THE PLIGHT OF ASSYRIA
Needs of Christian and Kurd in That War-Ravaged Country.
To the Editor of The New York Times.
On July 9 you were very kind to publish in your valued paper an appeal signed by some sixteen prominent Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church on behalf of the Assyrians Christians known as the Nestorians, or Syrians, living in Northwestern Persia, in Urumia and Salmas and, across the mountains in the heart of Kurdistan. As these non-combatant people have suffered very greatly, even before the regular massacres and deportations of the Armenians in Turkey began, it May interest your readers to hear of their present situation from than whom no one is better fitted to speak Dr. H. P. Packard is the head of the American hospital at Urumia. Then his appeal for the Kurds shows his catholic sympathy and generous heart. It May be recalled that Dr. Packard with two Syrian doctors - both of whom have since fallen victims to typhoid - risked their lives and saved some 2,000 souls in Geogtapa, five miles from Urumia, when he pleaded their cause with the Kurd who was attacking the town and took them at night to the city, when Geogtapa was given to the flames and entirely plundered.
I have added in parentheses some explanatory notes to show the various phrases that May help to make the letter more vivid.
Representing Mar Shimun, Patriarch of the, Syrian Church.
New York, Sept. 15, 1916.
Letter from Dr. H. P. Packard, Urumia Persia dated July 21, 1916
Relief burdens are still heavy, and it is hard, to know what is the least that we can do for the sake of the Christians. You know from personal experience how hard it is to get the Moslem masters (who, as a rule, own the land, on which Christians live) to do anything for their Christian subjects. We do not want to use relief money for the advantage of these masters, but it May be in many cases Christians cannot get any help from their masters to re-roof their homes, and May have to sit in ruins if we do not do something for them. (The village masters, as a rule, have also been hardly knocked by the war.) It May be that by giving part of the timber we May be able to induce masters to supply the remainder. We sincerely hope that there will not have to be as much crowding during the coming Winter as there was in the past. (It is the third Winter in Urumia and Salmas since they where destroyed.)
Some of the villages, such as Balou, Gachen, Walinda, and Geogtapa, have been terribly crowded with the people of Tergawar, Dasht, and Mergawar, (districts on the Perso-Turkish border which had been destroyed even before the war began,) besides many from Mar-bishoo and Nochea, (Turkish frontier,) as well as some from Tiari and other places in the mountains over the border.
The Matran (Metropolitan Bishop of the Nestorian Church living in Nichea, Turkey, near the border,) has gone to Umbi, in Tergawar, and is now sitting there, and others are beginning to push up toward the foothills, but I fear that there will be no earnest effort to get these people established for the Winter, and we May expect them to return to the plain, even if peace should be declared in the Fall. (This was written before they knew anything of what was to happen in Bitlis and Mush, in Armenia, which fell into Turkish hands in August, although since then retaken for the fourth time by the Russians.)
Their villages are entirely in ruins, and there is no timber to be found without taking it from the Urumia plain, and the scarcity of cattle will make it impossible to accomplish this work this Autumn, even if it were considered safe for the people to go back now, and we cannot get this assurance from the authorities. Some movement has begun toward Bashkala, (on the Turkish, border,) but it promises to be small, and the investigation made in the mountains by David, the brother of Mar Shimun, and Malick Khoshaaba and Malick Ismael, and their men makes them feel that there is no hope of getting back to their homes before Winter.
This means that the mountaineers (the bulk of the Nestorian Church) will be on us for another Winter, and that relief work in Urumia will be heavy for some time. These mountaineers have had no fields to sow; they have no harvest. They have had to depend on charity so far, and will have to depend on relief until they can return to their homes.
We already have begun to make quilts. We shall make 2,000 now and 2,000 or 3,000 in the Fall if we see that there is need for them. We have also arranged to spend $3,000 for simple garments to be ready for the late Fall. I succeeded in concluding the first wheat purchase today. We got fifty loads at 65 krans, (about $8 now,) and have had 200 loads offered in Dole for 60 krans per load. The crops are small here, and we expect that prices will be high this year, for there was no sowing in Tergawar, Dasht, or Mergawar, and the Sulduz sowing was much less than usual, and much of the young wheat has, been pastured. The Enzel crop is about half of the normal, and Somai also cannot furnish much for outside. (These are fertile districts in noncombatant Persia, but crushed by war conditions.)
One of the greatest needs of the present time is that among the Kurds. I realize that this question will not be popular with many Christians in America, as well as in Persia. The Begzadi Kurds who are left on the side of the border are rayats (subjects) and not servants of the chiefs, who are the riflemen. We all know that when fortune favors them these rayats are almost as predatory as the servant class, but when the servants ran off with the chiefs they stripped the rayats of everything that they could take away, and we see these people starving now. They have nothing to reap, for the coming year, so their condition is far more deplorable than that of the Christians. There wil1 be few to appeal for the Kurds, but this is an opportunity that Christendom is not likely to have again. If we would follow the teachings of the Christ whom we profess to follow we would pray more for these same Kurds than we have, and we should be glad in this time of their great need to give to them and show them that the Masters teaching is different from that of their prophet. (These Kurds are to the Christians in Persia what the Mexican bandits are to the Americans, with the further difference that Persia is even far worse than Mexico, and Christians are not on the same level with Mohammedans before the courts, &c.)
Our reports for work till July 1 will contain estimates of the needs, of the coming Winter, because supplies should be laid in now if we would get them as economically as possible, and it is necessary that we should have large sums of money soon. The quilt business here and in Salmas will consume $30,000, and the clothing account will require an expenditure of not less than $8,000. The wheat bill for the year we cannot estimate accurately yet. But I think we shall have to spend not less than $100,000 before another harvest.