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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to the Editor of The Times

[July 1911]


Everyone who has watched the wonderful strides that civilisation is making in the hands of the Young Turks will know of their continued efforts to clear from the country all signs of the evil of the past. They may not know, however, that this spirit is gaining ground in the provinces. All visitors to Aleppo will have seen the great castle that rules it from every part, with its ring of battlements and its memories of prehistoric, Hittite, Assyrian, and Roman dominion. This great mass is now to be cleared away and levelled, and one of the prominent Levantine financiers of the town has the project of constructing there a new quarter for the poorest of the inhabitants on the lines of the London East End. The property will soon be put up to auction, and there are strong hopes that the end will be achieved.

The sister town of Urfa (Edessa) is not lagging behind. It also intends to sell its castle; but, as owing to its inaccessibility the site is useless, the stones will have to be sold for building material. A beginning has been made by the clearance of the old Greek town walls: as these were one of the largest as well as one of the most complete circuits in the Turkish Empire, there can be no two opinions as to the improvement effected.

The little town of Biredjik in the same province is faced with a difficulty. Its own great castle it is clearing away, and building a gaol with the proceeds, but there is a second of these monuments of oppression, Rum Kaleh, a day's journey up the river, with which it is beyond the present strength of the town to grapple. It is hoped that the coming of the Baghdad Railway may mean its final conversion to modern uses. If so, this will be the second benefit of the sort conferred by the railway, since the ruins of Carchemish are to provide materials for the approaches to the new iron girder bridge over the Euphrates.

Everybody will sympathise with these latest and most worthy efforts of the Constitutional Government to let a little light into its darker provinces.

Yours, &c.,


Editor's note: The Times published the letter on 9 August under the headline 'Vandalism in Upper Syria and Mesopotamia'.


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Source: The Times
Checked: jw
Last revised: January 2006


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