National Geographic : 1975 Mar
The Bahdinan region, which borders Tur key from the mountains of Barzan to the city of Zakhu, provided rich harvests of rice, wheat, barley, and fruit-until Iraqi planes burned out the fields with firebombs. "The fighting has severely crippled our food distribution," Muhammed Shali, the re gional administrator, told me. He received me in his office, a low enclosure made of tree trunks with a dirt floor and a ceiling of leafy branches. On a gray metal desk sat a field telephone and an oil lamp. He used a battery powered bell to summon aides, handing them documents he had signed. One Cannon Replies to 300 Tanks We talked as he conducted his affairs. "Not only have the Iraqis destroyed many of our crops," he said, "but it is difficult to receive food from Iran because it must come on muleback over the mountains. Turkey has closed its borders to us. Winter will soon be here, and that will be even worse for us. Snow will block the passes." I received word of a major Iraqi offensive on the Betwatah-Raniyah front. After some arduous travel, I reached the headquarters of Ali Shaban, commander of the Betwatah Brigade. A small, graying man in his late fifties, he calmly outlined the situation. "The Iraqis are attacking with two divisions and perhaps three hundred tanks. It is the most determined assault they have made. If only we had antitank weapons, we could stop them. But we must stay back." The main Kurdish positions rested atop Mount Makuk, at 6,070 feet one of the high est peaks overlooking the Dukan plain. We climbed Makuk's steep limestone face and looked out on the flatland beneath us. The white tents of the Iraqi Army shimmered there in the intense sunlight. Black toylike vehicles deployed toward Mount Makuk, kicking up rooster tails of dust, to pound away at Kurdish positions on the lower ridges. Rashid Sindi (facing page), who command ed five Kurdish brigades in this region, or dered an artillery strike in retaliation. A handsome, strongly built man of 45 or so, he had learned English as a young Iraqi Army lieutenant. Rashid had been in the forefront of the Kurdish uprising since it began in 1961. His artillery consisted of one British 25 pounder of World War II vintage.