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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The most eastern part of the Kerman province


To the north of Kerman city we have another similar settlement, now deserted, Mahala-Giabr (a corruption of Guebre), of which there is little doubt that it was inhabited by Zoroastrians. One of the reasons that these cities are now deserted may be found in the fact that Agha Muhammed, having raised another army in Afghanistan, proceeded a second time to the conquest of Persia. The Zoroastrians, who had fared worse at the hands of Luft-Ali-Khan than under the Afghan rule, were persuaded to join Agha Muhammed against their Perso-Arab oppressors, in hopes of obtaining some relief to their misery, but history does not relate what became of them. They were never heard of again. One fact only is known, that very few of those living in Kerman at the time succeeded in escaping massacre. That previous to this the Zoroastrians must have been very numerous in Kerman can be judged by the remains of many fire-temples to be seen, especially in the neighbourhood of the city.

[Illustration: Ruined Houses of Farmitan.]

[Illustration: Plan of House at Farmitan.]

In his second invasion of Persia Agha Muhammed again reached Kerman in 1795 and besieged the city defended by Luft-Ali-Khan. The inhabitants, who had suffered at the hands of their saviours as much if not more than at those of their oppressors, made a half-hearted resistance and eventually, in the thick of the fighting, the city gates were opened by treachery. Luft-Ali-Khan and a handful of his faithful men fought like lions in the streets of the city, but at last, seeing that all hope of victory had vanished, and forsaken by most of his men, Luft-Ali-Khan rode full gallop in the midst of the Afghans. According to chronicles, he defiantly ran the gauntlet with only three followers, and they were able to force their way through the Kajar post and escape to Bam-Narmanshir, the most eastern part of the Kerman province, on the borders of Sistan.

Agha Muhammed demanded the surrender of Luft-Ali-Khan; the city was searched to find him, and when it was learned that he had succeeded in effecting an escape, the wrath of the Afghan knew no bounds. The people having declared that they could not find Luft-Ali, he ordered 70,000 eyes of the inhabitants to be brought to him on trays, and is said to have counted them himself with the point of a dagger. But this punishment he believed to be still too lenient. A general massacre of the men was commanded, and no less than 20,000 women and children were made into slaves. To this day the proverbially easy morals of the Kerman women are attributed to the Afghan invasion, when the women became the concubines of soldiers and lost all respect for themselves; and so is the importation of the dreadful disease which in its most virulent form is pitifully common in a great portion of the population of the present Kerman city. According to some the city was razed to the ground, but whether this was so or not, there is no doubt that Kerman has never recovered from the blow received, and from the subsequent oppression at the hands of this barbarous conqueror.

In the south-west part of the mountainous crescent are three very low passes, by which the hill range can be crossed. One pass between the Kala-i-Dukhtar and the Kala-Ardeshir forts; one between the Kala-Ardeshir and the ruins south of it along the southern continuation of the range; and the third at the most southern point of the crescent, where the precipitous rocky hill-ranges are separated by a narrow gap, level with the flat plains on either side. One can still see the remains of a ruined wall on the east side of this entrance, a round, outpost mud turret, with other buildings and a large walled enclosure directly outside the pass on the flat to the south; while on the lower slope of the eastern mountain stands a tall square building, now roofless, erected on a strong quadrangular base with corner turrets. It has three pointed arch doorways (east, west, south), almost as tall as the building itself, and by the side of these are found high and broad windows in couples. This building appears to be of a much more recent date than the underlying castle filled up with earth on which it stands. It has rather the appearance of a fire temple.


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