THE TURCO-PERSIAN FRONTIER INCIDENT
According to the Persian account of the rescent fighting near Mergovar, the Persian force which was attacked by Turkish troops had been sent to capture and punish the murderers of an American missionary and to chastise numerous Persian and Kurdish brigands established in that vicinity. Presumably this refers to the murder of a Mr. Labaree several years ago. The reports of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s mission to the Assyrian Christians, which is at work on both sides of the frontier in the disturbed district, throw some light on the subject. Writing to the Archbishop in March last from Urumiah, members of the mission say : –“ Tergawaz, just north of Mergovan, has been so disturbed by Turks and Kurds, and Solduz so infested by robbers, that the Minister at Teheran has absolutely forbidden travelling in either district. And it is only during the last week that he has given permission for us to travel under escort Van. In 1905-06 several of our schools were forbidden by the Kurds in Tergawar as a form of revenge for the share of our Government in punishing them for the murder of Mr. Labaree ; but this year all have been open. Nut the country has been in such a state of unsafety and desolation that all mission and school work there is rather at a standstill, and the only thing to do has been to hold on in hope. Nothing has been done yet to bring the murderers of Mr. Labaree to justice, but the Government is now about to take measures against some of the more notorious robbers among the Tergawar Kurds.”
Of Solduz, the district two days south of Urmi, the writers say –“ There has been practically no government there ; and it lies so close to Lajan, the district occupied last year by the Turks, that the Persians were afraid to use even their accustomed mild measures against the Kurds lest they should fall into trouble with the Turks. The Kurds, who are of a particularly lawless nature, have, therefore, played havoc with the country ; and in consequence of this and of the blight which has damaged the wheat for two years, the harvest was very bad, and there has been great distress ; while the presence of the Turks in the neighbourhood caused a fresh demand and a rise of prices. Sajbulakh the chief town in the neighbourhood, has been much disturbed, and early in the present year a young German student was brutally murdered in his bed in the house of a German pastor who is working there among the Kurds. The murderers have been caught, and are now in Urmiah.”
The last letter received from the representatives of the mission is dated July 14. From this and earlier advices it appears that the Persian, punitive operations against the Begzadi Kurds began in June, when Mejd es Sultaneh, who had reached Urumiah in the spring, set out at the head of an expeditionary force for the frontier district of Tergawar. The force at first had considerable success under the brave leadership of its commander, who had his horse shot under him in a smart fight with the Kurds. The troops however were badly armed and short of ammunition, though the inhabitants of Urumiah, by public subscription, had supplied them with a large store of cartridges. For some days the Turkish troops, who were encamped within a short distance of, the contending force, did nothing ; but later on the Turkish soldiers got out of hand and attacked the Persian camp. Flushed by success, as they drove the Persians before them, the Turks entered the Christian village of Marwana–there are Kurdish as well as Christian villages in this district-burnt the houses and church, and killed most of the non-combatants both there and in the neighbouring village of Kurana. The destruction of property has brought great distress upon the Christians, who are flocking into Urumiah and appealing to the English missionaries for food and shelter. The Christian inhabitants of Tergawar are mountaineers of proved courage, and having been supplied with rifles by former governors of Urumiah, have been able to defend themselves, and thus indirectly to protect the city of Urumiah against Kurdish raids.