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316                 JOURNEYS IN KURDISTAN      LETTER xxix

Kurdish. If report speaks truly their fierce tribal
feuds and readiness with the dagger are Kurdish also.
Their country is the country of the hunted. Its moun-
tains rise nearly perpendicularly to altitudes of over
12,000 feet, and the valleys, such as Tyari, Tkhoma, Baz,
Diz, and Jelu, are mere slits or gashes, through which
furious tributaries of the greater Zab take their impetuous
course. Above these streams the tribes have built up
minute fields by raising the lower sides on stone walls a
few feet above the rivers, the upper being the steep hill
slope. So small are these plots that it is said that the
harvest of some of them would only fill a man's cap!
Occasionally heavy floods sweep away the rice and millet
cultivation of a whole district, and the mountaineers are
compelled to depend for their food entirely on the produce
of their flocks.

If they could sustain themselves and their animals
altogether within their own fastnesses, they would be
secure from molestation either from Kurds or Turks, for
the only possible entrances to their valleys are so narrow
and ruggedly steep as scarcely to be accessible for a pack-
horse, and ten men could keep any number at bay. But
unfortunately the scanty herbage of their mountains is
soon exhausted, and they have to feed their flocks outside
their natural fortifications, where the sheep are constantly
being carried off by the Kurds, who murder the shepherds
and women. The mountaineers are quick to revenge them-
selves ; they carry off Kurdish sheep, and savage warfare
and a life under arms are the normal condition of the
Ashirets. The worst of it is, that they are disunited among
themselves, and fight and spoil each other as much as
they fight the Kurds, even at times taking part with
them against their Christian brethren. Travellers are
scarcely safer from robbery among them than among the
Kurds, but fierce, savage, and quarrelsome as they are,