Mr. Pearson to Mr. Hay.
Teheran , April 18, 1904 .
Sir: It is now forty-one days since the Rev. Benjamin W. Labaree, an American missionary was murdered near Khoi, almost under the shadow of Mount Ararat. I had hoped before this to cable you that one or more of the murderers had been arrested, but I can only report at present that a large expedition, under command of an energetic general who is highly respected and commended by the missionaries, is actually scouring the mountains in search of any and all of the gang who are all known and identified.
It will be seen that while only four men actually participated in the killing of Mr. Labaree and his servant, ten other Kurds of the same gang were accomplices. They had simply taken another road for the purpose of entrapping their prey and must be held guilty as accessories before the fact.
The brutality and atrocity of the murder remove any doubt as to its motive, and eliminate entirely the suggestion in my first cable that the “motive was apparently robbery.” The stealing of the horses and other property was a mere incident. The inspiration of the deed was religious and race hatred, without the slightest personal animosity. The fact that the chief and leader of the criminals is a “Seyid,” an alleged lineal decendant of Mahomet, adds greatly to the difficulty of the arrest. These Kurds are all Mohammedans of the Sunni sect, and their fanaticism, which is both ardent and sincere, added to their [Page 659] hereditary and instinctive love of blood and pillage make them a dangerous and difficult population to deal with.
The home of the Kurds or “Kurdistan” is an indefinite geographical expression, but may be roughly understood as beginning at Mount Ararat on the north and stretching south to where the mountains fade away into the plains of Mesopotamia above Bagdad, say, 300 miles; the width of the region may be measured by the distance between Lake Urumia in Persia and Lake Van in Turkey—something like 100 miles; the area of this region is as large as the State of South Carolina. It disregards imperial boundaries, as its inhabitants disregard imperial laws and orders; it extends into Persia or Turkey according to the pleasure and habits and wanderings of these wild people.
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Notwithstanding the strict laws that require passports to enter Turkey or Persia, the Kurd relies with confidence and success upon his rifle and scimitar rather than upon paper and seals and visas, and so crosses indifferently into either territory to commit crimes, or to escape the consequences of his crimes. This is the Kurd, the creature we have to deal with in this case.
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I am etc.,