1925: Sheikh Said Piran, Kurdish rebel

Add comment June 29th, 2011 Headsman

Early this morning this date in 1925, just hours after his condemnation for an eponymous rebellion against the newborn Turkish Republic, Sheikh Said Piran was publicly hanged.

This founding member of the Kurdish anti-Ankara martyrology had sparked a momentarily-successful rising against Turkey, fired by grievances that have not ceased to resonate since.

The secular nationalist Kemal Ataturk‘s intent to “Turkify” its peoples. The Kurdish populace’s frustrated national ambitions, indifferently bartered away by distant great powers dismembering the Ottoman Empire.* Ataturk’s abolition of the Caliphate.

“Oppressive and vile towards the Kurds,” Sheikh Said declared. (pdf)

For several years we have been able to read in the newspapers and official documents about the oppression, insults, hatred, and enmity that the Turk Republic [sic] accords to the Kurdish notables and dynasties. There is a lot of evidence available from authentic sources that they want to subject the Kurdish elite to the same treatment to which they subjected the Armenians

The February revolt quickly made him master of the majority-Kurdish eastern province of Diyarbakir, but a massive Turkish counterattack drove him east, encircled him, and had the Sheikh in irons by mid-April.

The government arrogated martial law powers to itself and appointed Orwellian courts called Independence Tribunals to prosecute Kurdish elites, rebels or no. (Some Kurdish intelligentsia were hailed to Diyarbakir from Istanbul.) Hundreds hanged, without even counting wholesale extrajudicial retribution against Kurdish civilians.

the repression of the 1925 rising was accomplished with a brutality which was not exceeded in any Armenian massacres. Whole villages were burnt or razed to the ground, and men, women and children killed.


Mass hanging of Kurds at Diyarbakir, May or June 1925 (Source)

Despite prosecutors’ avowed intention to extirpate the separatist sentiment “root and branch,” it hasn’t exactly put the whole Kurdish issue to bed.

Just ask Kurdish guerrilla Abdullah Ocalan, who received on this very same date 74 years later his own Turkish death sentence (since commuted).

* A past-is-prologue artifact from the time: the “Issue of Mosul“, a prickly international relations dispute over control of the historic city, accurately suspected to be sitting on a lot of oil.

Turkey claimed it as part of its historic heartland, but Great Britain had seized it just before World War I ended and wound up hanging onto it for the embryonic Iraqi state. Kurds who also considered it part of their homeland got short shrift altogether. It’s still disputed today among Iraqis, situated as it is just on the edge of Kurdish Iraq.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Guerrillas,Hanged,History,Kurdistan,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Politicians,Power,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Separatists,Soldiers,Treason,Turkey,Wartime Executions

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1766: Jean-François de la Barre, freethinker martyr

3 comments July 1st, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1766, a 20-year-old French chevalier’s freethinking proclivities got him beheaded and burned for impiety in one of Bourbon France’s most notorious episodes of religious chauvanism.

Check that date again. This is 69 years after the British Isles’ last execution for blasphemy; Voltaire was alive, and already in his dotage — and the fact that young Chevalier de la Barre was reading him was proclaimed as evidence. Such a benighted proceeding with the French Revolution on the horizon calls Dickens to mind:

it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness

The luckless youth and a couple of friends had pissed off a local judge, which got ugly for them when the unexplained vandalism of a town crucifix availed the opportunity for the magistrate to wield a sledgehammer against a fly.

De la Barre’s volume of Voltaire was tossed onto the pyre with him. That Enlightenment colossus made a measured posthumous effort at having the boy rehabilitated* — primarily for the benefit of his more judicious friend, who had fled the country and required his death sentence in absentia be lifted in order to inherit the family estate — but the verdict was not set aside until the French Revolution, a few months after the end of the Terror.

France’s overall secular trajectory since has rendered this date a sort of national freethinkers’ holiday, Chevalier de la Barre Day. A statue of its namesake stands in Paris’ Montmarte:

* Voltaire’s writings on the case in the original French are collected by the Association Le Chevalier de la Barre here.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Beheaded,Burned,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Famous,France,Freethinkers,God,History,Innocent Bystanders,Martyrs,Nobility,Notable Jurisprudence,Notable Participants,Popular Culture,Posthumous Exonerations,Public Executions,Torture,Wrongful Executions

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