THE HISTORY OF KIRKUK CITY

By Sargon Yousip Potros
Toronto, Canada

Kirkuk is located in North-East of Iraq, about 250 kilometers north east of the capital Baghdad, near the foot of Zaqaros Mountains. The city is built on the Khasa River, on an area with archeological remains of over 5000 years old.



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The origin of the name Kirkuk is Assyrian. Kirkuk is derivative of the Assyrian name (Karkha D-Bet Slokh), which means the city that is siege by a wall. The present city of Kirkuk stand on the site of the ancient Assyrian city called Arrapha, which existed in the 5th Millennium BC. The city reached great prominence in the l0th and 11th centuries under the Assyrian's rule when it was known as (Arrapha). The oldest part of the city is clustered around a citadel built on an ancient tell or mount.

Important Landmarks in Kirkuk:

1- Qalat Jarmo: Located east of Kirkuk. Qalat Jarmo is an important prehistoric archeological site. The site became known for revealing traces of one of the world's first village farming communities. The approximately dozen layers of architectural building and renovation yield evidence of domesticated wheat and barley and of domesticated dogs and goats suggesting the achievement of an agricultural way of life. Other artifacts found at Qalat Jarmo, such as flint sickle blades, milling stones and in the uppermost layers only - pottery, hint at the technological innovations made in response to the new way of food production. The original occupation of the site is estimated to have occurred at about 7000 BC.

2- Nuzu: Modern Yorghan Tepe, Nuzu is an ancient Mesopotamian city, located southeast of Kirkuk. Excavation revealed material extending from the prehistoric period to Roman, Parthian and Sasanian periods. In Akadian times (2334 BC to 2154 BC) the site was called (Gasur), but in the 2nd millennium BC The Hurrians of northern Mesopotamia occupied the city, changed its name (Nuzu), and during the l6th and 15th centuries B.C. built a prosperous community and important administrative center. More than 4000 cuneiform tablets were discovered at the site, mostly written in Akkadian, Clarified many difficult passages in the contemporary patriarchal narratives of the Book of Genesis.

3- The Eternal Fire in the area called (Baba-Gurgur) there is what is called (Eternal Fire) where the fire from the earth is burning without stop day and night. Nobody knows when this fire started, but we know it is mentioned in the inscribed records of the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians.

Kirkuk Under Christianity:

The Assyrians were one of the earliest people to believe in Jesus Christ. In that time Kirkuk was known as (Beth-Garmai) shortened to (Bagarmi) which means (Warmth) or the land of warmth. The area has always been of strategic interest to all the powers that have occupied it throughout the ages because of the fertile earth and the plentiful of water. In Karkha d'Bet Slokh there was a diocese and there was an archbishop centered there also.

The Massacre of Kirkuk:

One of the most horrifying massacres occurred in the year 448 in Kirkuk. The King Yasdegerd II began a wave of persecution of Assyrians. A massacre of (10) bishops and (153.000) clergy and laity took place in several consecutive days of slaughter on the mound of (Karkha d'Bet Slokh - Kirkuk). Location tradition still asserts that the red gravel of the hillock was stained the color by the martyr's blood, and the moratorium built over the bodies remains to this day. The place where this massacre occurred, to this day, bears the name of the Persian executioner, who was led by the sight of endurance and faith of the people he was butchering to believe that their faith must truly be from God, and who joined them in their confession and fate - Tamassgerd was baptized in his own blood. The Church in the hill is called by the Turkumen (Qarmizi Kanisa (Keleisa)) The Crimson Church.

Kirkuk Under The Arab Rule:

There is little information about Kirkuk during the rule of the Arab, except that Kirkuk became the route to the Arab invasion of Persian and other Asian countries. Later became a city on the famous trade road called the Silk Road, which linked Europe with Asia. The road which carried trade between the two continents.

Kirkuk Under The Ottoman Empire:

In the famous dictionary (Qamous Al-Aa-alam) i.e. The Dictionary of Information published in Istanbul in 1896, the city' of Kirkuk is described as follows: Kirkuk is located within the Wilayat of Mosul. It is situated amidst a range of parallel hills next to an extended valley called (AdhamValley). It is the administrative center for the Sharazour Sanjak and had a population 30,000: it has a citadel (fort), 36 mosques. 7 schools. 15 Takias (poorhouse). 12 Khans, 1281 shops. 8 public baths, and 3 churches. The same author describes the demography of Kirkuk in a subsequent section as "three quarters of the inhabitants are Kurds and the rest are Turkmans, Arabs and others, Seven hundred and sixty (760) Jews, and four hundred and sixty (460) Christians.

Kirkuk in The Modern Times:

One of the famous things Kirkuk is known for is the oil. The oil is known in Kirkuk from ancient times. The (Eternal Fire) in Baba Gurgur is known in Kirkuk from early times of humanity. The discovery of oil in vast quantities was the reason for its annexation, as a part of the Wilayet of Mosul to the newly-created Iraq State in 1921. This was the main reason for Britain to occupy Iraq in 1917. The Ottoman army, using primitive methods, had extracted oil from Kirkuk for local consumption since 1639. The systematized and organized exploration of Kirkuk oil field did not start, however, until March 1925. The Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC), which was established in 1914 in Istanbul, was granted the concession to exploit the oil fields in the Mosul and Baghdad by the Ottoman Empire. Before the end of 1925 the company, in which Britain had a substantial share, began conducting geological surveys and constructing road and essential buildings. Initially, the company employed about (50) British and (2500) Iraqis and began work in an area near Dooz-Khurmatu, south of Kirkuk. It inaugurated the excavation by holding a huge celebration by King Faisal on the First of April 1927. Oil began to flow on October 27. 1927 from the (BabaGurgur) oil fields near Kirkuk. From 1927 to 1931, the company focused on drilling and conducting geological surveys together with building essential facilities such as warehouses, workhouses and houses for its employees, especially for the foreigners. The name of the company was then changed to Iraqi Petroleum Company (IPC), which was able, around 1931, to exploit most of land in north-eastern Iraq. The headquarters of the company were moved permanently from (Dooz-Khurmatue) to Kirkuk city. The exporting of crude oil began at the end of 1934, and in 1935. the dual pipeline was opened to transport crude oil from Kirkuk to the ports of (Haifa and Tripoli) on the Mediterranean sea. The annual production for 1935 reached about four million tons, making Iraq the eight largest oil producing country in the world, and the level of production rose steadily from then on. The establishment of the petroleum industry in Kirkuk led to a significant change in the social and ethnic character of the city, for the oil company employed a large number of people. most of whom were brought from outside the area. This led, in relatively short time, to the creation of self-contained neighborhoods within the old quarters of the city and new neighborhoods made up mostly of Assyrians, Armenians and Arabs in the area near the oil company's facilities. The percentage of Kurdish workers employed by the company was lower than all the others.

The Assyrians in Kirkuk:

Most Assyrians believe the reason for Britain to try' to bring the Assyrians from Hakary and Urmia to Iraq was to either recruit them in the Levis Army Britain formed in Iraq in order to guard the oil fields or to employ them in oil company in Iraq. to work for the British oil company. Thus, while the Assyrian refugees were in the (Bacoba Refugee Camp) in l91~, British Authority' in Iraq began recruiting Assyrians in the Levis Army. Then after completing the number required for the Levis Army, British Authority in Iraq started advising the remaining Assyrians to go to Kirkuk City' to work in the British oil industry. It is said the first group of people employed by the oil company. rather than the (50) British employees were Assyrians in 1925. The Assyrians employees increased day by day, and reached the top after British Government decided to handle the Habbania Base in 1955 to the Iraqi Government after establishing the Baghdad Pact in which Iraq became a member. From the beginning the Assyrians established their Church and later on in 1928 established the Assyrian School in Kirkuk. In the beginning of 1950s hundreds of housing units were built by the Company' in an area in Kirkuk. They' gave the area the name of(Arrapha) the old Assyrian name of the city of Kirkuk.