Principality of Bitlis

Principality of Bitlis (1182–1847), was a Kurdish principality originated from the Rojaki (or Rozagi) tribal confederation. The Rojaki defeated the Georgian King David the Curopalate and conquered Bitlis and Sasun in the 10th century.[1] The principality occasionally came under the rule of outsiders, such as Akkoyunlu (from 1467 to 1495) and Safavids (from 1507 to 1514). After the decline of Akkoyunlu, the Rojaki princes asserted their independence. Until 1596, eighteen Rojaki princes ruled the principality. In 1531, the Rojaki prince Sharaf Khan changed his allegiance to Safavids and in 1532 he was killed by Olama Takkalu.

The famous Kurdish historian, Sharaf al-Din (commonly known as Sharaf Khan Bidlisi) was the son of Shams al-Din the prince of Bitlis and grandson of Sharaf Khan. Shams Al-Din fled his principality due to pressure from Suleiman I and took refuge in Persia in the court of Shah Tahmasp I. His son, Sharaf Al-Din was born in 1533 and was raised in the Safavid court. During the reign of Shah Isma'il II, he fell under suspicion and was sent to exile in Nakhichevan. He escaped to Van and was appointed as the prince of Bitlis by Murad III in 1583.

The Rojaki rulers maintained their relative independence during the long rivalry between Ottomans and Safavids. In mid 17th century, Abdal Khan was the ruler of the principality. He has been described by the French traveller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, as the most powerful Kurdish prince. According to him, Abdal Khan was independent and did not acknowledge the Safavid or Ottoman states. Evliya Çelebi has praised Abdal Khan as a renaissance prince and master of a thousand arts.


  1. E.J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, p.1144 , ISBN 90-04-08265-4.

See also

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