The New York Times31 March 1915


Dr. Yuseff Tells of the Horrors of the Flight from the City.

Dr. A. D. Yuseff, who was attached as a physician to the American Mission at Urumiah, Persia, and who is now in New York, told yesterday of the conditions which have prevailed there since the declaration of the Mohammedan holy war and the beginning of the campaigns of the Kurds from the mountains.

According to Dr. Yuseff, the first inroads of the Kurdish tribes from the mountains to the south of Urumiah took place in October. The people from the neighboring villages took refuge within the walls of the city, the garrison of which was composed of about 3,000 Cossacks, who had been on guard duty there during the three years of the Russian occupation of the district.

Long before their first attack, the Sheikh of the most powerful tribe of the Kurds had made frequent visits to the city at night disguised as a Mohammedan woman and had received accurate information as to the strength of the garrison and its weak points.

Over 3,000 strong, late in October the bandits swept in from the mountains, riding mountain ponies and armed only with axes and long knives.

The attack continued two days and two nights. The safety of the town depended only upon a small number of Russian guns mounted upon the higher buildings and the walls. During the fighting the Kurds were able to approach to within three miles of the walls. Six large villages were razed and many of the inhabitants who had been unable to flee to Urumiah were massacred.

After the Kurds had been driven off Dr. Yuseff discovered that the bodies of certain Mohammedans who were well known in the town, who had given the Kurds aid in battle, had been hastily buried to conceal the fact that they had taken the part of the enemy while the bodies of the Kurds had been left where they had fallen.

In this engagement Dr. Yuseff first saw the flag of the holy war which the Mohammedans carried before them. It was a red hand on a green field, in which the red was the symbol of the power of might, the green the symbol of the power of faith.

At 11:30 on the night of Jan. 2 the people of Urumiah were awaken and warned to flee to the north under the protection of the Cossacks, who were being withdrawn for service in Russia.

Taking only what bread they could find in the house, Dr. Yuseff and his wife set out, riding one horse, and with a band of nearly 5,000 Christians, began their flight to safety. On account of the snow and the intense cold, the journey to Julfa, in Russia, took ten days.

Many children and old persons died on the way, and all the refugees suffered the greatest hardships from exposure and hunger. For days their only drinking water was salt water. All along the road they saw evidence of the ravages of the Kurds. In one village a number of little children had been killed and their bodies had been thrown out by the side of the road.

A large number of the inhabitants of Urumiah, however, elected to remain in the town, among them the greater proportion of the staff of the American Mission. It is for the safety of these persons who are relying solely upon the protection of the American flag, that their friends here are at present concerned. According to Dr. Yuseff, at the time of the flight from Urumiah it was an open secret in the town that the Kurdish chieftain had spread the announcement that he would spare the American Mission at all costs.

Two days after the refugees had left Urumiah the Kurds broke into the town, and, as their initial act of war, seventy-five Christians, one of them a Bishop, were hanged.

Dr. and Mrs. Yuseff made their way through Russia under the protection of an emergency passport given to them by the Russian Consul at Khoi, Persia, finally reaching Norway.

The New York Times