1902 Encyclopedia > Kurdistan

Kurdistan




KURDISTAN, or KUKDISTAN, is a convenient geo-graphical designation for the lands inhabited by the Kurds, but the name is not used in the country in this general sense, nor indeed would it be technically correct, for in a very small nortion only of the region in question is the population exclusively Kurdish.

Geography.—The furthest point to which the Kurds extend north-westward is the junction of the two arms of the Euphrates near Kharpiit, in about 39° N. lat. and 39° E. long., while their south-eastern limit may be defined as the frontier of Luristan, south of Kirmanshahan, in about 34° N. lat. and 47° E. long. The whole of this space, which is roughly calculated to embrace an area of at least 60,000 square miles, is mountainous, being in fact a section of the great chain which, known in antiquity at one ex-tremity as Taurus and at the other as Zagrus, bisects Asia Minor from, west to east, and then turning to the south-east buttresses the great Persian plateau in a series of ranges rising step over step above the valley of the Tigris. Kurdistan thus defined may be divided, according to its physical features, into three separate sections. The first section, stretching from Kharpiit to the Persian frontier, has been thus described by Consul Taylor, who resided for many years in the country.

"The general features," he says, "of this tract are high moun-tains, enclosing fertile valleys and an undulating upland, bounded on the south-west by the Tigris, and intersected at several points by numerous streams having their rise in the northern districts of the Diarbekir pashalic, and emptying themselves into that river. The scenery in the highlands yields to no other portion of Turkey for variety and romantic beauty, while the numerous rivers and streams flow through charming landscapes and thickly wooded valleys, bathing in their course the bases of castles and towns famous in profane and ecclesiastical history."

To supplement Mr Taylor's general description, it may be enough to say that there are three principal ranges running from West to east o through this portion of Kurdistan :—(1) The Diijik and Mezoor Dagh (Paryadres and Abus of antiquity, and Mount Simus of Armenian history), a lofty, rugged, and inaccessible range which fills up the entire space between the two arms of the Euphrates, being connected with Anti-Taurus to the westward, and culminating far to the east in the isolated peaks of the greater and lesser Ararat; (2) The Mudikan range, south of the Murad-sii, which is a continuation of the true Taurus, and which is prolonged under the names of Nimrud Dagh, Sipan Dagh, and Ala Dagh, till it reaches the Persian frontier to the north-east of Lake Van (in this range all the headwaters of the Tigris rise, flowing south under the names of Debeneh-su, Ambar-sii, Batman-sii, and the rivers of Arzen and Bohtan, and joining the main stream between Diarbekir and Jezireh); and (3) Mount Masius, or Jebel-Tiir, an inferior range, south of the Tigris, which divides Kurdistan from the great Mesopotamian desert.

The second or central division of Kurdistan, which may be regarded as extending north and south from Lake Van to Sulimanleh, is of a more exclusively mountainous character. With the exception indeed of the districts of Amadfeh, Shekelabad, and Koi-Sanjak on the immediate skirts of the Tigris basin, and the open country of Azerbijan beyond the great range to the south-west of Lake Urumieh, where the Kurds of the mountains have overflowed into Persia, there is hardly a square mile of level land anywhere to be found. The ranges of this division, which preserve a general direction of north-north-west and south-south-east, are throughout much broken up by transverse ridges, and seem to be tossed about in inextricable disorder, a few peaks, such as the Jebel-Judi above Amadieh (which almost certainly represents the Ararat of the Bible) and the Gawar (or Jawar) Dagh near Julamerik in the Hakkari country, rising to a stupendous height, and thus dominating the surrounding mountains, while several large rivers, and especially the Khabur and the Upper and Lower Zab, run-ning in narrow and precipitous beds, burst at right angles through the gorges of the chain, and descend upon the Tigris valley in a series of cataracts amid scenery of the wildest and most impressive grandeur. The usual elevation of the hills in this part of Kurdistan is not less than 10,000 feet above the level of the sea, while some of the highest peaks reach probably to an altitude of 14,000 or even 15,000 feet.

In the third or southern division of Kurdistan, which includes the Turkish pashalic of Sulimanleh and the Persian provinces of Ardelan and Kirmanshahan, the mountain chain diminishes both in height and breadth. The average height of the hills is here only about 5000 or 6000 feet, and the loftiest range, that of the Bend-i-Nuh, or Noah's Hill, which forms the southern barrier of the gates of Zagrus,1 and upon which, according to the tradition of Babylonia, as opposed to the tradition of Assyria, the ark is supposed to have rested, does not exceed an elevation of 8000 feet. The pass also which traverses the range at this point, and conducts from the lowlands of Holwan to the upper plain of Kirrend, is only 10 miles in length. At the foot of the great range on the western side are the fertile plains of Shahrizor, Zohab, and Ghilan, where rice is extensively cultivated, while on the Persian side, though rocky ridges run out to the eastward both in Ardelan and Kirmanshahan, the general character of the country is open, and cereals are everywhere produced in extraordinary abundance.

Population.—There are no means of calculating the total Kurd population with even approximate accuracy, for neither in Turkey nor in Persia has a Government census ever been attempted, and the revenue tables which regulate taxation and conscription, and ought therefore to guide inquiry, are wilfully distorted for political purposes to such an extent as to be quite unreliable. From the meterials, however, which have been recently collected by the British consular officers employed in Asia Minor, with a view of testing the relative strength of the Mohammedan and Christian populations, it seems pretty clear that the Turkish Kurds exceed one million and a half in number, while the estimates of travellers who have resided in Persian Kurdistan give about 750,000 souls for the aggregate of the tribesmen and sedentary Kurds dwelling along the mountains from Ararat to Kirmanshahan, to-gether with the scattered colonies of the interior. The following rough table, then, has been compiled from the above sources.
Turkey.

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Attempts have been made to classify this Kurdish population as sedentary and nomad, and in connexion with the classification to distinguish between tribal and non-tribal communities ; but all such divisions are arbitrary and fallacious, and ought not to be admitted in a statistical account of the nation. No doubt the original Kurdish organization was tribal, and the prevailing habits of the tribes have always been nomadic and pastoral; but such habits are ever liable to be modified by local circumstances, and at the present day it is quite incorrect to suppose that the tribal Kurds are universally pastoral and migratory, while the non-tribal Kurds are sedentary and agricultural. In reality the distinction between living in villages as cultivators and living in tents as shepherds mainly depends on the localities where the tribes happen to be established. The Deyrsimlis, for instance, who inhabit the ranges of Dujik and Mezoor between the two arms of the Euphrates, and who number, according to Consul Taylor's estimate, above 200,000 souls, reside almost exclusively in villages, owing to the severity of their northern climate, while they follow agricultural and pastoral pursuits indifferently. But, on the other hand, the tribes to the south who have easy access to the Mesopotamian plains, prefer a nomadic life, sheltering their flocks and herds in the warm pastures beyond the Tigris during the winter, and driving them up in the summer to feed on the rich herbage of the mountain sides; and the same rule may be held to apply generally throughout Kurdistan, the tribesmen, whose natural instincts lead them to migrate between summer and winter quarters, becoming sedentary only when obstacles, either political or geographical, are placed in the way of their movements. With regard also to the distinction that is sometimes drawn between tribal and non-tribal Kurds, the hypothesis being that the latter, who live in villages and cultivate the soil, are the descendants of the aboriginal peasantry, while the former, who live in tents and support themselves with their flocks, are conquering invaders, the explanation will certainly not hold good. There is in reality no ethnic distinction between the two classes. Tribal Kurds who settle in villages very soon lose their distinctive name, and mix with the peasantry of the neighbourhood, while it constantly happens that a chief of village extraction, either by his individual character or through Government support, founds a new tribe and takes his place among the aristocracy of the nation. It may be added that in respect to the relative importance of the two classes the sedentary Kurds greatly outnumber the nomads, but that they are not so wealthy, nor so independent, nor do they stand nearly so high in popular estimation.

Character.—The Kurds generally bear a very indifferent reputation, a worse reputation, perhaps, than they really deserve. Being aliens to the Turks in language and to the Persians in religion, they are everywhere treated with mistrust, and live as it were in a state of chronic warfare with the powers that be. Such a condition is not of course favourable to the development of the better qualities of human nature. The Kurds are thus wild and lawless; they are much given to brigandage; they oppress and frequently maltreat the Christian populations with whom they are brought in contact,—these populations being the Armenians in Diarbekir, Erzeroum, and Van, the Jacobites and Syrians in the Jebel-Tur, and the Nestorians and Chaldoeans in the Hakkari country,—but they are not as a general rule either fanatical or cruel. In the Hakkari country, indeed, they live under ordinary circumstances in perfect amity with the Nestorians, from whom in outward appearance they are hardly distinguishable. It must be added, too, that they are naturally brave and hospitable, and in common with many other Asiatic races possess certain rude but strict feelings of honour. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the Kurdish chief is pride of ancestry. This feeling is in many cases exagge-rated, for in reality the present tribal organization does not date from any great antiquity. In the list indeed of eighteen principal tribes of the nation which was drawn up by the Arabian historian Massoudi, in the 10th century, only two or three names are to be recognized at the present day. A 14th century list, however, translated by Quatre-inere, presents a great number of identical names, and there seems no reason to doubt that certain families both _ in Bohtan and Hakkari, which are extant at the present day, can really trace their descent from the Ommeyide caliphs, while the Baban chief of Sulimanieh, representing the old Sohrans, and the Ardelan chief of Sinna, who also represents an elder branch of the Gurans, each claim an ancestry of at least five hundred years. There was up to a recent period no more picturesque or interesting scene to be witnessed in the East than the court of one of these great Kurdish chiefs, where, like another Saladin, the bey ruled in patriarchal state, surrounded by an hereditary nobility, regarded by his clansmen with reverence and affection, and attended by a bodyguard of young Kurdish warriors, clad in chain armour, with flaunting silken scarfs, and bearing javelin, lance, and sword as in the time of the crusades.





Language and Religion.—The present Kurdish language which is called Kermanjf—a title difficult to explain—is an old Persian patois, intermixed to the north with Chalctean words and to the south with a certain Turanian element which may not improbably have come down from Babylonian times. Several peculiar dialects are spoken in secluded districts in the mountains, but the only varieties which, from their extensive use, require to be specified are the Zaza and the Guran. The Zaza is spoken throughout the western portion of the Deyrsim country, and is said to be unintelligible to the Kermanji-speaking Kurds. It is largely intermingled with Armenian, and may contain some trace of the old Cappaclocian, but is no doubt of the same Aryan stock as the standard Kurdish. The Guran dialect again, which is spoken throughout Ardelan and Kirman-shalian chiefly differs from the northern Kurdish in being entirely free from any Semitic intermixture. It is thus somewhat nearer to the Persian than the Kermanji dialect, but is essentially the same language. It is a mistake to suppose that there is no Kurdish literature. Many of the popular Persian poets have been translated into Kurdish, and there are also books relating to the religious mysteries of the Ali-Ollahis in the hands of the Deyrsimlis to the north and of the Gurans of Kirmanshahan to the south. Euro-pean scholars too have been assiduous of late years in inves-tigating the various Kurdish dialects. The New Testament in Kurdish was printed at Constantinople in 1857. The Rev. Samuel Rhea published a grammar and vocabulary of the Hakkari dialect in 1872. Lerch, Brugsch, Chodzko, Beresine, Blau, and many others have discussed different branches of the subject in the scientific magazines of the Continent; and quite recently (1879) there has appeared under the auspices of the Imperial Academy of St Peters-burg a French-Kurdish dictionary compiled originally by Mons. Jaba, many years Russian consul at Erzeroum, but completed by Ferdinand Justi by the help of a rich assort-ment of Kurdish tales and ballads, collected by Messrs Socin and Pryne in Assyria. Justi's preface to the dic-tionary gives a good account of the present state of Kurdish studies in Europe and Asia.
The religion of the Kurds also furnishes a very curious subject of inquiry. The great body of the nation, in Persia as well as in Turkey, are Sunnis of the Shafe'i sect, but in the recesses of the Deyrsim to the north and of Zagrus to the south, there are large half-pagan communities, who are called indifferently Ali-Ollahi and Kizzil-bash, and who hold tenets of some obscurity, but of considerable interest. Outwardly professing to be Shi'ahs or " followers of Ali," they observe secret ceremonies and hold esoteric doctrines which have probably descended to them from very early ages, and of which the essential condition is that there, must always be upon the earth a visible manifestation of the Deity. While paying reverence to the supposed incarnations of ancient days, to Moses, David, Christ, Ali and his tutor Salman-el-Farsi, and several of the Shi'ah imams and saints, they have thus usually some recent local celebrity at whose shrine they worship and make vows; and there is, moreover, in every community of Ali-Ollahis some living personage, not necessarily ascetic, to whom, as representing the Godhead, the superstitious tribesmen pay almost idolatrous honours. Among the Gurans of the south the shrine of Baba Yadgar, in a gorge of the hills above the old city of Holwan, is thus regarded with a supreme veneration, while in the family of a certain Syed who resides in the neighbourhood the attributes of divinity are supposed to be hereditary. Similar institutions are also found in other parts of the mountains, which may be com-pared with the tenets of the Druses and Ansaris in Syria and the Ismaelis in Persia.
coats. The Gurans have for a long period abandoned nomadic habits, and are now almost universally congregated in villages and occupied with the cultivation of the soil, so that in a great part of Kurdistan the name Guran has become synonymous with an agricultural peasantry, as opposed to the migratory shepherds.

Climate, Productions, Fauna, &c.—In a country like Kurdistan, which extends over five or six degrees of latitude, and ranges in altitude from 1500 to 15,000 feet above the sea, there is of course every variety of climate and produce. In the northern part of this region the hills are covered with pine forest, while the valleys abound with walnuts, sycamores, and planes, and all sorts of fruit trees, and in summer the hillsides and uplands are covered with a luxuriant herbage. The winters are here very rigorous, and the tribes, as far as they can, migrate at that season to the plains. In central Kurdistan the pine forests cease and give way to dwarf oak and elms, the mastic, holly, &c, while further to the south large trees almost disappear, and a rough scrub takes their place. A succinct and graphic description of Turkish Kurdistan is given by Consul Taylor in his notes of travel published in the
Geographical Journal for 1865.

"The modern Turkish province of Kurdistan," he says, "watered by an infinity of noble streams, with a salubrious climate and rich soil, yields to no other province in the empire for the variety and richness of its vegetable and animal produce, while its numerous mountain chains abound in mineral wealth. Among its natural vegetable productions, galls, gum-tragacanth, madder-roots, and the pistachio-nut, from which the natives extract a fine oil used in making soap, are the most important,—the annual value of the export of the former alone being upwards of £35,000. Oleaginous seeds and olive oil are produced in large quantities, and the quality of the former is so superior that it Ends its way to many of the northern governments. Sheep's wool was exported in 1863 to the value of £70,000 ; and mohair, the produce of the Angorah goats, that thrive so wonderfully in the neighbourhood of Jezireh, was eagerly sought after and bought up by native traders from Kaiserieh and Constantinople in the same period to the amount of £20,000.

"The manufacture of native cotton cloths, shallees made from mohair, and short woollen cloaks is actively pursued ; and the shallee, for texture and variety of colour and pattern, shows the extraordinary natural intelligence of the Kurdish workman. Diarbekir is famous itself for its silk piece-goods, similar to those of Aleppo and other parts of Syria, but, from its greater cheapness and durability, more in request among the poorer classes of the mountains between Diarbekir and the Black Sea. Sheep are exported in large quantities from the mountains and desert to Aleppo, Damascus, and Beyrout, and camels, purchased from tho Arabs, to Kaiserieh and other parts of Asia Minor. The uplands and hills abound in several species of polecat, martin, foxes, and wolves, whose furs add considerably in value to the sum total of the export list. A beautiful species of spotted lynx may be included among the former, although it is far more scarce than those enumerated. A rough estimate of the whole annual value of the animal and vegetable produce of tho pashalic, whether consumed at home or exported (exclusive of fool), will amount to more than £700,000 sterling."

This account is generally applicable, to central and southern Kurdistan as well as to the pashalics of Diarbekir and Erzeroum, but it requires to be supple-mented in some particulars. The rice and corn which are grown by the Kurds of the Tigris basin and the Persian plains form a very important staple of export, while the hill forests supply charcoal, wild silk, manna, and gum-mastic, in addition to the produce noticed in Consul Taylor's list, to a very large extent; and it may be further noted that along the whole range of mountains from Jezireh to Susa there is an outer ridge of low gypsum hills, which abounds throughout its whole extent with petroleum and naphtha springs. Mineral oils are not at present much appreciated by either Turks or Persians, but in the future of Kurdistan this important source of wealth cannot be left out of account.

With regard to the fauna of Kurdistan a few words must suffice. Neither lions nor tigers are ever found in the mountains, though the former frequent the banks of the Tigris and the latter are common in the Caspian forests. The wild animals of Kurdistan are the leopard and lynx, the wild cat, bear, hyaena, wild boar, wolf, jackal, and fox, the mardl (or red deer), the roe and hog deer (and fallow deer and antelope on the skirts of the hills), the wild goat (or ibex), the wild sheep (or moufflon), together with badgers, hares, many varieties of the polecat or martin, and the ordinary smaller animals. Of game birds the most remarkable are the Kebh-i-Derv (or large partridge, first brought to the notice of naturalists by Consul Brandt), the grey and red-legged partridge, the Tihoo, quail, woodcock, and snipe, three varieties of bustard, the grey crane, and wild geese and clucks in abundance.
It has not been found possible to compute the amount of revenue which is raised from the Kurds. Consul Trotter remarks on this subject:—

"The Turkish Kurds are found in almost every possible stage, from that of thorough subjection to the Government (as in many of the Diarbekir and Erzeroum villages, where they pay all the regular taxes and are also drawn for the conscription) up to the semi-independent Kurds of Bohtan, of Mudikan, and of the Deyrsim, who never pay taxes except at the rare intervals that the Govern-ment is able to occupy their country with a military force, and who have never hitherto, except on very rare occasions, supplied soldiers to the army either regular or irregular."

And, if this uncertain liability to taxation is true of the Kurds of Erzeroum and Diarbekir, it applies equally to the districts of Hakkari and Rowandiz, and to the great tribes such as the Herki, Hartushi, and Hyderanli, who migrate between Persia and Turkey. In Sulimanieh, on the other hand, as well as in the Persian provinces of Azerbijan, Ardelan, and Kirmanshahan, the revenue derived from the Kurdish population is fixed, and may be estimated at £1 per house instead of the £1, 6s. which is the usual Osmanli rate.

Antiquities.—Kurdistan abounds in antiquities of the most varied and interesting character. There is in the first place a series of rock-cut cuneiform inscriptions, extending from Malatieh on the west to Miyandab (in Persia) on the east, and from the banks of the Arras on the north to Rowandiz on the south, which record the glories of a Turanian dynasty, who ruled the country of Nairi dur-ing the 8th and 7th centuries B.C., contemporaneously with the lower Assyrian empire. Intermingled with these are a few genu-ine Assyrian inscriptions of an earlier date ; and in one instance, at Van, a later tablet of Xerxes brings the record down to the period of Grecian history. The most ancient monuments of this class, how-ever, are to be found at Holwiin and in the neighbourhood, where the sculptures and inscriptions belong probably to the Guti and Luli tribes, and date from the early Babylonian period. Excava-tions at this spot or in the mounds along the course of the Diyaleh, which is the great river of southern Kurdistan, or more especially at Yassin Tepeh, the site of the ancient city of Shahrizor, would probably lead to the discovery of relics cognate with those which have been found in the palaces of Nineveh and Babylon.





Information has also been recently received that a cemetery full of inscribed sepulchral urns has been laid bare by a landslip in the mountains between Sulimanieh and Kirmanshahan, and the description is calculated to arouse the liveliest interest, though until the spot has been visited by some European scholar no definite opinion can be given as to the character and antiquity of the remains.

In the northern Kurdish districts which represent the Arzanene, Intilene, Anzitene, Zabdicene, and Moxuene of the ancients, there are also many interesting remains of Roman cities, well worth ex-amining. Arzen, Miyafarikin (ancient Martyropolis), and Sisauronon have already been reported on by Consul Taylor, but there is still abundant room for research, and attention should be especially directed to the ruins of Dunisir near Dara, which Sachau the great Orientalist has recently identified with the Armenian capital of Tigranocerta, a city that has long been the despair of comparative geographers. Of the Macedonian and Parthian periods there are re-mains both sculptured and inscribed at several points in Kurdistan: at Bisitun, in a cave at Amadieh, at the Mithraic temple of Kereftu, on the rocks at Sir Pul-i-Zohab near the ruins of Holwan, and pro-bably in some other localities, such as the Balik country between Lahijan and Koi-Sanjak, which have never been visited by Euro-peans ; but the most interesting site in all Kurdistan, perhaps in all western Asia, is the ruined fire temple of Pai Kuli on the southern frontier of Sulimanieh, a spot that has been hurriedly visited by two or three European travellers, but never thoroughly examined. Among the debris of this temple, which are scattered over a bare hillside, are to be found above one hundred slabs, inscribed with Parthian and Pehlevi characters, the fragments of a wall which formerly supported the eastern face of the edifice, and bore a bilingual legend of great length, dating from the Sassanian period. Not more than half of the inscribed slabs have as yet been copied, time and labour being required to clear out the other slabs which lie embedded in the earth on the slope of the hill down which they have rolled, and the locality, moreover, being one that cannot be easily examined or even visited, owing to its exposed position among the hrigand tribes of the frontier, but it is to be earnestly hoped that, when an opportunity does offer, every fragment of inscription may be recovered, so that it may be possible to reconstruct the entire legend, which, independent of its historical interest, is of special im-portance as the longest and latest specimen of the lapidary Pehlevi writing. There are also remarkable Sassanian remains in other parts of Kurdistan,—at Salmus to the north, and at Kirmanshahan and Kasr-i-Shirin on the Turkish frontier to the south; and it is prob-able that an active search among the hills would discover many similar objects of interest. It may indeed be asserted that there is no region of the East at the present day which deserves a more care-ful scrutiny and promises a richer harvest to the antiquarian explorer than the lands inhabited by the Kurds from Erzeroum to Kirman-shahan. Dr Schultz in former times and Consul Taylor more recently have done much to illustrate northern Kurdistan between Van and Diarbekir, but the inner mountains of Bohtan, Hakkari, Rowandiz, and the Balik country are still almost a "terra incognita," and require careful examination.

History.—With regard to the origin of the Kurds, itwas formerly considered sufficient to describe them as the descendants of the Carduchi, who opposed the retreat of the Ten Thousand through the mountains, but modern research ascends far beyond the period of the Greeks. We now find that at the dawn of history the mountains overhanging Assyria were held by a people named Quta, a title which signified "a warrior," and which was rendered in Assyrian by the synonym of Gardu or Kardu, the precise term quoted by Strabo to explain the name of the Cardaces (KdpoaKts). These Gutu were a Turanian tribe of sucli power as to be placed in the early cuneiform records on an equality with the other nations of western Asia, that is, with the Syrians and Hittites, the Susians, Elymseans, and Accadians of Babylonia ; and during the whole period of the Assyrian empire they seem to have preserved a more or less inde-pendent political position. After the fall of Nineveh they coalesced with the Modes, and, in common with all the nations inhabiting the high plateaus of Asia Minor, Armenia, and Persia, became gradually Aryanized, owing to the immigration at this period of history of tribes in overwhelming numbers which, from whatever quarter they may have sprung, belonged certainly to the Aryan family.

The Gutit or Kiirdu were reduced to subjection by Cyrus before he descended upon Babylon, and furnished a contingent of fighting men to his successors, being thus mentioned under the names of Saspirians and Alarodians in the muster roll of the army of Xerxes which was preserved by Herodotus.

In later times they passed successively under the sway of the Macedonians, the Parthians, and Sassanians, being especially be-friended, if we may judge from tradition as well as from the remains still existing in the country, by the Arsacian monarchs, who were probably of a cognate race. Gotarzes indeed, whose name may per-haps be translated " chief of the Gutu," was traditionally believed to be the founder of the Gurans, the principal tribe of southern Kurdistan, and his name and titles are still preserved in a Greek inscription at Bisitun near the Kurdish capital of Kirmanshahan. Under the caliphs of Baghdad the Kurds were always giving trouble in one quarter or another. In 224 A.D., and again in 293, there were formidable insurrections in northern Kurdistan ; and a third time, in 309, the Boide amir, Azad-ad-Dowleh, was obliged to lead the forces of the caliphate against the southern Kurds, capturing the famous fortress of Sermaj, of which the ruins are to be seen at the present day near Bisitun, and reducing the province of Shahrizor with its capital city now marked by the great mound of Yassin Teppeh. The most flourishing period of Kurdish power was probably during the 12th century of our era, when the great Saladin, who belonged to the Rewendi branch of the Hadabani tribe, founded the Ayubite dynasty of Syria, and Kurdish chiefships were estab-lished, not only to the east and west of the Kurdistan mountains, but as far as fihorasan upon one side and Egypt and Yemen on the other. During the Mongol and Tartar domination of western Asia the Kurds in the mountains remained for the most part passive, yielding a reluctant obedience to the provincial governors of the plains, and for the last three or four centuries they have been divided in their allegiance between the Turkish and Persian crowns. After Sultan Selim in 1514 had defeated the army of Shah Ismael, the founder of the Saffavean dynasty,he employed one of his generals, Sultan Hussein Beg of Amadieh, to recover Shahrizor and its de-pendencies from Persia; and from that time to the present day the political status has not been materially disturbed. The frontier line indeed bisecting Kurdistan from north to south, which was agreed upon in 1047 A.H., between Sultan Murad IV. and Shah Saffi, after the recovery of Baghdad by the former sovereign, is substan-tially the same line that was adopted by the Russian and British commissioners who were employed in 1840-42 to mediate between the two Asiatic powers and delimit their respective territories. But in the meantime changes of some moment have occurred in the interior organization of Kurdistan. Both in Turkey and in Persia the independent power of the Kurds has been much curtailed. In Turkey the pashas of Kharpftt, Erzeroum, and Diarbekir have been invested with larger powers of control, while the authority of the sultan has been further strengthened by the establishment of Turkish governors at Bayazid, Van, Betlis, Amadieh, and Sulinianieh, in succession to the old hereditary Kurdish chiefs. With the tortuous policy, it is true, which is characteristic of the Osmanli race, the Porte has not unfrequently of late years encouraged the develop-ment of native strength in various parts of Kurdistan for a time and for certain special purposes ; but, when the position of the local magnate has anywhere become one of political danger, the central Government has stepped in and without difficulty has re-asserted its supreme authority.

In 1834, for instance, the famous Reshid Mohammed Pasha chas-tised the Kurds, who had everywhere broken loose from Siwas to Rowandiz, and adopted severe measures of repression, which are still remembered and dreaded. In 1843 again, Beder Khan Beg, who from his patrimonial government of Bohtan had extended his sway over the whole mountain range, and had sworn to exterminate the Nestorian Christians, was crushed immediately that the Porte put forth its strength against him ; but the most notable instance of sudden Kurdish aggrandizement and collapse has occurred during the year 1881. Sheikh Obeidullah, chief of the small tribe of Oramar, who resided in a village of the mountains south of Lake Van, had acquired great local influence, owing to the sanctity of his family, but more especially from his own ascetic habits and his personal character. He seems to have really entertained the idea at one time of establishing an independent Kurdish kingdom, con-centrating under his own individual authority all the scattered remnants of his race both in Persia and in Turkey. At any rate, having collected a very considerable force of Kurds in the summer of 1880, he suddenly burst in upon the plains of Persia and ravaged Azorbijan to the south of Lake tlrumieh, sweeping the country up to the walls of Maragha on one side of the lake and of Urumieh upon the other. Having been joined by the Zerzas, the Mikris, the Bilbass, and all the tribes of the Persian frontier, it is considered certain that he might have marched on and pillaged Tabriz had he taken full advantage of the panic which followed on the first in-vasion ; but, he having faltered and thus given time for the arrival of Persian reinforcements, the movement, which was at one time most serious, collapsed, and he retired to the mountains. Now the Turkish Government had unquestionably in the first instance encouraged Sheikh Obeidullah's increasing power and aspirations, not with a view of hostility to Persia, but in the hope that the establishment of a fanatical and great independent Kurdish prin-cipality about Lake Van would paralyse any movement of the Armenian nation towards the recovery of its liberty. The Porte indeed in all probability still cherishes the idea of thus controlling the action of its Christian subjects, though it has been compelled by the pressure of the European powers, and under the threat of re-prisals from Persia, to arrest Sheikh Obeidullah and keep him under surveillance at Constantinople, while measures have been taken to prevent any immediate renewal of disturbances on the frontier.

The policy of the Persian Government towards its Kurdish subjects has been not very dissimilar to the Turkish programme. Aware of the military efficiency of the tribes, the Persian crown as long ago as the time of Nadir Shah transferred a large colony of Shadiliu and Zafferanlu Kurds to the Khorasan frontier, where, enjoying the rich lands of Biijnurd and Kuchan, and strengthened by a line of fortresses, they have ever since been engaged in unceasing conflict with the Turkomans of the Attock, and from whence they afforded invaluable assistance, both in carriage and supplies, to the Russian columns in their late advance into the country of the Akhals. Persia has also raised several regiments of
regular infantry from the Kurdish Shekaks of the north, as well as from the Gurans and Kalhurs of the south, while the shah has also placed Persian governors over the Kurdish districts south of Lake Urumieh, and has appointed princes of the blood to administer the
more distant and unruly Kurdish provinces of Ardelan and Kirmanshahan. At present perhaps the only communities among whom a spirit of Kurdish nationality may be said to flourish free from the taint, be it for good or be it for bad, of foreign influence, are the Deyrsimlis of the upper Euphrates and the Hakkaris of central Kurdistan. (H. C. R.)


Footnotes

See Notices et Bxtraits des MSS., vol. xiii. p. 305. Of the tribes enumerated in this work of the 14th century who still retain a leading place among the Kurds, the following names may be quoted:— Ghuranieh of Dartang, modern Gurans ; Zengeneh, in Hamadan hills, now in Kirmanshahan ; llasnani of Kerkuk and Arbil, now in the Deyrsim mountains, having originally come from Khorasan according to tradition ; Sohrich of Shekelabad and Tel-Haftun, modern Sohran, from whom descend the Baban of Sulimanieh; Zermri of Hinjarin mountains, modern Zerzas of Ushnei (cuneiform pillars of Kel-i-shin and Sidek noticed by author); Julamerkieh, modern Julamerik, said to be descended from the caliph Merwan-ibn-Hakam; Hakkarieh, Hakkari inhabiting Zumn of Arab geography; Bokhtieh, modern Bohtan. The Rowadi, to whom Saladin belonged, are probably modern Bewendi, as they held the fortress of Arbil. Some twenty other names are mentioned, but the orthography is so doubtful that it is useless to try to identify them.
The Sheref-nameh, a history of the Kurds dating from the 16th century, tells us that '' towards the close of the reign of the Jen-ghizians, a man named Baba Ardilan, a descendant of the governors of Diarbekir, and related to the famous Ahmed-ibn-Merwan, after remaining for some time among the Gurans, gained possession of the country of Shahrizor"; and the Ardelan family history, with the gradual extension of their power over Persian Kurdistan, is then traced do™ to the Saffavean period.
The Guran are mentioned in the Mesalik-ei-Abs&r as the dominant tribe in southern Kurdistan in the 14th century, occupying very much the same seats as at present, from the Hamadan frontier to Shahrizor. Their name probably signifies merely "the mountaineers," being derived from gur or giri, " a mountain," which is also found in Zagrus, i.e., za-giri, "beyond the mountain," or Pusht-i-koh, as the name is translated in Persian. They are a fine, active, and hardy race, indi-vidually brave, and make excellent soldiers, though in appearance very inferior to the tribal Kurds of the northern districts. These latter indeed delight in gay colours, while the Gurans dress in the most homely costume, wearing coarse blue cotton vests, with felt caps and

" The Kalhiir tribe are traditionally descended from Gudarz-ibn-Gio, whose son Roham was sent by Bahman Keiani to destroy Jerusalem and bring the Jews into captivity. This Roham is the individual usually called Bokht-i-nasser (Nebuchadnezzar), and he ultimately succeeded to the throne. The neighbouring country has ever since remained in the hands of his descendants, who are called Gurans" (Sheref-Nameh, Persian MS.). The same popular tradition still exists in the country, and TOTAPZHC TEOnoePOS is found on the rock at Bisitun, showing that Gudarz-ibn-Gio




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