Tuesday, 17 July 2012, 09:58 GMT
Kurdish patriotism

Behrooz Shojai

The Kurdish Globe
By Behrooz Shojai
Part II

Encounter of a Kurd and the King of Iran, Fath Ali Shah the Qajar

The Shah beheld with surprise the fortitude of the tortured wretch, and his admiration being excited thereat, he proceeded to entreat the man to confess, assuring him of both protection and reward. He might as well have addressed a stone; the heroic Koord surveyed the king with a curled lip, the only sound issuing therefrom being an indistinct cry of "dogs".

Persians flaying a captive alive

The first story of Kurdish resistance and patriotism goes back to when a Turkish tyrant tried to extort confessions from a Kurdish soldier of Baban by means of torture. A similar scene is repeated on the other side of occupied Kurdistan. A Kurdish rebellion has occurred in Persian Kurdistan during the rule of Fath Ali Shah, the second Persian king of the Qajar Dynasty, who reigned from 1797 till his death in 1834.

During his reign, the Persian Kingdom lost vast territories to Russian and British empires. Like his uncle Agha Mohammad Shah Qajar he was famous for his cruelty and dictatorial rule. He had to deal with many revolts in different part of his kingdom. Below is a testimony how he treated those who opposed him. The whole story of the rebellion is the romance-like three volume book "Koordish Chief, a Tale of Persia and Koordistan", written by the Briton Charles Stuart Savile in 1842.

A Kurdish rebel has entered the Persian encampment in disguise, but caught by the Persians. The Persians are conducting torture upon him to extort confessions from him. The whole act is administered by the King of the Kings, his majesty Fath Ali Shah, himself. He is intimidating and even trying to persuade him by promises. Here goes the encounter:

"Padersookhteh ! exclaimed the Shah, "I see it is vain to show mercy towards such a defiled wretch; you will force us to try the effect of torture upon you; still it is far from our desire to proceed to such extremities, Listen, if you will but confess all, you shall not only escape punishment, but be well rewarded: answer me, what are the intentions of Karah Kaplan?"

"How can I, who know him not, inform you of his plans?" was the answer returned, uttered too in a cool, calm tone, as if the speaker was perfectly at his ease; indeed to an ordinary spectator, who had not heard what had passed, it would have appeared that the prisoner, from his collected manner, was expecting any thing but violent usage.

Fath Ali could restrain his rage no longer; but roared out in a furious tone to his ferashes , commanding them to exert all their powers of torture upon the unhappy wretch, in order to extract the truth from his lips.

The executioners advanced at this command, and laying hands upon the Koord bound him to a pole, which was stuck in the ground, and then proceeded to inflict the most excruciating torture, in various ways upon his person; but, although, the frame of the sufferer quivered with anguish, while his cheek by turns blanched and reddened, and his eyes almost started from their sockets, no sound escaped his lips. Although one ear was sawed slowly and in slices from his head, he bravely stood the test; a hot iron was then applied to the wound in order to staunch the flowing blood; -- the flesh hissed and crackled; -- the spectators shuddered -- some fell deadly sick at the sight; but still the prisoner, though frequently questioned, answered not, but kept a moody and disdainful silence.

The Shah beheld with surprise the fortitude of the tortured wretch, and his admiration being excited thereat, he proceeded to entreat the man to confess, assuring him of both protection and reward. He might as well have addressed a stone; the heroic Koord surveyed the king with a curled lip, the only sound issuing therefrom being an indistinct cry of "dogs".

Fath Ali maddened at this behaviour, called out to the ferashes to proceed; the remaining ear was sawed piecemeal from the head, the hot iron was again applied, still the tortured man spoke not, although the sweat drops starting from his forehead, and running in streams down his cheeks bore evidence to the intensity of his anguish. Being unable to elicit anything from the prisoner, the Persians began to vary the manner of torture, the flesh of the Koord was pinched with hot tweezers, his beard was pulled hair by hair from his chin, his gums were seared, his finger nails torn from their sockets, still the man remained firm, his courage becoming greater, as his persecutors became enraged, and truly maddened with fury, like venemous reptiles they vented their rage upon the unflinching object, tearing his flesh from his body, and inflicting every pang than human invention could devise, and human cruelty could perform.

At length, Fath Ali once more gave the signal for the torturers to cease from their exertions, and addressing the prisoner, again entreated him to confess. "By Mahomed!" he exclaimed, "you are a man of courage, you have shown this day what a Koord can undergo; you have raised your countrymen in our estimation; let that suffice, I would not kill so brave a man. Come comply, and we will make you every reparation in our power for what you have undergone; in future a Cashmere shawl shall hide the loss of your ears, and silken vesture shall cover your scars. Court favour shall shine upon you like the midsummer's sun, and you shall bask in our smiles; and for all these honours, you are merely required to confess the real truth concerning your errand hither; the more I look upon you, the more I remark your unflinching bearing, so much the more am I convinced that some sinister plot is devised against us by Karah Kaplan. Speak, therefore, and tell us for what purpose you have been sent here.''

The suffering wretch raised his eyes languidly to the countenance of the Shah, and a smile of triumph illuminated his features; it seemed as if he felt himself superior to the cruel arts of his enemies, and that it gave him satisfaction to remark their anxiety and curiosity. Still he spoke not a word; again the Shah addressed him -- again were honours, rank, wealth, and every earthly luxury offered him; but with the same success, till at length Fath Ali vexed almost to madness at the obstinacy of his victim, cried out, "Is there no one here, who can inform us of some torture which stops short of taking life, yet inflicts such an acute pang, that it could almost extort a cry from a corpse? I promise the most ample reward to any one who can force this grilling dog to speak."

"We have hitherto had to do with men," cried several ferashes, "this accursed one is more than mortal."

"He has flesh--he has sinews," cried the Shah, "he must feel; shame on you all that are so ignorant of your duty."

"May your majesty live forever," said the Shah's Hakim Bashee , your slave begs to observe that he knows of a torture so severe, so racking to the nerves, that if he, that undergoes it, can remain silent under its operation, he must be a devil, he cannot be a man. I saw it used in the north of Hindostan, when it extracted confession, after every other means had failed. The pang inflicted though acute, aims not at life."

"Barakillah , Meerza Baba," cried Fath Ali. "Your head shall be exalted, you have travelled to some purpose; force but the truth from yonder padersookhteh, and your reward shall be great; but be quick, our heart is dried up with his obstinacy."

"So please the Asylum of the Universe," observed the physician, "your slave is ready: it will be no fault of mine, if the Koord remain longer silent."

Having thus spoken, Meerza Baba turned to an attendant, and gave him some instructions; the man departed, and presently returned with a mahogany case, from which the physician took a cupping glass, and a bottle containing spirits of wine. He next proceeded to bare the shoulder of the prisoner, after which he applied the cupping glass to his flesh, and having allowed it to remain on for several minutes, he produced a small bottle containing spirits of wine, and hastily drawing off the cupping glass, threw the liquid upon the part, at the same time applying a light. In an instant the shoulder of the Koord was enveloped in a clear blue flame, which was fed by the Meerza continuing to sprinkle spirit over it. The effect of this manoeuvre immediately became evident, and the Koord for an instant writhed in agony, and then broke silence with a yell, which from its shrillness and intensity, seemed to have been extracted from the marrow of his bones.

The shriek was accompanied by the following words, "For mercy's sake stop, I am a Koord, Karah Kaplan intends to attack the camp three days hence at sunrise."

As this confession escaped the sufferer's lips, the physician extinguished the fire, and turning to the Shah, exclaimed,

"Your majesty, I trust, is satisfied."

"You are a good servant," returned Fath Ali, "and shall be well rewarded; we must, however, pay attention to the words of this defiled wretch. O man," he continued, addressing the Koord, "what words are these, is your master so mad, as to attempt a chappow upon our camp?"

The intense anguish which had extracted the unwilling confession from the mouth of the Koord, had now subsided, and the man had again resumed his undaunted demeanour. Gazing on the Shah with a look of contempt, he observed in a determined though faint voice,

"Dog of a king, you are unworthy the name you bear ; know that the words I just now uttered are bash! empty air! torn from my lips by the anguish of the moment. Once more, I repeat, that I know not Karah Kaplan."

"What say you?" roared out the Shah, in an excess of fury; "do you mean, merdiki , to deny your words."

"I do, despicable Kujur ," answered the Koord. "Aye frown, curse, if you will, I care not, your tortures may extract words from my lips; but those words will be mere lies. Exert your efforts, padersookhteh, I spit upon you and yours. Pah! I have defiled your father's grave."

The countenance of the Shah became livid at these taunts, which were indeed uttered by the Koord, in order to provoke the wrath of Fath Ali to such a degree, as to cause the monarch to command his instant execution, and thus relieve him from the pain he was suffering; nor was he in error, for Fath Ali unable to contain himself, roared out to his ferashes to strike the prisoner's head from his shoulders. One of the men immediately drew forth his scimitar, and in the next instant the head of the gallant Koord rolled upon the ground, while the quivering trunk remained upright, being held to the pole by the cords with which the man had been bound.