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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

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Reference code
Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Naji, Haji
Suwaidi, Yusuf al-
Wilson, A.T.
Haldane, Aylmer
Hussein, Feisal bin al-
Ramsay, W.M.
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad June 7 Dearest Father. This also has been a week of events, satisfactory and unsatisfactory. First of all AT [Wilson] met the agitators after having summoned a good many notables who were not with them to the meeting. I send you a copy of the Baghdad Times with an account of the proceedings. The result has been very good. AT's speech took the wind out of the sails of the memorialists and the general talk of the bazaars was that the town had made a fool of itself. This impression continues to grow, as I hear from Fattuh who sits in the coffee shops daily. AT flew down on the following day to Hillah [Hillah, Al] and Najaf [Najaf, An] where he found that no one was inclined to take a hand in the Baghdadi agitations, indeed in Najaf they had definitely refused to send up delegates to ask for Arab independence. Meantime our opponents are now quarrelling busily among themselves. I had a delicious account of the big meeting at Kadhimain [(Al Kazimiyah)] last Sunday week. There was a good deal of political speechifying after which cheers were raised for Mirzi Muhammad Taqi, the premier mujtahid who lives in Karbala, for Saiyid Haran el Sadr, whom you called on, for his son Muhammad and his nephew Mhd Mahdi. But a certain Abdul Qasim, who had served as agent provocateur throughout the whole business was not mentioned. He is justly annoyed and has retired to Karbala in a huff. That old ass Yusuf Suwaidi (you didn't see him - he is descended from the Abbasids) is raising a national gendarmerie at £6 a month. He has succeeded in raising 20, to the amusement of Baghdad - for they take a joke against themselves very readily. And now for the unsatisfactory. 3 days ago the Shammar (a nomad tribe which occupies the whole desert between Euphrates and Tigris and was always at daggers drawn with the Turks) urged by Sharifian propaganda and led by Sharifian officers, fell on Tall 'Afar, about 40 miles west of Mosul [Mawsil, Al]. We had no troops there and the A.P.O. was out on tour. They announced that the Sharif Abdullah, Faisal's brother, was at Dair [Dayr az Zawr] (he's at Mecca [Makkah]) and was marching down to assume the Amirate of Mesopotamia, and urged the Tall 'Afaris to declare their adhesion to Arab Govt by murdering all English. Accordingly they murdered the Levy Officer, a splendid man who had been an NCO and had got a DSO in the war, 2 English clerks and the personnel of 2 LAM cars. The villagers caught the APO, Capt Barlow and sent him in to Tall 'Afar 2 days later. There he was deliberately murdered on the steps of his house. I can make no comments on this recital. A punitive expedition went out at once. We cannot catch the Shammar who are by this time at Nisibin [Nusaybin (Nisibis)], but all the inhabitants of Tall 'Afar are going to be turned out and told to go down into the villages in the plain, and every house is to be destroyed. Nor shall we allow the town to be rebuilt. I fully agree with the decision and so do the inhabitants of Mosul who say that if we are the Mandatory Power, we must protect them from the danger of such occurrances. And now I'll tell you something immense. The day after the Tall 'Afar news came in, Sir Aylmer left for Tehran [(Teheran)], taking with him his C.G.S., General Stewart, and his A.Q.M.G. General Hambro. After their visit to Tehran they take up residence at Karind [Karand] and return here in Oct. We are not accustomed to having military authorities who don't take as eager a share in the game as we do, and we feel this desertion at such a moment pretty keenly. Gen. Fraser at Mosul is doing his best; he is obliged to act entirely on his own authority, there being no one to give orders. I lunched with Sir A. the day he left. We chatted about common acquaintances in London over our iced melon and mayonnaise. As I went away I said: "I suppose if you hear when you reach Karind that the tribes have taken Baghdad, you'll - go on to Kermanshah [Bakhtaran]?" He replied "Oh I don't feel any responsibility for what happens while I'm away." And we sit and wish we had Sir William back. I dined out 3 times last week - a big military dinner for the King's Birthday, and also with Sir Edgar to meet Mr Norman (who has gone now) and with Col. and Mrs Kay - he is in charge of Remounts, nice people. And on Sat. I had a successful little dinner party of my own, Frank, Mr Watkins (customs) Col. Wintle (O.C. Troops, Baghdad) and a couple called Ware, merchants, you don't know them. Sir Edgar and I rode out early on Sunday morning to Karradah not far from Haji Naji, where we met the Tods and their children and breakfasted in an apricot garden by the river edge. Very nice it was. A quite preposterous article about us appeared in the Times: I send you a copy of the letter I wrote to Mr Steed on the subject. Will you please show all this to Domnul, to whom I never seem to write, bless him. Your very affectionate daughter Gertrude Your letter from Mahableshwar never came, but I got the watch which gave great satisfaction. Mayda Sevian's wedding is tomorrow and I'll have to put on my best top and go to it.

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