to religious tenets and taboos. One of the nearest examples comes from imperial Russia, where the Molokans and Dukhobors in the South Caucasus persistently refused and evaded conscription as, they argued, the demands of military service contradicted their religious commandment of you shall not kill [anyone]. This was a reection of their pacist religious faith and of their opposition to the tsarist colonization. They also resisted conscription because of, among other reasons, the prohibitions concerning daily religious practices, and also because army cuisine compelled them to eat foods forbidden by their religion. These briey mentioned taboos, complaints, and justications perfectly coincide with those of the Yezidis, who repeatedly explained why they avoided military service using similar justications. For the Molokans and Dukhobors refusal of conscription, see Nicholas B. Breyfogle, Heretics and Colonizers: Forging Russias Empire in the South Caucasus (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006), 217, 238, and 299300. 13 See Glbas, The Yezidis and the Ottoman State, pp. 5369. On the issue of Yezidi conscription in colonial Iraq, see Nelida Fuccaro, Ethnicity, State Formation, and Conscription in Postcolonial Iraq: The Case of the Yazidi Kurds of Jabal Sinjar, International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 29, no. 4 (1997): 59580.
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military service as a way of disciplining and mixing up heretic groups with the Muslim population.14 As mentioned above, the Ottoman government never recognized the Yezidis as a separate religion or sect different than Islam. In this regard, the Ottoman ofcial discourse on the Yezidi faith should be thought within the context of the ideological relation of the Ottoman state as a Sunni rule to what are often cited as heterodox communities such as Alevis, Nusayris, Zeydis, Kalenderis, and Druzes.15 What makes the Yezidi example different is that from the beginning the community dened Yezidism as a religion different than Islam or any Islamic sect. While the Yezidis demanded at different times to be ofcially recognized, the Ottoman state refused to acknowledge them as a millet, a recognized and protected confessional community having particular political and legal rights under an Islamic rule. In accordance with this denial, in almost all population censuses and registers the Yezidis were registered as Muslims.16 So far it has been emphasized that the encounters between the Ottoman state and the Yezidis were always shaped by a series of problems and conicts, most of which originated from empire-wide changes in governing practices and from the Yezidi responses to these changes. I have also implied that internal state-building process transformed the dynamics of the relation of the Yezidi community with the state. The overall picture also tells us about the ideological and political distance between the Yezidis and the state. The ideological dimension of the distance was dened by

For instance, this question is so central to the history of the community that Mustafa Nuri Pasha, the Mosul Governor between 19021905, who, among the other Ottoman authors, wrote the most important book on the Yezidis that has been ascertained so far, aimed to write it in order to explain, exactly in his own words, why the Yezidis remained so distant from military service, see Mustafa Nuri Pasa, Abede-i Iblis: Yezidi Taifesinin Itikadat, Adat, Evsaf (Istanbul: Matbaa-i Itihad, 1328 [1909]). This issue occupied such a place in the history of the Yezidis that they for the rst time declared their religious beliefs and rules to the outer world in a written form via the petition they wrote to the Ottoman government in 1872 in order to be granted exemption. It is so impressive and unusual that the community that was blamed for worshipping the devil put them in writing although they had rules and traditions such as concealing their beliefs from the outer world. For this petition, see Isya Joseph, Devil Worship: The Sacred Books and Traditions of the Yezidiz (Boston: R. G. Badger, 1919), 7782; Guest, A History of the Yezidis, p. 122123; Nuri Pasa, Abede-i Iblis, p. 54; Glbas, The Ottoman State and the Yezidis, pp. 6669. 15 For heresy, heterodoxy, and syncretism in general and in the Ottoman Empire, see A. Yasar Ocak, Osmanl Toplumunda Zndklar ve Mlhidler, 15.17. Yzyllar (Istanbul: Tarih Vakf Yurt Yaynlar, 2003); Gilles Veinstein (ed.), Syncrtismes et Hrsies dans L Orient Seljoukide et Ottoman (XIVe-XVIIIe Sicles) (Paris: Peeters Publishers, 2005), and Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi, et al., (eds.), Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East (Leiden: Brill, 1997). 16 Furthermore, in 1906 the Council of Ministers rejected the proposal of the Yezidis to write Yezidi in the religion section of Ottoman identication cards (tezkire-i Osmanis). For the Council, this group was essentially Muslim and it would not be right to consider them ofcially as non-Muslims because of their evil beliefs (s-i akidelerinden dolay). It is really interesting that a state council had decided the real identity of a community. See BOA. MV. 113/161, 7 C. 1324 (29 July 1906).

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the Ottoman denial of Yezidism as a religion, while the political one was associated with the constant struggle over taxation, security, and military service. Exactly at this point, I strongly believe that the systematic conversion policy conducted by the Hamidian regime was closely related to the intention of the Ottoman administration to penetrate into such groups and make up the distance in question. Though this historical background reveals the source of the Hamidian regimes desire to tame the Yezidis, it does not explain the reasons for the conversion policy satisfactorily. Given that other heterodox communities were urged or forced by the Hamidian rule to convert, it is necessary to look at the characteristics of the regime as well as at the unique political and social dynamics of the Ottoman eastern provinces in the late nineteenth century. Before anything else, the state effort to reformulate the heretic beliefs, I believe, was a part of a Hamidian strategy of hegemony and a product of the intention to constitute the empire on an integrated basis. What I call the Hamidian strategy of hegemony was a response to a set of problems assumed to be threatening the empire. One pillar of this strategy was to concentrate imperial power around the sultan at the Yldz Palace, through the agency of trusted counselors, and to keep the Sublime Porte, the military, and the Young Turk opposition under a strict control. The second pillar was to obviate the separatist activities, especially, of Bulgarian, Macedonian and Armenian nationalists, and to eliminate the interventions of the European great powers in internal politics by the agency of these nationalisms. The third pillar of the Hamidian strategy of hegemony was to base the empire on Muslim unity and solidarity, by appealing to supra-national identities and sources of loyalty for the sake of imperial integrity.17 Selim Deringil has aptly argued that the Hamidian regime sought to create a reliable population by means of a systematic education/indoctrination and propaganda of Sunni

17 On the Hamidian politics of unity and what is often cited as Islamism in eastern and Arab provinces, see, for instance, Stephen Duguid, The Politics of Unity: Hamidian Policy in Eastern Anatolia, Middle Eastern Studies, no. 9 (1973): 139155; Kemal Karpat, The Politicization of Islam: Reconstructing Identity, State, Faith, and Community in the Late Ottoman State (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); Engin D. Akarl, Abdlhamid IIs Attempt to Integrate Arabs into the Ottoman System, in Palestine in the Late Ottoman Period: Political, Social, and Economic Transformation, ed. David Kushner (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986), 7489; Cezmi Eraslan, II. Abdlhamid ve Islm Birligi: Osmanl Devletinin Islm Siyaseti, 18561908 (Istanbul: tken, 1995). For a general assessment, see Benjamin Fortna, The Reign of Abdlhamid II, in The Cambridge History of Turkey vol. 4: Turkey in the Modern World, ed. Resat Kasaba (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 4752. It should be noted that the Hamidian regime was not alone in appealing to supra-national identities and sources of loyalties, nor was it the only regime that mobilized religious symbols in order to keep an empire together. As Dominic Lieven says, having a series of dilemmas in an age of growing nationalist and democratic ideologies, empires adopted various responses to these challenges such as Muslim unity, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy to legitimize their rules. Dominic Lieven, Empire: The Russian Empire and its Rivals, second edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 4951, 275281.

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Islam, which was regarded as an ideological defense line.18 While the Hamidian policy of integration targeted many Kurdish and Arabic tribes, the project of the correction of the beliefs was specically designed for heretic communities such as Shiites, Alevis, Nusayris, and Druzes, a project that was similar to missionary ambitions. It appears that the Hamidian regime believed a potential Sunni Yezidi community would adopt the political and social order desired by the regime, and their conversion to Islam could turn them into loyal and useful subjects. In other words, it was an attempt to close the cultural gap by way of religious conversion, and, therefore, to create an obedient or conformist Yezidi population, as conversion was supposed, but not proved, to be a rebirth or a process of cultural transformation and assimilation to the norm in a society where religion dened cultural, political, and social norms.19 To put it in a colonial analogy, through conversion, one of central colonial techniques, the colonizer targets the conquest and colonization of the mind and the soul so that the subjectivity of the colonized can be reconstituted. In addition, once the nineteenth-century Ottoman state discovered the category of population, as an object of the government in a Foucauldian sense, the central authorities became more interested in the confessional statutes, health, reproduction capacities, education, and mobilization of their subjects.20 Furthermore, it became more important to describe and classify subjects, and to redene the categories of normal and abnormal, orthodox and heterodox. In many respects, the Yezidis essentially were an indenable community whose loyalty was suspicious for the regime. Like all what are often referred to as heterodox communities, they were liminal characters in the sense that they were neither here nor there, neither Christian nor Muslim. Given that peripheral identities were generally often regarded as secondary, marginal, and threat to the political order, I interpret, conversion was intended to function as a normalizing

18 Deringil, The Well-Protected Domains, p. 68 and 9394, and idem From Ottoman to Turk: Self-Image and Social Engineering in Turkey, in The Ottomans, the Turks, and World Politics: Collected Studies (Istanbul: ISIS Press, 2000), 169. 19 Conversion as a matter of governance was on the agenda of various empires. The tsarist Russian Empire is a perfect epitome, which, as it expanded its power to religiously and ethnically diverse territories, pursued a passionate policy of conversion in order to spread Orthodox Christianity among non-Christian and heretic populations from the seventeenth century on. As a government policy, conversion in the Russian imperial context was intended to be a way of assimilating non-Christian or non-Orthodox subjects to the empire. See Robert P. Geraci and Michael Khodarkovsky (eds.), Of Religion and Empire: Missions, Conversion, and Tolerance in Tsarist Russia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001), especially Michael Khodarkovsky, Eugene Clay, Sergei Khan, and Robert Geracis chapters; and, Paul W. Werth, At the Margins of Orthodoxy: Mission, Governance, and Confessional Politics in Russias Volga-Kama Region, 18271905 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002). 20 See Michael Foucault, Govermentality in The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, eds. G. Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 87104, and, idem, Right of Death and Power over Life in The History of Sexuality: volume 1: an Introduction (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 138140.

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practice through which the abnormal or the heterodox is regulated and disciplined, though, as I have already mentioned above, the conversion to the norm or religious conformity does not necessarily contribute to the creation of loyal, good subjects. A report, for instance, which was written by Sleyman Hsn Pasha who was exiled by the sultan to Baghdad, explicitly revealed the close relationship between religious conversion, conformity, and political control. Offering a sort of strategic plan in his report, Sleyman Pasha pointed out that Ottoman rule was extremely weak in Iraq, and in addition to many other measures, suggested that a systematic propaganda, Islamic proselytization, be carried out to correct the beliefs of some deviant groups. The Pasha advised that Sunni Islam be proliferated among Shiites, in the rst place, and Kurdish and Arabic tribes, by the help of dis that had a function similar to Christian missionaries, and strongly believed that the Ottoman presence would be strengthened in this critical region if the tribes showed loyalty to the empire.21 Kemal Karpat argues that the imperial goal of bringing the Ottoman subjects under the umbrella of Islamic union had seriously inuenced some religiously or socially marginal groups like Yezidis in a region in which Armenian nationalism was seen as the largest threat to the Ottoman authority.22 In fact, that the regime perceived not only the Armenian nationalist organizations but the whole Armenian population as a threat arose the idea that suspicious groups like Yezidis and Kizilbashs were inclined to cooperate with the Armenians, or had the potential to do so.23 In this regard, I believe that one of the reasons behind the formulation of the correction of the beliefs project was directly related to the Hamidian policies designed for the Armenian question.

See Y.EE. 14/1188/16/9 10 N. 1309 (8 April 1892). Selim Deringil was the rst to draw attention to this report: The Struggle against Shiism in Hamidian Iraq: A Study in Ottoman Counter-Propaganda, in The Ottomans, the Turks, and World Politics: Collected Studies (Istanbul: ISIS Press, 2000), 64, and, idem, The Well-Protected Domains, p. 66. Gkhan etinsaya has analyzed the report as well: Ottoman Administration of Iraq, 18901908 (London: Routledge, 2006), 3334. 22 Karpat, The Politicization of Islam, p. 205. Karpat tries to justify his claim by referring to two examples pertaining to the Yezidis in Bitlis and Mosul. For him, the Hamidian state attempted to bring the Yezidis under the umbrella of orthodox Islam by opening schools and mosques in the Yezidi villages. While I agree with his argument that the Armenian question directly inuenced the relationship between such marginal groups and the Hamidian regime, Karpat is also totally wrong in arguing that these attempts were partly successful, and the Yezidis were brought together under Sunni Islam. As will be shown below, it is not possible to nd long-lasting conversion among the Yezidis either voluntarily or by force except for a few incidents of temporary conversion. 23 For instance, a document reveals that the information that the Sivas governor was supporting the Bektasis had alarmed the authorities as the Palace thought that a possible dissolution of the perceived Muslim unity would serve the purpose of the Armenians, see BOA. Yldz Parakende Umum Vilayetler Tahrirat (hereafter Y.PRK.UM.) 30/85, 10 R. 1312 (11 October 1894). In addition, in Malatya schooling three Alevi children in an Armenian Catholic school was regarded as dangerous, and hence the local government was asked to impose a ban in similar cases, see BOA. Y.PRK.UM. 28/70, 29 R. 1311 (9 November 1893).
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From the mid-nineteenth century onwards, the relationship between the Yezidi community and the Protestant Missions was serious enough to alarm the Hamidian regime, though it did not turn out well for the missionaries.24 As the missionaries began to establish close relationships with various heterodox groups, the Kizilbashs and Yezidis in particular, that were in conict with the Sunni character of the Ottoman rule, the Hamidian regime regarded it as a threat against its authority and tried to obviate the interaction between those groups.25 In particular, the ABCFM (American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions) centered in Mardin established relationships with the Yezidis as from the 1870s, however, as Hans Lukas-Kieser notes, these relations were never as dynamic as those with the Alevis. Yet, even though the attempts of the missions to convert the Yezidis to Protestantism came to naught, these contacts were enough to disturb the Sultan and the Yldz Palace, which managed to weaken these points of contact.26

Heyet-i Tefhimiye: An Attempt to Convert the Yezidis through Advice and Persuasion
The rst mission assigned to correct the beliefs of the Yezidis, i.e, the Advice and Persuasion Commission, which consisted of a group of religious scholars and government ofcers led by a military commander, Abdlkadir Bey, was sent to Mosul in April 1891 in order to tell the Yezidis about Islam, and convince them to accept conversion.27 As soon as the commission arrived in Mosul, they set off for Seyhan, the religious and political capital of the entire Yezidi population. The commission gathered the prominent gures of the Yezidis including Mirza Bey, the emir of the community, in the village of Baadre, and explained the necessary reasons to them for the gathering without delay: the Sultan was calling them to return to their so-called previous religion, Islam, be saved from deviation, and resort to his mercy. Abdlkadir Bey also reminded that if they did not accept the offer, they would have to pay all the taxes due immediately and fulll the

For the relationship between the Hamidian regime and American missions, Hans Lukas-Kieser: Iskalanms Bars: Dogu Vilayetlerinde Misyonerlik, Etnik Kimlik ve Devlet, 18391938 (Istanbul: Iletisim Yaynlar, 2005). See also, Deringil, The Well-Protected Domains, chapter 5. Both authors indicate with convincing evidence that the missionary activities directly inuenced the relation of the Hamidian regime to such marginal groups as the Yezidis and Kizilbashs. 25 For the various aspects of the Yezidi-Protestant missions interactions from earlier periods, see Guest, A History of the Yezidis, pp. 7685 and 124145, and Lukas-Kieser, Iskalanms Bars, p. 118 and 208209. 26 Lukas-Kieser, Iskalanms Bars, p. 102, fn. 84, and p. 208, and idem, Muslim Heterodoxy and Protestant Utopia: The Interactions between Alevis and Missionaries in Ottoman Anatolia, Die Welt des Islams 41, no. 1 (2001), 97. 27 For the commissions task, members and affairs, see BOA. Y.MTV. 50/21 10 L. 1308 (19 May 1891), and, BOA. Y.MTV. 50/51 16 Za. 1308 (23 June 1891). As could be clearly seen in the documents, the main goal was to instill the Yezidis with the doctrine of Islam (akaid-i Islamiyeyi telkin etmek), and familiarize them with the sacred military service (hdmet-i mukaddese-i askeriyeye alsdrmak).

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obligation of military service. According to Guest, whose knowledge is based on contemporary sources, the Yezidi leaders declined the offer deantly declaring that their own belief system went back to earlier periods than Islam, and Islam itself actually grew out of Yezidism.28 In following twenty-one days as well the committee failed to persuade the Yezidis to accept conversion to Islam. It was obvious for the committee member that persuasion was not a proper and efcient way towards the stubborn Yezidis. Thereupon Colonel Abdlkadir submitted a report to the Sublime Porte stating that the problem could not be solved as long as the leading Yezidi gures were in Mosul. He suggested that eleven of the Yezidi leaders, including Mirza, be sent to exile to another province so that the community without their leaders could easily be brought under control.29 Upon that report, the palace decided to exile those Yezidi chiefs to Bingazi, in todays Libya. We know for sure that six of them were brought to the military barracks to be sent to exile.30 From the correspondence between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Mosul province, we understand that the remaining ve people were expected to be caught without turmoil, but there is no clue about their doom. What we denitely know is that Mirza Bey, who continued to live in Seyhan in the forthcoming years, had not been sent into exile.31 The community would be continuously faced with harsh outcomes for not responding to advice. A group of Yezidis who declined to be recruited once again were detained and conscripted, being forced to wear military uniforms in blue, a color of which the Yezidi community has considered to be a taboo, and subsequently delivered to the military barracks. Among these were Mirza and some Yezidi sheikhs.32 In the forthcoming days, some more Yezidi tribe chiefs were forced to cast recruitment lots and eighteen of them were recruited under compulsion.33 Mirza Bey, who thought that a campaign was openly launched against their community, asked the American Protestant missions for help, and even informed them of their readiness to convert to Protestantism. However, they were only advised to calm down and nothing more came.34 Aware of the Yezidis appeal to Protestant missions,

Guest, A History of the Yezidis, p. 133. Though he only gives half a page to deal with this issue in his book, Guest bases the answers given by Mirza Bey and the sheikhs on the missionary and consulate reports. 29 For the report and correspondences pertaining to the exile, see Y.MTV. 50/21, folio 1. 30 BOA. DH.MKT. 1850/65, 8 Z. 1308 (15 July 1891). 31 Ibid. In the summary of 19067 civil registry records, it is mentioned a total of 97 Yezidis, 57 men and 40 women, in Bingazi and Trablusgarb, see Kemal Karpat, Osmanl Nfusu (Istanbul: Tarih Vakf Yurt Yaynlar, 2003), 203. It is possible to assume that at least a part of this population grew out of the exile as there is no evidence for the existence of an indigenous Yezidi population in this region. 32 BOA. Y.MTV. 51/61, 18 Za. 1308 (25 June 1891). 33 BOA. DH.MKT. 1850/43, 7 Z. 1308 (14 July 1891). 34 Guest, A History of the Yezidis, p. 134135. It would not be incorrect to interpret the Yezidis effort to convert to Protestantism as a tactic of the weak for survival. Such transitions were mostly short-term, and it was seen that the converts returned to their previous religion.
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Hamidian authorities declared that whatever religion the Yezidis chose to convert to, whether Christianity or Judaism, they would still be obliged to complete military service, and that the state decision was hard and fast.35 The palace also stressed that the Yezidi chiefs should be prevented from inuencing their community, and the conscripted Yezidis be treated among Muslims as if they were Sunni (kendlerine adeta ehl-i snnet muamelesi edilmek). As can be seen, the Hamidian regime proposed a close relationship between conscription and conversion because they strongly believed that it was possible to convince the Yezidis to accept conversion to Islam as a result of religious indoctrination of imams in military barracks as well as thanks to interactions with Muslims.36 While all these were taking place, various letters and petitions by the notables, religious authorities, local administrators and merchants of Mosul arrived at the palace, referring to Colonel Abdlkadirs failure to fulll the duties and responsibilities of his position efciently.37 Most of them argued that Abdulkadirs improper actions might lead to a Yezidi uprising, and, therefore, the commission should be abolished.38 However, Abdlkadir reported that the local ofcials were misinforming the government about himself and his services, and stated that the Yezidis had given 35,000 liras to the members of the Provincial Administrative Council to obtain fake military discharge certicate. He also argued that he had completed very good tasks, but since his work had threatened the interests of the local authorities, he had been prevented from doing his job. Nevertheless, these complaints resulted against him, and working fty-seven days in Mosul, he was dismissed from his position in July 1891.39 After dismissal of Abdulkadir, a new commission was set up under the leadership of Hac Mesud Bey, the Nakiblesraf of Diyarbekir. The Hamidian administration thought that Hac Mesud, who had oration skills and knew the language (Kurdish and Arabic) and customs of the tribes, would manage to elevate the ignorance and deviation of the Yezidis. However, the new commission failed to make the Yezidis accept Islam and obligatory conscription just as the same before. This community that did not pay heed to advice and could not be tamed in one way or another had to be disciplined by way of a more effective power and by use of violence. A reform, or taming force constituted under the leadership of mer Vehbi Pasa, a lieutenant-general, would be the power expected to meet the duty.

Frka-i Islahiye: Forced Conversion Campaign against the Yezidis


In essence this reform force was sent to Mosul by the Hamidian regime not only to convert and tame the Yezidi tribes but also to implement a range of important reforms

35 36

Ibid. BOA. 37 BOA. 38 BOA. 39 BOA.

Y.PRK.BSK. 22/57, 9 Z. 1308 (16 July 1891). Y.MTV. 51/51, 16 Za. 1308 (23 June 1891). Y.MTV. 52/84, 26 Z. 1308 (2 August 1891). Y.MTV. 53/73, 17 M. 1309 (23 August 1891).
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in the provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra, which constituted a critical geography for the empires policies.40 mer Vehbi Pasha, who would be called Ferik Pasha by the Yezidis in the future, was appointed as the commander of the Reform Force on 9 May 1892.41 According to the written order given to the pasha, the main tasks of Frka-i Islahiye were to conscript a large number of draft deserters, to collect the tax debts that had remained unpaid for a long time, to take a population census in several places, to restrain mobility of the tribes on the Ottoman-Iranian border, and, nally, to sedentarize certain nomadic tribes.42 As highlighted in correspondence, Kurdish and Arab tribes were the main target of the reforms as the Reform Force was constituted on the basis of slah- asair, i.e. taming tribes.43 Though not mentioned in the ofcial instruction, the duty extraordinarily assigned by the Yldz Palace to the lieutenant-general was to convert the Yezidis to Islam. In a document, he was dened as such: mer Vehbi Pasha [. . .] the Commander of the Reform Force, remunerated with rank and salary to give good service as to convert the Yezidis to supreme religion of Islam, who acknowledges and undertakes to realize this objective.44 As a matter of fact, as will be shown below, Frka-i Islahiye would spend a greater deal of time on converting, conscripting and taming the Yezidis. From his arrival in Mosul on 11 June 1892, the Pashas tendency to resort to violence manifested itself in the very rst days. He had beneted from a group of prisoners to collect the hidden weapons owned by the tribes, and had forced a group of people to walk around the city with fetters on their ankles so that they would set a lesson to tax debtors.45 When he was asked the reason for these illegitimate actions, the Pasha gave the fact that only the prisoners knew where the weapons were kept as reason for his exploitation of prisoners, and showed it as a motivation that would speed up tax collection for his fetter show. Even he stated that it really worked and could collect tax more than three thousand liras in a short time.46 Without delay the commander sent a message to the Yezidis in the Seyhan area, demanding that they either accept conversion to Islam, or punish. In turn, as seen in the previous examples, the Yezidis gave the Pasha a negative response, which trigged an

The Frka-i Islahiye was examined by Gkhan etinsaya, Ottoman Administration of Iraq, p. 7980; Davut Hut, Musul Vilayetinin Idar, Iktisad ve Sosyal Yaps (18641909) (Ph.D. Dissertation, Marmara University, 2006), 121131. Within the context of its relation to the Yezidis, see Guest, A History of the Yezidis, pp. 134137; Deringil, The Well-Protected Domains, pp. 7175, and Ufuk Glsoy, Srads Bir Dini Topluluk: Osmanl Yezidileri Trk Kltr Incelemeleri Dergisi 7 (2002), 147153. 41 For the appointment and rank given to mer Vehbi, see BOA. I.DAH. 100344, 11 L. 1309 (9 May 1892), and BOA. I.DAH. 1276/100388, 17 Za. 1309 (13 June 1892) 42 BOA. Y.PRK.BSK. 26/85, 27 Z. 1309 (23 July 1892), article 2. 43 See, for example, BOA. DH.MKT. 1973/102, 24 Z. 1309 (20 July 1892). 44 BOA. DH.MKT. 2002/56, 23 Safer 1310 (16 September 1892). 45 BOA. DH.MKT. 1981/104, 9 M. 1310 (3 August 1892). 46 For the Pashas response, see the afore-mentioned document, and BOA. Y.MTV. 66/39, 6 S. 1310 (30 August 1892).
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extraordinary attack on the Sinjari Yezidis. Having managed to take the Bedouin Arab and Kurdish tribes on his side against the Yezidis, the Pasha ordered to organize an attack on two Yezidis villages, Mihirkan and Bakran, on August 2. As a result, it was reported to the Sublime Porte that while ten Yezidis were killed and 35 wounded, two soldiers from the Pashas troop died and four wounded.47 In addition, according to the consulate reports used by Guest, one hundred and twenty Yezidis were captured and brought to Mosul, some of whom were conscripted and some put in prison.48 A little while after this battle, the Frka-i Islahiye commander gathered the members of the Mosul Provincial Council and summoned the Yezidi leaders to the governors ofce. The Yezidis who accepted the invitation were once again commanded to correct their beliefs and convert to Islam. Concerning what followed this invitation, there is a huge difference between what happened in reality and what mer Vehbi Pasha told Istanbul about it all. I would be able to learn this difference only when I saw the reports prepared by the Investigation Committee sent out to Mosul in order to scrutinize the Pashas doubtful actions. Let me rst narrate the story and the ceremony reported, say ctionalized, by mer Vehbi Pasha: the superstitious Yezidis, who had been aberrantly following a wrong path for ages and could not be disciplined despite various attempts come to Mosul without any force in order to be honored to convert to Islam with their own good will and consent. They are welcomed with respect by the Pasha, sheiks and religious scholars. On the following day, a ceremony is held with the attendance of all provincial administrators and civil servants, high-ranking soldiers and commissioned ofcers, the notables and worthies, and a crowded group. In the ceremony in which the band is singing the Hamidian anthem, the Yezidis willingly and orally accept the suggestion offered by the mufti of Mosul and become Muslims expressing profession, or sehadet. Followed by the Pashas speech and muftis prayers, the ceremony is completed along with enthusiastic cries and acclamations: long live my sultan! The Yezidi chiefs are also put up by the Pasha; animals are sacriced; their meat is distributed among the poor; and Friday prayer is performed together in Nebi Sit 49 Mosque. As mentioned above, the Investigation Committee proved that what had happened was utterly different from the story so vividly narrated by the pasha. First of all, it was revealed that the Yezidi leaders, who had been invited by the Pasha to the center of

47 BOA. DH.MKT. 1981/104, 9 M. 1310 (3 August 1892); BOA. DH.MKT. 1983/68, 13 M. 1310 (7 August 1892), and BOA. Y.A.HUS. 263/52, 13 M. 1310 (7 August 1892). 48 See Guest, A History of the Yezidis, p. 134. Devoting a couple of pages to the 1892 events, Guest bases his information on consulate reports. It was going to be approved in another report that heads of some Yezidis had been cut off so as to be a lesson to all though it is not certain whether it happened during the operations conducted in August. See BOA. Y.MTV. 74/33, 8 B. 1310 (26 January 1893). 49 BOA. I.DAH. 53/S.1310, 27 S. 1310 (20 September 1892). This document can also be found in Basbakanlk Osmanl Arsivi, Musul-Kerkk ile Ilgili Arsiv Belgeleri (Ankara: T.C. Basbakanlk Devlet Arsivleri Genel Mdrlg, 1993), 544546.

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Mosul, were insulted, pounded up and six or seven of them severely injured. Those who refused to convert were locked up in the harem section of the government building for eight days. Moreover, none of the Yezidi villages accepted to correct their beliefs and the community was insistent to be deviant. Lastly, the committee underscored that mer Vehbi had completely made up a story and lied to the Sultan.50 Let us get back to the ordinary sequence of events: After this severe oppression and captivation, a group of Yezidis, which involved leaders like Mirza, Hamza and Bedii, embarrassedly expressed that they corrected their beliefs accepting to become Muslims. For the Pasha, such a signicant problem that had remained unresolved for a very long time had nally been brought to an end. He also stated his hope that the Yezidis from Sinjar region would move on a similar path.51 Upon his suggestion, the provincial government decided that a small mosque and school would be built in each of the six villages for the Yezidis who were honored to accept Islam.52 In accordance with the local authorities, the Sublime Porte decided to assign teachers and attendants who were going to reside there and give teaching and preaching to the Yezidis in proper language and manner and take on the responsibility to teach and educate Yezidi children.53 Teachers to be appointed were expected to have a good command of Kurdish and Arabic, and to know the customs and dispositions of the local population. Meanwhile, Osman Pasha, who was assigned as the new governor of Mosul in September, sent a telegram to the Porte, notifying the need for a high number of alphabet book, the Quran fascicles and leaets related to the Islamic principles that would be used for instruction at schools which were being built for the Yezidi and Sebek children.54 Although the Ottoman administration could never manage to sustain attendance of the Yezidi tribes in these schools and mosques, we see that mosque and school were intended by the Hamidian regime as two important instruments to discipline savage, ignorant, and deviant communities. Again, in accordance with mer Vehbis suggestion, the Council of Ministers decided to grant the emir of the Yezidis, Mirza Bey, the rank of mir-i miran and his brother Ali, and his cousins Hamza and Hseyin, the rank of emirl-mera, each of whom were also put on a salary of two thousand piasters.55 However, Ali Bey [Pasha], who was going to be the new Yezidi emir after Mirza Beys death in 1899, was not so lucky as the others. Though he was honored with the rank of pasha, he was exiled

Y.MTV. 74/36. BOA. Y.MTV. 65/115, 25 M. 1310 (19 August 1892). 52 I.DAH. 53/S. 1310. Meanwhile, the Hamidian regime had already declared its inclination to establish a school and mosque in the Yezidi villages after the Heyet-i Tefhimiye was abolished. See BOA. DH.MKT. 1889/75, 12 R. 1309 (15 November 1891) and BOA. DH.MKT. 1902/42 14 Ca. 1309 (16 December 1891). 53 I.DAH. 53/S. 1310. See also, BOA. DH.MKT. 2012/117, 28 Ra. 1310 (20 October 1892). 54 BOA. Y.MTV. 68/90, 19 Ra. 1310 (11 October 1892). 55 BOA. DH.MKT 2002/56, 23 Safer 1310 (16 September 1892).
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from Mosul as he disturbed public security.56 According to the correspondence dated variously, Ali Beys insistence not to convert, and his inclination to cause trouble and to inuence the Yezidi tribes against the government lied behind his exile. Although the city of Kastamonu was set as the place of exile, he would be compelled to live in Sivas on some allowance that would never be regularly paid.57 In his appeals for pardon at different times, he claimed that he had been exiled without any justication but due to hostility nurtured by mer Vehbi Pasha towards him. Despite the fact that he alleged the distance from his family and the climate in Sivas as excuse, and stated that he already educated his desires and converted to Islam in front of the Sivas Governor, he could not stop his compulsory stay in Sivas until 1898.58 Ali Pasha was not the only one who could not receive the allowances promised. Mirza Bey and others would never be able to regularly receive the monthly salary of two thousand piasters assigned to them. In addition, when it was discovered that they had not truly converted, the salaries granted as an award and incentive for conversion was to be cut, as this goal could not be achieved.59 The Yezidis, who had to get in trouble that they could not even imagine within a year, also lost their holy place. Upon the approval of the Sublime Porte, the Provincial Council of Mosul transformed the Yezidis sacred place of pilgrimage, Seyh Adi Tomb at Lalish near the ancient city of Nineveh, into a medrese and appointed a professor, or mderris, and twenty-one students there. Moreover, mer Vehbi broke into the tomb and seized various sacred goods, among which there were ve bronze Melek-i Tavus statues.60 In all descriptions made by contemporary observers, the tomb in Lalis is portrayed as completely plundered, tumbledown, deserted, grass-covered with only one single wall remaining, and icons shattered.61 Nuri Pasha, who was going to be the governor of Mosul for about two years in the very early 1900s, was explaining in his above-mentioned book that these sacred goods had been taken by mer Vehbi from

BOA. I.DAH. 1298/1310-Ra.-56, 18 Ra. 1310 (10 October 1892). See, for instance, BOA. Y.A.HUS. 267/24, 7 Ca. 1310 (27 November 1892), and BOA. I. HUS. 6/1310.Ca/18, 6 Ca. 1310 (22 November 1892). 58 For Ali Beys demands for pardon, see Y.MTV. 89/109, 18 B. 1311 (25 January 1894); BOA. DH.MKT. 273/25, 17 S. 1312 (20 August 1894), ve BOA. DH.MKT. 2072/67, 21 C. 1313 (9 December 1895), and BOA. DH.MKT. 2073/62, 29 N. 1313 (14 March 1896). 59 BOA. DH.MKT. 2114/111, 23 Ca. 1316 (9 October 1898). 60 For the list of the captured items and their fate, see Nuri Pasa, Abede-i Iblis, p. 72; Guest, A History of the Yezidis, p. 136137. 61 Among them were Lord Percy Warkworth, the British PM, who visited all the eastern provinces of the empire in 1897, Mark Sykes, who was present in the region as the honorary attach of Britain in the early 1890s, and the Archbishop W. A. Wigram from the American Mission Committee, see Lord H. A. G. Percy Warkworth, Notes from a Diary in Asiatic Turkey (London: Edward Arnold, 1898), 184; Gertrude Bell, Amurath to Amurath (London: William Heinemann, 1911), 279; Guest, A History of the Yezidis, p. 141144, and Ebubekir Hazm Tepeyran, Hatralar, second edition, edited by Faruk Ilkan (Istanbul: Pera Yaynclk, 1998), 478479.
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Mosul to the Sixth Army quarters in Baghdad.62 As a consequence, the Yezidis took hold of the key to the tomb, which they treasured as the place for their prayers and pilgrimage, in 1904 thanks to Nuri Pasha who considerably concerned himself with the Yezidis and pursued a moderate policy. Yet, they had to wait until 1914 to get the sacred items back from the Ottoman authorities.63 As mentioned above, from his arrival in Mosul, the pashas various actions caused conicts and turmoil. Among them were the cancellation of the tax-farming and tithe contracts in the provincial center of Mosul and its towns; the employment of some prisoners in collecting weapons that belonged to the tribes; the enforcement of some convicts to go around the city center with fetters on their ankles; his attempt to include women as well in population census contrary to the sultans order; and lastly, in direct relation to his previous action, the arrest and detention of a few notables and members of the Mosul Provincial Council without trial. mer Vehbi Pasha had also obtained the written permission of his second military operation against the Sinjari Yezidis by threat and force from the provincial governor. Based on this permission, the governor reported, the troops led by the pashas son Asm Bey had given rise to the death of about ve hundred Yezidis, and women and children were burnt to death alive, villages attacked, and goods and animals captured.64 As a result, these incidents caused the Yezidis to take up arms and revolt in the Mount Sinjar. Though the Pasha had been told to solve the problem without bloodshed, he forwarded his soldiers to the Mount Sinjar again, and brought death to many more people. There was a big loss for the Ottoman soldiers as well in these ghts. When the City Mayor of Mosul, Hac Emin Efendi, stepped in twice to convince them to give up uprising, the Pasha ordered the third and fourth attacks on the Yezidis.65 So to say, these pieces of news were the last straw that broke the camels back. Sultan Abdlhamid dismissed mer Vehbi Pasha and his son, who were sent to Iraq with great hope, on 8 December 1892 due to their improper actions, i.e., among others, the bloodshed of his subjects and organizing a military expedition without government authorization. At the same time, the sultan sent an investigation committee (Heyet-i Tahkikiye) to Mosul.66 While the committee members, Sakir Pasha, Kamil Pasa and Sadk Bey just started investigating all the events and ofcial correspondence pursuant to Frka-i Islahiye and mer Vehbis affairs, a dreadful incident occurred: a group of Yezidi notables came to Mosul with seven beheaded corpses and argued that these people had

Nuri Pasa, Abede-i Iblis, p. 72. The sacred items would be delivered by the Mosul Governor Sleyman Nazif Pasha to the Yezidis in a ceremony in 1914. See Glsoy, Osmanl Yezidileri, p. 159. According to the document cited by Glsoy, the sacred items had been kept in the stockrooms of the Thirteenth Army Corps. 64 BOA. Y.EE. 87/73, 21 Ca. 1310 (11 December 1892). For the telegram dated to 4 December, see folio 3. 65 Y.EE. 87/73, folio 3, and BOA. Y.MTV. 71/99, 15 Ca. 1310 (5 December 1892). 66 BOA. I.HUS. 6/1310.Ca/65, 18 Ca. 1310 (8 December 1892).
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been slain by the Pashas son, and Resid Efendi, previous head of the Seyhan district. The group did not forget to ask for justice from the provincial authorities.67 Three days later, the committee informed the Palace that as a result of their investigation the Pashas son and Resid Efendi were discovered to be the suspects of the incident.68 In the following week, investigation regarding the events in Mosul was completed. Consequently, mer Vehbi and his son were found to be responsible for torturing and leading to the death of hundreds of people as well as plundering of their goods. In addition to this, the committee members stated that the Mosul Governor Osman Pashas negligence contributed to the incidents.69 Upon this correspondence, Sakir and Dervis Pashas notied the Sultan that news sent by mer Vehbi was completely false, and that above all he had acted in contravention of the sultan, shedding the blood of his subjects, and violating the laws. For that reason, instead of returning to his ofce in the Fourth Army headquarter, the pasha was called to Istanbul with his son to be trialed.70 The pasha was trialed by a commission afliated to the State Council, and exiled to the Fifth Army in Damascus as a result of the hearing. After a while, he went on obligatory retirement, yet two years later his rank was given back to him.71

Concluding Remarks
As a result, the Hamidian project of correcting the faith of the Yezidis, either by advice or force, failed, not to mention that the Frka-i Islahiye could not even complete the rst part of the reform project designed for Ottoman Iraq. The Hamidian conversionary policy in the case of Yezidis demonstrates how the Yezidi- Ottoman state interactions in the late nineteenth century were transformed by central concerns with rearrangement of confessional statuses and imperial identities in a period when the Hamidian regime was seeking to bring its subject populations under rmer control by extending its power into blur areas of the eastern provinces, and to assure the loyalty of what are regarded as heretic communities. However, the Yezidi example also demonstrates that political, societal and cultural projects developed by states are contested and limited by multiple actors within a complex network of political and social processes. In this sense, as some historians do, focusing merely on the projects produced by central governments and seeing them unquestionably as the constitutive of reality is problematic. The conversion campaign of the Hamidian regime in the case of Yezidis also illustrates the violent character of imperial integration policies in the late Ottoman

BOA. Y.MTV. 74/33, 8 B. 1310 (26 January 1893), and BOA. Yldz Yaveran ve Maiyyet-i Seniyye (Y.PRK.MYD.) 12/31, 7 B. 1310 (25 January 1893). 68 BOA. Y.MTV. 74/36, 9 B. 1310 (27 January 1893). 69 BOA. Y.PRK.ASK. 88/36, 22 B. 1310 (9 February 1893). 70 Y.MTV. 76/136. 71 BOA. Y.PRK.BSK. 54/112, 21 C. 1315 (17 November 1897); BOA. Y.PRK.ASK. 154/20, 10 R. 1317 (18 August 1899); Hut, Musul Vilayeti, p. 130; and, Tepeyran, Hatralar, p. 477.

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Turning the Heretics into Loyal Muslim Subjects

Empire as well as in other imperial contexts. Indeed, I suggest that major political developments experienced in the late nineteenth century such as state-centralization, the introduction of novel governmental practices, the emergence of new conceptions of sovereignty and territoriality, and struggles over confessional statuses and group identities contributed to produce modern forms of violence in the Ottoman eastern provinces. Moreover, the Frka-i Islahiye example perfectly epitomizes what I call order/chaos dilemma, i.e. the paradoxical way in which the efforts of the ofcial authorities to establish security and order ultimately create insecurity, violence, and chaos for ordinary citizens as well as for the central government. To clarify it in a nutshell, the sultan had sent a powerful commander to a complicated region with very broad authority since he had come to the conclusion that advice and propaganda would not work to incorporate the Yezidi tribes into the imperial order; however, this powerful gure thoroughly aggravated the problems at hand due to the very power that the sultan had invested in him. Lastly, what can we say about the ways the Yezidis conceptualize and represent their experience concerning the forced conversion campaign and violence? Or what is the place of the Frka-i Islahiye and its persecution in the history and collective memory of the community? It would be problematic to discuss how the Yezidis were inuenced by the state policy, and how they have remembered those traumatic days by looking at ofcial documents reecting the perspective and discourses of the central government and its local agencies. However, it is legitimate, and indeed necessary, for the historian as well as the anthropologist to interpret the Yezidi representations of the Frka-i Islahiye by looking at the Yezidi oral sources and the ethnographic present embodying the popular narratives of an institutional violence faced by a religious community. In fact, after over a century, the Yezidi Kurds have always remembered and narrated all these events through a stran, a Kurdish literary genre that might be translated simply as song, named Ferik Pasha, in which they convey those hard times and the Pashas cruelty with hatred and anger to new generations of Yezidis. However, the stran also tells how their ancestors resisted the oppression and persecution of the Ottoman pasha.72 Given that it is one of three most important Yezidi songs, and that, though recently declining, oral transmission of religious principles and historical narratives has been the norm for the community for centuries, it can be argued that Ferik Pasha Stran is very central to the Yezidi collective memory and identity-construction, indicating how they conceptualize their history, experience, identity, subjectivity, and agency.

72 Christine Allison perfectly analyzes the Yezidi oral culture and tradition including their strans in The Yezidi Oral Tradition in Iraqi Kurdistan (Richmond: Curzon, 2001).

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