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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence, Report 11 February 1918

REPORT ON KHURMA
[Arab Bulletin, 9 July 1918]


Ibn Saud began to collect Dhjkat (a semi-religious tax) from some sections of the Sbei this year, thus reviving his custom of four or five years ago. Shortly afterwards messengers from the Sherif, demanding the same tax, were imprisoned by Sherif Khalid ibn Elwi in Wadi Khurma.

Khalid (a lean fanatical silent man, said to be more capable than his elder brother Naif) was made Emir of Khurma by the Sherif years ago. He was converted to the Nejdean Religion four years ago, and was last year confined in the Sherif’s prison at Mecca. On his release on Abdullah’s intervention, he paid a secret visit to Ibn Saud, an old friend of his father’s.

The imprisonment of the Sherifian messengers was an act of war, and Khalid at once collected his followers. Only the converts joined him, and they were a mixed lot of Beni Thor Sbei; Jithima, Khararis (whose sheikh, Naif, is in prison in Mecca), Shiawa and Hamarza Ateibah; and many Kahtan. The Kahtan were those formerly in the East, who fled from Ibn Saud over the Ajman affair, and have since been living in the upper reaches of Wadi Dawasir. They are not in any way under Khalid, and have only joined temporarily, for the Religion’s sake.

Khalid began by expelling the other Sbei, and all the villagers and freedmen, from Wadi Khurma, into the main valley Truba, of which it is a tributary. Wadi Truba (Tharba or Tarabat) runs south-west into a cultivated plain in Jebel Areysh, of the Goz aba el-Air (Joz Belair) district. Khalid proposed to instal converted peasants in the palm-gardens in their place.

His brother, Naif, then waylaid and killed four Ageyl, two Ateibah, and four women, Sunnis from Mecca on their way to Khurma for the summer. They refused to be converted, but nevertheless Khalid protested against their slaughter.

The Sherif now sent against them a very ragged force, comprising Hamarja, Biyasha, Sbei, Mowalid, Hedhlan (Hudheil) and other Meccan sweepings, with two brass saluting guns and two automatic rifles, under the incompetent Sherif Ali, brother of Shakir ibn Zeid. They were surprised by night on Bir Goreish by an inferior force of Kahtan, and fled without resistance, losing fourteen killed, and their artillery.

Khalid then repented of his action, and went off to Ibn Saud with fifty-four riders and his trophies, to beg for help. On his way he crossed an Ateibah raiding party, under Fajir ibn Shelawih, on its way to Dawasir. The two parties fought, and Ibn Shelawih took thirteen camels, four horses and the artillery, killing four of the converted, and losing only one himself. Khalid fled towards Riadh.

The Kahtan are not likely to remain long in Wadi Khurma, and Naif ibn Elwi cannot hope, with only the Beni Thor, to keep the other Sbei indefinitely out of their properties. If Khalid fails in his mission in Aridh, the complete collapse of his movement may be expected.

The Sherif hopes to enrol a new force in Mecca to retake Khurma, but is trying to conscript the town Bedouins at half wages, and in consequence has made no progress. Should he make further attacks upon Khurma, with the materials at his disposal, he may reasonably be expected to suffer further reverses. If, however, he acquires wisdom enough to accept the temporary loss of the district, and if Ibn Saud maintains his present correct attitude, then no extension - or prolongation - of the rising need be feared.

Source: SD 153-154
Checked: mv/
Last revised: 5 August 2006


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