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British Mandate of Mesopotamia

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Mandate for Iraq

April 1920

The Mandate for Iraq was awarded to Great Britain at the San Remo Conference in April 1920. This justified Iraqi fears of European imperial rule, no matter how indirect, as well as pride concerns of their own administrative and political leaders being belittled.

Denouncing the Mandate

May 1920

Coalitions began to form against Iraq's incorporation into the British Empire. In the Shi'i city of Karbala, Ayatollah al-Shirazi issued a fatwa declaring it unlawful to serve in the British administration. The Shi'i 'ulama and tribal Shaikhs of the mid-Euphrates as well as the Independence Guard all met and agreed to form a coordinated network of action. The Independence Guard branched into provincial towns. The strategy was to peacefully protest in Baghdad, the seat of British power, and pursue more violent resistance should these protests fail.

Downfall of al-'Ahd al-'Iraqi

May 1920

Jamil al-Midfa'i led regular soldiers and tribal allies to capture Tall 'Afar. They intended to capture Mosul at the same time as a planned revolt, but the British dispersed the troops and the revolt never occurred. Thus ended the organized activities of al-'Ahd al-'Iraqi.

Protests Begin

May 1920

Increasingly large mass-meetings occurred at Sunny and Shi'i moques in Baghdad to denounce the Mandate. There was significant cooperation for Iraqi independence between the two sects. At one meeting, fifteen representatives were nominated to present the case for Iraqi independence to the British authorities. Arnold WIlson agreed to meet the representatives (mandubin, aka delegates), but only in the company of twenty-five Baghdad notables who he would select himself.

Armed Revolt Murmurs

May 1920

As early as May 1920 their had been discussions among shaikhs of the mid-Euphrates aout acting against the British. Their concerns varied from general dislike of the notion of British hegemony to specific concern about British interference in land tenure. Misgivings in London about occupying Iraq had become public knowledge, giving rise to the perception that armed rebellion might accelerate Britain's retreat.

Self-Rule Gains Traction

June 1920

Wilson and the mandubin had a fruitless meeting. However, suggestions from London (encouraged by Bell in Baghdad) impelled the British to pursue a policy of limited Iraqi self-rule. As the notion of a state of Iraq gained momentum and seemed unavoidable, persons at all level oriented themselves towards it and even pursued an advantageous niche in the forming government.

Constituent Assembly

June 1920

It was announced that elections would be held for a Constituent Assembly. The task of devising the electoral machinery was appointed to former Ottoman deputies headed by Sayyid Talib al-Naqib, who had returned from exile to seize upon the opportunities that were arising with the creation of a new state.

Armed Revolt Erupts

June 1920

Armed revolt erupted at the end of June 1920. The arrest of his son prompted Ayatollah al-Shirazi (the leading Shi'i mjtahid in Iraq upon Ayatollah Yazdi's death) to issue a fatwa that encouraged armed revolt. The British authorities attempted to quash this by arrested various mid-Euphrates tribal chiefs. The arrests gave momentum to the revolt, which thrived on weak and thin British garrisons, strong links between the Shi'i spiritual centers of Najaf Karbala, and powerful armed tribes. Tribal shaikhs in Kut and 'Arma worked against the revolt as their extensive landholdings had been recognized by British authorities.

Armed Revolt Succeeds

July 1920

The rebels captured much of the mid-Euphrates, giving heartt to others and causing the revolt to spread to the lower Euphrates as well as districts to the north, east and west of Baghdad. However, the rebels were limited due to decreasing support the further they went from their home areas.

Kurdish Uprising

July 1920

Kurds seized the chance to opportunistically seize towns near the Persian border, but were limited by a decrease in support like rebels to the south.

Collapse of Revolt

August 1920

The revolt of Shi'i tribes began to flag, much to the relief of the British and Sunni notables in Baghdad. Also, organized public opposition in Baghdad became virtually impossible due to British security and intelligence forces. By late October the British had re-exerted hegemony over lands seized by the rebels and the rebellion was over with the surrender of Najaf and Karbala. In total, the Iraqi revolt cost about 6,000 Iraqi lives and 500 British and Indian soldiers' lives. What had begun as general protests had become a mid-Euphrates revolt. The revolt became the founding myth of Iraqi nationalism, regardless of what the revolt's actual intentions were. Ideas began to form about the meaning, identity and interests of a new Iraqi state. In London, the revolt and the costs of its suppression made clear the need for a form of government in Iraq other than the controversial direct rule that was attempted.

Preparing A Government

October 1920

Sir Percy Cox arrived in Baghdad to take up his post as first high commissioner under the Mandate. Great Britain realized that direct rule was much too costly, prompting Cox to persuade the elderly naqib al-ashraf of Baghdad, Sayyid 'Abd al-Rahman al-Kailani, to accept the presidency of an appointed council of ministers working under British supervision.

First Iraqi Government

November 1920

Sayyid 'Abd al-Rahman al-Kailani forms first Iraqi government, becoming the first Prime Minister of Iraq. The government was headed by the naqib al-ashrad Sayyid 'Abd al-Rahman al-Kailani and included 21 eminent Iraqis from all three of the old Ottoman provinces. Sunni Arabs predominated and help the most important posts, but the council of ministers also included a few Shi'a and Christians as well as a prominent Jew. Before long, the Ottoman administrative units were restored, as were municipal councils, and Iraqi officials began to replace Brits in the provinces (except in Sulaymaniyah). However, Iraqis in charge of the provinces were assisted by a British adviser; and British advisers were attached to the new ministries.

Immediately apparent was the absence of any Shi'i appointees to senior administrative positions, save in the 'Atabat. The old Sunni-dominated order of Ottoman times was apparently being re-established. Indeed it could hardly have been otherwise. The Shi'a had largely been excluded from the Ottoman administration and consequently there were few amongst them with any administrative experience. Furthermore, the attitude of the naqib [Sayyid 'Abd al-Rahman al-Kailani] and other Baghdad notables to the Shi'a in general and the wariness of the British towards the Shi'a following the recent revolt gave them common ground for looking elsewhere for the officials of the new state. They did not have far to look. Large numbers of predominantly Sunni Arab ex-Ottoman officials, hitherto excluded by the British, were now looking to the new government to restore them to the place that they regarded as rightfully theirs. (Tripp 2002, p 45; bold added)

Iraqi Army Formed


Cairo Conference

March 1921

Cairo Conference decides on Prince Faisal bin Husain al-Hashemi as king of Iraq.

King Faisal Enthroned

August 1921

King Faisal enthroned in Baghdad.

Constituent Assembly

March 1924

Constituent Assembly opens.

Anglo-Iraqi Treaty

June 1924

Anglo-Iraqi Treaty passed.

Geneva Protocol Signed


The Iraqi regime signed the 1925 protocol of Geneva of the prohibition of the deployment of the chemical and biological weapons in wars in 1931.

Student Reader  |  FD7R75BS4T

Marr, Phoebe. The Modern History of Iraq, 2nd Edition. 2004. Westview Press. Boulder, Colorado.

Student Reader  |  SGTBDJQSR4
1920 June 19th



A statement issued yesterday by the War Office chronicles a renewal, or continuance, of troubles with the Arabs on the Upper Euphrates and on the Tigris in the Mosul area. On the Euphrates the trouble does not appear to be very serious, but the British garrison at El Kaim (or Alqaim) has been withdrawn to Ana, after having been heavily sniped. El Kaim is 45 miles east of Ana, which is 165 miles north-east of Baghdad. Arab raiders approached Ana also, but dissensions are now said to have broken out among them, and they have retired north.

The raids reported in the Mosul area appear to be those already chronicled in The Times: it is stated that in encounters on June 9 the British casualties were 20 killed and 15 wounded. In the Tel Afur district "the local Kurdish chiefs rendered useful assistant to the British." A small rising has taken place near Dohuk - 30 miles north of Mosul.

The War office statement adds:–

There is evidence that all these outbreaks of disorder and violence against the British, both on the Tigris and the Euphrates, are due to incitement and bribery on the part of Arab officials from Deir ez-Zor (the town on the Euphrates first seized by the Arabs, and since acknowledged by the British as within the area governed by the Arab authorities at Damascus). The brother of the late Governor of that town, Maulud Pasha, who caused us such trouble last spring, recently fell into our hands while superintending the destruction of the railway near Shergat (on the Tigris 60 miles south of Mosul), and was found to be in possession of large sums of money for the purpose of bribing the tribes to commit disorders. It is also possible that emissaries from Jeziret-ibn-Omar (a town on the Tigris 90 miles north-west of Mosul), where there is a Turkish propaganda centre, have been cooperating in this task.



CAIRO, June 17.

Al Mokattam's Damascus correspondent sites that the Syrian delegation to Paris and London has practically decided that if the Emir Zeid, brother of the Emir Feisal, dulness the presidency of the delegation it devolves upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs. This means that Feisal is not going to Europe. Another delegation goes to the United States to present the Syrian case to the American public.

The Damascus Government lately received £100,000 as its share of the receipts of the Palestine Customs.

The Times (London), 1920 Jun 19

Student Reader  |  2WPYDCBM3P
1923 September 1st



The repatriation and settlement of 50,000 Assyrian and Armenian refugees in Iraq is dealt with in a special section of a report on Iraq by Sir Percy Cox, the High Commissioner. The Assyrians numbered 35,000, and the Armenians 15,000. In the spring of 1920 Agha Petros, an Assyrian mountaineer of the Baz tribe, came forward with a plan for the disposal of his nation. In the later stages of the war (particularly after the murder of the Patriarch, Mar Shim'un), he had come to the front and taken the lead; he had shown himself a good fighter, and through real generalship was beyond him he was the most active leader of his nation, but his disposition to intrigue had brought him into bad odor with the British authorities. He seemed, however, to be the best man available, and was so accepted by the British.

His scheme was for the occupation of an area in the lower hill district of the Turko-Persian border, east of a line drawn from Gawar to Ushnu, and extending thence towards Urumiyah. With 8,000 armed men of his nation he could, he considered, occupy this area and allow the Urumiyah people to return to their homes, while such mountaineers as did not accept settlement in the area itself might in time filler back to their mountain homes in Hakkiari. The Assyrians would then constitute a buffer State, of which Petros would probably be the ruler, between Turkey, Persia, and Iraq. Petros would command the force to be raised and would be accompanied by a few British officers in a purely advisory capacity.

Petros, after the habit of his people, overlooked all obstacles on a road that was to lead to prosperity for his people and greatness for himself, and the scheme was accepted, perhaps too readily.

Before any start could be made the Arab rising of 1920 had caused a general suspension of action. On October 27 that year Agha Petro's [sic] army was sent of the Agrah Pass. It comprised about 4,000 men, armed with good rifles, mostly of the Turkish type, and several mountian guns; this was to occupy the territory, and the women were to follow later. There were also three British lieutenants. Food in abundance had been collected at Jujar, but the army proposed to live on the country, and much of the stores provided was left behind.

A Tribal Revenge.

When opposition offered at the passing of the Zab was overcome and petrol ordered a pursuit, the clans of Teara and Tkhoma found themselves moving in the direction of their own mountains, with arms enough to wreak full vengeance on ancient enemies. The temptation was too much for them, and – abandoning the scheme and the comrades for which they had never had any enthusiasm – they marched off on a great raid on the two districts named, plundering both of the, and incidentally the Chal area also, regardless of the fact that they had invited the Agha of that place to assist them against his old foe Faris of Zibar. Meantime the balance of the force, namely the Urumiyah men, deprived of its best fighting material, came to a halt in the unfamiliar hills, lost all order, and presently drifted back to Agrah and Mindan, having lost about 100 men from cold (for the winter had set in early with heavy rain, and the rivers were in flood), several hundred rifles, and the bulk of their transport animals.

The Teara and Tkhoma men continued their wild career through Nerva and Chal, but were ultimately checked by Haji Rashid Beg, the Rais appointed by the British over the Barwar district, and by the British Assistant Political Officer at Dohuk, who had hurried to the scene of action with a few police. They also returned to the Mindan camp.

Thus, as had been feared by many who knew too well the lack of discipline and union amongst the people, the scheme ended in fiasco, and the attempt had only increased the Kurdish distrust, both of the people and of the English, which British officials had been attempting to allay. The choice of route, the late date of the start, the absence of proper supply, and bad leadership, all contributed to this result, but in fact the absence of any common feeling or real organization among the people would have been enough to render success impossible. Even had there been proper training and discipline and direct British control, Agha Petros's [sic] scheme was a difficult one. There now remained nothing but to compensate the Kurds for the damage done and to think out a more practicable plan.

After giving many details of the efforts at resettlement, Sir Percy Cox concludes: "In sum, I must record that in the dealings of the British Government with the Christian refugees it must be put tot he credit of the former that 50,000 souls were maintained in comfort, not to say in idleness, by the British Exchequer for close on three years. That it was the intention of the Government to re-establish the ancient Nestorian community as a unified whole in a locality where they would have the best possible chance of maintaining themselves, and that if this scheme partially broke down the failure was due firstly to the reckless imprudence of the mountaineers, and secondly to the refusal of the Urumiyans to accept our advice and the help which we were in a position to offer. As a result the Urumiyans have practically ceased to exist as a community. On the other hand, those of the mountaineers who returned to their homes are in a fair way to the recovery of prosperity, and the others are settled in adjacent upland regions where we may still be able to watch over and protect them in the future. If guardianship from foreign attack can be secured to them, the British nation will have no reason to feel that they have failed in consideration or generosity towards the Assyrian people as a whole.

The Guardian (London), 1923 Sep 01

Student Reader  |  MSSVZGCKBW
1925 April 5th


Ancient History Was Made Near Mesopotamian Wells That Worry Modern Statesmen


Since statesmen began to remap the world in terms of oil deposits, the name Mosul has figured largely i diplomatic and news dispatches. The far-away reader of first-page cables pictures the Mosul oil district in Mesopotamia as dotted with derricks, pumps, pipe lines, refineries, among which move a vast army of workmen. Actually, a casual visitor to the Mosul oil fields would have great difficulty in locating them at all. The oil is still below ground, and it is still a subject of diplomatic controversy. It is perfectly possible that he might pass through the whole of the oil region without being aware of the fact. The only wells at present in operation are those at Quiyara, midway between Sherqat and the city of Mosul – formerly the seat of the Governor of the vilayet.

The wells actually bored are seven in number. The deepest extends to the depth of only 142 feet and three of them are equipped with hand pumps, none of which was working when I was there last year.

Eight Arab Workmen

There is a small refinery with a single vat about 12 feet square, operated by an antiquated engine, which is supplied by eight Arabs who spend their time wading into a small pool formed by the seepage from the wells, dipping the crude oil into empty gasoline cans and pouring it into the vat. When they are working at top speed each man dips about thirty-two cans an hour and the oil from the Quiyara refinery is sufficient to supply the squadron of armored car maintained by the British at Mosul.

Yet, despite the paucity of its present yield, the Mosul oil field remains the centre of an international dispute. For all of the problems crated by the partition of the Ottoman Empire, there are few that have aroused more interest than the unsolved boundary dispute between Turkey and Great Britain over the vilayet of Mosul, formerly a Turkish province and part of Mesopotamia — now the Kingdom of Iraq, for which the British hold a mandate from the League of Nations. After protracted and unsuccessful negotiations between the two parties, the matter has been referred to a commission appointed by the League, and its decision may soon be expected.

It is not the mere adjustment of a boundary line that has made the settlement of the Mosul dispute a matter of interest to Angora, Downing Street and the Quai d'Orsay, as well as to certain important groups in international finance. It is the question of the exploitation of the oil fields. Recent dispatches from Bagdad stating that the British Petroleum Company has signed an agreement with the Government of Iraq, giving it the exclusive right to develop the petroleum deposits in Mesopotamia for a period of seventy-five years, would seem to indicate that a decision in favor of Iraq is expected.

Mosul is a highly interesting district aside from its importance to diplomats and oil operators. to reach Sherqat one must travel all night at a snail's pace over a single track military railroad, hastily constructed by the British during the Mesopotamia campaign. Most of the ballast consists of sandbags, and the bridges are shaky affairs with flimsy wooden under-pinnings. The only stops en route are at isolated military posts. Most of the way the train moves so slowly that parties of mounted Bedouins entertain themselves by racing with the engine.

At Sherqat, about 123 miles from Bagdad, the road comes to an abrupt end. A mile or so from Sherqat is the site of Assur, a great metropolis of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires – today a mass of irregular mounds buried deep in desert sand. Sherqat consists of a station, a freight depot in a barbed-wire enclosure and half a dozen huts for native laborers built entirely of empty oil cans. There, if you have telegraphed in advance, a motor will meet you to take you to Mosul, fifty-eight miles away.

The road, a sketchily constructed military highway, sometimes rendered impassable by floods in early Spring, winds among the hills that skirt the valley of the Euphrates. It is a barren, absolutely treeless country, beautiful only for a few months in the Spring, when the hills are covered with poppies, wild hyacinths and cyclamen. There are almost no villages. Here and there the ruins of some ancient fortress crown a steep slope; at intervals there is a gasoline station; now and then you meet another automobile filled with British officers or native merchants on their way from Mosul to Bagdad; occasionally a mule train or a camel caravan.

A Lonely Englishman

About midway, if you look sharply to the left, you will see, perhaps a quarter of a mile from the road, a group of three or four tumble-down wooden shacks, which constitute the hamlet of Quiyara. If you choose to stop at the most imposing of these structures, a three-room wooden bungalow, you will be received by the chief of the dozen or so inhabitants — a lonely Englishman named Green, an engineer, who has been in charge of the wells since shortly after the armistice. He will give you a real British breakfast — oatmeal, strong green tea and bacon and eggs — and then, if you like, he will show you the wells and introduce you to Pasha, the foreman of the crew of eight swarthy Arabs who are responsible for the entire production of the Mosul oil fields.

The vilayet of Mosul, roughly speaking, includes the valley of the Tigris River, from the point where it emerges from the mountainous districts of Turkish Kurdistan to within approximately eighty miles of Bagdad. It is the only part of Mesopotamia where there is any considerable rainfall, or where crops can be grown without irrigation.

Mosul, the capital city, with a population of 90,000, contains about 30,000 Turks. The rest of the vilayet is mostly Arab or Kurdish. British figures place the total population of the disputed area, including the four districts of Mosul, Arbil, Kirkuk and Suleimania, at 785,468, of whom 454,720 are Kurds, 185,763 Arabs, and 62,225 Christians.

The town of Mosul itself, to the casual observer, is anything but homogeneous. The streets are filled with picturesque, colorful crowds of mixed nationalities. There are Turks in frock coats and fezzes, Arabs in flowing robes, Kurds in gigantic turbans and gay-striped baggy trousers. Assyrian Christians in embroidered velvet jackets. Yezidis, the mysterious devil worshippers of Southern Kurdistan, and dozens of other nondescript, colorful types.

One of the most interesting racial groups is that of the Assyrian Christians, some of whom have always lived in Mosul. Most of them, however, have settled there since the close of the World War, when, after having rendered valuable assistance to the Allied forces, they were driven from their homes in Southern Kurdistan and Western Persia, after a series of local conflicts with Persians, Kurds and Turks.

Like all other small nationalities the world over the Assyrians were roused to a sense of national unity by President Wilson's doctrine of self-determination. They called themselves the descendants of the Assyrians of Nineveh, which lies just across the Tigris from Mosul. Nineveh was partly excavated many years ago by Sir Henry Layard, the great British archaeologist, but the most interesting part of the ancient city is said to lie under the dirty little Arab town of Nebbi Younnous – popularly supposed to be the resting place of Jonah, whose alleged tomb may be seen in a crypt under one of its mosques.

In addition to the wells at Quiyara, there are several other localities in the Mosul area where superficial explorations have indicated the presence of oil – notably at Qishlah, Kirkuk and Hamrin. Last Summer a noted Hungarian geologist had just completed a survey of these prospective fields and his report, which I saw while in Baghdad, showed that, while it is possible that the area may prove an immensely rich one, there is so far no definite information on the subject.

Now in League's Hands

The Turkish Petroleum Company, which is affiliated with the Anglo-Persian, the Royal Dutch Shell and the Standard Oil groups, was formed shortly before the World War when Mosul was still a Turkish province. At that time the Turkish Government possessed a 25 per cent. interest in the company, which was forfeited under the terms of the armistice concluded at Mudros in 1918 between Turkey and the Allies. Later, in 1920, this 25 per cent. interest was awarded to France under the so-called San Remo agreement between the French and British Governments. An arrangement was made by which the Turkish Petroleum Company received the right to construct a pipe one through the French mandatory area of Syria to a Mediterranean port.

Under the Anglo-French convention, signed some months later, the Mosul area was temporarily included in the British mandate for Mesopotamia, pending the settlement of the boundary line, which was placed in the hands of a joint commission on which the French and British Governments each had a representative as well as the countries immediately concerned, Turkey and Iraq. In the event of the commission failing to reach a decision the matter was to be referred to a commission appointed by the League of Nations and it is in the hands of this commission that the fate of Mosul and its oil fields rests today.

[Excellent photo of oil being carried by hand.]

NY Times, 1925 Apr 05

Student Reader  |  2YLKR2SHFR
1925 August 8th


Boundary Commissioners in Report to League First Propose 25-Year Mandate.


Third Plan Is for Partition With Line at Lesser Zab River Between Mosul and Bagdad

GENEVA, Aug. 7 (AP). – Three solutions are proposed by the special commission appointed by the League of Nations to recommend a settlement of the Mosul boundary, now in dispute between Great Britain and Turkey, in its report which was presented to the League today.

The first proposal is that the disputed district in the Mosul area should become a League of Nations mandate for about twenty-five years and that provision should be made to meet the desires of the Kurds for the appointment of administrative officials, judges and teachers of their own race and for the establishment of the Kurdish language as the official tongue of the district.

The second solution offered is that should the mandate over Iraq, which Great Britain holds under the League of Nations, terminate after four years, as provided in the treaty of 1922-23 between Great Britain and Iraq, and if guarantees cannot be given the Kurds under the rule of Iraq, then the majority of the population of the disputed area would prefer Turkish sovereignty to that of the Arab State of Iraq and the territory, therefore, should go to Turkey.

The third solution is that if, after examining the whole situation, the Council of the League should prefer the partition of the territory, the commission recommends the establishment of the Less Zab River, a tributary of the Tigris which flows into that stream between Mosul and Bagdad, as the line of demarcation.

Council to Take Up Report Sept. 2.

The report of the Commission will be considered at a meeting of the Council of the League on Sept. 20.

The Boundary Commission holds that from the legal point of view Mosul is an integral part of Turkey until Turkey has renounced its right of sovereignty, but both Turkey and Great Britain have agreed to abide by the ultimate decision of the Council of the League on this point.

The report of the commission will be Syrian Christians, saying that they like the Jewish and Yezidi minorities in the disputed district, should be protected by whatever regime is established. The commissioner believes that the Assyrians should receive some form of local autonomy with religious freedom and the privilege of appointing their own officials.

The commission furthermore recommends that a representative of the League of Nations should live at Mosul for several years regardless of what solution is chosen.

Should the Council adopt the commission's third conclusion, about two-thirds of the disputed territory would got to Turkey, including the City of Mosul itself.

In connection with he second proposal the commission expressed the opinion that if it were found to be impossible to create a twenty-five-year League of Nations mandate and the Kurds did not obtain satisfactory guarantees the annexation of the area to Iraq "would be attended by grave political disadvantages." It would be preferable for the entire population to live under Turkish sovereignty, "whose internal state and external political condition are incomparably more stable than those of the Iraq." [sic]

The report of the special commission comprises 200 printed pages and maps. It deals chiefly with he ethnic, economic, political, social, strategic and geographical position of Mosul and its relations to Iraq and Turkey.

British Criticism Is Forecast.

LONDON, Aug. 7. – The report of the League of Nations Commission on the Mosul boundary question, given out today, recommending extension of the League mandate for twenty-five years, is likely to be received in this country with a good deal of misgiving.

There has not yet ben time for the British Government to consider the report and formulate views upon it, but in some quarters severe criticism of it is expected on the ground that it implies Britain must incur a heavy expense in continuing the mandate for another generation without drawing any direct advantage.

It is believed likely that the question will be asked whether the commission is not going entirely beyond its powers in raising the issue of how long the mandate should last. Inasmuch as the commission was instructed to report on a boundary dispute and is believed here to have gone into difficult political questions, the opinion is that it has exceeded its competence.

In passing the final disposition on to the League Council, the commission has put forward various considerations from different points of view which may assist the Council reaching a decision. Thus, from a geographical standpoint, it pronounces both of the frontiers claimed by the British, and actually occupied under the Brussels compromise, entirely suitable. The line claimed by Turkey is held good as far as the western portion through the desert, but not so good in the east. The northern part of the territory, with Mosul as the centre, has affinities with the adjacent Turkish, Syrian regions, while the southern portion is more closely connected with Iraq and Persia. The races are too confused to allow ethnical considerations to have any weight and it is quite impossible not to violate historical associations whatever line is adopted.

Economically, the Commissioners favor the union of the disputed areas with Iraq, though the mountains of the North Brussels line could be separated without inconvenience. Strategically, the Turkish line is poorest, especially in its eastern part, while both he British and Brussels lines are excellent.

Legally, the Commissioners hold, Iraq cannot claim territory either by right of conquest or on any other ground. It can only argue on moral grounds that the disputed area is necessary to its own development as a State.

The Commissioners, in declined responsibility for making recommendations on political grounds, admit that Iraq has progressed greatly in the past few years under British advice and influence, but express the view that it is still very unstable. It is only this ground that they recommend the extension of the League mandate for twenty-five years and believe that if this is done the wishes of the inhabitants would be more in favor of Iraq than of Turkey. Yet they deny that the inhabitants of the disputed zone have any really feeling of solitary with the Arab kingdom, and the only reason they favor joining the kingdom is their belief in the influence of the mandate and the economic advantages they expect from a protected, stable Iraq. Otherwise the inhabitants probably would prefer a return to Turkey.

NY Times, 1925 Aug 08

Student Reader  |  7HYPJHBFQS
1925 September 16th


London Government Lodges With League Complaint That Iraq Is Invaded


Hundreds of Destitute Refugees Flee Southward, Seeking Protection of British


40,000 Ottoman Regulars Reported Massed to Defy League if Decision on Mosul is Adverse

GENEVA, Sept. 15. – The British Government today made formal complaint to the Council of the League of Nations that Angora is breaking the Brussels agreement regarding the status quo in the disputed Mosul territory, which both parties are pledged to observe, till the Council's decision on the disposition of Mosul is rendered.

The protest says in part that Turkish soldiers surrounded the Christian village of Baijo on Sept. 8 and removed the inhabitants to Keroar, while another force surrounded the Christian monastery at Zarawak. One hundred and twenty Christians who escaped this attack fled into Iraq territory. On the 10th of September 200 Christians arrived at Zakho, in Iraq territory, in a terrible state of destitution, declaring that the Turks were deporting all Goyan Christians, to the number of 8,000, to Bashkala.

The British protest points out that it was such action on the part of Turkey which last year forced Great Britain to appeal to the League Council and which resulted in the conference at Brussels.

Munir Bey, Turkish Minister at Beroe and Deputy Chief of the Turkish delegation pleading the Mosul question before the League Council, declared this evening that the British charges could not be true, as there have been no Christians in the territory in question for a year.

Just a year ago, he said, Turkish troops entered the territory to punish the persons who kidnapped the Turkish Governor. All the Christians fled before the Turkish troops and none returned. The British charges were simply an answer to the Turkish demand for a security compact.

A British official today said Britain was most willing to make a compact with the Turks, but wha she wanted from Turkey in regard to Iraq was not a security compact but hands off. Iraq, he added, could stand on her own feet perfectly well if the Turks would leave her alone for a few years.

By T. R. Ybarra.

LONDON, Sept. 15. – Great Britain and Turkey were brought to the very brink of war a year ago by Turkish action exactly similar to Turkey's anti-British move yesterday. That was the disclosure made in high official circles here today when news reached London that Turkish troops had crossed the so-called "Brussels line" between Iraq and Turkey and driven northward hundreds of Christians settled in the district.

Great interest and anger were aroused here by a report that many of these "Goyan" Christians had arrived in Iraq territory in a terrible state of destitution and by a further report that the Turks contemplated massacring 8,000 other Christian inhabitants in this region, which is claimed both by Iraq and Turkey.

Today's news from Iraq, which fell here like a bomb, is, of course, "meat" for the Opposition. Already it is unlimbering its heavy artillery to bombard the Baldwin Government. The Opposition blames the latter for the latest Iraq crisis, because the Government recently decided to renew the British mandate over Mosul and Iraq for another twenty-five years.

[The Opposition refers to London politics, referring to those opposed to the Conservative's government in the United Kingdom as led by Mr. Baldwin.]

Opposition Sees War Inevitable

The crossing by Turkish troops of the "Brussels line" – the temporary boundary drawn pending final decision of the Mosul dispute – is considered by the Opposition to have only one meaning and that meaning is war. The belief that Turkey really means to risk a war against the British is strengthened by the recent bold utterances of the Turkish press, which openly advocated armed Turkish resistance to Britain if the Council of the League of Nations gave its final sanction to extend the British mandate over Iraq for another twenty-five years.

Further excitement was caused here today by a report the 40,000 Turkish regular troops were being held in readiness just north of the "Brussels line," for occupying Iraq should the League decision go against the Turks. Such a move by Turkey, it is widely believed here, would immediately provoke a Turco-British conflict without the formality of a declaration of war, since Iraq is strongly garrisoned by British troops and air forces.

The position of the British forces in Iraq, it is added, is made increasingly difficult by the Akhwan tribes to the south, which live by raiding and would attack Britain if they had a chance. On the west is Syria, where the French are deemed to have their hands full.

In high British official circles it was asserted today that the new outrages by the Turks will only serve to stiffen the back of the British Government. To show fear at this stage of the situation, it is explained, would only encourage the Turks to strike a really serious blow. Furthermore, official quarters emphatically point out, the present deportations show what would be the fate of Christians in the Mosul and Iraq territories should Britain withdraw entirely from these places.

The moral responsibly of Britain toward the mandated populations is now greater than ever, it is asserted, in view of the grave dangers to which the Christian populations are subjected.

Will Not Abandon Christians

It was authoritatively stated this evening that the British Government has no intention of withdrawing and leaving the Christians to the tender mercies of the Turks. [tender mercies?] The officials furthermore are deeply resentful at Turkish raids at this late date, when the Christian world hoped there would be no recurrence of the Turkish excesses of several years ago. As a Christian nation, it was added, Britain might be depended upon to see that no outrages were committed against Christians within territory entrusted to British care.

The next move is put to the League Council, since it is the Council's boundary which the Turks have violated.

The similar Turkish raid upon Christians a year ago – which it is now disclosed almost brought Turkey and Britain to war, though nothing was said about it at the time – happened as follows, according to the version given here today:

The British Government had drawn a line between Iraq and Turkey which it consider [sic] a just delimination of the frontier. Turkish forces crossed this line several times. Finally they raided and burned a village – especially settled by Christians sent from Bagdad by the British – and deported the population.

That was too much for the British. In a stiff note they informed the Turks "If you don't get out you will be bombed out." This threat made the Turks decamp.

Later the Council of the League at its meeting in Brussels last December fixed a new boundary further south. This left the disputed area where trouble is now seething. The British claim this should be a part of Iraq: nevertheless they promised to keep out of it when the Turks gave a similar promise to the Council pending a final settlement. The latest Turkish raids, it is asserted here tonight, are in direct violation of solemn Turkish assurances given to the Council last December.

NY Times, 1925 Sep 16

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1927 November 27th



A War Office communiqué issues last night in respect to Mesopotamia reports an improved situation on the Euphrates, but unsatisfactory condition in the Diala area north-east of Baghdad. The communiqué says: –

LOWER EUPHRATES. – The majority of the important Sheikhs of insurgent tribes in the Suk-esh-Suyukh area have come in to Suk to surrender. In the Shatt-al-Gharraf-Nasiriye area a hostile gathering has dispersed and a chief of the Albu Saad tribe, which was mostly concerned, has come in to Nasiriye.

The success of the Imam Abdullah bridge operations and of subsequent punitive measures during the last fortnight is causing the tribes in the Samawa-Rumeitha area to sue for peace. The subjugation of all tribe groups in this area is expected to follow from our re-occupation of Rumeitha.

MIDDLE EUPHRATES. – The 67th Brigade Column has visited the area to the N.W. of Shinafia (60 miles S. of Hillah). The inhabitants of this thickly populated district are busily cultivating. The 53rd Brigade Column bridged three canals in this area.

In the Hillah-Shamiyah area the surrender of insurgent tribes continues and their efforts to comply with he fines of rifles and ammunition have been fairly satisfactory. It is expected that further surrenders will materialize with the gradual relaxation of our irrigation control and economic blockade measures, which will encourage many insurgents who have fled to the deserts to return for their winter sowing.

UPPER TIGRIS. – Owing to the unsatisfactory progress of the collection of rifles and ammunition on the left bank of the river Diyal (east of Baghdad) an ultimatum has been issued to the tribes that that area will be considered rebellious and measures taken to enforce the fines unless surrenders are completed by November 27.

The situation is normal on the Baghdad-Mosul lines of communication. Shekh Bilaibil, who is still active, has apparently crossed to the left bank of the Tigris and moved on to the Dohuk-Zakho road (north-east of Mosul).

The Times (London), 1927 Nov 27

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1930 August 1st


Urge Turks to Join Raiders on Penalty of Rough Treatment.

ISTANBUL, JULY 31. – Kurdish propagandists are distributing literature and endeavoring to spread unrest near Mardin, threatening that the peasants will be roughly treated unless they join the warring tribesmen under the Sheik of Barzan from the Mosul district.

Minor Kurd attacks are continuing near the Iraq frontier, where many Turkish soldiers are being sent. Dispatches show that the raids extend over a wide area.

NY Times, 1930 Aug 01

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1930 August 31st


But Turkish Official Reticence Makes Definite Information Difficult to Obtain.


Some Leaders of Tribesmen Have Been Killed, but Trouble is by No Means Quelled.


ISTANBUL, Aug. 9. – From the mass of rumors that have taken the place of any genuine information regarding the military situation in Turkey's Eastern Provinces, it is difficult to obtain any very clear idea of the actual proportions of the Kurdish revolt. That this has already assumed far greater importance than that of Sheik Said in 1925 is admitted in the press. Turkish Government officials, always reticent on military matters, have published few statements other than those intended to inspire confidence in the administration, mainly to the effect that adequate repressive measures are being taken.

It is now two months since the trouble assumed such importance that dispatches crept into the press. Turkey suffers annually from "Kurditis" and at first the incursions were not considered extraordinary. Editorial writers maintain the the nation will deal a final blow to the aspirations of the nomad tribesmen, who, following the World War, petitioned the conferees at the Sevres treaty conference to grant them an independent domain. "Annihilation," "extermination" and "chastisement" are the words most frequently appearing in Angora dispatches.

Plan Made Long in Advance.

Reconstructing the developments of the Summer of 1930, it appears that there was a common plan made long in advance for descending at various points upon the Turkish frontier. Some go as far as to state that the program included simultaneous attacks against Turkey at nine different points, with Ergiche as a centre. Here it was planned to established the capital of independent Kurdistan. For this purpose two bands crossed from Persia into the Zilan region, one commanded by Said Ressoul heading for Ergiche. Although lines of communication were cut off, the postmaster knew of a secret way of summoning help. Aviators at Bayezid were first to answer his call. In the meantime he broke into army stores in the village, distributed munitions to the populace, and a strong defense was put up. For the purpose of helping their cause the Kurdish invaders announced in certain refractory villages in their path that Ergiche had been taken and that Bitlis and Diarbekir were on the point of surrender. Thus they secured many reinforcements.

Before the uprising had been quashed at this point 200 villages were destroyed and it is estimated some 1,500 of the enemy killed. The Kurds were caught between two fires in the valley of Zilan, and those who could fled, leaving behind them considerable plunder. Their retreat was toward Mount Ararat, where they gradually sought the higher levels, despite chilly weather. Airplanes were sent from Bayezid and Karekeusse, circling the mountain and bombing the black tents, the explosions causing great fear by reason of the loud reverberations in the mountain canyons. Gradually the supplies of the Kurds are supposed to have diminished until they now subsist mainly on a sort of buttermilk. Commanding them is Ihsan Nouri, once an Ottoman officer, who wears a helmet bearing stars of a General and emblems of Kurdish independence.

Enter the Sheik of Barzan

Operations in the Ararat district were at a standstill when news came that the Sheik of Barzan had brought 500 horsemen from the Mosul district in Iraq and had attacked the villayet of Hakkiari. He was later supposed to have been surrounded by Turkish troops, but this did not deter another Kurdish chieftain, Hatcho, from coming from Syria as far as the town of Habad, in the general region of Mardine. Latest reports are that after trying to induce sixteen villages to join the Kurdish standard and failing, he has fled back from whence he came. The district which he raided lies along the present boundary withSyria and was not well garrisoned, due to recent rectification of the boundary. It is said that Hatcho, acting under the instructions of the central Kurdish committees of Syria and Iraq, distributed arms and munitions to certain communities. Although he had only sixty horsemen, says the report, he expected numerous recruits. He invited al Kurds to revenge the death of thousands of their brothers and sisters who were massacred, to keep up the fight until their national aspirations are realized and to rally to the flag of the son of Kieur Hussein and give their blood to the last drop.

Hatcho formerly lived in Habad, but after Sheik Said's revolt he took refuge in Aleppo, Syria, awaiting a propitious moment to return.

Persians Take a Hand.

The son of Kieur Hassan, who was raised to rank of pasha or general under Abdul Hamid, is a Kurdish officer named Nadir Nezdet, who was last heard of in the camps on Ararat. Long his followers was supposed to be a bandit, Simiko, celebrated for many crimes. A statement issued by the Persian Ambassador to Turkey declaring that relations between the two countries are normal and are "not influenced by the violent publications of the Turkish press" calls attention to Persia's measures taken to prevent Kurds in Persia from collaborating with those of Turkey. As an example of goodwill he cites the instance of Persians fighting with and killing Simiko while he was on his way from Iraq to stir up trouble among the Persian tribesmen. Fourteen Kurdish chiefs recently permitted their names to appear in El Iraq, a newspaper published in Bagdad, beneath a protest against this act.

"Unrest is felt among the tribes," it said, "because of the change of attitude manifested by the Persian Government regarding the Kurds. The nomad tribes of Iraq have been accustomed to go into Persian territory each Summer, and this year they were authorized to do so by the commander of the Persian troops at Senteki. Simiko went on in advance while the tribes were on the move and was ambushed. He lost his life, as did Hurchut Agha, chief to the Hirke tribe; Kerim Khan Agha, chief to the Hilamiye tribe; Mehmet Emin Agha, chief of the Broadest tribe, and seven other Kurds. Twelve were wounded and 5,000 gold pounds were lost. We protest against this attitude on the part of Persia and ask the Iraq Government to take necessary measures."

Turkish public opinion, molded by an erratic and poorly informed press, insists that the Syrian, Persian and Iraq Governments have been lax with regard to the Kurds and have given them great liberty of action. Papers also insist that powerful foreigners (they go so far as to accuse the British) are seeking to stir up trouble by providing the Kurds with arms and supplies, appealing to their religion and political aspirations in order to further some more sinister movement.

Turkey Urges Cooperation.

Turkey recently sent a note to Persia asking that troops of the two countries be allowed reciprocally to enter each other's territory while engaged in putting down the revolt. It also requested revision of the boundary so that all of Little Mount Ararat, whose eastern slope is now in Persia, be concluded in Turkey in order to facilitate border patrols.

From Persia comes very little news. It is reported that Halil Agha, chief of the Djelali tribe, left Persia to assist the fugitives on Mount Ararat, but that when he reached the frontier Persian troops endeavored to stop him, a battle resulting. The Djelalis fled, leaving many guns. A brother fo Halil was among the dead.

The number of Turkish troops now on the eastern front is variously estimated between 50,000 and 150,000. An airplane detachment is supposed to be rendering valuable service, but apparently at least two of the machines have been lost. As the country does not have a large air force, the remainder could not be numerous. One newspaper states that a great many foreign papers have made sharp references to massacres. "Such critics," it adds, "should come and look the situation over and see what they could do about obtaining peace and order under the circumstances."

Meanwhile, in Angora, in the Court of Heavy Penalties, the trial of Selaheddine, son of the executive Sheik Said, leader of the last revolt, is getting under way. Several of his followers are farcing the tribunal with him, all charged with organizing secret and treasonable Kurdish societies.

NY Times, 1930 Aug 31

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1930 October 25th


Arabs and Assyrians to Aid in Mandate Outbreak – Christians Fear Result of Clash

LONDON, Oct. 24. – Trouble with the Kurds, it is reported here, has broken out in the Suleimania district of the mandated territory of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iraqi and Arab troops have been moved up northward, and it is stated they will be assisted by Royal Air Force planes and levies, who will be mostly Assyrian Christians.

The feeling among the Christian population is understood to be hostile to the expedition on the ground that a conflict with the Kurds might be avoided, and that in the event of fighting the Christian population and troops are likely to suffer more than the enemy.

NY Times, 1930 Oct 25

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1931 June 13th

Devil Worship Seen By American Priest

Rev. Edmund A. Walsh Makes Tour of Iraq and Visits the Yezidi in Mountains.


Their Interests Safeguarded by New Treaty – Oil Fields West of the Tigris

Washington, June 13. – The Rev. Edmund A. Walsh, vice president of Georgetown University, returned this week after five months' absence devoted to a study of political, economic and educational conditions in Mesopotamia.

Making his headquarters in Bagdad, the ancient city of the Caliphs, and later at Mosul, he traveled as far north as the Turkish frontier, crossed the Tigris northward into Kurdestan [Kurdistan], and likewise westward into Syria, now under French mandate. In all, since he left Washington last Winter, 15,000 miles were covered, some 3,000 of which were spent int he desert in close contact with native civilization and the Bedouin tribes.

As a sample of the special interest Iraq holds for travelers, Dr. Walsh recounts something of his visit to the Yezidi in their mountain stronghold at Balad-Sinjar, about seventy-five miles west of Mosul.

"This tribe, whose origins have long been a mystery to ethnologists," he said today, "is commonly known as devil worshipers, a description which is literally true. They worship the evil spirit under the name of Melek Taus, symbolized by a bronze peacock, before which they offer incense, sing, dance, and prostrate themselves. Their history goes back at least to the seventh century.

Cannot Mention the Devil's Name

"They have evolved a complete system of theology which is a curious admixture of Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism and primitive superstition. Their beliefs are contained in two sacred books which are preserved secretly some place in the mountains – the Book of Revelation and the Black Book. The Book of Revelation, which no foreigner has ever seen or been allowed to read, purports to contain the personal instructions of Satan to his chosen people.

"One of the curious injunctions of his satanic majesty forbids the Yezidi ever to mention his name or even the syllables that compose it.

"In speaking of their deity, the Yezidi consequently use circumlocutions, such as 'He,' 'Him whom thou knowest,' 'Him whom fools and ignorant people curse.'

"The Yezidi venerate Mohammed, but are hostile to Mohammedans; revere Christ and like Christians, but for prudential reasons worship Lucifer. They received me, a Christian, a Catholic and a priest, with extreme courtesy, and ten of their principal chiefs even permitted me to photograph them as a memento of the visit. In fact, Americans are welcome in every nook and corner of this cradle of the human race."

Archaeology and Oil Fields

Speaking of other conditions he found, Dr. Walsh said:

"The Kingdom of Iraq presents numerous attractions to the Western mind. It has a particular fascination for archaeologists and historians of the human race because of the antiquities buried in its soil. The excavations now in progress under American, French and English auspices constituents a fine contribution to knowledge and scholarship. The land is one of nature's favorite archives.

"The oil deposits east of the Tigris, in the Kirkuk region, assure the Iraq Government financial means for the future development of this new State, which will become autonomous and sovereign in a fuller sense of the word on the expiration of the British mandate next year. But, if my information is correct, the unexploited fields believed to exist west of the river may turn out to be equally important and should prove a valuable asset to the Iraq Government if wisely administered.

"The recent treaty signed between Great Britain, the United States and Iraq, and proclaimed by President Hoover on March 11, 1931, assures complete equality to nationals of the United States, not only for purposes of commerce but for the conduct of educational, philanthropic and religious institutions.

"Article No. 4 of the convention specifically accords wide cultural and religious liberty, even providing that instruction in American schools and colleges may be given in the English language, now greatly in favor in the kingdom. Constructive American cooperation in ever sphere is welcomed.

"Considerable anxiety has been expressed both Europe and America, as well as in Iraq itself, concerning the future status of Christian minorities subsequent to the expiration of the British mandate. The Christian inhabitants, divided into Chaldeans, Syrians, Latins, Armenians, Gregorians, Nestorians, Greeks and Jacobites, will not exceed 140,00 out of a population of 3,000,000.

"The fears of reprisal and persecution have some foundation in respect to isolated Christian villages situated in regions that are predominantly Mohammedan. But it must, in justice, be said that I could discover no conclusive evidence tending to lessen one's faith in the equitable intentions of the Iraq government itself.

"The guarantees embodied in its Constitution, in its treaties with foreign powers, and the growing interest resulting from its candidacy for membership in the League of Nations, would seem to exclude any danger of massacre of Christians or civic discrimination against non-Moslems.

"Should untoward incidents occur, it will be the duty of the Central Government to hold provincial and subordinate officials to strict accountability. But I left Iraq with he firm conviction that the Bagdad Government is not disposed to permit ancient animosities, whether racial or religious, to interfere with the local fulfillment of its international obligations or retard the notable progress already made."

During his absence from Washington Dr. Walsh had three audiences with Pope Pius XI, and a medal was presented to him by the sovereign Pontiff in recognition of relief and welfare work conducted insupportable fo Russia and the Near East.

NY Times, 1931 Jun 13

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1932 April 25th


Inflicts 120 Casualties in Attack on a Stronghold of Sheik of Barzan.

BAGDAD, Iraq, April 24 (AP). – Aided by the Royal Air Force of Great Britain, the Iraq army is making progress in its advance into the mountainous refuge of the notorious Sheik of Barzan, who has been virtually claiming the prerogatives of an independent ruler.

An Iraq attack upon an important mountain stronghold dominating the road into the region was successful, with the loss of only two Iraq soldiers. The rebel casualties were 120.

NY Times, 1932 Apr 25

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1932 June 25th


Chieftain Gives Up to Turks as Iraqi Army Advances on Him at Frontier.

BAGDAD, June 24. – The Kurdish campaign ended today with the surrender of the Sheik of Barzan in a desolate stretch of country near the northern Iraqi frontier. The Sheik was threatened on all sides. The Turks were waiting for him across the frontier, airplanes of the British Royal Air Force were above him and the Iraqi army was advancing from the rear. So he surrendered to the Turks with his two brothers and about 100 supporters, all of whom the Turks disarmed.

The Iraqi Government is establishing a civil administration and policing the roads throughout the whole region.

The surrender of the Sheik marks the end of four months of field operations and two years of struggle to establish Iraqi law and order in that turbulent part of the country. The Royal Air Force cooperated with the Iraqi troops, and while it was working to establish cohesion in the Iraqi State it also was useful in training the Iraqi troops for actual warfare.

Two companies of a Northamptonshire regiment have arrived in nine airplanes from Egypt and are taking over the duties of the Assyrian levies at the Air Force airdromes.

NY Times, 1932 Jun 25

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1932 July 3rd


Iraq Government Attempts To Bring Sheikh Ahmed Under Control.


Low-Flying Planes Force Outlaws to Seek Shelter in Caves After Sharp Attacks.


Told by Fliers Their Villages Will Be Bombed if They Try to Return Home.

MOSUL, June 18. – During the last two and half months the army of Iraq and the British Royal Air Force have been fighting a small but interesting war in some of the wildest countries of the world, the mountainous district of the Turkish border, which forms part of what is loosely known as Kurdistan.

Formerly almost the whole of this mountain region was divided among tribal chieftains, each of whom ruled a small territory free from all but the most shadowy control on the part of the empires around them. In their modern political distribution the mountains of Kurdistan have been partitioned between Turkey, Persia and Iraq. The governments of these countries have now reached that stage of development when such areas of surviving feudalism are recognized as a blot in the spreading and uniform pattern of civilization. The Shah of Persia has been settling Luristan in the south, with fighting off and on for the last three years. The last resistant to the authority of Bagdad in the most southern part of Kurdistan was brought to an end last year by the submission and removal of Sheik Mahmud. Now the Iraq Government has turned to deal with the Kurds on their northern frontier, where, almost the last of his kind, Sheik Ahmed rules in the three districts of Shirwan, Barosh and Mazuri Bala.

Religion Mixed With Feuds

There was every reason for the government to intervene. Apart from the disturbing influence which turbulent tribes such as these always have on the settled districts, providing sanctuaries for every kind of criminal and perpetuating the destructive blood feuds which enliven and embitter tribal life, Sheik Ahmed managed to increase the chaos around him by religious complications of an aggravated kind. His tribe, originally Christian, fairly recently turned to Mohammedanism, which developed in a manner not unusual to these mountain regions: the Sheik's brother before him was venerated for his holiness and was, according to many witnesses, seen to float to heaven from a Turkish gallows in Mosul, where his earthly career came to an abrupt end. His mantle fell upon Sheik Ahmed, who suddenly declared himself to be a divine incarnation and, last Summer, abandoned Islam altogether, starting a religion of his own. He celebrated his and his followers' freedom from religious prejudice by a banquet of pig, and so shocked his orthodox neighbors that a series of small jihads were begun against him, bringing about bloodthirsty retaliation and general chaos in the district of Shirwan.

Sheik Ahmed is a man well under 40, illiterate but shrewd, with the virtues and vices of his kind. In Barosh and Mazuri Bala, which are the centres of his influence, his power is absolute. Any one whom he chances to condemn will be killed by his followers at a word. He has, or rather had, a bodyguard of 500 men, and beyond these, Kurdish villagers thinly scattered in the mountain glens beneath his sway.

Government Took Action.

Last year, after the surrender of Sheik Mahmud, the Iraq Government planned to bring the northern area also under control. Want of money and of time – since the open season is short in the hills – caused the plan to be postponed until March 13 of this year, when, after several vain attempts at peaceful negotiation, troops were concentrated at Balikian, near the eastern exit of the Rawanduz gorge. They were to begin with the occupation of Shirwan up to the Ru Kuchuk, to protect the construction of a motor road, and to establish police posts in this area, and then to advance into the really difficult country of Barosh and Mazuri Bala. Together with the Iraq troops, a flight of Royal Air Force airplanes was moved up from Mosul to cooperate. Sheik Ahmed received warning, and it was apparent from the outset that he intended to oppose the introduction of a settled administration in his area.

On the second day of marching the column reached Merga Sor, on the edge of the uncontrolled area, and was heavily attacked at dawn by a strong force of Kurds. They were, however, thrown back at the point of the bayonet by a sally and suffered several casualties, a success which brought in many submissions from villages around. The column then moved to Zhazhok, a high village on the watershed, and thence down the Berisia River toward Berisia. It was while advancing along this thickly wooded, narrow valley that the supply column was attacked. The mules were quickly stampeded and many of them carried off. The main column, which had already reached Berisia, was left in a very precarious situation. A second supply column, sent from Zhazhok, was also attacked and unable to force it way through, and the position was saved only by the R. A. F., who twice flew up and dropped stores into Berisia. Three British were wounded in this affair – two airmen and the Inspector General of the Iraq Army, General Rowan Robinson.

On April 5 the Berisia column marched back to Zhazhok and was again attacked in the defile. British airplanes accompanied it and beat off the Kurds at close range, while a detachment of Iraq troops, keeping to the higher ground on the flank of the main body, brought rifle and machine gun fire to bear on the retreating enemy. The Kurds fled, carrying with them their dead and wounded, estimated at about 100.

While these operations were going on in the southeast of the Sheikh's country, another column was threatening him from the south. This took the Sheikh's deserted capital, the village of Barzan. The Kurd is in any case in the habit of leaving his villages during the Summer – induced to do so, it is said, less by fear of attack than by fleas. Sheikh Ahmed abandoned the whole southwest half of Barosh along the banks of the Zab, and retreated behind a great wall-like range called Chia-e-Shirin (the Mountain of Sweetness), whose only practicable entrance is a gorge where the Ru Kuchuk breaks through in a very narrow defile. This defile is held both against enemies who try to force an entrance and against subjects who would like to get out and make submission to government – of whom it appears there are now a good number.

Ahmed Took to Heights.

Round the highest massif of this region, which is not much more than twelve miles every way as the crow flies, near the mountains of Sar-i-Hora and Sar-i-Musaka, Sheikh Ahmed entrenched himself. He was corresponding with the Baghdad Government during all this time, and even went so far as to promise to come to Mosul on April 6, a promise of which he though better, possibly in memory of his brother's fate. Meanwhile the Iraq Government was becoming convinced that it could not finish the business alone before the Winter came, and it was decided to try to force the Sheikh into submission by a period of intense activity on the part of the R. A. F. operating independently over Chia-e-Shirin and the valleys to the north of it. Bad weather delayed the opening of this new phase of the operations for a few days, and during this period the unfortunate force landing on April 29 placed Flying Officer Wells and L. A. C. Evans in the hands of the enemy.

Flying Officer Wells was badly injured in the shoulder and Sheikh Ahmed, after being told that the responsibility for their care and medical treatment lay with him, offered to let a doctor come up under safe conduct to attend to the injury. Together with Squadron Leader Hodgins, the doctor, a British political officer, Captain Holt, who had already had great success in dealing with Sheikh Mahmud the year before, was sent up on May 3 to negotiate the deliverance of the captives if possible. Dr. Hodgins, with one candle and a crowd of Kurdish mountaineers around him, chloroformed Flying Officer Wells on the floor of one of the huts and set his shoulder, which the Kurds had already bound up to the best of their ability.

Returned in Safety.

Next morning Captain Holt was taken up above the last of the villages to a cavern where the Sheikh, together with his fighting brother, Mustapha, who had led the attacks on the Berisia column, sat with the chiefs at council. Personality is everything with hill tribes and a single man, if it is the right man, can do more in one interview than fifty official dispatches will accomplish. The prisoners were eventually released conditionally.

At this time the authorities learned that Sheikh Ahmed had asked a religious notable of the Dohuk district, Sheikh Nuri Barzani, to act as his intermediary. Sheikh Nuri agreed to visit Ahmed with a view to discovering what he was prepared to do in order to bring about a settlement without further hostilities. Ahmed, however, refused to negotiate unless the government first withdrew its forces. In order to give Sheikh Ahmed one more chanciest he authorities authorized Captain Holt to write to him explaining the terms offered by the Iraqi Government – namely, Sheikh Ahmed's surrender on a guarantee that he should be given a suitable provision and allowed to live in peace and honor in some place to be determined by the government, with similar treatment for his brothers and complete amnesty for every one else not directly implicated in any atrocities. Ahmed refused to accept these terms, and the original program of intensive air activities was then put into effect.

Rebels Driven to Caves.

From the morning of May 25 ceaseless patrols have been humming over Ahmed's fastnesses. The rebels are driven to take refuge in their caves. If they attempt a return to their villages they are warned by a loud-speaker, operating in their own dialect from the air, that a bombardment is due, and the village – as soon as it is evacuated after the warning – is duly bombed. Any armed assembly is immediately attacked. It is hoped that by this means the area may be brought to submission without being devastated and without the infliction of more than acute discomfort on its inhabitants.

The nature of these operations makes it essential for the aircraft to keep close to the ground, which, in these deep valleys means flying between narrow walls of rock from which the Kurds can easily direct a lateral rifle fire. Leading Aircraftman Haskell was wounded in this manner and another of our planes, missing since that date, must, it is feared, be counted as lost.

The Iraqi Army meanwhile has consolidated its positions along the Ru Kuchuk at Baishok, Lairebir and Raizan and is pressing the building of roads and police posts in all the country south and west of the still unsubdued mountain centre.

NY Times, 1932 Jul 03

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2007 September 18th

Tripp, Charles. A History of Iraq: New Edition.