Armenian communities in Iraq

This Google Map shows the location of modern (twentieth century) Armenian communities in Iraq.

Many of the smaller communities in the northern region of Kurdistan were formed by refugees after the 1915 Genocide (many from the Van district), or have been augmented in recent years by the arrival of internally displaced persons from Baghdad, Basra and Mosul.

This map was created in 2011, since when the situation in Iraq – even in Kurdistan – has deteriorated for Armenians and other minority ethnic and faith groups. There has been an inevitable reduction in numbers, primarily by emigration of refugees to Armenia, Lebanon and the West. Although the Armenian Embassy in Baghdad estimate is 13,000, the current Armenian population of Iraq may now be as low as, or lower than, 10,000.

 

 

Yezidi villages in Kurdistan, Iraq

This Google Map shows the traditional areas of Yezidi population in Kurdistan.

Blue pins show villages in the districts of Badinan or Sheikhan and Dohuk. Red pins show villages in the Sinjar district.

Note that some of the settlements shown are the collective villages or mujamma’at into which Yezidis were forced under the Baathist regime. The others are the villages that survived the Iraqi state-sponsored destruction of Yezidi communities in 1957, 1969, 1975 and 1987/1988 during the Anfal and its precursors.

Place names are approximate transliterations; known variant spellings can be seen by clicking on a pin. This will sometimes also show a brief note on the community. For instance, if one clicks on the pin for Behzani, it will be seen that its name can also be transliterated as Bahzan, Behzan and Behzane, and that this Arabic-speaking village is, with its neighbouring village of Bashiqe, the traditional source of the Yezidi religious singers or qewels.

This map was first published by bluebirdresearch in 2010/11. Since then the genocidal actions of the Islamic supremacists of ISIS have led to the destruction of Yezidis and their villages especially in Sinjar, with associated displacement to refugee camps in the Kurdistan Region and further afield.

Syriac settlements in Tur Abdin, Turkey

The Google Map shows some of the Syriac (Suroye or Assyrian) communities in the Tur Abdin region of Kurdistan in SE Turkey, together with a few of their surviving Syrian Orthodox monasteries. In addition, some settlements slightly further afield are also shown, north towards Batman and east towards Cizre.

The map uses the Syriac (rather than modern Turkish) place names. The Turkish toponym can be seen by zooming in on the map. As part of an aggressive Turkification programme, from the 1920s nearly all non-Turkic place names in Turkey were eradicated; this was systemised and codified in article 1 of the 1936 Law for Provincial Rule (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi Zabıt Ceridesi, v12, pV,  s1). 91% of place names in Mardin province, which covers Tur Abdin, have been Turkified.

Place names on the map are given in simplified transliteration from the Turoyo (modern Aramaic) used by the Syriacs, without the use of diacritics. As a place name can be transliterated in different ways, some variants are also shown (click on a pin to see). Places are ordered using the Latin alphabet.

Included are some places of historic occupation with no extant Syriac population (due to genocide, persecution and emigration).

It is estimated that there were 200,000 Syriacs in this region prior to the 1915 massacre and deportation of Christians in Anatolia. The Syriac population of Tur Abdin is now as little as 1,765 (2015 figure; according to a register of the community kept by the Mor Hobil & Mor Abrohom monastery).

Yezidi villages in Syria

This Google Map was created just after the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

It shows some of the surviving Yezidi villages in the Kurd Dagh, or “Kurdish Mountain”, a largely Kurdish region, north of Aleppo, in the far NW of Syria, at that date.

Other Yezidi villages in this area had already been abandoned, although their shrines and mausoleums remained places of pilgrimage.

Yezidis also lived in the main town Afrin (also known as Efrîn) and in other Kurdish settlements in the area.

It is not known what effect the conflict in Syria has had on the Yezidi population.

 

This short blog post and map were originally published on the bluebirdresearch website.

The Jews of Kurdistan

There are very few Jews remaining today in Kurdistan, although, post-Saddam, conditions would be more favourable for Jewish life at least in Iraqi or southern Kurdistan. While a few elderly Jews survive in the larger cities, and there are doubtless not a few part-Jewish Kurds descended from urban mixed marriages, most Kurdistani Jews left Iraq and Iran during the 1950/51 airlift to Israel.

The community was quite insular, unlike many other Jewish communities in the Middle East, including of course Baghdad, where Jews were cosmopolitan and often had extended family connections across the region. Furthermore, the native language of Kurdish Jews was Aramaic (although Jews in Mosul spoke Arabic) and secondarily the local Kurdish language (generally Kurmanji but Sorani towards the south of the area inhabited).

The Google Map shows the majority of towns and villages of former Jewish settlement in Kurdistan – an invisible country divided between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey (sometimes called respectively eastern, southern, western and northern Kurdistan).

Blue pins are former Jewish settlements in Iran; red pins in Iraq; green pins in Syria; and yellow pins in Turkey. Question marks show the approximate position of unlocated villages.

The map also gives 1881 population estimates for various larger places; these are taken from Andree’s “Zur Volkskunde der Juden” (pub Leipzig, 1881). There were 25,000 or so Jews across Kurdistan in the 1940s. Following the “Operation Ezra & Nehemiah” exodus to Israel in 1950/51, there are very few Jews resident today anywhere in Kurdistan.

 

Sources

The map is drawn from a number of print and online sources including Ora Shwartz-Be’eri’s fine illustrated volume The Jews of Kurdistan (Jerusalem, 2000) – to which particular acknowledgement is paid and which is highly recommended for family historians with Jewish roots in Kurdistan – and Evyatar Friesel’s Atlas of Modern Jewish History, and the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia.

This article and map were originally published by bluebirdresearch in 2012.