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The Faith House, 22 Buckingham St: THE following pages have been written with the twofold object of bringing to the notice of the British and American public the travails, of a small Christian nation, which unreservedly threw in its lot with the Entente cause during the late World War, and suffered grievously in consequence; and, secondly, to emphasise what Great Britain, practically unaided, has taken upon her own already greatly overburdened shoulders to ameliorate the sad lot of these fugitives from their former homes.
The writer, as late Commandant of this huge Refugee Camp, almost from its inception, should obviously be in a position to discuss with some knowledge of the facts the matter presented in this little book; and if by so doing he succeeds in raising the interest of others in the fate of the obscure Assyrian nation he will feel that his task has not been in vain.
The little town of Baqubah is situated on the left bank of the river Diala, which, rising in the Persian uplands, flows into the Tigris a few miles south of Baghdad. The town is some 33 miles NNE of Baghdad, and is on the direct caravan route between that city and Kirmanshah, Hamadan, and other important Persian centres. The brick and mud houses and huts of Baqubah are almost entirely concealed from the right bank of the river--here from to yards wide during the flood season, and confined between high precipitous mud banks by a luxuriant growth of date palms, orange groves, figs and vines, for which this little oasis is noted throughout Mesopotamia.
The metre gauge railway from Baghdad to Kizil Robat and the Persian frontier, which was commenced shortly after the British occupation of Baghdad, in order, to facilitate the operations undertaken against the Turkish forces in those regions, crossed the Diala by means of a lofty, wooden pile bridge after traversing a great easterly loop of the river a mile or a mile and a half down stream of Baqubah. In striking contrast to the left bank of the river, the right, hereabouts, is entirely devoid of trees or fruit gardens, the neglected soil producing little beyond dwarf camel-thorn owing to the long disuse of the ancient Nahrwan and other canals.
These, at one period in history, had evidently fertilised the now and flat plain between Baghdad and the Jebal Hamrin hills, and converted scores of square miles into a veritable granary for the dense population of the great city on the Tigris. This absence of cultivation and vegetation, however, greatly reduced the difficulties of the problem by which the authorities in Mesopotamia were confronted in providing a suitable site for the hordes of refugees from Persia, seeking maintenance and security under British protection, in the autumn of The great loop of the Diala river, together with the elevated flat ground to the west of the banks of the old Nahrwan Canal, which turns north and south across the base of the loop--a distance of about Running almost parallel to the old Nahrwan Canal, and distant some 1, yards to the west of it across the plain, is another small canal known as the Othmaniyeh Canal, down which water from the Diala was permitted to flow fairly regularly.