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ASHEETHA. — A NESTORIAN HOUSE. — THE MASSACRE. ZAWEETHA. —
NESTORIAN PRIESTS. — MURGHI. — LIZAN. SCENE OF THE MASSACRE.
A TIYARI BRIDGE. RAOLA. THE HOUSE OF THE MELEK. THE
DISTRICT OF TKHOMA. — ALARM OF THE INHABITANTS. — CHURCH SERVICE. — TKHOMA GOWAIA. — A KURDISH CHIEF. PASS INTO BAZ.
EROUB. — RETURN TO TKHOMA BE-ALATHA. ROADS OF TIYARI.
CHONBA. — MURDER OF MELEK ISMAIL. RETURN TO ASHEETHA.
KASHA AURAHAM. — A COPPER MINE. — CHALLEK. — OURMELI. A
SUBASHI. A KURDISH 'SAINT. — MALTHAYIAH. — SCULPTURES. —
ALKOSH. — TOMB OF THE PROPHET NAHUM. — RABBAN HORMUZD.
TELKEP AND ITS CHRISTIAN INHABITANTS. RETURN TO MOSUL SECOND
MASSACRE IN THE NESTORIAN MOUNTAINS. — CAPTURE AND EXILE OF BEDER KHAN BEY.
We had no sooner reached the house of Yakoub Rais, than a cry of " The Bey is come," spread rapidly through the village, and I was surrounded by a crowd of men, women, and boys. My hand was kissed by all, and I had to submit for some time to this tedious process. As for my companion, he was almost smothered in the embraces of the girls, nearly all of whom had been liberated from slavery after the great massacre, and had been supported in their distress by his brother for some months in Mosul. * Amongst the men were many of my old workmen, who were distinguished from the rest of the inhabitants of Asheetha by their gay dresses and arms, the fruits of their
* It may be remembered, that Beder Khan Bey, in 1843, invaded the Tiyari districts, massacred in cold blood nearly 10,000 of their inhabitants, and carried away as slaves a large number of women and children. But it is, perhaps, not generally known, that the release of the greater part of the captives was obtained through the humane interference and generosity of Sir Stratford Canning, who prevailed upon the Porte to send a commissioner into Kurdistan, for the purpose of inducing Beder Khan Bey and other Kurdish chiefs to give up the slaves they had taken, and who advanced, himself, a considerable sum towards their liberation. Mr. Ttassam also obtained the release of many slaves, and maintained and clothed, at his own expense and for many months, not only the Nestorian Patriarch, who had taken refuge in Mosul, but many hundred Chaldasans who had escaped from the mountains. industry during the winter. They were anxious to show their gratitude, and their zeal in my service. The priests came too; Kasha Ghioorghis, Kasha Hormuzd, and others. As they entered the room, the whole assembly rose; and lifting their turbans and caps reverentially from their heads, kissed the hand extended to them. In the meanwhile the girls had disappeared; but soon returned, each bearing a platter of fruit which they placed before me. My workmen also brought large dishes of boiled garas swimming in butter. There were provisions enough for the whole company.
The first inquiries were after Mar Shamoun, the Patriarch. I produced his letter, which the priests first kissed and placed to their foreheads. They afterwards passed it to the principal men, who went through the same ceremony. Kasha Ghioorghis then read the letter aloud, and at its close, those present uttered a pious ejaculation for the welfare of their Patriarch, and renewed their expressions of welcome to us.
These preliminaries having been concluded, we had to satisfy all present as to the object, extent, and probable duration of our journey. The village was in the greatest alarm at a threatened invasion from Beder Khan Bey. The district of Tkhoma, which had escaped the former massacre, was now the object of his fanatical vengeance. He was to march through Asheetha, and orders had already been sent to the inhabitants to collect provisions for his men. As his expedition was not to be undertaken before the close of Ramazan, there was full time to see the proscribed districts before the Kurds entered them. I determined, however, to remain a day in Asheetha, to rest our mules.
On the morning following our arrival, I went with Yakoub Rais to visit the village. The trees and luxuriant crops had concealed the desolation of the place, and had given to Asheetha, from without, a flourishing appearance. As I wandered, however, through the lanes, I found little but ruins. A few houses were rising from the charred heaps; still the greater part of the sites were without owners, the whole family having perished. Yakoub pointed out, as we went along, the former dwellings of wealthy inhabitants, and told me how and where they had been murdered. A solitary church had been built since the massacre; the foundations of others were seen amongst the ruins. The pathways were still blocked up by the trunks of trees cut down by the Kurds. Watercourses, once carrying fertility to many gardens, were now empty and dry; and the lands which they had irrigated were left naked and unsown. I was surprised at the proofs of the industry and activity of the few surviving families, who had returned to the village, and had already brought a large portion of the land into cultivation.
The houses of Asheetha are not built in a group, but are scattered over the valley like those of the Tiyari districts.* Each dwelling stands in the centre of the land belonging to its owner; consequently, the village occupies a much larger space than would otherwise be required, but has a cheerful and pleasing appearance. The houses are simple, and constructed so as to afford protection and comfort, during winter and summer. The lower part is of stone, and contains two or three rooms inhabited by the family and their cattle during the cold months. Light is admitted by the door, and by small holes in the wall. There are no windows, as in the absence of glass, a luxury as yet unknown in Kurdistan, the cold would be very great during the winter, when the inhabitants are frequently snowed up for many days together. The upper floor is constructed partly of stone, and partly of wood, the whole side facing the south being open. Enormous beams, resting on wooden pillars and on the walls, support the roof. This is the summer habitation, and here all the members of the family reside. During July and August, they usually sleep on the roof, upon which they erect stages of boughs and grass resting on high poles. By thus raising themselves as much as possible, they avoid the vermin which swarm in the rooms, and
* Asheetha and Zaweetha were formerly looked upon as half-independent districts, each having its own Rais or head. They were neither within the territories nor under the authority of the Meleks of Tiyari.
catch the night winds which carry away the gnats. Sometimes they build these stages in the branches of high trees around the houses. The winter provision of dried grass and straw for the cattle is stacked near the dwelling, or is heaped on the roof.
As this was the first year that the surviving inhabitants of Asheetha, about 200 families, had returned to the village and had cultivated the soil, they were almost without provisions of any kind. We were obliged to send to Zaweetha for meat and rice; and even milk was scarce, the flocks having been carried away by the Kurds. Garas was all we could find to eat. They had no corn and very little barley. Their bread was made of this garas, and upon it alone they lived, except when on holidays they boiled the grain, and soaked it in melted butter.
The men were now busy in irrigating the land; and seemed to be rewarded by the promise of ample crops of their favourite garas, and of wheat, barley, rice, and tobacco. The boys kept up a continued shrill shriek or whistle to frighten away the small birds, which had been attracted in shoals by the ripe corn. When tired of this exercise, they busied themselves with their partridges. Almost every youth in the country carries one of these birds at his back, in a round wicker cage. Indeed, whilst the mountains and the valleys swarm with wild partridges, the houses are as much infested by the tame. The women, too, were not idle. The greater part of them, even the girls, were beating out the corn, or employed in the fields. A few were at the doors of the houses working at the loom, or spinning wool for the clothes of the men. I never saw more general or cheerful industry; even the priests took part in the labors of their congregation.
I walked to the ruins of the school and dwelling-house, built by the American missionaries during their short sojourn in the mountains. These buildings had been the cause of much jealousy and suspicion to the Kurds. They stand upon the summit of an isolated hill, commanding the whole valley. A position less ostentatious and proportions more modest might certainly have been chosen; and it is surprising that persons, so well acquainted with the character of the tribes amongst whom they had come to reside, should have been thus indiscreet. They were, however, most zealous and worthy men; and had their plans succeeded, I have little doubt that they would have conferred signal benefits on the Nestorian Chaldaeans. I never heard their names mentioned by the Tiyari, and most particularly that of Dr. Grant, without expressions of profound respect, amounting almost to veneration. *
During the occupation of Asheetha by the Kurds, Zeinel
* Dr. Grant, who published an account of his visit to the mountains, fell a victim to his humane zeal for the Chaldoeans in 1844. After the massacre, his house in Mosul was filled with fugitives, whom he supported and clothed. Their sufferings, and the want of common necessaries before they reached the town, had brought on a malignant typhus fever, of which many died, and which Dr. Grant caught whilst attending the sick in his house. Mosul holds the remains of most of those who were engaged in the American missions to the Chalda:ans.