The population in 2003 was 95,089. The majority of people are Kurds.
The name of the city derives from Rawend diz which means castle of Rawends. The name Rawend was spelled as Orontes in Hellenic sources.
Rwandz was the capital of the Soran Emirate, which is said to have lasted from 1399 to 1835.
The Assyrians relate that, in the 1830s, the governor of Rwandz, nicknamed "Merkor", was known for his hatred of the Christian Assyrians. In 1833, he attacked the unarmed Assyrian towns of Tel Keppe and Elqosh and killed thousands of their inhabitants, kidnapping the women and children, and setting fire to the towns. This "Merkor" is almost certainly Mir Muhammad, then ruler of the Soran Emirate.
In 1915, during the First World War, the town was occupied by the Russians and Assyrians. The Muslim population was massacred by the Russians and Assyrians, after Nikolai Baratov's Cossacks recaptured the town only 20 percent of the Kurdish population managed to survive. In 1922 the town was occupied by the Turks, until they were driven out at the end of the year. The British army occupied the town on 22 April 1923. The British decided to stay in place to await the arrival of a special commission to fix the border between Turkey and Iraq, believing that if they left the Turkish troops would return.
Between 1928 and 1932 the British built a strategic road from Arbil, through Rwandz, to the Iranian border near modern-day Piranshahr. The construction of the road was directed by the New Zealand engineer A. M. Hamilton.
In the past Rwandz was known as a centre of Kurdish resistance against the Iraqi Government.
As of July 2007, Rwandz was undergoing major reconstruction. The bazaar was being relocated to make room for a new road.
In July 2011, in a response to a Turkish military offensive, local artists decided to paint the debris from the raids. 
Rwandz was known for its blood-feuds. In 1930, A. M. Hamilton noted: "it has always been a place of grim deeds and bloody retributions. Its greater and its lesser rulers alike have nearly all met with violent deaths and even today this reputation is being well earned".
The anthropologist Edmund Leach went to Rwandz in 1938, to study the Rwandz Kurds, intending to make this the subject of his thesis. His field trip had to be aborted because of the Munich crisis, but he nevertheless published his monograph "Social and Economic Organization of the Rwandz Kurds " two years later.  
The striking scenery has been noted by a number of visitors to the region. A. M. Hamilton relates that the Rwandz gorge was said to the be finest in Asia.
The Pank tourist Resort, which was opened in 2007 by Hazem Kurda, a former refugee of Saddam Hussein's regime, is the first such resort in Iraq. It includes a ferris wheel and other rides, including a toboggan. When complete it will include a five-star hotel, restaurants, swimming pools, saunas, tennis courts, helipads and mini golf. 
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- Hamilton, Archibald Milne (1930). Road through Kurdistan: travels in Northern Iraq. Retrieved 2009-09-08.
- Howard, Michael (2007-06-16). "All the fun of the fair - it must be Iraq". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-09-06.