National Geographic : 1961 Jan
KODACHROMEBY THOMAS J. ABERCROMBIE,NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSTAFF Dagger in Belt, a Kurdish Patriarch Surveys the Village of Hamamian Yard-long shirt cuffs wrap around the forearms. "In the old days," their owner told the author, "there were many battles, and we carried our bandages with us." that hill, and objects pointed into the air." South again, beyond Tabriz;almond, peach, and pear orchards huddle thickly behind mud walls. Azeri peasants in visored caps and Western garb switch sleek cattle out of vege table gardens; grapevines turn earth mounds green. The gray loam yields bountifully here, even without kanats. "We Have Been Iranians for 6,000 Years" Here colorful Kurdish turbans with "fly whisk" fringes move among Azeri caps, and military headgear appears in profusion. Near-by Mahabad, capital of the abortive Kurdish Republic of 1945, is now head quarters of the Iranian Army's crack Third Corps. Its commander, Gen. Karim Varah ram, sipped his tea and talked of the Kurds. About one million of these handsome, in dependent tribesmen inhabit the plains and hills of northwest Iran, from Khvoy to Ker manshah. Two million more live in eastern Iraq and Turkey.* They have long been of special concern to the Iranian Government. "The problem with the Kurds is their living standard," said the general. "We must im- prove it. His Imperial Majesty has ordered a three-year building program - hospitals, roads, and schools. We have put up six new schools in two years in this area of Kurdistan alone. Already more than 5,000 of Mahatbd's 22,000 people are students." Meanwhile the general keeps a watchful eye on his borders. It was from Iraq and Tur key that most of the agitation for Kurdish autonomy came some 15 years ago. In the town of Bowkan, 30 miles away, a Kurd explained it to me. "The Kurds in Iraq are not Arabs; those in Turkey are not Turks," said Qassim Ilkhan izadeh, a leader of the Dehbukri tribe, 50,000 strong. "That is why they want their own republic. But we, we are Iranians, and have been for 6,000 years." We dined with the Ilkhanizadeh brothers eight of them- on savory Kurdish specialties: broiled chicken with green plum sauce, dolmeh (meat, rice, and peas in grape leaves), and sweet preserved squash and eggplant. *Justice Douglas writes of the Kurds in "Station Wagon Odyssey: Baghdad to Istanbul," NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, January, 1959. N.G.5.