Principality of Bitlis
|Sharaf al-Din Bitlisi|
|Today part of||Bitlis Province|
The Principality of Bitlis, also known as the Bitlis Khanate (1182-1847) was a Kurdish principality originated from the Rojaki (or Rozagi) tribal confederation. Claiming descent from the Marwanid dynasty, the Rojaki defeated the Georgian King David the Curopalate and conquered Bitlis and Sasun in the 10th century. The principality occasionally came under the rule of outsiders, such as the Ak Koyunlu (from 1467 to 1495) and the Safavids (from 1507 to 1514). After the decline of the Ak Koyunlu, the Rojaki princes asserted their independence. The principality supported the Ottoman Sultan Selim I and its rulers were named Noble Khans in return. In 1531, the Rojaki prince withdrew his support for the Ottomans and turned towards the Safavids instead, an event that lead to the capture of the principality by the Ottomans.
The Rojaki rulers maintained their relative independence during the long rivalry between the Ottomans and the Safavids. In 1665, Abdal Khans status as the Emir of the principality was strengthened after a visit to Bitlis by the Ottoman sultan Murad VI as he supported the Ottomans in their feud with the Safavids. Abdhal Khan 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 owner of a library of books in several languages. Several European travelers noted the ability of the emirate to call in militias (up to 12,000 cavalry forces) in order to defend itself. The autonomy of the principality ended in 1655 as Emir Abd al-Khan entered into conflict with the Malik Ahmad Pasha, the W?li of Van at the time. Al Khan was accused of confiscating properties in Bitlis by merchants in Van and an his closeness with the Yazidis. As result, the Ottoman Empire ended its tolerance towards the autonomy of the principality of Bitlis.