|Re: THE TRAGEDY OF THE ASSYRIANS-1933|
- Saturday, September 25 2004, 7:02:47 (CEST)|
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THE TRAGEDY OF THE ASSYRIANS
Just Northeast of the present-day boundary of Iraq and within the borders of Turkey there is situated a tangled mass of mountains, generally known as Hakkiari. These mountains resemble those of Switzerland, but the country is on an even grander scale. The valleys are narrower; many of them, indeed, are precipitous gorges falling thousands of feet from the high mountains above and bearing little vegetation except a strip of green along the torrent at the base. The mountains rise to 12,000 and even to 14,000 feet. In summer snow lies on the highest peaks and in winter even in the lowest valleys the snow is deep.
The scenery is magnificent, particularly where the Greater Zab River burst its way through the mountain mass in a series of deep and narrow gorges with falls and rapids as the river drops. Great forests of oak, juniper, and, more rarely, pine and maple cover the mountainsides. In the valleys there is a profusion of rhododendrons, arbutus, hawthorn, and other small trees and shrubs. During the short spring, which follows the melting of the snows, the ground is carpeted with every kind of Alpine flower. The fauna is of the usual Caucasian type-wolves, bears, hyenas, ibex, marten, and foxes. The bird life ranges from tiny pipits and larks to the eagles and vultures that inhabit the higher crags. Chikor abound to attract the sportsman, and there is excellent fishing to be had.
This land, where only a virile people could hope to survive, has seldom been visited by Europeans and not at all since the outbreak of the Great War. It is now practically empty, but before the war tribes of mountaineers could find a scant living by sowing crops on the terraced valleys and by pasturing their hardy sheep and goats on the mountainsides.
Roads, of course, there were none, and the rough tracks which connected one valley with the next were impassable even for mules for several months in the year.
Such a country could afford only a meager livelihood to the tribes who lived there. These tribes before the war were largely composed of Assyrians, and with them this narrative will be mainly concerned.
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