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Title: Arrapkha  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Assyria, Kirkuk, Assyrian people, Iraqi Kurdistan, List of biblical places, Neo-Assyrian Empire
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Coordinates: 35°28′0″N 44°19′0″E / 35.46667°N 44.31667°E / 35.46667; 44.31667Coordinates: 35°28′0″N 44°19′0″E / 35.46667°N 44.31667°E / 35.46667; 44.31667

Country Iraq
Governorate Karkuk
Population (2009 Est.)[1]
 • Total 850 787
Time zone GMT +3

Kirkuk (also spelled Karkuk or Kerkuk, Arabic: كركوكKarkūk, Kurdish: Kerkûk/که‌رکووک, Syriac: ܟܪܟ ܣܠܘܟ Karḵ Sluḵ, Azeri Turkish: Kerkük) is a city in Iraq and the capital of Kirkuk Governorate.

It is located in the Iraqi governorate of Kirkuk, 236 kilometres (147 mi) north of the capital, Baghdad. Kirkuk city lies 83 kilometres (52 miles) south of Arbil, 149 km (93 miles) southeast of Mosul, 97 km (60 miles) west of Sulaymaniyah, and 116 km (72 miles) northeast of Tikrit.[2]

Kirkuk lies in a wide zone with an enormously diverse population, which has moreover experienced dramatic demographic changes in the course of the twentieth century. The city has been multilingual for centuries, and the development of distinct ethnic groups was a process that took place over the course of Kirkuk's urbanization in the twentieth century.[3] Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs lay conflicting claims to this zone, and all have their historical accounts and memories to buttress their claims.[4]

It stands on the site of the ancient Assyrian capital of Arrapha,[5] which sits near the Khasa River on the ruins of a 5,000-year-old settlement (Kirkuk Citadel). Arrapha reached great importance under the Assyrians in the 10th and 11th centuries BC. Because of the strategic geographical location of the city, Kirkuk was the battle ground for three empires—the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Babylonia, and Media—which controlled the city at various times.[6]

Kurds[7][8] and Turkmens[9] have claimed the city as a cultural capital. It was named the "capital of Iraqi culture" by the Iraqi ministry of culture in 2010.[10]

The city currently consists mainly of people who self-identify as Arabs, Assyrians, Iraqi Turkmens and Kurds.


The ancient name of Kirkuk was the Assyrian Arraphka. During the Parthian era, a Korkura/Corcura (Ancient Greek: Κόρκυρα) is mentioned by Ptolemy, which is believed to refer either to Kirkuk or to the site of Baba Gurgur three miles (4.8 km)(5 km) from the city.[11] Since the Seleucid Empire it was known as Karkha D-Bet Slokh, which means 'Citadel of the House of Seleucid'[12] in Mesopotamian Aramaic, the lingua franca of the Fertile Crescent in that era.[13]

The region around Kirkuk was known in Aramaic and Syriac sources as "Beth Garmai" (Syriac: ܒܝܬܓܪܡܝ), which means the "place of bones" in a reference to bones of slaughtered Achaemenids which littered the plains after a decisive battle between Alexander the Great and Darius III.[14] It is also thought that region was known during the Parthian and Sassanid periods as Garmakan, which means the 'Land of Warmth' or the 'Hot Land'. In some Iranian languages like Persian and Kurdish "Garm" means warm;[15] the name is still used by the Kurds in the form Garmian with the same meaning.

And from the 7th century, when Muslim Arabs conquered the area, up to the medieval era, Arab writers simply used the name Kirkheni (Syriac for "citadel"[16]) to refer to the city.[17] Some Arabs used the names Bajermi or Jermakan.[15] A cuneiform script found in 1927 at the foot of Kirkuk Citadel stated that the city of Erekha of Babylonia was on the site of Kirkuk. Other sources consider Erekha to have been simply one part of the larger Arrapha metropolis.


It is suggested that Kirkuk was one of the places occupied by Neanderthals based on finds in the Shanidar Cave settlement.[18] A large amount of pottery shards dating to the Ubaid period were also excavated from several Tells in the city.[19]

Ancient Arrapkha was part of Sargon of Akkad's Empire,[20] and city was exposed to the raids of the Lullubi during Naram-Sin's reign.[21]

By the middle of the 2nd millennium B.C. the horse-riding Mittani started settling the Semitic city of Nuzi to the south of Kirkuk and they extended their rule to include the Hurrians and the Assyrians.[22] From 1500 to 1360 BC all kings of Assyria were vassals of kingdom of Mittani.[22]

After Achaemenids had the region under their dominion; in the Parthian and Sassanid eras Kirkuk was capital of Beth Garmai.[23]

After the Islamic conquest

Arab Muslims invaded the Sassanid empire in the 7th century AD. Up to the end of the 14th century AD, Kirkuk often administratively and economically belonged to Daquq and they were both at the same time in contact with Arbil, the modern capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and Sharazor and their extensions. In the medieval era the city was part - and since the 16th century the capital - of the ancient wilayet of Sharazor which is still important to Kurdistan's economy.

British occupation

At the end of World War I, the British occupied Kirkuk on May 7, 1918. Abandoning the city after about two weeks, the British returned to Kirkuk a few months later after the Armistice of Mudros. Kirkuk avoided the troubles caused by the British-backed Shaykh Mahmud, who quickly attempted to defy the British and establish his own fiefdom in Sulaymaniyah. The townspeople and tribesmen of Kirkuk, notably the Talabani shaykhs, demanded to be excluded from Shaykh Mahmud's area of authority before he was put in place.

Entry Into the Kingdom of Iraq

As both Ottomans and Great Britain desperately wanted control of the Vilayet of Mosul (of which Kirkuk was a part), the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 failed to solve the issue. For this reason, the question of Mosul was sent to the League of Nations. A committee travelled to the area before coming to a final decision: the territory south of the "Brussels line" belonged to Iraq. By the Treaty of Angora of 1926, Kirkuk became a part of the Kingdom of Iraq.

Discovery of oil

Main article: Kirkuk Field

In 1927, Iraqi and American drillers working for the foreign-owned and British-led Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) struck a huge oil gusher at Baba Gurgur ("St. Blaze" or father blaze in Kurdish) near Kirkuk. The IPC began exports from the Kirkuk oil field in 1934. The Company moved its headquarters from Tuz Khormatu to a camp on the outskirts of Kirkuk, which they named Arrapha after the ancient city. Arrapha remains a large neighborhood in Kirkuk to this day. The IPC exercised significant political power in the city and played a central role in Kirkuk's urbanization, initiating housing and development projects in collaboration with Iraqi authorities in the 1940s and 1950s.[24]

The presence of the oil industry had an effect on Kirkuk's demographics. The exploitation of Kirkuk’s oil, which began around 1930, attracted both Arabs and Kurds to the city in search of work. Kirkuk, which had been a predominantly Turkmen city, gradually lost its uniquely Turkmen character. At the same time, large numbers of Kurds from the mountains were settling in the uninhabited but cultivable rural parts of the district of Kirkuk. The influx of Kurds into Kirkuk continued through the 1960s.[4] According to the 1957 census, Kirkuk was 40% Iraqi Turkmen, 35% Kurdish with Arabs making up less than 25% of its population.[25]

The Kirkuk field has remained the basis of northern Iraqi oil production with over ten billion barrels (1.6 km³) of proven remaining oil reserves as of 1998. After about seven decades of operation, Kirkuk still produces up to one million barrels a day, almost half of all Iraqi oil exports. Some analysts believe that poor reservoir-management practices during the Saddam Hussein years may have seriously, and even permanently, damaged Kirkuk's oil field. One example showed an estimated 1,500,000,000 barrels (240,000,000 m3) of excess fuel oil being reinjected. Other problems include refinery residue and gas-stripped oil. Fuel oil reinjection has increased oil viscosity at Kirkuk making it more difficult and expensive to get the oil out of the ground.[26]

Overall, between April 2003 and late December 2004 there were an estimated 123 attacks on Iraqi energy infrastructures, including the country's 7,000 km-long pipeline system. In response to these attacks, which cost Iraq billions of US dollars in lost oil-export revenues and repair costs, the US military set up the Task Force Shield to guard Iraq's energy infrastructure and the Kirkuk-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline in particular. In spite of the fact that little damage was done to Iraq's oil fields during the war itself, looting and sabotage after the war ended was highly destructive and accounted for perhaps eighty percent of the total damage.[27]

The discovery of vast quantities of oil in the region after World War I provided the impetus for the annexation of the former Ottoman Vilayet of Mosul (of which the Kirkuk region was a part), to the Iraqi Kingdom, established in 1921. Since then and particularly from 1963 onwards, there have been continuous attempts to transform the ethnic make-up of the region.

Pipelines from Kirkuk run through Turkey to Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea and were one of the two main routes for the export of Iraqi oil under the Oil-for-Food Programme following the Gulf War of 1991. This was in accordance with a United Nations mandate that at least 50% of the oil exports pass through Turkey. There were two parallel lines built in 1977 and 1987.

1970 Autonomy Agreement

On paper, the Autonomy Agreement of March 11, 1970, recognized the legitimacy of Kurdish participation in government and Kurdish language teaching in schools. However, it reserved judgment on the territorial extent of Kurdistan, pending a new census. Such a census, according to Kurds would surely have shown a solid Kurdish majority in the city of Kirkuk and the surrounding oilfields, as well as in the secondary oil-bearing Kurdish area of Khanaqin, south of the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah (Kurdish: Sîlemanî). A census was not scheduled until 1977, by which time the autonomy deal was dead. In June 1973, with Ba'ath-Kurdish relations already souring, the guerrilla leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani laid formal claim to the Kirkuk oilfields.

Baghdad interpreted this as a virtual declaration of war, and, in March 1974, unilaterally decreed an autonomy statute. The new statute was a far cry from the 1970 Manifesto, and its definition of the Kurdish autonomous area explicitly excluded the oil-rich areas of Kirkuk, Khanaqin and Shingal/Sinjar. In tandem with the 1970–1974 autonomy process, the Iraqi regime carried out a comprehensive administrative reform, in which the country's sixteen provinces, or governorates, were renamed and in some cases had their boundaries altered. The old province of Kirkuk was split in half. The area around the city itself was named At-Ta'mim(Arabic: التأميم ‎) ("nationalization"), and its boundaries were redrawn to give an Arab majority.[28]

According to Human Rights Watch, from the 1991 Gulf War until 2003, the former Iraqi government systematically expelled an estimated 500.000, Kurds and some Assyrians from Kirkuk and other towns and villages in this oil-rich region. Most have settled in the Kurdish-controlled northern provinces. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government resettled Arab families in their place in an attempt to reduce the political power and presence of ethnic minorities, a process known as Arabization.[29]

The "Arabization" of Kirkuk and other oil-rich regions is not a recent phenomenon. Successive governments have sought at various times to reduce the ethnic minority populations residing there since the discovery of significant oil deposits in the 1920s. By the mid-1970s, the Ba'ath Party government that seized power in 1968 embarked on a concerted campaign to alter the demographic makeup of multi-ethnic Kirkuk. The campaign involved the massive relocation of tens of thousands of ethnic minority families from Kirkuk, Sinjar, Khanaqin, and other areas, transferring them to purpose-built resettlement camps. This policy was intensified after the failed Kurdish uprising in March 1991.[30][31][32][33][34][35] Those expelled included individuals who had refused to sign so-called "nationality correction" forms, introduced by the authorities prior to the 1997 population census, requiring members of ethnic groups residing in these districts to relinquish their Kurdish or Assyrians identities and to register officially as Arabs. The Iraqi authorities also seized their property and assets; those who were expelled to areas controlled by Kurdish forces were stripped of all possessions and their ration cards were withdrawn.[36]

Kirkuk after 2003

American and British military forces led an invasion of Iraq in March 2003, driving Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Party from power. A caretaker government was created until the establishment of a democratically-elected government.

Since April 2003, thousands of internally displaced Kurds have returned to Kirkuk and other Arabized regions to reclaim their homes and lands which have since been occupied by Arabs from central and southern Iraq.

Under the supervision of chief executive of Coalition Provisional Authority L. Paul Bremer, a convention was held on May 24, 2003 to select the first City Council in the history of this oil-rich, ethnically divided city. Each of the city's four major ethnic groups was invited to send a 39-member delegation from which they would be allowed to select six to sit on the City Council. Another six council members were selected from among 144 delegates to represent independents social groups such as teachers, lawyers, religious leaders and artists.

Kirkuk's 30 members council is made up of five blocs of six members each. Four of those blocs are formed along ethnic lines- Kurds, Arabs, Assyrian and Turkmen- and the fifth is made up of independents. Turkmen and Arabs complained that Kurds hold five of the seats in the independent block. They are also frustrated that their only representative at the council's helm was an assistant mayor whom they considered pro-Kurdish. Abdul Rahman Mustafa (Arabic: عبدالرحمن مصطفى ‎), a Baghdad-educated lawyer was elected mayor by 20 votes to 10. The appointment of an Arab, Ismail Ahmed Rajab Al Hadidi (Arabic: اسماعيل احمد رجب الحديدي ‎), as deputy mayor went some way towards addressing Arab concerns.

On June 30, 2005, through a secret direct voting process, with the participation of the widest communities in the province and despite all the political legal security complexities of this process in the country generally and in Kirkuk in particular, Kirkuk witnessed the birth of its first elected Provincial Council. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq IECI approved and announced the outcomes of this process, which filled the 41 seats of Kirkuk Provincial Council as follows:

  • 26 seats 367 List Kirkuk Brotherhood List KBL
  • 8 seats 175 List Iraqi Turkmen Front ITF
  • 5 seats 299 List Iraqi Republic Gathering
  • 1 seats 178 List Turkmen Islamic Coalition
  • 1 seats 289 List Iraqi National Gathering

The new Kirkuk Provincial Council started its second turn on March 6, 2005. Its inaugural session was dedicated to the introduction of its new members, followed by an oath ceremony supervised by Judge Thahir Hamza Salman, the Head of Kirkuk Appellate Court.

Five churches in Kirkuk were targeted with bombs in August 2011[37]

On 12 July 2013, Kirkuk was hit by a deadly bomb and 38 people have been killed in the attack in a cafe. The blast happened shortly after 22:00 local time (19:00 (GMT). It comes after more than 40 people died in a series of bombings and shootings across Iraq, including in Kirkuk, on 11 July 2013.[38]


The most reliable census concerning the ethnic composition of Kirkuk dates back to 1957. Kirkuk province borders were later altered, the province was renamed al-Ta'mim and Kurdish dominated districts were added to Erbil and Sulamaniya provinces.[39]

1957 Census results for Kirkuk Province[40]
Mother tongue Kirkuk City Rest of Kirkuk Province Total Percentage of total population
Kurdish 40,047 147,546 187,593 48.2
Arabic 27,127 82,493 109,620 28.2
Turkish 45,306 38,065 83,371 21.4
Syriac 1,509 96 1,605 0.4
Hebrew 101 22 123 0.03
Other 6,330 215 6,545 1.77
Total 120,420 268,437 388,857 100%

Ethnic groups

As stated previously, Kirkuk is a multilingual and diverse city with a history of fluidity of identity.[3] The following information concerns a handful of the groups in the city and region that are considered to be distinct ethnic groups.

Arab people

The principal Arab extended families in the city of Kirkuk were: the Tikriti and the Hadidi (Arabic: حديدي‎). The Tikriti family was the main Arab family in Kirkuk coming from Tikrit in 17th century. Other Arab tribes who settled in Kirkuk during the Ottoman Period are the Al-Ubaid (Arabic: آل عبيد‎) and the Al-Jiburi (Arabic: آل جبور‎). The Al-Ubaid came from just northwest of Mosul when they were forced out of the area by other Arab tribes of that region. They settled in the Hawija district in Kirkuk in 1935 during the government of Yasin al-Hashimi.[41]

Kurdish people

Kurds have a long history in Kirkuk before the Baban family. The Baban family was a Kurdish family that, in the 18th and 19th centuries, dominated the political life of the province of Sharazor, in present-day Iraqi Kurdistan. The first member of the clan to gain control of the province and its capital, Kirkuk, was Sulayman Beg. Enjoying almost full autonomy, the Baban family established Kirkuk as their capital. It was from this time that Kurds in Iraq began to view Kirkuk as their capital. This persisted even after the Babans moved their administration to the new town of Sulaymaniya, named after the dynasty’s founder, in the late 18th century.[42]

Turkmen people

Turks migrated to Iraq during the Umayyads and Abbasid eras as military recruits.[43] Considerable Turkmen settlement began during the Seljuq era when Toghrul entered Iraq in 1055 with his army composed mostly of Oghuz Azeri Turks. Kirkuk remained under the control of the Seljuq Empire for 63 years. The Turkmen settlement in Kirkuk was further expanded later during the Ottoman Era, when people were brought to the city from there. Tuzhurmati has been one of the historical Turkmen settlement in Iraq.

During the Ottoman period the Turkmen were the predominant population of Kirkuk city but Kurds constituted the majority of the rural population of Kirkuk.[4]


Jews had a long history in Kirkuk. Ottoman records show that in 1560 there were 104 Jewish homes in Kirkuk,[44] and in 1896 there were 760 Jews in the city.[45] After WWI, the Jewish population increased, especially after Kirkuk became a petroleum center; in 1947 there were 2350 counted in the census. Jews were generally engaged in commerce and handicraft. Social progress was slow, and it was only in the 1940s that some Jewish students acquired secondary academic education. By 1951 almost all of the Jews had left for Israel.[46]

Future of Kirkuk

A referendum on whether Kirkuk province should become part of Iraqi Kurdistan was due to be held in November 2007 but has been delayed repeatedly, and currently has no firm date. In December 2007, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unscheduled visit to Kirkuk before proceeding to Baghdad, where she called on Iraqi leaders to urgently implement a national reconciliation roadmap.[47]

Main sights

Ancient architectural monuments of Kirkuk include:

The archaeological sites of Qal'at Jarmo and Yorgan Tepe are found at the outskirts of the modern city. In 1997, there were reports that the government of Saddam Hussein "demolished Kirkuk's historic citadel with its mosques and ancient church".[48][49]

The architectural heritage of Kirkuk sustained serious damage during World War I (when some pre-Muslim Assyrian Christian monuments were destroyed) and, more recently, during the Iraq War. Simon Jenkins reported in June 2007 that "eighteen ancient shrines have been lost, ten in Kirkuk and the south in the past month alone".[50]


Kirkuk experiences a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSh) with extremely hot and dry summers and cool, rainy winters. Snow is rare but it has fallen on 1990, 22 February 2004,[51] and from 10 to 11 January 2008.[52]

Climate data for Kirkuk
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 13.8
Average low °C (°F) 4.5
Precipitation mm (inches) 68.3
Avg. precipitation days 11 11 11 9 5 0 0 0 0 5 7 10 69
Source: World Meteorological Organisation (UN) [53]

Notable people from Kirkuk

See also



Further reading

Published in the 19th century
Published in the 20th century
Published in the 21st century

External links

  • Iraq Image - Kirkuk Satellite Observation
  • Human Rights Watch Report: Kurdish Autonomy and Arabization, 1993
  • Human Rights Developments in Government-controlled Iraq, 2001
  • International Humanitarian Law Issues In A Potential War In Iraq, 2003
  • Amnesty International Report: Decades of human rights abuse in Iraq, 2003
  • Reversing Arabization of Kirkuk, 2004
  • Iraq: In Kurdistan, Land Disputes Fuel Unrest, 2004
  • German-kurdish homepage for politics and culture
  • Insurgents stir up strife in Kirkuk
  • Kurds flee Iraqi town, March 15, 2003; named Kurds' preferred capital
  • Key Targets in Iraq, Anthony H. Cordesman, CSIS, February 1998; information about the oil resources and facilities
  • Brief Summary of Kirkuk History
  • Kirkuk in Old Ages
  • Numerous research about Kirkuk

Template:Districts of Iraq

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