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324                  JOUENEYS IN KUBDISTAN        LETTER xxx

The rayaJis either own the village lands or are the depend-
ants or *serfs of a Kurdish Agha or master. In either
case their condition is deplorable, for they have practi-
cally no rights which a Kurd or Turk is bound to respect.
In some of their villages they have been robbed till they
are absolutely without the means of paying taxes, and
are beaten, till the fact is established beyond dispute.
They are but scantily supplied with the necessaries of
life, though their industry produces abundance. Squeezed
between the rapacity and violence of the Kurds and the
exactions of the Turkish officials, who undoubtedly connive
at outrages so long as the victims are Christians, the condi-
tion of these Syrians is one of the most pitiable on earth.
They have no representatives in the cities of Europe and
Asia, and no commercial instincts and ha,bits like the
Armenians. They have the Oriental failings of untruth-
fulness and avarice, and the cunning begotten by centuries
of oppression, but otherwise they are simple, grossly
ignorant, helpless shepherds and cultivators; aliens by race
and creed, without a rich or capable man among them,
hemmed in by some of the most inaccessible of mountain
ranges, and by their oppressors the Kurds; without a
leader, adviser, or friend, rarely visited by travellers,
with no voice which can reach Europe, with a present
of intolerable bondage and a future without light, and
yet through all clinging passionately to the faith re-
ceived by tradition from their fathers.

As I have no lodging but a dark stable, I am utilis-
ing the late afternoon, sitting by the village threshing-
floor, on which a mixed rabble of animals is treading
corn. Some buffaloes are lying in moist places looking
amiable and foolish. Boy is tied to my chair. The
village women knit and stare. Two of the men, armed
with matchlock guns, keep a look-out for the Kurds. A
crystal stream tumbles through the village, over ledges