ON THE BANKS OF THE TIGRIS
By Levon Shahoian. Translated by Garabet K. Moumdjian.
On the Banks of the Tigris is an unusual memoir because it concerns the little known exile of Armenians and Assyrians from north-western Iran (Persia) into British occupied Iraq during World War I. These refugees included thousands of people who had earlier fled persecution in Ottoman Turkey. Furthermore, On the Banks of the Tigris makes unusual reading because the author does not dwell on the horrors and suffering of World War I but writes from the perspective of a child who became and adult in Baaquba, Nahr Umar (near Basrah), and Baghdad refugee camps. He reflects a great deal of fun and adventure, starting from his ancestral village of Haftevan in the Salmast region of Iran. On the Banks of the Tigris (Dikrisi Apin), originally printed in Armenian in 1967, is made up of a set of short stories from the author’s early life, as the family fled its native village in north-western Iran, trekked over 700 miles, and settled, first in Baaquba, and then Nahran Umar (Basra) refugee camps. Despite wartime difficulties, Shahoian’s anecdotes are jovial and insightful, painting a picture of Armenian and Assyrian refugees, as they set up tent cities, went to school, looked for jobs, fell in love, and strove for a better future for themselves.
Gomidas Institute (2012).