Tel Keppe

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Tel Keppe
ܬܸܠ ܟܹܐܦܹܐ
Tel Keppe is located in Iraq
Tel Keppe
Tel Keppe
Coordinates: 36°29′22″N 43°7′9″E / 36.48944°N 43.11917°E / 36.48944; 43.11917Coordinates: 36°29′22″N 43°7′9″E / 36.48944°N 43.11917°E / 36.48944; 43.11917
Country Iraq
Governorate Ninawa
Municipality Tel Kaif
Occupation Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
 • Mayor Basim Ballu
Population (2010)[1]
 • Total 40,000
  Prior to ISIS, August 2014
Demonym(s) Tel-Kepniyah (m) / Tel-Kepnetha (f)

Tel Keppe (also spelled Tel Keipeh) (Syriac: ܬܸܠ ܟܹܐܦܹܐTal Kepe, Arabic: تل كيف‎‎ Tal Kaif), is one of the largest historically Assyrian towns in northern Iraq. Its name means "Hill of Stones" in Syriac. It is located in the Ninawa Governorate, less than 8 miles north east of Mosul.[2] The town is a historic farming town consisting of a densely populated core, surrounded by farm land outside of the city. All of its Christian Assyrian residents fled for Iraqi Kurdistan on August 2014 after the invasion of the town by ISIS.


In 1508, Tel Keppe was sacked by Mongols.

In 1743, Tel Keppe was looted and burned by the armies of the Persian leader Nader Shah. This event took place within the context of the Siege of Mosul, in which the Persian army suffered heavy casualties and resorted to looting the surrounding towns to have some semblance of victory.

In 1833, the town was once again sacked, this time by the Kurdish Governor of Rawanduz. He also sacked the nearby town of Alqosh.[2]

Occupation by ISIS[edit]

On 6 August 2014, the town was taken over by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), along with nearby Assyrian towns Bakhdida, Bartella and Karamlish.[3] Upon entering the town, ISIS looted the homes, and removed the crosses and other religious objects from the churches. The Christian cemetery in the town was also later destroyed.[4]

As of 1 May 2016, it is currently inhabited only by Sunni Arabs and ISIS militants.


In 1768, the town had a recorded population of 2500. Due to plague and other disasters, the population was around 1500 in 1882, rising to 2500 again by 1891. In 1923, the population was recorded as 14,000; the population growth can be attributed to natural growth, as well as an influx of refugees from the Armenian and Assyrian Genocides. In 1933, the population numbered around 10,000. As a result of emigration from the town to Baghdad and abroad, the population shrunk to 7,108 by 1968.

Throughout the late 20th century, the town experienced non-native population growth from the arrival of Sunni Arabs, who established residence outside of the historic city core. By the turn of the century, the population had swelled to close to 30,000.[5]

Tel-Kepniyeh Today[edit]

Starting in the 1980s and especially after the 1991 Gulf War and 2003 Invasion of Iraq, many Assyrians from Tel Keppe fled to many countries, but primarily the United States. They set up their lives there with new churches and business for their families.[6] By 2001 many from Tel Keppe had moved to major cities in Iraq such as Baghdad or Mosul.[7]

In The United States[edit]

As of 2004 many of the Chaldeans in Metro Detroit trace their origins to Tel Keppe. According to the estimates of a priest of Tel Keppe's Sacred Heart Chaldean Rite Catholic Church, there were 10,000 worshipers in the late 1950s and this decreased to 2,000 around 2004. He said that "Many people don’t want to go from here; they cry that they have to go… But you almost have to leave these days because your family probably already is in Detroit."[8]


Tel Keppniyeh also fled to the neighboring countries of Syria and Iran. Many others also left to other countries including Sweden, France, other European Countries and Australia.


Tel Keppe historically was the center of the Chaldean Catholic community of Iraq. Each family residing in Tel Keppe had one or more plots of farming land located outside of Tel Keppe. The land produced barley and wheat, and animals raised there included goats and sheep. Natalie Jill Smith, author of "Ethnicity, Reciprocity, Reputation and Punishment: An Ethnoexperimental Study of Cooperation among the Chaldeans and Hmong of Detroit (Michigan)", wrote that in the reports of the village "everyone was related" and that marriage tended to occur between two people from the same village.[5]

Notable Tel-Kepniyeh[edit]


  • Shamoun "Sam" G. Dabish - Author of The History of the Iraqi Community in America, church deacon, and community leader.
  • Chaldean Patriarch Joseph II Marouf[9] (1667–1713).
  • Maria Theresa Asmar, author and explorer, born in 1806. Published her memoir "Babylonian Princess" in English in 1844.
  • Poet Toma Taqteq, died in 1860.
  • Fr. Shemoel Jamil (1847–1917), who was in charge of all Chaldean monasteries.
  • Journalist Maryam Narmy, born in 1890. Published the first Iraqi women's issues newspaper, "Arabian Woman" in 1937.
  • Yousif Malik,[10] one of the leaders of the Assyrian movement in Iraq during the 1930s. Author of "The British Betrayal of the Assyrians".[11]
  • Joseph Hirmis Jammo, author of "Nineveh's Ruins or History of Tal Kayf" published in 1937.
  • Journalist Alexander Marouf.
  • Rofael Babu Ishaq, born in 1893 and author of "History of Iraqi Christians". Died in 1964.
  • Mar Emannuel III Delly: Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans. (1927-2014)
  • Michael J. George,[12] (1933-2014[13]) a patriarch of metro Detroit’s large Chaldean community and a founder of Melody Farms Dairy, once one of the largest dairies in Michigan
  • Issa Hanna Dabish[14] (1919-2006[15]) Pioneer Iraqi artist (painter) Lifetime Honorary Chairman, Iraqi Artists Association.
  • Yousif Marouf, Mikhtar (Leader) of the Village Telkepe ( Late 1900's)
  • Tariq Aziz Politician died 2015.


  • Mar Gabrial Kassab: Bishop of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand for the Chaldean Catholic Church.
  • Mar Ramzi Garmo: Archbishop of Tehran - Iran for the Chaldean Chaldean Church.
  • Mar Ibrahim Namo Ibrahim: Bishop Emeritus of the Chaldean Catholic Church for the Eastern United States.
  • Mar Sarhad Yawsip Jammo: Bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church for Western United States.
  • Mar Thomas Meram: Archbishop of Urmya and Salmas - Iran for the Chaldean Catholic Church.
  • Mar Francis Y. Kalabat Bishop of the Chaldean Church for the Eastern United States.
  • Saad Marouf: Oak Park City Council Board Member 1986, Chairman of Chaldean Federation two terms (1986-1988) & (2000-2002)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ هل كانت تلكيف بلدة آشورية قديمة؟, فؤاد يوسف قزانجي
  2. ^ a b Welcome to Tel Keppe at ChaldeansOnline
  3. ^ Barack Obama Approves Airstrikes on Iraq, Airdrops Aid
  4. ^ "Aiding the Assyrians Fight Against ISIS". The Huffington Post. 2015-04-15. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  5. ^ a b Smith, Natalie Jill. "Ethnicity, Reciprocity, Reputation and Punishment: An Ethnoexperimental Study of Cooperation among the Chaldeans and Hmong of Detroit (Michigan)" (PhD dissertation). University of California, Los Angeles, 2001. p. 61. UMI Number: 3024065.
  6. ^ Welcome to Tel Keppe at ChaldeansOnline
  7. ^ Smith, Natalie Jill. "Ethnicity, Reciprocity, Reputation and Punishment: An Ethnoexperimental Study of Cooperation among the Chaldeans and Hmong of Detroit (Michigan)" (PhD dissertation). University of California, Los Angeles, 2001. p. 62. UMI Number: 3024065.
  8. ^ "Arab, Chaldean, and Middle Eastern Children and Families in the Tri-County Area." (Archive) From a Child's Perspective: Detroit Metropolitan Census 2000 Fact Sheets Series. Wayne State University. Volume 4, Issue 2, February 2004. p. 2/32. Retrieved on November 8, 2013. Archived December 26, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Joseph II (Chaldean Patriarch)
  10. ^ Yusuf Malek
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^