The Yezidi Kurds’ tribes & clans of south Caucasus
By Kereme Anqosi

Yezidi Kurds have been in the southern Caucasus under Russia for some 150 years now. The majority fled Ottoman oppression and discrimination in 1916-1918 to settle in Armenia and Georgia. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, they have been leaving Georgia and Armenia to settle in Russia, Europe and elsewhere.
All of those in Georgia and Armenia have come from the two provinces of Wan and Qers [Van & Kars in official maps] in Turkey. Some reached the Russian Empire much earlier and some later. But all came to Russia and threw themselves on the mercy of the Czar for protection. Helplessness and poverty were everywhere.
South Caucasus Yezidis are divided into two main groups: the Zuquri Yezidis from the province of Wan and the Axbaran Yezidis from the province of Qers.
Yezidi communities in Armenia and Georgia are divided into many tribes and clans: the tribes of Zuquriyan, Sipkan, Xaltan, Mehemdan, Rojkan-Rojkani, Hesiniyan and the clan of Axleran.
Each tribe is further divided into clans and separate households. There are many tribes and clans, some small and some large, some powerful and some less so.
The Zuquri Yezidis say they packed up their belongings in the province of Wan (in Turkey) and settled down on the lands of Armenia and Georgia. The Yezidi Zuquris are also known as the tribe of “Cangir-axaye Mendiki.” The Zuquri tribe lived on the land surrounding Lake Van and eastward to the Iranian frontier (the town of Sera). Their villages were located high up in the mountains between the rivers Ava Resh [black water] and Godirme. There were several Zuquri villages on the Iranian side of the border as well. Within the Zuquri tribe there were two prominent and highly respected families. One belonged to Cangir-axa son of Xetibaxaye Mendiki and the other belonged to Simo, son of Cheto-axaye Reshi. In reality, Simo, son of Cheto’s household, was a big man, but Cangir-axa was a brave-hearted, resourceful gentleman. He was well informed and sociable. Thanks to his leadership and guidance, the Yezidis freed themselves from Ottoman discrimination and oppression. Cangir-axaye Mendiki was quite a warrior. What a shame though! He was betrayed. Yezidi musicians have composed many pieces praising his courage.
Yezidis from Qers and Axbaran (a township in Armenia around Mt Elegez) lived in villages around the cities of Qers, Bazid and Surmeli, among the villages of other Kurds and Armenians. Among the Yezidis from Qers, the households of Kok-axa (Choban-axa) and Hesen-beg of the Hesinian tribe were well known.
In this book, as far as we know, we bring to public view the names of tribes and clans and the villages from which they originate. Over time the uninformed among us are forgetting their ancestral homeland in Kurdistan and feelings of patriotism are abating as well. There have been many frustrations and difficulties over the course of collecting and documenting the names of tribes and clans. But, thanks to the Almighty, we managed the task and produced this book. Of course, there are deficiencies. Perfection is not possible. A good deal of time has passed. Our people, our elders have gone to their maker. They were unable to conduct a proper scientific study of Yezidi tribes and clans.
We believe this to be the first attempt to describe and publish the Yezidi Kurds’ tribes and clans in south Caucasus (from Wan and Qers) and in Germany (those who left Turkey). Owing to lack of opportunities, the Kurdish section of this book has been written only briefly, but the Russian language section contains far wider research and commentary. [The Russian section has been translated to English; see PREFACE]

further text: The Yezidi Kurds’ tribes & clans of south Caucasus

More: Onnik Krikorian has an extensive post on the Yezidi minority in Georgia, which he recently visited together with an ethno-musicologist. Onnik provides exclusive photography, interviews, and compares the minority’s situation in Georgia with that in Armenia.

More: The Yezidi Kurds and Assyrians of Georgia. The Problem of Diasporas and Integration into Contemporary Society. (www.ca-c.org)

Photos: Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2006

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