Armenians in Iraq
|Regions with significant populations|
|Baghdad, Mosul, Basrah
Kirkuk, Dohuk, Avzrog
|Armenian Apostolicism, Armenian Catholicism|
|Related ethnic groups|
The history of Armenians in Iraq is documented since late Babylonian times. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers both have their sources in the Armenian Highland, hence, the land of Iraq and the land of Armenia have always been connected. Today it is estimated that there are around 72,000 Armenians living in Iraq, with communities in Baghdad, Mosul, Basrah, Kirkuk and Dohuk.
The history of Armenians in Iraq is documented since late Babylonian times. However, the general roots of the contemporary Armenian community in Iraq can be largely traced to Shah Abbas's forced relocation of the Armenians to Iran in 1604, some of whom subsequently moved on to settle in Iraq. A further 25,000 Armenians arrived in Iraq during the early twentieth century as they fled the persecution of the Armenian Genocide.
During the 1980s, the Armenians benefited from President Saddam Hussein's modernization efforts, as the community rebuilt its cultural institutions and even consecrated an imposing cathedral in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein trusted Iraqi-Armenians very much .His nanny was Iraqi-Armenian along with one of his body guards and his housestaff. One of Saddam Hussein's mistresses was Juliet N Gurjian . Saddam Hussein trusted the Iraqi-Armenians because they benefited under the secularist rule of the Baath party which strongly suppressed the Islamist forces especially the Shite Iraqi elements who would later rise against him. The Iraqi Armenians also did not support anyone in the opposition so the Hussein Regime benefited from Iraqi Armenian loyalty and granted the Iraqi Armenians many rights. During Christmas, Saddam Hussein would order large amount of flowers to be taken to the Baghdad Armenian church.
Armenians and the political situation
After the launch of the second Iraqi campaign, more than 3,000 Armenians left the country, head of National Management of Armenians in Iraq Paruyr Hakopian stated. “Four years have passed since the launch of military campaign in Iraq by Coalition forces. And I confirm with certainty that the number of Armenians who have immigrated abroad does not exceed this mark,” he noted. Mr. Hakopian said four years ago there were 18,000 Armenians in Iraq and now only 15,000 of them live in the country. Generally during the past 4 years 1,500 Armenians immigrated to Syria, about 1,000 arrived in Armenia and about 500 departed for Jordan,” he stressed.
During the Persian Gulf War, of the 1,500 Armenians living with the predominant Kurd population in the northern town of Zakho, three soldiers serving in Saddam Hussein's military were killed in coalition air strikes in Kuwait, Basra, and Mosul, respectively. A count of four Armenian babies were also among the several hundred reported dead in fighting near the Turkish border during the Gulf War. A further 130 from the town had died fighting in the Iraqi Army during the Iran–Iraq War.
2003 invasion of Iraq
With the invasion of Iraq, the situation for Armenians in Iraq worsened considerably. Armenians have been subject to killings and kidnappings for ransom. Many Armenians have immigrated to other Middle Eastern countries (most notably Syria and Lebanon), Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia. Armenian churches have also been target of bombings by paramilitary groups.
Deployment of Armenian troops
Armenia took part in the efforts of the US-led Coalition by sending a group of 46 non-military personnel, including 30 truck drivers, 10 bomb detonation experts, three doctors and three officers. They served the under Polish command in the city of Karbala and the nearby town of Hillah.
In October 2008, Armenia ended its modest presence in Iraq, citing improved security and the ongoing withdrawal of a much larger Polish army contingent that has supervised Armenian troops deployed in the country.
|“||The Iraqi Armenian community, fairly wealthy and important, is also of great age. In fact the Armenian Church in Baghdad is so old that it is regarded as sacred by Muslims, who worship there periodically.||”|
St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church (at Younis al Sabaawi Square, Baghdad) is the main church for the Armenians of Iraq. There is also the Saint Vartan Armenian Apostolic Church in Dohuk, northern Iraq.
The Armenian Catholic Archbishopric Church maintains a presence in Baghdad, as does the So does the Armenian Evangelical Church of Baghdad (at Sahat al-Tahriat in Hay al-Wahda (ner of Al-Awall Restoran).
Some Armenian churches were also targets of bombing and some Armenians have died as a result of sectarian fighting in Iraq.
Contributions to Iraqi culture
Armenians have played traditionally an important role in Iraqi culture, particularly in literature and music and in general all arts. Armenian folk music and dance is admired in Iraq.
Yaacoub Sarkis was a famous author and researcher in Iraqi arts. He used to hold cultural gatherings in Baghdad's Murabba'a region on the Tigris river, where the Iraqi cultural elite would meet. He is also renowned for the two volume "Al Mabaheth al Iraqiyyah", a definitive guide of Iraqi history and society. He lived well into his eighties before dying in the 1950s.
The two founding members of the Western-style pop group Unknown to No One, Art Haroutunian and Shant Garabedian, are of Armenian heritage. During the rule of Saddam Hussein the band could only have its music aired once they sang a song celebrating the dictator's birthday. Unknown to No One has been given a large amount of publicity in the post-Saddam era.
Armenian women are also noted for their beauty, with many Iraqi Armenian girls representing Iraq in beauty contests.
In Iraqi Kurdistan
There have always been pockets of Armenian populations in Iraqi Kurdistan. Their numbers have increased considerably with wave of new immigration coming from Baghdad and other Iraqi regions after the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Armenians attribute their leaving towards the north to safety concerns, with some Armenian institutions and churches having been targeted by bombings, and some Armenians subject of kidnapping and killings in Baghdad and central regions of Iraq. The Armenians consider the Kurdish-dominated parts of Iraq in general to be much safer areas to live in.
The Armenians in Iraqi Kurdistan have a representative in the parliament of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Armenians in Avzrog
A small minority of Armenians live in Avzrog, a village in the Iraqi province of Dohuk. The village of Avzrog is split into two areas: one populated by Armenians and the other by Assyrians. The name of the village comes from the Kurdish language; av (water) and zrog (yellow).
It was built for the first time in 1932 when the Armenians of Zakho and its suburbs decided to establish the village and settle in it. The village was subject of destruction in 1975. The Armenian inhabitants of Avzrog don't speak Armenian, they speak Arabic and Kurdish. Despite this, Armenians in Avzrog maintain their Armenian social identity like folklore and names. Avzrog has a total population of about 300 people.
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