Hasankeyf

Hasankeyf is an ancient town and district located along the Tigris River in the Batman Province in Kurdistan. It was declared a natural conservation area in 1981.

Much of the city and its archeological sites are at risk of being flooded with the completion of the Ilisu Dam.

History

Hasankeyf is an ancient city, and has been identified with the Ilanṣura of the Mari Tablet (c. 1800 BC). The Romans had built the Cephe fortress on the site and the city became the Kiphas fortress and a bishopric under the Byzantine Empire. It was conquered by the Arabs, in ca. 640, renamed Hisn Kayf. In the 12th century, the city was successively captured by the Artukids as their capital. During this period, Hasankeyf’s golden age, the Artukids and Ayyubids built the Old Tigris Bridge, the Small Palace and the Great Palace. The infrastructure, location and significance of the city helped increase trade and made Hasankeyf a staging post on the Silk Road. The Ayyubids (descendants of Saladin) captured the city in 1232 and built the mosques that made Hasankeyf an important Islamic center.

The city was captured and sacked by the Mongols in 1260. Following the Ottoman ascendancy established by Selim I in the region in the early 16th century, the city became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1515, during Sultan Süleyman I’s campaign of Irakeyn (the two Iraqs, e.g. Arabian and Persian) in 1534, at the same time as Diyarbakır, Mosul, Baghdad and Basra.

The current population of Hasankeyf is predominantly Kurdish, and Arabs also had a presence in the town. Its Syriac Christian population was almost entirely annihilated during the Seyfo genocide in the First World War.

Archeological Sites

Hasankeyf is rich in history throughout the ages and aside from the sites below, thousands of caves exist in the cliffs that surround the city. Many of the caves are multi-storied and water-supplied. Churches and mosques were also carved into the cliffs and numerous ancient cemeteries exist throughout the area as well.

  • The Old Tigris Bridge – Built in 1116 by the Artuqid Sultan Fahrettin Karaaslan, it replaced an older bridge. The bridge over the Tigris River is considered to be the largest from the Medieval Period. Support for the bridge was built with wood in case the bridge had to be removed in order to prevent an attack. Because of this, two piles and some foundation work are all that exist of the bridge today.
  • The Citadel – This structure sits 100m above the Tigris River, overlooking Hasankeyf. The Citadel has likely been used as a dwelling place for centuries
  • Small Palace – This palace was built by the Ayyubids and overlooks Hasankeyf as it sits on a cliff.
  • Ulu (Big) Mosque – With no inscriptions remaining, it is not exactly known when and by whom the mosque was built. However, it is thought that it dates from the period of the Ayyubids who have subsequently restored the mosque in the years 1327, 1394 and 1396.
  • Great Palace – The palace was built by the Artukids; it occupies an area of 2,350 m² and has an associated rectangular tower that may have been a watchtower.
  • El Rizk Mosque – The Mosque was built in 1409 by the Ayyubid sultan Süleyman and stands on the bank of the Tigris River. The mosque also has a minaret that has remained intact.
  • Süleyman Mosque – This mosque was built by Sultan Süleyman and is all but destroyed except for a minaret. Süleyman’s grave is missing from the site as well.
  • Koc Mosque – The mosque is located east of the Süleyman Mosque and was likely built by the Ayyubids.
  • Kizlar Mosque – Located east of the Koc Mosque, the Kizlar mosque was also likely from the Ayyubid period as well. The section of the structure which is used as a mosque today was a mausoleum in the past, containing grave remnants.
  • Imam Abdullah Tomb – This cube-shaped tomb lies west of the new bridge in Hasankeyf and it the tomb of Imam Abdullah. Abdullah was the grandson of Cafer-i Tayyar, uncle of the prophet Mohammad. The tomb is dated to the 14th century and an epitaph on the tomb states that the tomb was restored in the Ayyubid period.
  • Zeynel Bey Mausoleum – Named after Zeynel Bey, this mausoleum is opposite Hasankeyf on the Tigris River. Zeynel Bey was the son of Uzun Hassan ruler of the Akkoyunlu Dynasty which ruled over Hasankeyf in the 15th century. Zeynel Bey died in battle in 1473, and was buried in this circular brick mausoleum glazed with navy blue and turquoise tiles built by architect Pir Hasan. The building resembles in its archtectural style mausoleums in Central Asia.

 Ilisu Dam Impact

With its history that spans nine civilizations, the archaeological and religious significance of Hasankeyf is considerable. Some of the city’s historical treasures will be inundated if construction of the Ilısu Dam is completed. These include the ornate mosques, Islamic tombs and cave churches.

The threat of the Ilisu Dam project prompted the World Monuments Fund to list the city on its 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world. It is hoped that this listing will create more awareness of the project and prompt the Ilisu Consortium to develop alternate plans that are more sympathetic to this site of exceptional historical and cultural significance.

In December 2008 export credit insurers in Austria, Germany and Switzerland announced suspending their support for the project amid concern about its environmental and cultural impact and gave the Turkish government 180 days to meet standards set by the World Bank.

Tigris

The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of Kurdistan through Iraq.

Geography

The Tigris is 1,850 km long, rising in the Taurus Mountains of Kurdistan about 25 km southeast of the city of Elazig and about 30 km from the headwaters of the Euphrates. The river then flows for 1,200 km through Kurdish territory before becoming the border between Kurdistan and Iraq. This stretch of 1,200 km is the part of the river that is located in Kurdistan. The remaining 218 km are entirely within the Iraqi borders.

The Tigris unites with the Euphrates near Basra, and from this junction to the Persian Gulf the mass of moving water is known as the Shatt-al-Arab. According to Pliny and other ancient historians, the Euphrates originally had its outlet into the sea separate from that of the Tigris.

Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, stands on the banks of the Tigris. The port city of Basra straddles the Shatt al-Arab. In ancient times, many of the great cities of Mesopotamia stood on or near the Tigris, drawing water from it to irrigate the civilization of the Meeds and Sumerians. Notable Tigris-side cities included Nineveh, Ctesiphon, and Seleucia, while the city of Lagash was irrigated by the Tigris via a canal dug around 2400 BC.

Navigation

The Tigris has long been an important transport route in a largely desert country. Shallow-draft vessels can go as far as Baghdad, but rafts are needed for transport upstream to Mosul.

General Francis Rawdon Chesney hauled two steamers overland through Syria in 1836 to explore the possibility of an overland and river route to India. One steamer, the Tigris, was wrecked in a storm which sank and killed twenty. Chesney proved the river navigable to powered craft. Later, the Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation Company was established in 1861 by the Lynch Brothers trading company. They had 2 steamers in service. By 1908 ten steamers were on the river. Tourists boarded steam yachts to venture inland as this was the first age of archaelological tourism, and the sites of Ur and Ctesiphon became popular to European travelers.

In the First World War during the British conquest of Ottoman Mesopotamia, Indian and Thames River paddlers were used to supply General Townsend’s Army. The Tigris Flotilla included vessels Clio, Espiegle, Lawrence, Odin, armed tug Comet, armed launches Lewis Pelly, Miner, Shaitan, Sumana, and stern wheelers Muzaffari/Mozaffir. These were joined by Royal Navy Fly-class Butterfly, Cranefly, Dragonfly, Mayfly, Sawfly, Snakefly, and Mantis, Moth, and Tarantula.

After the war, river trade declined in importance during the 20th century as the Basra-Baghdad-Mosul railway, an unfinished portion of the Baghdad Railway, was completed and roads took over much of the freight traffic.

Management and Water Quality

The Tigris is heavily dammed in Iraq and Turkey to provide water for irrigating the arid and semi-desert regions bordering the river valley. Damming has also been important for averting floods in Iraq, to which the Tigris has historically been notoriously prone following melting of snow in the Kurdish mountains around April.

Recent Turkish damming of the river has been the subject of some controversy, for both its environmental effects within Turkey and its potential to reduce the flow of water downstream. Mosul Dam is the largest dam in Iraq.

Religion

The Tigris appears twice in the Bible. In the Book of Genesis, the Tigris is the third of the four rivers branching off the river issuing out of the Garden of Eden. Daniel received one of his visions “when I was by that great river the Tigris”.

In Sumerian mythology, the Tigris was created by the god Enki, who ejaculated and filled the river with flowing water.

In Hittite and Hurrian mythology, Aranzah (or Aranzahas in the Hittite nominative form) is the Hurrian name of the Tigris River, which was divinized. He was the son of Kumarbi and the brother of Teshub and Tašmišu, one of the three gods spat out of Kumarbi’s mouth onto Mount Kanzuras. Later he colluded with Anu and the Teshub to destroy Kumarbi (The Kumarbi Cycle).

Euphrates

Euphrates

The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia. Originating in northern Kurdistan, the Euphrates flows through Kurdistan and Iraq to join the Tigris in the Shatt al-Arab, which empties into the Persian Gulf.

The Euphrates emerges from the confluence of the Western Euphrates (450 kilometres (280 mi)) and the Eastern Euphrates (650 kilometres (400 mi)) 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) upstream from the town of Keban. The length of the Euphrates from the source of the Murat River to the confluence with the Tigris at 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi), of which 2,580 kilometres falls in Kurdistan, and 420 kilometres in Iraq. The length of the Shatt al-Arab, which connects the Euphrates and the Tigris with the Persian Gulf, is given by various sources as 145–195 kilometres (90–121 mi).

At the location of the Keban Dam, the two rivers, now combined into the Euphrates, have dropped to an elevation of 693 metres (2,274 ft). From Keban to the Kurdish–Iraqi border, the river drops another 368 metres (1,207 ft) over a distance of less than 600 kilometres (370 mi). Once the Euphrates enters the Upper Mesopotamian plains, its grade drops significantly; within Iraq the river falls 163 metres (535 ft) while over the last stretch between Hīt and the Shatt al-Arab the river drops only 55 metres (180 ft)

The Euphrates receives most of its water in the form of rainfall and melting snow, resulting in peak volumes during the months April–May. Discharge in these two months accounts for 36 percent of the total annual discharge of the Euphrates, or even 60–70 percent according to one source, while low runoff occurs in summer and autumn. The average natural annual flow of the Euphrates has been determined from early- and mid-twentieth century records as 20.9 cubic kilometres (5.0 cu mi) at Keban, 36.6 cubic kilometres (8.8 cu mi) at Hīt and 21.5 cubic kilometres (5.2 cu mi) at Hindiya. However, these averages mask the high inter-annual variability in discharge; at Birecik, annual discharges have been measured that ranged from a low volume of 15.3 cubic kilometres (3.7 cu mi) in 1961 to a high 42.7 cubic kilometres (10.2 cu mi) in 1963.

The discharge regime of the Euphrates has changed dramatically since the construction of the first dams in the 1970s. Data on Euphrates discharge collected after 1990 show the impact of the construction of the numerous dams in the Euphrates and of the increased withdrawal of water for irrigation. Average discharge at Hīt after 1990 has dropped to 356 cubic metres (12,600 cu ft) per second (11.2 cubic kilometres (2.7 cu mi) per year). The seasonal variability has equally changed. The pre-1990 peak volume recorded at Hīt was 7,510 cubic metres (265,000 cu ft) per second, while after 1990 it is only 2,514 cubic metres (88,800 cu ft) per second. The minimum volume at Hīt remained relatively unchanged, rising from 55 cubic metres (1,900 cu ft) per second before 1990 to 58 cubic metres (2,000 cu ft) per second afterward.

Natural History

The Euphrates flows through a number of distinct vegetation zones. Although millennia-long human occupation in most parts of the Euphrates basin has significantly degraded the landscape, patches of original vegetation remain. The steady drop in annual rainfall from the sources of the Euphrates toward the Persian Gulf is a strong determinant for the vegetation that can be supported. In its upper reaches the Euphrates flows through the mountains of Kurdistan and their southern foothills which support a xeric woodland. Plant species in the moister parts of this zone include various oaks, pistachio trees, and Rosaceae (rose/plum family). The drier parts of the xeric woodland zone supports less dense oak forest and Rosaceae. Here can also be found the wild variants of many cereals, including einkorn wheat, emmer wheat, oat and rye. South of this zone lies a zone of mixed woodland-steppe vegetation. Between Raqqa and the Kurdish-Iraqi border the Euphrates flows through a steppe landscape. This steppe is characterised by white wormwood (Artemisia herba-alba) and Chenopodiaceae. Throughout history, this zone has been heavily overgrazed due to the practicing of sheep and goat pastoralism by its inhabitants. Southeast of the border between Kurdistan and Iraq starts true desert. This zone supports either no vegetation at all or small pockets of Chenopodiaceae or Poa sinaica. Although today nothing of it survives due to human interference, research suggests that the Euphrates Valley would have supported a riverine forest. Species characteristic of this type of forest include the Oriental plane, the Euphrates poplar, the tamarisk, the ash and various wetland plants.

Among the fish species in the Tigris–Euphrates basin, the family of the Cyprinidae are the most common, with 34 species out of 52 in total. Among the Cyprinids, the mangar has good sport fishing qualities, leading the British to nickname it “Tigris salmon.” The Rafetus euphraticus is an endangered soft-shelled turtle that is limited to the Tigris–Euphrates river system.

The Neo-Assyrian palace reliefs from the 1st millennium BCE depict lion and bull hunts in fertile landscapes. Sixteenth to nineteenth century European travellers in the Syrian Euphrates basin reported on an abundance of animals living in the area, many of which have become rare or even extinct. Species like gazelle, onager and the now-extinct Arabian ostrich lived in the steppe bordering the Euphrates valley, while the valley itself was home to the wild boar. Carnivorous species include the gray wolf, the golden jackal, the red fox, the leopard and the lion. The presence of European beaver has been attested in the bone assemblage of the prehistoric site of Abu Hureyra, but the beaver has never been sighted in historical times.

Ancient History

During the Jemdet Nasr and Early Dynastic periods (3100–2350 BCE), southern Mesopotamia experienced a growth in the number and size of settlements, suggesting strong population growth. These settlements, including sites like Sippar, Uruk and Kish, were organized in competing city-states. Many of these cities were located along canals of the Euphrates and the Tigris that have since dried up, but that can still be identified from remote sensing imagery. A similar development took place in Upper Mesopotamia, although only in the second part of the 3rd millennium and on a smaller scale than in Lower Mesopotamia. Sites like Mari and Tell Leilan grew to prominence for the first time during this period. Large parts of the Euphrates basin were for the first time united under a single ruler during the Akkadian and Ur III empires, which controlled – either directly or indirectly through vassals – large parts of modern-day Iraq and northeastern Syria. Following their collapse, Mari asserted its power over northeast Syria while southern Mesopotamia was controlled by city-states like Isin and Larsa before their territories were absorbed by Babylon under Hammurabi in the 18th century BCE. In the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE, the Euphrates basin was divided between Kassite Babylon in the south and Mitanni in the north, with the latter being eventually replaced by Assyria and the Hittite Empire. Following the collapse of the Hittite Empire and the reduction in power of Assyria and Babylonia during the 12th century BCE, struggles broke out between Babylonia and Assyria over the control of the Iraqi Euphrates basin. The Neo-Assyrian Empire eventually emerged victorious out of this conflict and also succeeded in gaining control of the northern Euphrates basin in the first half of the 1st millennium BCE. In the centuries to come, control of the wider Euphrates basin shifted from the Neo-Assyrian Empire to the Neo-Babylonian Empire in the 7th century and to the Achaemenids in the 6th century BCE. The Achaemenid Empire was in turn overran by Alexander the Great, who defeated the last king Darius III and died in Babylon in 323 BCE. For several centuries, the river formed the eastern limit of effective Egyptian and Roman control and western regions of the Persian Empire.

Economy

Throughout history, the Euphrates has been of vital importance to those living along its course. With the construction of large hydropower stations, irrigation schemes, and pipelines capable of transporting water over large distances, many more people now depend on the river for basic amenities such as electricity and drinking water than in the past. Syria’s Lake Assad is the most important source of drinking water for the city of Aleppo, 75 kilometres (47 mi) to the west of the river valley. The lake also supports a modest state-operated fishing industry. Through a newly restored power line, the Haditha Dam in Iraq provides electricity to Baghdad.

Layla Qassim

 The martyr Layla Qassim was born in 12/27/1952 on the outskirts of the city of Khanaqin in which there was Alwind refinery, descending from a modest Kurdish family. She had got three brothers and one sister whose name was Sabeeha. Her father was a worker in the oil refinery in Khanaqin. He brought up his children to love their homeland, like all patriots who made love of their homeland and the high principles and values as only their fortune in life. Thus the struggler Layla Qassim lived and grew up in an atmosphere of love and passion and affection by her family, and she was raised on the principles of patriotism and faith in people and homeland which have been strengthened by them.

When the security authorities of the buried regime hauled her and placed her in solitary confinement, they had practiced the ugliest forms of torture to extract confessions from her, but she rejected strongly to the extent that her executioners were amazed. Then they asked her a question: Which is the dearest for her ,her eyes or Kurdistan? She  stood proudly and with high confidence and said : Kurdistan is more precious than my eyes and my soul, then stepped up the gallows without fear or remorse with four of her heroes comrades  . She addressed the security men then:” I am a struggler for the legitimate cause which is the Kurdish issue, and I will sacrifice myself for it .”

Mazlum Dogan

Mazlum Dogan believed that the Turkish state is dealing with Kurds as if they are criminals (a nation of criminals and outlaws). By sacrificing his own life, he died believing that the light and the spirit of Newroz shall be born again for the freedom of Kurds and Kurdistan. That was his final message to his friends, and that’s why many Kurds believe that he is the second Kawae Asingar (the second Blacksmith).

Mazlum Doğan (born on 1955 in Karakoçan/Elâzığ Province; died on 21 March 1982 in Diyarbakır) was a member of the Central Committee of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

After he had finished high school in Balıkesir in 1974 he enrolled at Hacettepe University in Ankara. In 1976 he joined the Kurdish student movement, which has been, in parts, the precursor of the PKK. He has been the first chief editor of the parties’ newspaper Serxwebûn. In 1979 he was arrested after accusations of founding and leading a terrorist organisation. On March 21st, 1982, the day Kurds celebrate Newroz by lighting up bonfires, Doğan set his own cell at the Diyarbakır Prison on fire and hanged himself in order to protest against the Turkish Government. With this act he tried to awake awareness on the inhumane conditions at Diyarbakır Prison and other jails in Turkey during the 1980 Turkish coup d’état. His suicide was the start of a number of hunger strikes and resistance campaigns run by prisoners of conscience.

Today, Mazlum Doğan is honored in the form of many commemoration days by the Kurdish Movement. The PKK has named its elite school after him and there are several Kurdish youth festivals around Europe sharing his name.

Kawae Asingar

The Dream and Hero of Every Kurdish Child: 
The Kawae Asingar (The
Blacksmith)

Kawa the Blacksmith is probably the most famous Kurdish legend and tells the story of Kurdish New Year (Newroz – pronounced Nah-Roos) and the birth of a nation. As with most legends, there are variations in the telling. The basic story is outlined below…King Zohak, ruler of the land of Mesopotamia, is tricked by the evil demon Ahriman and cursed with two large black snakes, which grow from his… shoulders. Zohak is wracked with terrible pain, a pain that will only go away if the snakes are fed the brains of children. As children are snatched from the surrounding towns and villages to feed the snakes’ hunger, the sun refuses to shine and the land becomes cold and desolate.Kawa the Blacksmith is blessed with seven children, but gradually they are taken from him until only one child remains. Consumed with anger and grief, he goes to the villagers and tells them that he is going to Zohak’s castle to plead for his child’s life. If his pleading fails, then he will attempt to kill Zohak with his mighty blacksmith’s hammer. If he succeeds, he will light a fire on the highest point on the mountain and then the villagers will know he has triumphed. If no fire can be seen, then he will have failed.Kawa’s pleading with Zohak is all in vain, and he is forced to strike a blow with his hammer, killing King Zohak and breaking Ahriman’s evil curse. He then climbs to the top of the mountain and lights a huge bonfire.

The villagers see the fire and light another, which in turn can be seen from the next village where they light another, and another and another, until there are fires burning throughout the land. As the people celebrate, the fire and smoke cleanse the air of the last of Ahriman’s evil and finally the sun returns to the sky.

DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE STORY

In some versions of the story, Kawa (or Kaveh, as his name is also spelled) had seventeen children, and in some versions he lived for 2500 years. Zohak (whose name is also spelled Dehak, Dehaq and Zuhak) is sometimes said to have ruled for 3000 years, and some versions claim that he is evil himself, not just tricked by Ahriman.

Some versions of the story say that Kawa substituted the brain of a sheep for the brain of some, all or the last of his children and that Zohak’s snakes could not taste the difference, and that, from that day onward, the children who were spared were taken and hidden in the mountains. Here the children were trained by Kawa to fight against Zohak’s rule.

When the mountains housed a mighty army of children, Kawa lead them to Zohak’s castle to overthrow the tyrant and end his evil once and for all.

Whether Kawa defeated Zohak alone or with an army, one thing always remains the same, his triumph over Zohak brought a new sun to the sky, and people celebrate this in the festival of Newroz, the Kurdish new year, which is celebrated on 21st March every year. His victory also marks the start of the Kurdish calendar (the year 2008, for example, is 2708).

NEWROZ

Today, the festival of Newroz is celebrated in many other countries outside of Kurdistan. For example, Iran, Afghanistan, parts of the Middle East, as well as in the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan,Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan all celebrate Newroz. It is also celebrated by the Zoroastrian Parsis in India and Pakistan as well by certain Iranic inhabitants in Pakistan’s. It is called Nevruz in Turkish and Sultan Nevruz in Albanian. In the Kurdish language, Newroz means New Day.

Mount Nemrut

Nemrut or Nemrud is a 2,134 m (7,001 ft) high mountain in Kurdistan, notable for the summit where a number of large statues are erected around what is assumed to be a royal tomb from the 1st century BCE.

The mountain lies 40 km (25 mi) north of Kahta, near Adıyaman. In 62 BC, King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene built on the mountain top a tomb-sanctuary flanked by huge statues (8–9 m/26–30 ft high) of himself, two lions, two eagles and various Greek, Armenian, and Iranian gods, such as Hercules-Vahagn, Zeus-Aramazd or Oromasdes (associated with the Iranic god Ahura Mazda), Tyche, and Apollo-Mithras. These statues were once seated, with names of each god inscribed on them. The heads of the statues have at some stage been removed from their bodies, and they are now scattered throughout the site.

The pattern of damage to the heads (notably to noses) suggests that they were deliberately damaged because of belief in iconoclasm. The statues have not been restored to their original positions. The site also preserves stone slabs with bas-relief figures that are thought to have formed a large frieze. These slabs display the ancestors of Antiochus, who included both Greek and Persians.

The same statues and ancestors found throughout the site can also be found on the tumulus at the site, which is 49 m (161 ft) tall and 152 m (499 ft) in diameter. The statues appear to have Greek-style facial features, but Persian clothing and hairstyling.

The western terrace contains a large slab with a lion, showing the arrangement of stars and the planets Jupiter, Mercury and Mars on 7 July 62 BC. This may be an indication of when construction began on this monument. The eastern portion is well preserved, being composed of several layers of rock, and a path following the base of the mountain is evidence of a walled passageway linking the eastern and western terraces. Possible uses for this site is thought to have included religious ceremonies, due to the astronomical and religious nature of the monument.

The arrangement of such statues is known by the term hierothesion. Similar arrangements have been found at Arsameia on Nymphaios at the hierothesion of the father of Antiochus, Mithridates I Callinicus.

Ancient History

When the Seleucid Empire was defeated by the Romans in 189 BCE at the Battle of Magnesia it began to fall apart and new kingdoms were established on its territory by local authorities. Commagene being one of the Seleucid successor states occupied a land in between the Taurus mountains and the Euphrates. The state of Commagene had a wide range of cultures which left its leader from 62 BCE – 38 BCE Antiochus I to carry on a peculiar dynastic religious program, in which it included not only Greek and Persian deities but Antiochus and his family as well. This religious program was very possibly an attempt of Antiochus to unify his multiethnic kingdom and secure his dynasty’s authority.

Antiochus supported the cult as a propagator of happiness and salvation. Many of the monuments on Mount Nemrud are ruins of the imperial cult of Commagene. The most important area to the cult was the tomb of Antiochus I, in which was decorated with colossal statues made of limestone. Although the Imperial cult did not last long after Antiochus, several of his successors had their own tombs built on Mount Nemrud. For around half of the year, Mount Nemrud lays covered in snow which in effect has increased its weathering which has in part caused the statues to fall in ruin.

Modern History

The site was excavated in 1881 by Charles Sester, a German engineer assessing transport routes for the Ottomans. Subsequent excavations have failed to reveal the tomb of Antiochus. This is nevertheless still believed to be the site of his burial. The statues, all of them “beheaded”, have not been restored to their original condition.

Mount Ararat (Agiri Mountain of Fire)

Mount Ararat (see below details on names) is a snow-capped, dormant volcanic cone in Kurdistan. It has two peaks: Greater Ararat (the tallest peak in Kurdistan, and the entire Armenian plateau with an elevation of 5,137 m/16,854 ft) and Lesser Ararat (with an elevation of 3,896 m/12,782 ft).

Mount Ararat in Judeo-Christian tradition is associated with the “Mountains of Ararat” where according to the book of Genesis, Noah’s ark came to rest. It also plays a significant role in Armenian nationalism and irredentism.

Kurds call it the Ciyaye Agiri (Mountain of Fire), a reference to its volcanic activity.

Geography

Ararat is a stratovolcano, formed of lava flows and pyroclastic ejecta, with no volcanic crater. Above the height of 4,100 m (13,451 ft), the mountain mostly consists of igneous rocks covered by an ice cap. A smaller 3,896 m (12,782 ft) cone, Little Ararat, rises from the same base, southeast of the main peak. The lava plateau stretches out between the two pinnacles. The bases of these two mountains is approximately 1,000 km2 (386 sq mi). The formation of Ararat is hard to retrieve geologically, but the type of vulcanism and the position of the volcano raise the idea that subduction relation vulcanism occurred when the Tethys Ocean closed during the Neogene.

Volcanic Activity

It is not known when the last eruption of Ararat occurred; there are no historic or recent observations of large-scale activity recorded. It seems that Ararat was active in the 3rd millennium BC; under the pyroclastic flows, artifacts from the early Bronze Age and remains of human bodies have been found.

However, it is known that Ararat was shaken by a large earthquake in July 1840, the effects of which were largest in the neighborhood of the Ahora Gorge (a northeast trending chasm that drops 1,825 metres (5,988 ft) from the top of the mountain). An unstable part of the northern slope collapsed and a chapel, a monastery, and a village were covered by rubble. According to some sources, Ararat erupted then as well, albeit under the ground water level.

History

Mount Ararat has been the subject of search attempts to recover Noah’s Ark. In the 1950s, the Frenchman De Navarre claimed to have found a piece of wood from the ark, but subsequent scientific dating showed it to be too recent. Another famous searcher for the ark on Mount Ararat was astronaut James Irwin, who walked on the moon in 1971. The story of Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat is an important feature of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The name “Ararat” for the peak derives from the tradition linking it with the Biblical Mountains of Ararat where Noah’s Ark came to rest after the great flood (Genesis 8:4).

The identification of Mount Ararat with these biblical mountains is ancient, entering Western Christianity with in the 4th century with Jerome’s reading of Josephus. The Vulgata renders the Hebrew hārəy Ǎrārāṭ as montes Armeniae.

In eastern tradition (Syriac and Quranic), the biblical mountains are associated with Mount Judi in what is now northwestern Iran. But by the medieval period, the western tradition appears to have eclipsed the earlier association with Mount Judi even in Eastern Christianity, and the Mount Judi tradition is now mostly confined to the Islamic view of Noah.

Halabja Poison Gas Massacre

The Halabja poison gas attack (Kurdish: Kîmyabarana Helebce), also known as Halabja massacre or Bloody Friday, was a genocidal massacre against the Kurdish people that took place on March 16, 1988, during the closing days of the Iran–Iraq War, when chemical weapons were used by the Iraqi government forces in the Kurdish town of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The attack killed between 3,200 and 5,000 people, and injured around 7,000 to 10,000 more, most of them civilians; thousands more died of complications, diseases, and birth defects in the years after the attack. The incident, which has been officially defined as an act of genocide against the Kurdish people in Iraq, was and still remains the largest chemical weapons attack directed against a civilian-populated area in history.

The Halabja attack has been recognized as a separate event from the Anfal Genocide that was also conducted against the Kurdish people by the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi High Criminal Court recognized the Halabja massacre as an act of genocide on March 1, 2010, a decision welcomed by the Kurdistan Regional Government. The attack was also condemned as a crime against humanity by the Parliament of Canada.

Background


It was an event that is historically separate from the Operation Anfal (the 1986-1989 campaign conducted by Saddam Hussein’s regime’s in order to terrorize the Kurdish rural population and end the peshmerga rebellions by brutal means), as the Iranian troops allied to the rebels were also involved in the Halabja events. Nevertheless, the victims of the tragedy are often included in accounting the deaths attributable to the Anfal campaign, which was characterised by the widespread and indiscriminate use of chemical weapons by Iraq.

Chemical attacks

The five-hour attack began early in the evening of March 16, 1988, following a series of indiscriminate conventional (rocket and napalm) attacks, when Iraqi MiG and Mirage aircraft began dropping chemical bombs on Halabja’s residential areas, far from the besieged Iraqi army base on the outskirts of the town. According to regional Kurdish rebel commanders, Iraqi aircraft conducted up to 14 bombings in sorties of seven to eight planes each; helicopters coordinating the operation were also seen. Eyewitnesses told of clouds of smoke billowing upward “white, black and then yellow”‘, rising as a column about 150 feet (46 m) in the air.

Survivors said the gas at first smelled of sweet apples; they said people died in a number of ways, suggesting a combination of toxic chemicals (some of the victims “just dropped dead” while others “died of laughing”; while still others took a few minutes to die, first “burning and blistering” or coughing up green vomit). It is believed that Iraqi forces used multiple chemical agents during the attack, including mustard gas and the nerve agents sarin, tabun and VX; some sources have also pointed to the blood agent hydrogen cyanide (most of the wounded taken to hospitals in the Iranian capital Tehran were suffering from mustard gas exposure).

Discovery

 

The first images after the attack were taken by Iranian journalists who later spread the pictures in Iranian newspapers; a film of the atrocity was also shown worldwide via news programmes. Some of those first pictures were taken by Iranian photographer Kaveh Golestan. Recalling the scenes at Halabja, Golestan described the scene to Guy Dinmore of the Financial Times: he was about eight kilometres outside Halabja with a military helicopter when the Iraqi MiG-23 fighter-bombers flew in. “It was not as big as a nuclear mushroom cloud, but several smaller ones: thick smoke,” he said. He was shocked by the scenes on his arrival in the town, though he had seen gas attacks before during the brutal Iran-Iraq War:

It was life frozen. Life had stopped, like watching a film and suddenly it hangs on one frame. It was a new kind of death to me. You went into a room, a kitchen and you saw the body of a woman holding a knife where she had been cutting a carrot. (…) The aftermath was worse. Victims were still being brought in. Some villagers came to our chopper. They had 15 or 16 beautiful children, begging us to take them to hospital. So all the press sat there and we were each handed a child to carry. As we took off, fluid came out of my little girl’s mouth and she died in my arms.

Saddam Hussein’s government officially blamed Iran for the attack. The international response at the time was muted and the United States even suggested Iran was responsible. The United States government, which at the time was allied with Iraq in its war with Iran, said the images could not be verified to be the responsibility of Iraq.

Aftermath

 

Destruction and partial restoration of the city

After the city was retaken from the hands of the Iranian and Kurdish forces, Iraqi troops in NBC suits came to Halabja to study the effectiveness of their weapons and attacks. The town, littered with unburied dead, was then systematically razed by the Iraqi forces using bulldozers and explosives. It was partially rebuilt by the returning Kurds later, even as chemical weapons contaminated the food and water supplies,soil, and animal populations. In 2003, some 50,000 people lived in the city, compared to some 80,000 in 1988. As of 2008, it is believed there are still undiscovered mass graves in Halabja.

Medical and genetic consequences

In surveys by local doctors, a higher percentage of medical disorders, miscarriages (14 times higher), and colon cancer (10 times higher) was found in Halabja compared to Chamchamal; additionally, “other cancers, respiratory ailments, skin and eye problems, fertility and reproductive disorders are measurably higher in Halabja and other areas caught in chemical attacks”. Some of those who survived the attack or were apparently injured only lightly at the time, later developed medical problems doctors believe stemmed from the chemicals, and there are concerns that the attack may be having a lasting genetic impact on the Kurdish population, as preliminary surveys show increased rates of birth defects.

Trials

On December 23, 2005, a Dutch court sentenced Frans van Anraat, a businessman who bought chemicals on the world market and sold them to Saddam’s regime, to 15 years in prison. The Dutch court ruled that Saddam committed genocide against the people of Halabja; this was the first time a court described the Halabja attack as an act of genocide. On 12 March 2008, the government of Iraq announced plans to take further legal action against the suppliers of chemicals used in the poison gas attack.

Neither Saddam Hussein nor his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid (who commanded Iraqi forces in northern Iraq in that period, which earned him a nickname of “Chemical Ali”) were charged by the Iraqi Special Tribunal for crimes against humanity relating to the events at Halabja. However, the Iraqi prosecutors had “500 documented baskets of crimes during the Hussein regime” and Hussein was condemned to death based on just one case (the 1982 Dujail Massacre). Among several documents revealed during the trial of Saddam Hussein, one was a 1987 memorandum from Iraq’s military intelligence seeking permission from the president’s office to use mustard gas and the nerve agent sarin against Kurds. A second document said in reply that Saddam had ordered military intelligence to study the possibility of a “sudden strike” using such weapons against Iranian and Kurdish forces. An internal memo written by military intelligence confirmed it had received approval from the president’s office for a strike using “special ammunition” and emphasized that no strike would be launched without first informing the president.

On 18 December 2006, Saddam Hussein told the court:

In relation to Iran, if any military or civil official claims that Saddam gave orders to use either conventional or special ammunition, which as explained is chemical, I will take responsibility with honor. But I will discuss any act committed against our people and any Iraqi citizen, whether Arab or Kurdish. I don’t accept any insult to my principles or to me personally.

Ali Hassan al-Majid (“Chemical Ali”) was condemned to death by hanging by an Iraqi court in January 2010, after being found guilty of orchestrating the Halabja massacre. Majid was first sentenced to hang in 2007 for his role in a 1988 military campaign against ethnic Kurds, codenamed Operation Anfal; in 2008 he also twice received a death sentence for his crimes against the Iraqi Shia Muslims, in particular for his role in crushing the 1991 uprisings in southern Iraq and his involvement in the 1999 killings in the Sadr City (then Saddam City) district of Baghdad. He was executed on January 25, 2010.

International sources for technology and chemical precursors

The know-how and material for developing chemical weapons were obtained by Saddam’s regime from foreign firms.The largest suppliers of precursors for chemical weapons production were in Singapore (4,515 tons), the Netherlands (4,261 tons), Egypt (2,400 tons), India (2,343 tons), and West Germany (1,027 tons). One Indian company, Exomet Plastics (now part of EPC Industrie Ltd.) sent 2,292 tons of precursor chemicals to Iraq. The Kim Al-Khaleej firm, located in Singapore and affiliated to United Arab Emirates, supplied more than 4,500 tons of VX, sarin, and mustard gas precursors and production equipment to Iraq.

The provision of chemical precursors from United States companies to Iraq was enabled by a Ronald Reagan administration policy that removed Iraq from the State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Leaked portions of Iraq’s “Full, Final and Complete” disclosure of the sources for its weapons programs shows that thiodiglycol, a substance needed to manufacture mustard gas, was among the chemical precursors provided to Iraq from US companies such as Alcolac International and Phillips. Both companies have since undergone reorganization and Phillips, once a subsidiary of Phillips Petroleum is now part of ConocoPhillips, an American oil and discount fossil fuel company, while Alcolac International has since dissolved and reformed as Alcolac Inc. Alcolac was named as a defendant in the Aziz v. Iraq case presently pending in the United States District Court (Case No. 1:09-cv-00869-MJG).

Controversies

Allegations of Iranian involvement

An investigation into responsibility for the Halabja massacre, by Dr Jean Pascal Zanders, Project Leader of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Project at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute concluded in 2007 that Iraq was the culprit, and not Iran. The U.S. State Department, however, in the immediate aftermath of the incident, took the official position based on examination of available evidence that Iran was partly to blame.

A preliminary Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) study at the time reported that it was Iran that was responsible for the attack, an assessment which was used subsequently by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for much of the early 1990s. The CIA’s senior political analyst for the Iran-Iraq war, Stephen C. Pelletiere, co-authored an unclassified analysis of the war which contained a brief summary of the DIA study’s key points. The CIA altered its position radically in the late 1990s and cited Halabja frequently in its evidence of weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Pelletiere claimed that a fact that has not been successfully challenged is that Iraq was not known to have possessed the cyanide-based blood agents determined to have been responsible for the condition of the bodies that were examined, and that blue discolorations around the mouths of the victims and in their extremities, pointed to Iranian-used gas as the culprit. Leo Casey writing in Dissent Magazine argued that “None of the authors of these documents … had any expertise in medical and forensic sciences, and their speculation doesn’t stand up to minimal scrutiny.” Some opponents to the Iraq sanctions have cited the DIA report to support their position that Iraq was not responsible for the Halabja attack.

Joost Hiltermann, who was the principal researcher for the Human Rights Watch between 1992–1994, conducted a two-year study of the massacre, including a field investigation in northern Iraq. According to his analysis of thousands of captured Iraqi secret police documents and declassified U.S. government documents, as well as interviews with scores of Kurdish survivors, senior Iraqi defectors and retired U.S. intelligence officers, it is clear that Iraq carried out the attack on Halabja, and that the United States, fully aware of this, accused Iran, Iraq’s enemy in a fierce war, of being partly responsible for the attack. This research concluded there were numerous other gas attacks, unquestionably perpetrated against the Kurds by the Iraqi armed forces. According to Hiltermann, the literature on the Iran-Iraq war reflects a number of allegations of chemical weapons use by Iran, but these are “marred by a lack of specificity as to time and place, and the failure to provide any sort of evidence”. Hiltermann called these allegations “mere assertions” and added that “no persuasive evidence of the claim that Iran was the primary culprit was ever presented.” The 2002 International Crisis Rroup (ICG) no. 136 “Arming Sadaam:The Yugoslav Connection” concludes it was “tacit approval” by many world governments that led to the Iraqi regime being armed with weapons of mass destruction, despite sanctions, because of the ongoing Iranian conflict.