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Residence of the Assyrian Patriarch in Qudshanis. Qudshanis-Hakkari Mar Shimon house.jpg
Residence of the Assyrian Patriarch in Qudshanis.

Hakkari (Syriac : ܚܟܐܪܝḤakkāri, or ܗܟܐܪܝHakkāri, Kurdish : Colemêrg), was a historical mountainous region lying between the plains of Nineveh to the south of Lake Van, [1] encompassing parts of the modern provinces of Hakkâri, Şırnak, Van in Turkey and Dohuk in Iraq. During the late Ottoman Empire it was a sanjak within the old Vilayet of Van.

Syriac language dialect of Middle Aramaic

Syriac, also known as Syriac/Syrian Aramaic or Classical Syriac, is a dialect of Middle Aramaic. Having first appeared in the early first century CE in Edessa, classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from the 4th to the 8th centuries, preserved in a large body of Syriac literature. Indeed, Syriac literature comprises roughly 90% of the extant Aramaic literature. Syriac was once spoken across much of the Near East as well as Anatolia and Eastern Arabia.

Lake Van largest lake in Turkey

Lake Van, the largest lake in Turkey, lies in the far east of that country in the provinces of Van and Bitlis. It is a saline soda lake, receiving water from numerous small streams that descend from the surrounding mountains. Lake Van is one of the world's largest endorheic lakes – a volcanic eruption blocked the original outlet from the basin in ancient times. Although Lake Van has an altitude of 1,640 m (5,380 ft) in a region with harsh winters, its high salinity prevents most of it from freezing, and even the shallow northern section freezes only rarely.

Hakkâri Province Province of Turkey in Central East Anatolia

Hakkâri Province, is a province in the south east corner of Turkey. The administrative centre is located in the city of Hakkâri. The province covers an area of 7,121 km² and has a population of 251,302. The province had a population of 236,581 in 2000. The province was created in 1936 out of part of Van Province. Its adjacent provinces are Şırnak to the west and Van to the north. The majority of the province's population is Kurdish.



The mountainous Shemsdin district Semdinli Hakkari.jpg
The mountainous Shemsdin district

The region stretching from Tur Abdin to Hakkari formed the Nairi lands which served as the northern Assyrian frontier and border with their Urartian rivals. The Assyrians of this region were Nestorian Christians adhering to the Assyrian Church of the East and lived here until 1924, when the very last Assyrians who survived the Assyrian Genocide and massacres that occurred during 1918 were expelled. Most subsequently moved to the Sapna and Nahla valleys in northern Iraq. Those who went to Simele ended up immigrating further to Tell Tamer Subdistrict in Syria during the 1930s.

Tur Abdin mountain range

Tur Abdin is a hilly region situated in southeast Turkey, including the eastern half of the Mardin Province, and Şırnak Province west of the Tigris, on the border with Syria. The name 'Tur Abdin' is derived from Syriac, meaning "mountain of the servants ". Tur Abdin is of great importance to Syriac Orthodox Christians, for whom the region used to be a monastic and cultural heartland. The Assyrian community of Tur Abdin call themselves Suroye and Suryoye, terms which derive etymologically from the earlier Assurayu and traditionally speak a central Neo-Aramaic dialect called Turoyo.

Nairi was the Assyrian name for a confederation of tribes in the Armenian Highlands, roughly corresponding to the modern Van and Hakkâri provinces of modern Turkey. The word is also used to describe the Armenian tribes who lived there. Nairi has sometimes been equated with Nihriya, known from Mesopotamian, Hittite, and Urartean sources. However, its co-occurrence with Nihriya within a single text may argue against this.

Assyrian Church of the East Ancient Christian religious body from Assyria

The Assyrian Church of the East, officially the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, is an Eastern Christian Church that follows the traditional christology and ecclesiology of the historical Church of the East. It belongs to the eastern branch of Syriac Christianity, and uses the Divine Liturgy of Saints Mar Addai and Mar Mari belonging to the East Syrian Rite liturgy. Its main spoken language is Syriac, a dialect of Eastern Aramaic, and the majority of its adherents are ethnic Assyrians.

Following the devastation of the urban centres of Mesopotamia at the hands of Timur, a Turkic military leader operating under the guise of restoring the Mongol Empire, he was known as "the Sword of Islam." His conquest of Baghdad and the general area, especially the destruction of Tikrit, effected the Syrian Orthodox Church which sheltered near Nineveh at Mar Mattai Monastery following the destruction of Christians in the region, the Ismailis and Sunni and Shi'a Muslims indiscriminately by Timur during the second part of the 14th century. The few survivors sought refuge among the Assyrians of Hakkari and the surrounding region. This region also produced many bishops and patriarchs as hereditary succession was used to prevent a full ecclesiastical collapse of the church. By the 16th century, the Assyrians disappeared from many cities where they previously thrived, such as in Tabriz and Nisibis. The head of the Church of the East moved from Baghdad to Maragha in Urmia by 1553. [2]

Timur Turco-Mongol ruler

Timur, historically known as Amir Timur and Tamerlane, was a Turco-Mongol conqueror. As the founder of the Timurid Empire in Persia and Central Asia, he became the first ruler in the Timurid dynasty. According to John Joseph Saunders, Timur was "the product of an islamized and iranized society", and not steppe nomadic.

Turkic peoples collection of ethnic groups

The Turkic peoples are a collection of ethno-linguistic groups of Central, Eastern, Northern and Western Asia as well as parts of Europe and North Africa. They speak related languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits, common ancestry and historical backgrounds. In time, different Turkic groups came in contact with other ethnicities, absorbing them, leaving some Turkic groups more diverse than the others. Many vastly differing ethnic groups have throughout history become part of the Turkic peoples through language shift, acculturation, intermixing, adoption and religious conversion. In their genetic compositions, therefore, most Turkic groups differ significantly in origins from one group to the next. Despite this, many do share, to varying degrees, non-linguistic characteristics, including certain cultural traits, some ancestry from a common gene pool, and historical experiences. The most notable modern Turkic-speaking ethnic groups include Turkish people, Azerbaijanis, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Turkmen and Kyrgyz people.

Mongol Empire former country in Asia and Europe

The Mongol Empire existed during the 13th and 14th centuries and was the largest contiguous land empire in history. Originating in the steppes of Central Asia, the Mongol Empire eventually stretched from Eastern Europe and parts of Central Europe to the Sea of Japan, extending northwards into Siberia, eastwards and southwards into the Indian subcontinent, Indochina and the Iranian Plateau; and westwards as far as the Levant and the Carpathian Mountains.

By the 1500s, the Assyrians were concentrated in an older version of the Assyrian triangle, with its points in Diyarbakir(west), Maragha(east) and the Nineveh Plains(south). The Church of the East lost some of its members in the few centuries following the Schism of 1552 to the Chaldean Catholic Church, mainly in Diyarbakir. Those living in Hakkari, however, were unaffected by the disputes until 1692 when the Chaldean Archbishop of Diyarbakir Shimun IX Dinkha broke away from Rome and moved to Qudshanis in Hakkari where he reintroduced the Shimun line of hereditary patriarchial succession which continued until 1976.

The Schism of 1552 was an important event in the history of the Church of the East. It divided the church into two factions, of which one entered into communion with Rome becoming part of the Catholic Church at this time and the other remained independent until the 19th century. Although the Eliya line, which emerged as a result of this schism, did eventually enter into communion with Rome, various Spiritual Christian sects with their origins in the Church of the East emerged as a result of this schism. Ironically, the Shimon line whose entry into full communion with Rome caused this schism, in fact became independent again by the 17th century. The circumstances of the 1552 schism were controversial at the time and have been disputed ever since.

Chaldean Catholic Church Eastern Syriac particular church of the Catholic Church

The Chaldean Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic particular church in full communion with the Holy See and the rest of the Catholic Church, with the Chaldean Patriarchate having been originally formed out of the Church of the East in 1552. Employing the East Syriac Rite in Syriac language in its liturgy, it is part of Syriac Christianity by heritage. Headquartered in the Cathedral of Mary Mother of Sorrows, Baghdad, Iraq, since 1950, it is headed by the Catholicos-Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako. It comprises 640,828 members, mostly Chaldean Christians living in northern Iraq, with smaller numbers in adjacent areas in northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and northwestern Iran, a region roughly corresponding to ancient Assyria. There are also many Chaldeans in diaspora in the Western world.

Mar Shimun IX Dinkha was the fourth Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, from 1580 to c.1600.

The Patriarch residing in the Church of Mār Shalīṭa in Qudshanis enjoyed both spiritual and political power over his subjects. Since priests were required to remain celibates the patriarchy moved from uncle to nephew. [2] This system came to be known as Nāṭar Kursyā (ܢܛܪ ܟܘܪܣܝܐ "Guardian of the throne"), and by the 19th century this system was applied to all dioceses of Hakkari. [3] The Assyrians formed intricate alliances with neighbouring Kurdish tribes and their Ottoman lords, and each tribe was led by a Malik (ܡܠܟ) who also functioned as a military leader during wartime. [4]

Kurdish wars

In the 19th century, several competing Kurdish centers began emerging in the region. Mir Muhammed, the Kurdish Emir of Soran based in Rawanduz was able to establish a powerful emirate and depose his rivals, controlling a region stretching from Mardin to Persian Azerbaijan. [5] He was however defeated in battle when he tried to subdue the Assyrians of Hakkari in 1838. The Ottomans, seeking to consolidate their control of the region, engaged him in a costly war which eventually led to the dissolution of his Emirate. [6]

Soran Emirate Kurdish emirate (1530s-1835)

Soran was a Kurdish Sunni Muslim emirate based in the geographic region of Kurdistan, specifically in what is today known as Iraqi Kurdistan. The emirate presumably gained its full independence from the Ottoman Empire shortly after it was captured from Safavid control, in the 1530s, but was later reincorporated into the Ottoman Empire as a semi-autonomous vassal state. After serving the empire as a semi-autonomous vassal state for the next couple of hundred years, the emirate slowly gained full independence for a second time, during the late 1700s and early 1800s, but was eventually subdued by Ottoman troops in 1835. Its capital for most of that time was the city of Rawandiz; however, much of the wealthy nobility were staying at the town of Shaqlawa.

Mardin Metropolitan municipality in Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey

Mardin is a city and multiple (former/titular) bishopric in southeastern Turkey. The capital of Mardin Province, it is known for the Artuqid architecture of its old city, and for its strategic location on a rocky hill near the Tigris River that rises steeply over the flat plains.

After the fall of his main rival, Bedir Khan of Bohtan, Badr Khan sought to extend his dominion by annexing the Assyrian regions in Hakkari. [7] He took advantage of a rift between the patriarch Shimun XVII Abraham and Nur Allah, the Emir of Hakkari. Badr Khan allied with Nur Allah and attacked the Assyrians of Hakkari in the summer of 1843 massacring them and taking those who survived as slaves. [8] Another massacre was inflicted in 1846 on the Assyrians of Tiyari, also residing in Hakkari. [8] The western powers, alarmed by the massacres pressured the Ottomans to intervene. Badr Khan was subsequently defeated and exiled to Crete in 1847. [8]

Direct Ottoman control

The checkered Christian districts southeast of Lake Van is where the Assyrians of Hakkari lived, while the Christian districts in Blue designate where Armenians lived Armenian population of Van province in 1896.png
The checkered Christian districts southeast of Lake Van is where the Assyrians of Hakkari lived, while the Christian districts in Blue designate where Armenians lived

Although the region was nominally under Ottoman control since the 16th century, it was in reality administered by its Assyrian and Kurdish inhabitants and their lords. The situation changed after the Badr Khans rule and the Tanzimat reforms as the Ottomans now were able to extend their full control unopposed, and in 1868 the Sanjak of Hakkari was created. [9]

Genocide and exodus

On the eve of the First World War, patriarch Shimun XIX Benyamin was promised preferential treatment in anticipation of the war. [10] Shortly after the war began, however, Assyrian and Armenian settlements to the north of Hakkari were attacked and sacked by Kurdish irregulars allied with the Ottoman Army in the Assyrian Genocide. [11] [12] Others were forced into labour battalions and later executed. [13]

The turning point was when the patriarch's brother was taken prisoner as he was studying in Constantinople. The Ottomans demanded Assyrian neutrality and executed him as a warning. [14] [15] In return, the patriarch declared war on the Ottomans on 10 April 1915. [15]

The Assyrians were immediately attacked by Kurdish irregulars backed by the Ottomans, driving most of the Assyrians of Hakkari to the mountain tops, as those who stayed in their villages were killed. [15] Shimun Benjamin was able to move unnoticed to Urmia, which at the time was under Russian control, and tried to persuade them to send a relief force to the besieged Assyrians. [15] When the Russians replied that the request was unreasonable, he returned to Hakkari and led the surviving 50,000 Assyrians through the mountains to safety in Urmia. [15] Thousands perished from cold and hunger during this march. [15]

After the First World War

During the peace conferences in Paris in 1919, the Assyrians asked for a state in Diyarbekir and northern Mesopotamia in Iraq; others requested a British protectorate in Upper Mesopotamia, northern Mosul, and Urmia. [16] The Assyrians tried to retake the region, but the Turks and Kurds objected to the Nestorian Christians desire to retake their ancestral lands in Hakkari, and an attempt to occupy the region by Agha Petros failed. In 1924 Turkey formally occupied northern Hakkari and expelled the last Christian inhabitants who still remained in the region, [17] with the exception of the village of Gaznakh which due to Kurdish alliances and their conversion to the Chaldean Catholic Church avoided deportation. Assyrians still live in the southern Hakkari region of Barwari Bala], now straddling fhe Turkey-Iraq border, and in the Sapna and Nahla Valleys of Iraqs Nohadra region.


As of 1920, Hakkari was producing lead. The lead, which came from a government owned mine, was used to make bullets. [18]

See also


  1. Aboona 2008 , p. 2
  2. 1 2 Alexander 1994 , p. 36
  3. Wilmshurst 2000 , p. 277
  4. Aboona 2008 , p. 35
  5. Aboona 2008 , p. 173
  6. Aboona 2008 , p. 174
  7. Aboona 2008 , p. 179
  8. 1 2 3 McDowall 2000 , p. 47
  9. Aboona 2008 , p. 3
  10. Stafford 2006 , p. 23
  11. Stafford 2006 , p. 24
  12. Gaunt & Beṯ-Şawoce 2006 , p. 134
  13. Gaunt & Beṯ-Şawoce 2006 , p. 136
  14. Malik, Yusuf (1934), The Assyrian Tragedy , S. MichaelExternal link in |title= (help)
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Stafford 2006 , p. 25
  16. Nisan 2002 , p. 187
  17. Nisan 2002 , p. 188
  18. Prothero, W. G. (1920). Armenia and Kurdistan. London: H.M. Stationery Office. p. 71.

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