A Village Remembered: The Armenians of Habousi - The Compatriotic Union of Habousi

Chapter 3:

Historical Fragments

Confrontations with Kurds

In the seventeenth century, immediately after Habousi was established, Turks and Kurds attacked the dwellers in an attempt to confiscate their flock and to annoy them through plunder and violence. But the Habousetzies were alert, wise, and fearless fighters. They threw their attackers back and defended their lives and properties.

The fame of the courageous villagers reached the influential Kurdish chiefs who lived in the nearby village of Perri. They decided to terrorize Habousi and take it over.

Five brave Habousetzies, fully aware of the intentions of the Kurds, took their arms and rode to the mansion of their chief, where the Begs were gathered. As they approached the mansion, Kurds surrounded them and asked them for their arms. The Habousetzies refused to give their arms away. The Kurds attacked and the fight began- twenty Kurds against five Habousetzies. After a fierce sword fight, two Habousetzies received minor wounds, and eight to ten Kurds were seriously wounded. At that point the Kurdish chiefs rushed out of the mansion pretending that they were unaware of what was happening.

When the Kurdish chiefs failed to bring the villagers into submission by force, they tried trickery. The leaders of Habousi were invited by the Kurdish chiefs to a meeting to settle their differences. The Armenians went armed. Upon arrival they were asked to put aside their arms in the hallway. Predicting a trap, the Habousetzies replied that they were accustomed to always carry their arms. Three Habousetzies sat around the table, one stood by the door of the living room, and the fifth remained as a sentinel outside the conference place.

A Beg (chief) began a story obviously intended to divert their attention, while another Beg went out. Realizing that the longer they stayed the closer the danger would be, the Habousetzies rushed out.

Once outside, they found that the number of fighters had doubled. Some fifty armed Kurds waited for the infidels(1). The brave Habousetzies fired their guns at the enemy. They wounded fifteen Kurds and taking advantage of their confusion, galloped away.

The Turkish government was tolerant in those days towards Kurd Begs. After all, they were Dere Beyis, meaning the nobility of the valleys and plains. They were untouchable, according to popular belief.

The villagers were fully aware that this incident was not the end of the animosity, and that the Kurds would continue to annoy them. Indeed, the Kurds attacked the village repeatedly, but failed to destroy it. Living in underground houses(2), the Habousetzies were well protected. The loss of many fighters caused the Kurds to retreat.

Days later, the Begs arrived at the house of Prince Sarkis carrying valuable gifts. Prince Sarkis was famous for his courage. He was known as Ajem Oghlu (meaning Son of Persian in Turkish) because he had recently settled in Habousi from Persia. The Begs established a friendship with him. They convinced him that it was important to accept the protection of a chief in order to live peacefully. The Kurdish Begs promised to protect his house and properties if he paid an annual tribute. On a piece of paper the most influential Beg wrote the tribute amount and the conditions of payment. Both sides signed the agreement and, indeed, life became peaceful. The calm gave the villagers a chance for constructive work.

Sultan Murad IV In Habousi

The following is an interesting story linked to one of Sultan Murad IV’s(3) invasions.

Habousi was governed by Kehyas (the head of a village). It was told that there was a very rich Armenian named Kara-Giaour (dark infidel in Turkish) who owned vast lands and had many servants.

One day, Sultan Murad IV came with a strong army to the village of Habousi on his way to Baghdad, Iraq. Kara-Giaour hosted the Sultan. The latter was amazed with the order and organization of his host’s house and with his wealth. Cunningly he ordered his followers to hide the agricultural tools of the Armenian, to see how he would solve the problem and accomplish the daily work.

The following morning, when the host learned of the incident, he advised the farmers to say nothing about it and to bring out the tools needed for that day’s work from the stock room.

The Sultan’s astonishment grew as he realized that his host had continued his work without interruption. That night he repeated the same cunning game, and the next morning the Armenian, without interruption, brought out more tools from the stock room and finished his work.

The Sultan asked his host for an explanation. Kara-Giaour told him that he had seven sets of tools in order to keep the work ongoing without interruption due to a loss or confiscation.

The Sultan appreciated the wisdom of the Armenian and asked how he had become so rich.

“Your Majesty,” answered the Armenian, “I didn’t leave my eve’s work to the following day; I became rich and God blessed my work.”

The Sultan remembered this wise advice and engraved it in golden letters on his flagon. Then, in appreciation to his host’s talent, the Sultan named him Khanedan (master of the house), instead of Kara-Giaour. From that day on, the head of the village used the title Khanedan, and today there is a family named Kanedanian amongst the Habousetzies.

It is said that as Sultan Murad rested on the eve of Baghdad’s siege, after a long day of fighting, he read the Armenian’s advice on the flagon: “Don’t leave your eve’s work for tomorrow,” and he decided to immediately attack the city again. By doing so, he took the defenders by surprise and conquered the city.

While in Habousi, Khanedan asked Sultan Murad to grant the village permission to irrigate Habousi with water from the surrounding rivers. The Sultan granted permission by issuing a decree that approximately said:

“It is my order that the waters of Genefig, Zartarij and Ichme be set free twenty-four hours a week, each on its own, in order to irrigate the lands of Habousi. The head of a disobedient will be smashed by stone.”
Sultan Murad IV

Thus Habousi received water from each of the villages of Ichme, Zartarij and Genefig for twenty-four hours a week until 1895. After 1895, villagers were forced to pay for their water, because Genefig cut the supply of free water. Zartarij allowed it to them irregularly. Only Ichme continued the water supply to Habousi as stated in Sultan Murad’s decree.