The Khanasor Expedition By Armenian Fedayees

The Khanasor Expedition, organized at the end of 19th century, was one of the most expansive offensives by Armenian fedayees. It was conducted against the Kurdish Mazrik tribe and its chief Sharaf Bey in particular.

The Mazrik tribe were camped in the fields of Khanasor, near Avarayr and the Turkish-Persian border. Sharaf Bey has actively prevented the supply of weaponry from Persia to Turkey, and eliminated groups of fedayees of Avetisyan, Peto and Martik in 1895.

Afterwards, Nikol Duman (Armenian: Նիկոլ Դուման; Nikoghayos Ter-Hovhannisyan (Armenian: Նիկողայոս Տեր-Հովհաննիսյան) (12 January 1867 – 23 September 1914)), who at the time was one of the three members of the committee of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (classical Armenian: Հայ Յեղափոխական Դաշնակցութիւն, ՀՅԴ, ARF, also known as Dashnaktsutsyun) in Tabriz, proposed a plan of punishment of Sharaf Bey and his tribe which would serve two purposes: frighten other Kurdish tribes and possibly prevent future assaults, and propagate reforms in Armenia.

Duman’s idea was supported by many Dashnaks (members of ARF), including Hnchak Ohanyan, but some other members, such as member of the committee of ARF Hovsep Arghutyan, were against it because they considered it to be too soon for such offensives due to lack of resources.

Disagreements have been among Armenian fedayees as well. The idea was eventually accepted after Harutyun Shaghikyan of ARF had been sent to Tabriz. Vardan Shahpaz (Armenian: Վարդան Շահպազ, born Minas Tonikyan, Armenian: Մինաս Տոնիկյան, 1864 – 1959) was appointed as the commander of the operation, his deputy was Hovsep Arghutyan, and Duman and Hnchak Ohanyan were appointed the commanders of squads.

On July 24, 1897, after taking an oath, a group of 253 Armenian fedayees crossed the Turkish-Persian border and headed for the Khanasor fields. At dawn on July 25, they attacked the camp of the Mazriks. Vardan had ordered to eliminate all men, but spare women and children.

Despite the surprise attack, Kurds managed to reorganize and fight back, resulting in a prolonged 12-hour battle. Eventually, the camp was wiped out, but Sharaf Bey had escaped in the guise of a woman. His guest, captain of the Turkish army, was killed in the engagement.

At that moment the surrounding height have been occupied by arrived Kurds. After completing their task, Armenian fedayees returned to Iran in July 25. They lost 20 people in the fight, including Karo, the brother of one of the founders of ARF Stepan Zoryan (Armenian: Ստեփան Զօրեան, better known by pseudonym Rostom (Ռոստոմ), 1867 – 1919).

In connection with the offensive, Sublime Porte, the central government of the Ottoman Empire, attempted to exert diplomatic pressure on Persian Empire, resulting in repressions against ARF in Persia. Particularly, Hovsep Arghutyan was arrested and deported to Russia. Nevertheless, the impact of the operation on the moral condition of Armenians was significant, and it demonstrated their readiness and ability to defend themselves.

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