The Kurds of Reshvan

The purpose of this article is to prove that I don't know, but I would love to know the Reshvan people. They are very special and being unknown makes it just more interesting to get to know more about them, just like Persian carpets in general. My journey into studying the Reshvan people started recently when I saw a carpet woven by them, published by Simon Ferenc Toth together with some interesting comments by Deniz Coskun.

Deep inside my subconscious there is a connection to the Reshvan Kurds that I translate as links from my ancestors or the legacy of these people that I admire. To study the Kurdish people one should consider a few facts. If one considers time and the fact that it is not linear but cyclical, you may find that events are influenced sometimes by the past, sometimes by the present and sometimes by the future. This is how I experience the study of the Kurds as well. They are one of the most ancient tribes that can trace their lineage to Noah and maybe even before him, to the more recent Mesopotamians, Ebliates, Mitanni's and the Medians of Iran, and yet, because they are wide spread in Syria, Anatolia, Caucasus, Iraq and Iran, they are named differently in different eras and areas.

Through their migrations they absorbed many cultures in all the different areas and the local cultures absorbed their customs too. This makes it hard to identify the true core of the Kurds and makes studying them challenging and more interesting. Just like the wind cannot be caught, neither can the true essence of the Kurds today. Needless to say that the political influences of the governing countries that they lived in and their relationship with them, also influences the way that history records the Kurds in each separate era and each separate area, for example, a specific clan of Kurds could be the heroes of one country during a specific era or the biggest enemies of the same country during a different era. Therefore studying them needs a collateral study of many documents and histories of all of the countries where the Kurds lived/lives as well as writings about them by neutral parties, such as ancient travelers Evliya Celebi or Bedlisi,

The name "Reshvan" by itself has its own mysteries. In Turkey they are known as Reshvan but in Iran they are called Rashvand or Rishvand or even Rashvanlou, which is related to Rash or Rish translating to "black" in Kurdish. Some scholars link it to the black goat-hair that they use to make their tents or the dark complex of their skin, but I suggest it comes from the Aramaic word "rosh" meaning "head" which somehow should be related to "being the head/rulers of the Kurds".

To further study this tribe you need to acknowledge two unknown versions of the spelling of their name as well. One is "Redwan" which, in my opinion, was a capitol city of a sanjak in east Anatolia, named Khalidi at the time. A sanjak was an administrative division of the Ottoman Empire that was governed by sanjak beys that was sometimes subdivided into timars and kandiluks (area of responsibility of a judge). Sometimes these sanjaks were unofficial and more like a geo-political regions, and in my opinion, Redwan was the Khalidi sanjak in east Diyarbakir. The most interesting thing is that near Qasvin in Iran there are traces of Reshvan people that called themselves Khalidi and my aunt's husband had that surname. The sanjaks in Arabic speaking countries, like Syria and Iraq, is more like a Liwa who, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, were used in Arabic countries formerly under Ottoman rule. To understand the Reshvan people we need to consider the Rizvan of Gaza or the Damascus Liwa who in the 16th and 17th centuries were ruled by the Rizvan/Ridvan Dynasty. This Dynasty was founded by Kara Shahin Moustafa who served as governor of a number of provinces and districts, including Gaza, during his career. His son continued the dynasty after him and was also the sanjablar of Yemen. During the son's reign the sanjak of Nablos and Jerusalem were also attached to the Gaza sanjak. Towards the 17th century he had the Mamluk-era Qasr al-Basha in Gaza enlarged and transformed into the family's fortress and governor's palace. He also served as Amir al-Hajj and was eventually appointed as the governor of Damascus in 1601.

According to Bedlisi the Reshvan people were part of a bigger tribe called Chamashgazak who lived east of Diyarbakr and south of Erzenjan, of whom 40,000 families moved to Iran and settled around Varamin and Qazvin and even later in Khorasan. Some historians relates the Chamashgazak, that is now a province in Turkey (East Anatolia), to Jamshidganzak which means "the castle of Jamshid" (who was an ancient Iranian king). Some claim that the territory of the Chamashgazak tribe was so vast that the territory was called Kurdistan for the first time in history. Another interesting fact about this tribe is that nearly 1,000 years ago they were ruled by Malik Shah, who created his dynasty in Tuncheli in eastern Anatolia, and this is the reason that some historians connect the Reshvan to the Malikshahi tribe. When Malik Shah ruled the area with justice and kindness, other tribes joined the Reshvans to create one of the largest confederations of the era with 40 tribes under his flagship and his area of control was so vast that it even included the Ilam province in west Iran, that still has a city today called Malikshahi. This Malikshahi tribe has a long history of interaction in Iranian affairs, for example, they were one of the biggest lines of defense of the Iranian army against the Mongolian armies. Or when the Uzbeks threatened the northeast borders of Iran they were asked by the Safavid king to relocate to Khorasan to protect the borders.

There are records of the existence of the Malikshahi tribe or Reshvan in Iraq, especially in the Baban province with the main city Shahrzoor. In summary, studying the Reshvan cannot be achieved easily by studying just one era or area. One of the most interesting parts of this study for me is their connection to the Marwanids dynasty in Diyarbakr that in that time was so vast that it covered northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey and Armenia, and all these territories more or less represent the area of the Mitanni dynasty.

Studying the religion and the ancient rituals of the Reshvan people is another interesting topic that we will discuss in another post. The photo in this article is courtesy of Simon Ferenc Toth and the carpet is the latest acquisition by Ghorbany Carpets, circa 1850.