DemDem Story

  • Battle of Demdem Castle, Kurds and Safavids “It is better for us to die on the battlefield than for the enemy to occupy the castle! Darling, I was born to live freely in the high mountains. This is our matter of honour and never forget this day…” Emirxan Lepzerin

  • DemDem Or DIMDIM (Pers. Demdem or Domdom), name of a mountain and a fortress where an important battle between the Kurds and the Safavid army took place in the early 17th century.

  • Mount Dimdim (elev. ca. 2,000 m) is located between the Bārāndūz river and the tributary Qāsemlū near the shore of Lake Urmia, a few kilometers west of the Urmia-Mahābād road; the nearby village of Bālānīj is about 18 km south of Urmia. According to Kurdish oral tradition (reported by Eskandar Beg, I, p. 792), the fortress on top of the mountain dates from the pre-Islamic period. In about 1609 the ruined structure was rebuilt by Amir Khan Lapzēṟīn, ruler of Barādūst, who sought to maintain the independence of his expanding principality in the face of both Ottoman and Safavid penetration into the region. In 1609 Eskandar Beg described it as a formidable stronghold consisting of five separate forts with well-protected cisterns and pits for storing ice and snow (pp. 796-97). Today portions of the walls and heaps of building stones and bricks are still visible (Pedrām).

  • The battle of Dimdim occupies a prominent place in Safavid historiography. Shah ʿAbbās I (996-1038/1588-1626) had recognized Amir Khan’s hereditary right to rule over Barādūst and Urmia, but the rebuilding of Dimdim was considered a move toward independence that could threaten Safavid power in the northwest; in fact, neither the Safavids nor the Ottomans had yet gained firm control of Kurdistan, Azarbaijan, and Armenia. Many Kurds, including the rulers of Mokrī (west and south of Lake Urmia), rallied around Amir Khan. After a long and bloody siege led by the Safavid grand vizier Ḥātem Beg, which lasted from November 1609 to the summer of 1610, Dimdim was captured; all the defenders were massacred. Shah ʿAbbās ordered a general massacre in Barādūst and Mokrī (Eskandar Beg, pp. 809-14; Falsafī, pp. 190-94) and resettled the Turkish Afšār tribe in the region (Adīb-al-Šoʿarāʾ, pp. 11-73) while deporting many Kurdish tribes to Khorasan. The two principalities did survive, though much weakened, and the amirs of Barādūst fought two more battles against the Safavids at Dimdim (Eskandar Beg, pp. 889-91; Adīb-al-Šoʿarāʾ, pp. 52-55). In 1142/1729 Ṭahmāsbqolī Sepahsālār (the future Nāder Shah, 1148-60/1736-47) defeated Yūsof Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Urmia, at Dimdim and ordered the fortress destroyed (Adīb-al-Šoʿarāʾ, pp. 76-77).

  • Although Persian historians (e.g. Eskandar Beg and Adīb-al-Šoʿarāʾ) depicted the first battle of Dimdim as a result of Kurdish mutiny or treason, in Kurdish oral traditions (e.g., Baytī dimdim; see BAYT), literary works (Dzhalilov, pp. 67-72), and histories it was treated as a struggle of the Kurdish people against foreign domination; in fact, Baytī dimdim is considered a national epic second only to Mam ū Zīn by Aḥmadī Ḵānī. It is known in both the Kūrmānjī and Sorānī dialects of Kurdish and in Armenian. Most of the collected ballads portray the defenders of Dimdim as martyrs (šahīd) in a holy war (xeza; see, e.g., Dzhalilov, pp. 81, 97, 98). The earliest literary account is attributed to the poet Faqē Ṭayrān (ca. 1590-1660), and a number of modern writers, poets, playwrights, and historians have devoted works to the revolt.

Categories: Uncategorized