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Simko (center)
Date 1919 to 1922
Location Iran
Result Iranian Victory
Iran Simko's Army
General Amir Ershad

Reza Shah


Seyyed Taha Shamzini

8,000 10,000
Casualties and losses
over 2,000 killed, capture and wounded 3,500 killed, capture and wounded
This article is part of the
Kurdish history and Culture series
Early ancestors
Ancient history
Medieval history
Modern history

Simko Shikak also Ismail Agha Shikak (1887-1930), was a Kurdish politician and nationalist . He was born into a prominent Kurdish feudal family based in Chihriq castle located near Baranduz river in Urmia region in northwestern Iran. By 1920 parts of Iranian Azerbaijan located west of Lake Urmia were under his control[1]. He led Kurdish farmers into battle and defeated the Iranian army on several occasions. [2] The Iranian government had him executed in 1930[3].Simko took part in the massacre of the Assyrians of Khoy[4] and instigated the massacre of 1000 Assyrians in Salmas[5].


Family background

His family was one of the most prominent and politically active Kurdish families throughout Qajar reign from the late 18th to early 20th century. Sadiq Khan Shikak was one of the generals and governors in the Agha Muhammad Khan's early Qajar state and was commanding a force of 10,000 soldiers. However he was soon fell out of favor and Qajar monarch attempted to murder him. Sadiq Khan has been accused of taking part in the assassination of Qajar king in the town of Shusha in 1797. Among other prominent members of the family are Ismail Khan The Great and his son Ali Khan, Muhammad Pasha son of Ali Khan, Cewer (Ja'afar) Agha brother of Simko. Many members of the family were murdered by the Qajar state such as Cewer(Dja'far) Agha who was killed at Tabriz by the order of governor general[6].


Murder of Cewer Agha

In 1905, the Qajar monarch Mozafar-al-Din Shah appointed Husein Qulikhan Nizamul-saltana as the general governor of Azerbaijan. According to Iranian historian Ahmad Kasravi, Nizamul-saltana officially invited Cewer Agha to Tabriz in order to consult him on the border issues between Iran and the Ottoman Empire. Once Cewer Agha arrived in Tabriz, Nizamul-saltana ordered Muhammad Hussein Khan Zargham to invite Cewer Agha to his own residence and murder him. Cewer Agha was accompanied by seven of his guards including one of his uncles. Muhammad Ali Mirza, the Iranian Crown Prince, ordered his murder via telegraph sent to Nizamul-saltana. Five of Cewer Agha's guards managed to escape from the murder plot in Tabriz in a ferocious battle and return to Chari castle. Cewer's father, Muhammad Agha, sought help from Sultan Abdulhamid II in Istanbul to avenge the murder of his son. However Iranian envoy in Ottoman court managed to counter his efforts and according to some sources, Muhammad Agha was assassinated in a Qajar conspiracy in Istanbul. Murder of Cewer Agha caused outrage among the Kurds. Moreover many Iranian intellectuals and constitutionalists in Tabriz and Tehran condemned his assassination.

Simko's Political Life

There are different and conflicting views about Simko among the Kurdish historians [7] After murder of Cewer Agha, Simko became the head of Shikak forces. At this time, Iranian government was trying to assassinate him like the other members of his family. In 1919, Mukarramul-Molk the governor of Azerbaijan with the help of Armenians, devised a plot to kill Simko by sending him a present with a bomb hidden in it.[8] Although the plot failed, but it revealed the intentions of the Iranian government, and propelled simko into a turbulent period of political and military confrontation with Iran.

Simko was in contact with other Kurdish nationalists such as Abdurrazaq Badrkhan (Bedirxan) and Seyyed Taha Gilani (grandson of Sheikh Ubaidullah Nahri who had revolted against Iran in 1880s). Seyyed Taha was a Kurdish nationalist who was conducting propaganda among the Iranian Kurds for the union of Iranian Kurdistan and Turkish Kurdistan in an independent state[9]. He was also aware of the international geopolitics and modern nationalism. In one of his letters to Iranian authorities, he talks about the right of self-rule and autonomy for the Kurds and compares Kurdish demands with similar demands of other nationalities in Europe.

Simko's Rule 1918-1922

Light green: Approximate area of Urmia under Simko

By summer 1918, Simko had established his authority in the region west of Lake Urmia[10]. In 1919, Simko organized an army of 20,000 Kurds and managed to establish a small state in northwestern Iran centered in the city of Urmia. After conquest of Urmia, Simko appointed Teymur Agha Shikak as the governor of the city. After this, he organized his forces to fight the Iranian army in the region and managed to expand the area under his control to nearby towns and cities such as Mahabad, Khoy, Miandoab, Maku and Piranshahr in a series of battles. In the battle of Gulmakhana, Kurdish forces under his command wrested control of Gulmakhana and the Urmia-Tabriz road from Iranian forces. In the battle of Shakaryazi the commander of Iranian Army, General Amir Ershad was killed. In the battle of Miandoab Reza Shah commander of Iranian Army, dispatched Khaloo Qurban to counter Kurdish expansion, but he was defeated and killed by Simko's forces in 1922. In the battle of conquest of Mahabad, Simko himself commanded his forces with the help of Seyyed Taha Shamzini. After the very tough battle in October 1921, Iranian forces were defeated and their commander Major Malakzadeh along with 600 Iranian gendarmes were killed. Simko also conquered Maragheh and encouraged the Lur tribes of western Iran to revolt. At this time, government in Tehran tried to reach an agreement with Simko on the basis of limited Kurdish autonomy[11]. Simko had organized a strong Kurdish army which was much stronger than Iranian government forces. Since the central government could not control his activities, he continued to expand the area under his control and by 1922, cities of Baneh and Sardasht were under his administration[12].

Massacre of Christians and murder of Assyrian patriarch

In March 1918, under the pretext of meeting for the purpose of cooperation, Simko arranged the assassination of the Assyrian Nestorian patriarch, Mar Shamon, ambushing him and his 150 guards as Mar Shimon was entering his carriage. The patriarchal ring was stolen at this time and the body of the patriarch was only recovered hours later. [eye-witness Assyrian account of Daniel d-Malik Ismael, published in Tehran 1964] [13][14][15] After the murder of Mar Shimun, the Hakkari Christians took revenge on the Muslim population of Salmas and most of the villages of Salmas County, while Simko and his men massacred Christians in Khoy. Christian brigands terrorized Christians as well as Muslims. A missionary described this period as a reign of terror for Muslims hard to imagine. [16] Simko also instigated the massacre of 1000 Christians in Salmas. [17]

Simko's Cultural Activities

The first schools for Kurds were established in Mahabaad in 1909 by international missionaries operating under the Lutheran Orient Mission. This is also where the first Kurdish periodical appeared though it did not last long. Simko attacked the Kurdish and other inhabitants of Mahabaad operating on the fringes of the Ottoman army. The schools in Mahabaad recovered only when the surviving missionaries dared to return in 1920 when Simko's rampaging was being brought in check by the Iranian army. In 1912 Simko and Abdul-razzaq Badirkhan established a Kurdish journal in Iran, a monthly magazine titled Kurdistan. Moreover, he opened a Kurdish school in the north-western city of Khoy. These cultural activities were mainly organized by an association named Cîhandanî based in Khoy. From 1919 up to the end of his movement in 1922, he also published a newspaper titled Roja Kurd which was the official organ of his government in Urmia. The editor-in-chief of Roja Kurd was Muhammad Turjanizade.

Simko's Defeat and Assassination

In the battle of sari Taj in 1922, Simko's forces could not resist the Iranian Army's onslaught in the region of Salmas and were finally defeated and the castle of Chari was occupied. The strength of the Iranian Army force dispatched against Simko was 10,000 soldiers[18]. Simko and one thousand of his mounted soldiers, took refuge in nearby Turkey and they were forced to lay down their weapons. In 1930, the commander of Iranian Army Major Muqaddam sent a letter to Simko who was residing in the village of Barzan, and invited him for a meeting in the town of Oshnaviyeh. After consulting with his friends, Simko along with Khorshid Agha Harki went to Oshnaviyeh and were invited to the governor's house colonel Sediq Khan and were told to wait for the Iranian general. Iranian governor convinced Simko to go to the outskirts of the town to welcome the general's arrival. However this was a trap, and Simko was ambushed and killed on the evening of June 30, 1930.

Foreign involvement


Tehran repeatedly accused Britain (and Iraq) of encouraging unrest, and deeply resented the asylum given by Iraq to Simko in 1922 and to Sardār Rašid in 1923[19].


According to The NewYork Times ,July 10, 1922 :

It is said that Simko commanded 85000 men and was assisted by Mustapha Kemal Pasha , former Turkish war minister...[20]

Simko's forces joined with the Ottoman forces during their massacre of Christians in West Azerbaijan [21].

See also


  1. ^ C. Dahlman, The Political Geography of Kurdistan, Eurasian Geography and Economica, pp.271-299, No.4, Vol.43, 2002. p.283
  2. ^ B. O'Leary, J. McGarry,The Future of Kurdistan in Iraq, University of Pennsylvania Press, 355 pp., ISBN 0812219732 (see p.7)
  3. ^ M. M. Gunter, The Kurdish Question in Perspective, World Affairs, pp. 197-205, No.4, Vol. 166, Spring 2004. (see p.203)
  4. ^ John Joseph, "The Modern Assyrians of the Middle East: Encounters With Western Christian Missions, Archaeologists, and Colonial Power (Studies in Christian Mission) (Hardcover)", BRILL, 2000. pg 147: "Simko and his men had escaped to Khoi where they took part in the massacre of Christians
  5. ^ Maria T. O'Shea, "Trapped Between the Map and Reality: Geography and Perceptions of Kurdistan", Routledge, 2004. pg 100:"Simultaneously, a 1000 Christians were killed in Salmas, in a massacre instigated by Simko
  6. ^ M. Th. Houtsma, E. van Donzel, E. J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, 1993, ISBN 9004082654, p.290
  7. ^ According to Mehrdad R. Izady (Kurdish nationalist writer),

    The Shakak chief Ismail Agha Simko , before his execution by the Iranian monarch Reza Shah in 1930 , carried out enough atrocities in his 15 year political life to place him alongside such historical villains as Attila the Hun.....He then proceeded to drink the patriarch's blood as a demonstration of his rage

    The Kurds: A Concise Handbook,Mehrdad R. Izady,Taylor & Francis, 1992,ISBN 0844817279, 9780844817279,Page 57 .
  8. ^ Handren, Dilan (2009-02-02). "The Rebellion of Simko Agha" (in German). Kurdmania. Retrieved 2009-02-23.  
  9. ^ F. Kashani-Sabet,Frontier Fictions: Shaping the Iranian Nation, 1804-1946,328 pp., I.B. Tauris, 1999, ISBN 1850432708 p.153.
  10. ^ W. G. Elphinston, The Kurdish Question, International Affairs, Vol.22, No.1, pp.91-103, 1946. page 97
  11. ^ The Kurds in Iran, By David McDowall, 1991.
  12. ^ F. Koohi-Kamali, Nationalism in Iranian Kurdistan in The Kurds: A Contemporary Overview, Ed. By P.G.Kreyenbroek, and S. Sperl, 252 pp., Routledge, 1992, ISBN 0415072654 pp.175,176
  13. ^ M. Th. Houtsma, E. van Donzel, E. J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, 1993, ISBN 9004082654, p.118
  14. ^ Maria T. O'Shea, "Trapped Between the Map and Reality: Geography and Perceptions of Kurdistan", Routledge, 2004. pg 100: Simko later arranged the assassination of Mar Shamon, the Assyrian patriarch in March 1918, under the pretext of a meeting to discuss cooperation.
  15. ^ Mordechai Nisan, "Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle and Self-Expression", McFarland, 2002, pg 187: Simko, their leader in Persia, had invited Mar Shimon for conference in Kuhnehshahr, west of Salmas, kissed him -- and then treacherously murdered the Nestorian patriarch and his men
  16. ^ John Joseph, "The Modern Assyrians of the Middle East: Encounters With Western Christian Missions, Archaeologists, and Colonial Power (Studies in Christian Mission) (Hardcover)", BRILL, 2000. (see p. 147)
  17. ^ Maria T. O'Shea, "Trapped Between the Map and Reality: Geography and Perceptions of Kurdistan", Routledge, 2004. pg 100: "Simultaneously, a 1000 Christians were killed in Salmas, in a massacre instigated by Simko"
  18. ^ S. Cronin, Riza Shah and the disintegration of Bakhtiyari power in Iran, 1921-1934, Iranian Studies, Vol.33, No.3-4, pp.349-376, Summer-Fall 2000 p. 353
  19. ^ Cronin, Stephanie. "BRITISH INFLUENCE DURING THE REŻĀ SHAH PERIOD, 1921-41". Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved 2008-09-21.  
  20. ^ KURDISH REPUBLIC FORMED.; Simko, Bandit Leader, Said to Have Defeated Persian Troops.
  21. ^ Eliz Sanasarian, "Religious Minorities in Iran", Cambridge University Press (May 22, 2000). pg 178: "Simko's forced joined with the Turks and killed many escaping Christians

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