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Zazaistan (Turkey)

Area and flag of uncertain status

Last modified: 2002-09-07 by ivan sache
Keywords: zaza | zazaistan | letter: z |
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[Zazaistan? flag]by Jaume Ollé

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Zazas and "Zazaistan"

The Alevis or Zazas are a minority (70.000) according to Le Monde) that live in the territories that were the old Turkoman emirate of Danishmend. Their name mean "Ali partisan" and they emigrated from Babylon in VIIth century and were later converted to shiism. The Zazas are divised on 28 tribes each one directed by an important clan.

Around 1917 the rebels used plain red flags and these flags were rolled up around their heads during the fight against Turks, who called the Zazas the Kizilbach (Red Heads). In1921 Ismail Aga directed the revolt in the region of Kochgiri, that was repressed in blood (20.000 were killed). During this revolt was created the flag with Z, the Z being a traditional embroidery in the Zaza clothes. The flag was used during the followings revolts: 1934 Kocj Asireti in Dersim; 1937-38 Seyit Riza also in Dersim; 1978 Haliloztoprak in Marach; Sivas city in 1979; revolt of Tchorum in 1980.

The Zaza flag is banned in Turkey and is used mainly in the Zaza emigration in Germany and other countries. (from an article by Lucien Philippe).

Jaume Ollé, 10 October 1998

The status of Zazas is better explained in a paper by Martin van Bruinessen, from the Turkish and Kurdish Studies Department, Utrecht University (The Netherlands):

"Meanwhile in Europe Zaza-speaking Kurds - some of them Sunnis, other Alevis - were bringing about a minor revival of Zaza literature, in the margin of the remarkable resurgence of Kurmanci literary activities. Aminority among them began perceiving the Zaza as a distinct ethnic group that had to liberate itself from cultural domination by Kurds as well as the Turkish state. This Zaza 'nationalism' still is largely a matter ofexile politics, and it may still appear as a marginal phenomenon, but gradually it is also influencing the debate among Dersimis inside Turkey."
"This debate on the development of, or ban on, written Zaza made a strong impact in the small circle of Zaza intellectuals in exile, causing a parting of the minds among them. In the late 1980s, the first Zaza journal was published, and it was emphatically non-Kurdish. It carried articles in Zaza, Turkish and English but not in Kurdish, it spoke of the Zazas as a separate people, whose identity had too long been denied not only by the Turkish state but by the Kurds as well, and it coined the new name of Zazaistan for the ancient homeland of these Zazas, indicating its rejection of the term Kurdistan as a geographical name. The journal at first had only a very small circle of readers, but the many angry Kurdish reactions suggested that the journal did have a point after all, and gradually growing numbers of Zazas were won over to its views. There appears not to be an organized Zaza nationalist movement yet, but the publishing activities go on increasing, with two new journals appearing in Europe and recently a series of booklets in Turkey, all of them proclaiming the Zazas to be different from the Kurds."
Original footnotes: "Ayre and its successor Piya were published monthly in Sweden from 1987 on. Presently the most important Zaza journals are Desmala Sure and Ware (both published in Germany).

Therefore, it seems that the caption Zazakistan (Alevistan) - Alevis or Zazas (Kizilbashes) of the flag shown above in the Flags of Aspirant Peoples chart [eba94] is simplistic if not completely erroneous.

Caker and Ivan Sache, 10 May 1999

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