|Re: THE TRAGEDY OF THE ASSYRIANS-1933|
- Saturday, September 25 2004, 8:48:27 (CEST)|
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The backbone of the Assyrians, the survivors of a once great people and of a once a great Christian Church, were the Hakkiari mountaineers, the tribesmen of the Tiyari, the Jilu, the Tokhuma, and the Baz clans. Living as they did in a hard and unfertile land, they were very poor. What cultivation existed was mainly in artificial t terraces on the slope of the mountains. It could bring but little in, though the Assyrians were a hard working people, far surpassing the Kurds in this respect, although, as already stated, hardly the equal of the Armenian, their co-religionists.
Their main wealth lay in their flocks and they were many shepherds as cultivators. They led their flocks up and down the mountain pastures as the seasons changed often living during the summer at an altitude of 8,000 feet, while in the winter their sheep lived with them in their houses, for then even in the valleys the cold was so intense that for days at a time neither animal nor human being could venture out of doors.
The villages were small and generally were built on knolls in the narrow valleys. The houses were built of stone with a flat roof. They possessed few comforts, for the Assyrians were very poor. Despite their remarkable thrift there was little opportunity of acquiring wealth. Some of them used to go down to Mosul for periods of work, in particular the Baz tribesmen, who are excellent artisans. Others even visited Europe and America, though these were mainly engaged in less creditable begging tours. The remainder, until the arrival of the Mission, which the Archbishop of Canterbury sent out in 1886, were almost entirely cut off from outside influences.
Like most mountaineers the Assyrians were quarrelsome, hot-headed NOT to say truculent-and before the war they were independent by nature. It was only after their long experiences as refugees, as well shall see, their character in the last respect altered. Thought educationally deficient, as can only be expected living in such a back-water, they were remarkably quick to pick up new ideas.
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