Edip Gölbaşı / The Yezidis and the Ottoman State: Modern Power, Military Conscription, and Conversion Policies, 1830-1909

An abstract of the thesis of Edip Gölbasi for the degree of Master of Arts from the Atatürk Institute for Modern Turkish History to be taken September 2008

The Yezidis and the Ottoman State: Modern Power, Military Conscription, and Conversion Policies, 1830-1909

The community on which this thesis builds and fixes its narrative is the “heterodox” Yezidi tribes that lived in the eastern provinces of the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire, with Mosul holding the first place. Yet it is not an anthropological or ethnological study concentrated on the community itself. However, based on these tribes, it rather approaches the political order and new regime of power of nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire along with the Hamidian policy of “taming” formulated for the population segments that lived on the margins of the empire and were regarded as “heretic”, “uncivilized and nomadic” on the grounds of the discrepancy in their religious beliefs. Hence it preeminently claims to be a monograph on nineteenth-century Ottoman history. The Yezidis, who had survived beyond the state’s political authority and military penetration to a large extent in previous periods, were on the agenda of the state, more than they ever had been, in the time period discussed owing to the formation of a modern regime of power. From the 1830s onwards, there emerged several problems between the Yezidis, who were not recognized by the state as a separate religious group, and the Ottoman State, which attempted to exploit bodies and tax resources of its subjects more effectively, sought to ensure public security, and desired to gain the loyalty of communities under its hegemony. Among the leading problems between the two parties were military conscription, to which the Yezidis were opposed allegedly in accordance with their religious beliefs, and the conversion policies of the Hamidian period, firstly launched on the basis of “advice and persuasion” tactics as long as applicable, but, if not, implemented by pressure and violence. The focal points of this study are the afore-cited topics in addition to how the Yezidi identity was perceived by the state, and the question of status, which is closely interrelated with their position in the political structure. Based on Ottoman archival documents, and contemporary observers’ and researchers’ narratives, the state policies and discourse in combination with their effects on the Yezidis and subsequent reactions are analyzed in this thesis. This study presents military conscription, a modern phenomenon, as a story of “abstaining from both call to arms and threats to their beliefs” in the case of Yezidis. It is also argued in this study that endeavors to “tame” the Yezidis and “correct their beliefs” (tashih-i akaid) and to subjugate them by means of military operations in the Hamidian regime, all in one, resulted from general characteristics and “strategies for hegemony” of the regime. Finally, it is oriented to show that attempts of penetration, and discourse and politics of the state had seriously affected the realities of the Yezidi community yet eventually did not culminate in an accomplishment as the state desired.

Atatürk Ilkeleri ve Inkilap Tarihi Enstitüsü’nde Yüksek Lisans derecesi için Edip Gölbasi tarafindan Eylül 2008’de teslim edilen tezin özeti

Yezidiler ve Osmanli Devleti: Modern Iktidar, Zorunluk Askerlik, ve Ihtida Siyaseti, 1830-1909

Bu tezin anlatisini insaa ettigi ve sabitledigi topluluk basta Musul olmak üzere 19. yüzyil Osmanli Imparatorlugu’nun dogu vilayetlerinde yasamis olan “heterodoks” Yezidi asiretleridir. Ancak toplulugun kendisine yogunlasan antropolojik ya da etnolojik bir çalisma degildir. Daha ziyade bu asiretler üzerinden 19. yy. Osmanli siyasal düzeni, yeni iktidar rejimi ve II. Abdulhamid döneminin, imparatorlugun marjininde yasayan ve dini inançlarinin farkliligi nedeniyle “sapkin” (heretik) ve “vahsi ve bedevî” olarak telakki edilen kesimlere dönük “islah” etme siyaseti ele alinmaktadir. Bu nedenle öncelikle 19. yüzyil Osmanli tarihine dair bir monografi olma iddiasindadir. Daha önceki dönemlerde devletin siyasal ve askeri nüfuzunun büyük oranda disinda yasayan Yezidiler ele alinan dönemde modern bir iktidar rejimin tesis edilme süreci nedeniyle hiç bir zaman olmadigi kadar devletin gündemine girmislerdir. 1830’lu yillardan itibaren, tebaasinin bedenini ve vergi kaynaklarini daha verimli bir sekilde tasarruf etmeye girisen, kamu güvenligini ve asayisi tesis etmeye çalisan, ve hakimiyeti altindaki topluluklarin sadakatini kazanmayi arzu eden Osmanli Devleti ve devlet tarafindan ayri bir din olarak taninmayan Yezidiler arasinda bir dizi sorun meydana gelmistir. Bunlarin basinda Yezidiler’in, kendi söylemlerine göre, dinî inançlari geregi karsi olduklari askerlik hizmeti ve II. Abdulhamid döneminde önce ‘nasihat ve ikna’ yoluyla, mümkün olmadiginda ise baski ve siddet yoluyla Islamlastirma girisimleri gelmektedir. Bu iki konu ve Yezidi kimliginin devlet tarafindan nasil algilandigi ve onlarin siyasal yapidaki yerleriyle baglantili olan ‘statü problemi’ tezin odak noktalaridir. Osmanli arsiv kaynaklari ve çagdas gözlemci ve arastirmacilarin anlatilarina dayanarak hazirlanan bu çalisma, devlet siyaseti ve söylemi ile bunun Yezidiler üzerindeki etkisi ve buna verilen tepkileri incelemektedir. Bu tez modern bir fenomen olan zorunlu askerlik konusunu Yezidiler örneginde “silah altina alinmaktan ve dinî inançlarina yönelik tehditlerden kaçinma” öyküsü olarak sunmaktadir. II. Abdulhamid döneminde Yezidiler’i “islah” etme, “inançlarini düzeltme” (tashih-i akaid), ve onlari askeri harekâtlarla denetim altina alma girisimlerinin ise, II. Abdulhamid rejiminin genel karakteristikleri ve “egemenlik stratejileri”nden kaynaklandigi iddia ediliyor. Nihayet, tezde bu nüfuz etme girisimleri ile devlet söylemi ve siyasetinin Yezidi toplulugunun realitelerini ciddi derecede etkiledigi ancak bunlarin devletin arzu ettigi sekilde neticelenmedigi gösterilmeye çalisiliyor.