Yazidis in the First Republic of Armenia

The Yazidi people have always shared the fate of the Armenian nation in the most decisive periods of history.

In this video we will talk about Jahangir Agha and Usub Bey, who made a huge contribution to the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia, as well as to the strengthening of Armenia-Yazidi friendship and cooperation.  These personalities were the leaders of Yazidis’ struggle against the Ottoman Empire’s discriminatory, aggressive anti-humanistic policy.

Usub Bey Temuryants is a prominent  military, political figure,  participated in the battles of SardarapatKarakilisa and Bash  Abaran of 1918,  was a member  of the First Republic’s Parliament.  Since 1896  he was the leader of South Caucasus Yazidi community. Throughout his career Usub Bey has done his utmost to firm the friendly relations between Armenians and Yazidis, to serve  the  greatest goal of restoring and establishing Armenian statehood, in which he also  saw the secure  future of his own nation. Having close ties to the famous Armenian composer, Usub Bey  has always supported  him   in writing down multiple samples of Armenian and Yezidi songs that have become real masterpieces of  Armenian and Yazidi people’s musical art  thanks to  Komitas efforts. This fact is evidenced by  the memories of Usub Bey’s contemporaries- Panos Terlemezian  and Khachatour Kanayan.

It’s of great interest Usub Bey’s biography during  1917-1921.  In the summer of 1917, in Western Armenia,  with his squad Usub Bey participated in the battles against Ottoman Turks, and already in Koghb and Alajia battles Usub Bey fights together with Garegin Njdeh  against the enemy gangs. In autumn of the same year Usub Bey and Njdeh left for Tiflis. Njdeh introduced him to the members of the Armenian National Council-Avetis Aharonian, Aram Manoukian, Rouben Ter-Minasian, Simon Vratsian, etc.   On may of 1918 the Yazidi squad, headed by Usub Bey, took part in the heroic battles  of Sardarapat and Aparan. Usub Bey was awarded the Order of Saint George IV class for his courage and bravery during the heroic battles.

In 1918-20  Usub Bey  was a member of The parliament of the first Republic of Armenia, represented as a member of Dashnaktsutyun party.  As a  member of parliament, Usub Bey has  voted for all those decisions that were in  favor of Armenians. In 1919  Usub Bey participated  at the Western Armenian Second National Congress in Yerevan, and was elected as a member of Sourmalu provincial council.

On Usub Bey’s own initiative, in  1920 the first congress of Armenia’s Yazidi community was held in Aleqsandrapol. Bey was the  vice-president of the Congress  and contributed to the adoption of important decisions for Yazidis. Usub Bey, alongside many Armenian politicians, didn’t recognize the Soviet Regime. He  actively got engaged in the February uprising and was deported to Persia. Having cooperated with Dashnaktsakans Usub Bey returned to Armenia, to  Shamiram village. He still enjoyed an authority among his relatives, close friends, but his social- political activity  was put to an end. Usub Bey faced repressions, was exiled, then  imprisoned.  He suffered from severe illness which  caused his  untimely death. Usub Bey died on the 12th of January, 1934, in Shamiram.

Only after the  independence of Armenia it became possible to reveal the truth and to justify Usub Bey.

In 2007 the school of Shairam village was named after Usub Bey.
Jahangir Agha (1874-1938), was a leader of Yazidis in Armenia, prominent military and political figure. Since the beginning of the 1900s he headed a  Yazidi. Jahangir Agha had close ties with the Armenians of Van, and he has always been in favour of Armenian-Kurdish alliance.  During the next years when the Turkish authorities strengthened their discriminatory policy against non-muslims, Jahangir Agha assisted Armenian Fedayis, showing them military and material support. During Armenian-Turkish battles in 1918 he greatly helped  Armenians to gain victory  over Turks and Kurds in the village Mola-Bayazet.Then  with his Yazidi battalion of 1500  horsemen Agha  participated in Bash-Aparan battle against Turkish Army invaded Armenia. For his bravery and the greatest devotion  Jahangir Agha has been called “Devoted ally  of the Armenian people.”  He also joined Armenians during anti-Bolshevik revolt of February 18, 1921 and participated in the  battles for Yerevan. In 1938 he was repressed by Stalin regime and sent to Saratov prison, where he died. In 1959 rehabilitated posthumously.

In 1915-1918 the upper circles of the Ottoman Empire, taking advantage of the conditions of the World War, organized and realized genocide of Turkey’s national minorities. During a few years the Ottoman Empire actually completely slaughtered the native peoples of the country: Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks. However, in this sorrowful list of peoples destroyed by Turks, Yezidis, a distinctive and native nation on the territory of the Ottoman Empire, are actually never mentioned.  This fact isn’t appropriately illustrated because of the lack of sources. Anyway, there are some direct and indirect  data, that let us conclude that Yazidis were also among the other national minorities who have undergone the massacres by the Ottoman Turks. According to some sources, about  400-500 thousand became victims of  the slaughter.

The First World War  gave  a chance to the Turkish government to  set in motion a plan to expel and massacre non-Muslims living in the Ottoman Empire. Armenians alongside other minorities were obstacle for Young Turks in the way of carrying out their further plans.  Yazidis were also destroyed by Turkish soldiers on the territory of Western Armenia, where they had been living in harmony with Armenians for ages. The Turks massacred Yazidis in these regions: Van, Moush, Kars, Erzroum and Sourmalu.  As for the Yazidis, living in Eastern Armenia, they were also massacred. In the region of Aparan more than 900 Yazidis were killed by order of Tayo Bey.

Apart from human losses it shouldn’t be forgotten to mention also about the material losses, which is also very huge and unprecedented. Turkish and Kurd barbarians did not miss the chance to plunder already deserted Yezidi villages.

The leader of Yazidis world community Abdi Bey zade Mire-Miran Ismail in his letter addressed to  Usub Bey mentioned that in 1915  a million of Armenians were massacred and expelled to  The Deir ezZor camps.

In the same letter he also refers to the Yazidis situation, and mentions that Yazidis gave huge support to those Armenians who survived the massacres and took shelters in Shangali mountains. By the order of Ismayil Bay all the Armenian were given shelters and provided with food.

The Turks got informed about that and sent a letter to the leader of Yazidis demanding to give them Armenians  in case they wouldn’t damage Yazidis.  The Yazidi leaders not only refused to meet their demands, but also sent them a response letter by which they criticized the barbarities carried out by the Ottoman Empire. In response to this, the Turks attacked Shangali  mountains. After 35-day fights, Yazidis  had 75 , and Armenians 10 human losses. Turkish troops could break the resistance of Yazidis and Armenians. But they were not satisfied with these slaughters. They carried out massacres in more than 50 Yazidi villages, apart from burning, slaughtering, Turks also plundered these villages- they grabbed more than 100 thousands of gold belonging to Yazidi families. But the losses of Turkish side were also of large amounts and in the end the enemy troops  were  thrown back.

After the Genocide  when the massacres and deportations almost ended, Yazidis and Armenians fought side by side in Eastern Armenia during the heroic victorious battles of May, 1918 and during the years of the First Republic’s existence. In the battles of Sardarapat and Bash-Aparan the prominent Yazidi Leader Jahangir Agha together with his soldiers demonstrated extreme courage and immense bravery against the enemy troops.


Translated  by  Aida  Grigoryan  ,  Mijerita   Khachatryan  and  Anna   Arzumanyan

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