An interview: by Mufid Abdulla
Russian socialist leaders claimed that one novel - ‘Mother’ - by Maxim Gorky, brought the October Revolution in Russia forward by 6 year’s. We have to ask ourselves what will be the impact of our historian, Professor Kamal Mazhar Ahmad on the Kurdish struggle and revolution, for example: ‘Kurdistan, in the years of the first world war’ and the latest book ‘Kirkuk and the surrounding area’ .The man became the symbol of Kurdish history and is remembered for his devotion to his profession .We found him in Manchester, on a short visit to the UK. I am grateful for his time and for answering our questions.
MA: How can the Kurdish Diaspora write the history in a way that can be useful for future generations?
KMAL: It is very important to pay attention to Kurdish history because Kurdish history has been distorted, the likes of which I have never seen. There are some very important ‘pages’ still not revealed to our people. I believe the Kurdish Diaspora can play a very important role in translating the history of the Kurds into other languages. It is essential for the historian to know other languages. In the old days, in the era of Saddam, in the universities one never had a chance to learn in or about other languages.
For most of my books, I relied heavily on English sources, I found a lot of important documents and reports in these books .This makes my books more desirable in the eyes of historians and foreign experts.
English historians have paid good attention to the Kurds and to Kurdistan, and have published many special reports, essays, documents etc., this material is held in their libraries, and we can refer to this material, use this material, all the time. Also, we can look for the unanswered questions about our history.
Nevertheless, not everybody can be a historian. One of the most important principles, the historian has to be neutral. You have to be neutral when you write about your nation’s history. You have to work very hard, you are looking to build Kurdish history on documentary evidence nothing else.
It is not end of the world if our people make mistakes. Every nation historically, has made some mistakes .Therefore, in order to learn the lessons from our mistakes, we have to be very honest in analysing our history. I have to admit, we cannot control all our feelings completely, but we have to discuss in an objective way. We have to uncover, with all the mistakes, without distortion then we can take a lesson from it. One of the famous British historians, Tonybee imposed a lot of principles for the historian to obey, when writing history.
MA: The history of the Kurds is not very clear, and has always been mixed with the history of other nations. What we can do to make it straight and bring clarity to the international community.
KMA: We have a lot of good history publications .Sharaf Khan Batlisy, a famous Kurdish historian is most important. Historian’s did their PhD on Sharaf Khan’s books. One example - in the 1960’s Vasileva, working in Leningrad wrote thousands of words on the subject, in Russian. There is a real potential for translating these works into foreign languages, Especially English.
Other Kurdish historians, Amin Zhaki Beg and Mahmood Bayazidi are the most important historians in nineteenth century. These publications are basically the most powerful sources of Kurdish history. Rafiq Hilmi’s memoirs are very significant, published in six sections, the contents deserve to be translated, particularly into English.
Jamil Rosbayani wrote his memoirs in six books, he managed to translate one of them into Arabic. I wish he had been able to translate the rest. Unfortunately, Jamil Rosbayani was murdered by the Baghdad regime and had no chance to do it. The contents are very elaborate, he brings the whole world of the old days alive, of Sheik Mahmood and his politics, and the attitude of the English towards the Kurds and Kurdistan. I have all six books in my library, and other people have too.
The Jhen centre for publication and printing, re-publish all the old books they rescue from decay. Recently, the Department of Art and Culture in Baghdad published a new edition of Amin Zhaki Beg’s work with the help and assistance of Mr Mohidien Zhangana. Originally, the book had been written in the Kurdish language, and then translated into Arabic by Mohamed Aki Awni, in Cairo in 1939. Mr Mohidien Zhangan asked me to write the preface for it .I did, and in great detail. Ahmed Khoja’s words deserve translation into foreign languages because of their content and historical aspect - the old days of Sheik Mahmood and the English. He was one of the closest to the Sheik and his authority. A lot of people have studied in his special school of thought, and follow his path.
MA: Your latest book on Kirkuk, we trust this book has significant impact on this stage of our struggle to get through to our ultimate goal of self- determination. We would like to know the history of that book and how far you have gone.
KMA: The fist time this book ‘Kirkuk and surrounding area’ was published and translated into English, Dr Mahmood Othman told me in Baghdad that; Mr Talabani gave each member of Iraqi council a copy of the book, together with a map - when they came to discuss the case of Kirkuk. Even though ,on that day I hadn’t not seen the copy of it .
I started writing the book in 1992, in a very secret way .My original ambition about Kirkuk goes back to 1959 when I was a student in Baghdad. In 1959 I found an article by a Turkeman writer in the Ahali newspaper.In that article, the history and origin of Kirkuk had been distorted to that extent that the writer claimed that Kirkuk is not Kurdish city, but a Turkeman city. When I read it I was very unhappy, agitated, and I decided to reply to it in six parts. My reply was published in the same newspaper Ahali. One of my close friends in Kirkuk, Sheik Marf Kharadagi told me that ,in Kirkuk straight away people took it and bought it, and people passed copies of it to their friends, due to problems with publishing in of those days. I was very happy when I heard that .
At this time Mr Jamil Roshbayani was in the city of Mandali, he wrote an article in the same newspaper praising my article. He told the readers that he didn’t have to add anymore because his teacher KMA elaborated everything. I was feeling very happy when I heard Jamil Roshbayani calling me his teacher, even though I was a student, and of course, considered him to be my teacher. For me, at that time it, was a Nobel Prize. That is why I will never forget it, it will always stay my memory.
One of my lecturer’s at university, Dr Naji Abbas , one of the most serious lecturer’s in the university, called me to his room and talked about my good article, and said well done .Then I realised my article, and my writing, carried weight .From that day I realised the importance of ‘Kirkuk…’, and from that day, I decided to stick to it. In my two PhD’s, which are mainly about the Kurdish movement, I have written thousands of pages on Kirkuk. Kirkuk is a centre of our Kurdayati, most of the organisations have been built in Kirkuk and it is the most important subject.
In 1992 I decided to write a book about Kirkuk and the surrounding areas, such as Khanakin, Sanjar and all other areas which the old regime tried to take back from our people. Friends, and other people used to ask me which one of my books is classified at the top. I thought at the time ‘Kurdistan in the Years of the First World War’. The book has been translated into Arabic by Mohammed Mula Karim and translated into English by Akram Jaff. I remember Mufid you sent me a copy in these days, I do realise why you took the preface out of it, because of the danger of the regime in those days.
Now, if anybody asked me what is your favourite book if, I would say, without any hesitation, Kirkuk is my best book, and I will be proud of it for all of my life, because I was writing that book in the very difficult days and circumstances, together with very decent resources and references. For the first time I showed to the whole world that Kirkuk is a city of Kurdistan.
MA: Kirkuk is important because of it’s economic and political strategies. Can we say that this makes us more hopeful of building our own state sooner rather than later.
KMA: I am very happy, and extremely optimistic about the whole situation. Kirkuk is a part of Kurdistan, and the people in that area make me feel more confident, due to their way of thinking about Kurdayati .I was teaching for about one year in Khanakin with other lecturers - Dr Nasren Fakhri and Dr Abdulrahman HajI Marf. During my teaching, I realised the feelings of people in Gharmian are very different from any other part of Kurdistan. I love them and I adore them. Ostensibly, the more repression the more nationalism. Every Kurd would love to see their independent homeland. But there are certain conditions for that movement .It is easy to raise a slogan but difficult to implement. The most difficult problem, the geographic location of the Kurds, has never helped. Independent Kurdistan is historical in vitality. Kurds have more hope and more friends than ever before. The attitude of the Superpower’s has changed, and for the first time our leaders have been invited to the White House and the Oval Office, which has never happened in the past. We played a pivotal role in helping the Allied Forces In the last decade luck has been on our side. The biggest enemy, Saddam, has gone, and the second piece of luck. The Turkish state did not allow the Allied Forces to go through Turkey, that has made Kurds more acceptable to the USA and the UK, even though the UK was an obstacle in creating our Kurdish homeland .
Thank you once again for your time, and I would like to wish you every success for your future work, and continued good health.
Kirkuk and its dependencies: Historically part of Kurdistan,
Part I Mufid Abdulla
The most sensitive issue in Iraq these days is Kirkuk. The heated debate on federalism in Iraq is no better exemplified than in Kirkuk. Despite the oil riches that lie beneath, above ground Kirkuk appears forlorn and neglected. In the past, and still in the present, the new government have ignored and set so many obstacles in the path of our progress and reconstruction.
Kirkuk and its surrounding area: ‘Judgment of History and Conscience’ is a documentary study researched by the Kurdish historian Dr Kamal Mudhir Ahmed. This is the most recent documented evidence that shows Kirkuk proven to be part of Kurdistan. This book carries a lot of weight in the eyes of both Kurdish friends and her enemies. I will try to go through it and extract some parts in order to elaborate the importance of this book and its content which opens with the following dedication:
This book is dedicated to every Arab who refuses to be an oppressor
as much as he refuses to be oppressed.
The historical background of Kirkuk has been explained and reveals that Kirkuk was build by Kurdish people .It is historically proven that the Lolobians, or the Hurrians, built the city of Kirkuk who are acknowledged to be two peoples who had a principal role in forming the current Kurdish people. They are also the two most known ancient peoples; bound by strong civilization and language ties to inhabited Kurdistan. In the cuneiform texts that relate to the Akkadian reign, there are clear indications to the current Kirkuk city thus, historically supposing the Lolobians to be the builders of the city, it is reasonable to state that this historically proves that the Hurrians are those who used to inhabit Kirkuk and its dependencies in the second and first millenniums BC, at which time Kirkuk was known by the two names of ‘Arapkha’ and ‘Elyalani’ i.e. God’s City.
What is also significant is that the Hurrians ,who governed Assyria for the duration of the first century, undoubtedly constructed a number of Kirkuk’s surrounding area such as Tuz Khurmatu, which derives from two words: ‘Khur’ - the Khurrians (Hurrians), and Matu, which is Akkadian and translated, means the town.
Sir Sidney Smith, in his book, “Ancient Assyrian History up to the First Millennium BC”, endorsed the same truth when he wrote that the heart of the Gutian Kingdom was “the square situated in between the lower Zab River and Tigris, and between the Suleimaniyah Mountains and Diyalah River and its capital was Arapkha, situated where Kirkuk is now.”
This historical truth has become a matter taken for granted, even in the general Arab curricular books. In this regard, the following text appears in a book of “Political Geography” written in the year 1961, by a group of associated Egyptian university professors ”The Kurds are descendants from a northern origin …and they had an ancient country whose capital was Arapkha, which is the present Kirkuk”, whilst
the well known Iraqi university professor, Dr Fawzi Rasheed, in his research theme entitled “The Old Dwellers of Zagros Mountains and Kurdistan”, summarises the historical relationship of the origins of the Kurds with Kirkuk as follows: ”…and this truth does not negate the strong tie that used to bind the Lolobians with the other ancient inhabitants of Kurdistan, as the Gutians or the Hurrians, whether in language or civilization, particularly if we knew that their centre was in areas adjacent to each other ,such as the settlements of Hurrian Nozi, Gutian Arapkha and Lolobian Babeit, all of which surround present Kirkuk.”
A highly regarded official Iraqi source (The Official Iraqi Guide for1936 - which is a large encyclopaedic source issued under the care and supervision of the Ministry of Interior), has the following text: “The Medes are of the Aryan people who used to inhabit the country, that those who followed call Sheerwan and Azerbaijan. They became lucky and conclude a pact with the Chaldean Nabopolassar and fought the Assyrians from the north and the Chaldeans fought them from the south until they dilapidated that strong and vigorous state and captured its remains. The result was that the Chaldeans enjoyed single sovereignty in the south and the Medes in the north. Thus in Iraq there were two peoples prevailing over it, the Chaldeans, and they are of the Semitic stock and the Medes, who are of Aryan stock.”
After the fall of the Medean state in the year 550-549 B.C their Parthian relatives emerged on the political scene of the area. In around the last quarter of the second century B.C. an Iska’iyin Adeyabien (Hidyab) family ruled and Kirkuk was the capital of the rulers who belonged to the Parthian empire and Arbil in turn was within their kingdom and constituted one of their bases. Also, in two official Iraqi sources, the first of which was issued in the monarchy era and the second in the republican era, it appears as follows:
“In the controlling reign of the Parthians (141 BC -227 AD), Iraq consisted of four Emirates. The first, the Emirate of Meesan, the second, Emirate of Al-Hatra in the north west, the third, the Emirate of Hidyab in which Arbil was based, and the fourth, Emirate of Arab Heerra”.(monarchic era)
Kirkuk and its dependencies: Historically part of Kurdistan
Part II Mufid Abdulla
Under Islam and the Caliphs
After the fall of Medes ,it was natural for the kurd to welcome to Islam and try to move forward after what happen to their country. Islam never touched the heard of Kurds and Kurdistan but enhanced that identity in the face of non Islamic nations and regimes neighbouring Kurdistan. Always the Kurds safeguarding their own identity and language under Islam and Islamic civilisation, At the same time Kurds welcomed Arabic as a language of the Qur’an. That is the main reason that most Kurdish poets of the middle and modern ages were simultaneously great religious men. The Kurdish Qur’an schools and religious school in Kirkuk had been taught side by side with Kurdish literature .
The Kurds kept the spirit of Islam in Kirkuk as the mosques of the city within its dependencies and their religious meeting centres.
Arab historians did not recognise the name Kirkuk as its current name but still always refer to Kirkuk by the name of Kirkheni.
As stated in “Sumer”, the highly –regarded Iraqi journal(37)
As for Kirkheni, when al-Qalqashindi(died 821 hegira/1418 AD) defined its Kurdish character as a place and dwellers, basing it on “Masalik Al-Abssar fi Mamalik Al-Amssar-Road Paths of discernment in possessions of large towns” by the Damascusian Geographer, Ibn Fadhul Allah Al- Omari (died 748 Hegira /1347-1348 AD).
“The Kurdish mountains: he said in ‘Msalik Al-Abssar’:and by these mountains, the intended are the mountains separating between the land of the Arabs and the land of the Persians, without places of infiltration by the Kurds in the Persian country .He said: and their beginning, Hamazan and Sharezoor mountains and their end, Siahi Al-Kafara of the Takfoor country, and with it, the Sies kingdom and what is added to it by the Lawin family (Bait Lawin) hands. Then he mentioned twenty places, in each one of them, a sect of Kurds”
Furthermore, the Al-Qalqashandi elaborated on those twenty places as follows:
“The country of Kirkheni and Daquq Al-Naqa, and which has a sect of them(of the Kurds) whose number exceeds seven hundred and they have a prince of their own .”And it is worth mentioning that the seven hundred is a considerable number by the demographic criterion of that era and time.
In those days Daquq used to be more famous than Kirkuk, Kirkuk, up to the end of the eighth century Hegira/towards the end of the fourteenth century AD, often administratively and economically belonged to Daquq and they were both at the same time in contact with Arbil and Sharezoor and their extentions.
In the beginning of the eighth century Hegira (the fourteenth AD),the geographer and historian scientist Hamadalla Al-Mistawfi Al-Qazwini,described Daquq, in his book: “Nuzhat Al-Qulub: Picnic of the Hearts” as follows: “Daquq is of the fourth province, a small town, its weather is better than Al-Iraq’s Arab provinces”. (p24)
Baghdad’s relations with Kirkuk were weak in Islamic times as they were more tied to Sharezoor country reflected upon the administrative and economical situation. In the middle of the seventh century Hegira (Middle of the fourteenth century AD), Ibn Khillikan, described Sharezoor as: “….. a large town, belonging to Arbil”. The same matter is established in “Taqwim Al-Buldan’s: Assessment of the Countries “ by Abi Al-fida and “Subh Al-A’sha” by Al-Qalqashandi and others.
Of “Sharezoor country” he said as follows: “ …. and the people of these regions are all Kurds”
Many researchers, including the specialist, Guy Le Strange, in his: “Historical Geography of the Islamic Countries” and Ibn Huqil, Qazwini and Almistawfi summarise the following facts about Kirkuk city and the province of Sharezoor:
“ …And upon four journeys walk north east of Al-Dinor is the city of Sharezoor in province of Sharezoor. Ibn Huqil has mentioned ,in the fourth century (tenth century AD) that Sharezoor is a fortified city with a fence ,inhabited by the Kurds.
He cited names of their tribes established in that area and that they were “…of comfortable living, much cheapness, fertile area, in a wholesome condition and wonderful image.
And the Traveller Ibn Muhalhal , in the fourth century (the tenth AD) described Sharezoor, towns and villages, include a large city and it is its capital city in this time of ours”
As per the classical Arab sources, the Arbil Etabak Emirate was established: “on the rubble of the Hazbania Emirate and Qabhaqya (Al-Qabjafya) Emirate, which neighboured Arbil, and contained Sharezoor fortresses and the Kirkheni area (Kirkuk). During the Etabuck Emirate, Kirkuk became a dependency of Arbil for the duration of a century and half.
Kirkuk and Its Dependencies: Historically Part of Kurdistan
“We want Kirkuk because of the people and not because of the oil”.
This statement was made to the American government by Dr Sami Abdul Rahman, one of Kurdistan’s most senior leaders (K.D.P.) on the first day of American invasion of Iraq.
Kirkuk and Ottoman Rule
The Safavids built their own country. This included Sharezoor. The Ottomans presented a very real threat to them in 1514 as they entered into a prolonged and violent war.
The Kurds took advantage of the war between the two forces and had a major responsibility in the outcome of that war.
The Ottoman Sultan advocated a policy of trying to attract the Kurds to their side in the fight by taking advantage of the always unpopular rule of the Safavids and the attitude, prominent since the time of Shah Ishmael, towards the Kurdish people they hated.
The Kurdish Princes exploited these circumstances and were party to the defeat of Shah Ishmael’s forces under the leadership of Sultan Salim and, in this way, were a part of the recapture of all areas lost previously. In this way the Ottomans once more took control of the cities of Kirkuk and Arbil.
These events are some way explained in the following text taken from ‘Sharafnama’:
“Meer Seedi Bn Shah Ali Beg is the youngest son of the Shah Ali Beg. Among the rulers of Kurdistan, he became famous for courage, liberality and generosity. After the death of his father, he inhabited the place called Shaqabad (Shaqlawa), and began fighting Baban ruler, Perbodaq, claiming the blood of his brother, Issa. After killing this Perbodaq, he annexed his brother’s state to his emirate. Then he started with the Al-Qilbash (Safavids), and fought them heavily until he saved the towns of Mousul, Kirkuk and Arbil from their hands and annexed them to his state, and independently ruled the state of Sahra and its dependencies for a long period of time.” 1
Iraq was made up of four provinces: Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Sharezoor. Kirkuk was therefore was set in the very centre of the new administration system.
There are two rivers running to the north of Kirkuk: Major and Minor Zab. Both were recognised to be running through the province of Sharezoor, of which Kirkuk was the centre.
Many historians and recorders have described the same geography which information has been accepted by many different nations: Russia, Persia (Iran), Iraq etc., and each of them indicates that, whilst Kirkuk was and always has been in the central area of administration in the province of Sharezoor, these items demonstrate that Kirkuk must therefore be of Kurdish origin. The references popularly used are those of Chirikov (Russian),Ulia Chalabi (Turkish), Katib Chalabi (Turkish), the latter of which went further in recording that there were 32 cities in the province of Sharezoor which was also known as Kirkuk province2.
“When the Ottoman conquering of Iraq was complete, it became comprising of four provinces, which are, Mosul, Sharezoor, Baghdad and Basra …. and to the east of it (the Mosul Province) there used to exist the province of Sharezoor (Kurdistan)….as for the province of Sharezoor (Kurdistan), it did not administratively last long, and that is due to the Ottoman Sultans following a policy of recognising the local clannish rule and Kurdistan was full of emirates and Sunni Kurdish
Kirkuk and Its Dependencies Part III: Under Ottoman Rule
tribes that stood against the Persian invasion and supported the Ottomans in their wars against the Persians. The Suranian, Bahadinian and Baban emirates were among the principle emirates, so they kept those princes over their emirates when they were small emirates. But this system developed to oppress those in authority until there remained no ability for the rulers to administer the affairs there. And so the Ottomans left the Kurdistan affair to its princes under the supervision of Baghdad rulers. And Kirkuk was the seat of this province.”
Iraqi universities have acknowledged this information also (Encyclopaedic source: Ministry of Culture and Information (1985)) and Arab acknowledgement in the form of Dr Nawar3, who entered in his History of Modern Iraq ‘..and Kirkuk was the seat of this (Sharezoor) province.’
History is usually a product of logical research and the fitting together the pieces (of evidence) as one would an archaeological find of the ancient past. It is surely logical to accept the information revealed by Dr Ahmed that, as Bega Buck was the acknowledged first ruler of the Sharezoor province and that his son, Ma’moon Buck, and subsequently his grandson, Mohammed Buck, were appointed as governors of Kirkuk – by him – then his authority would only extend through the administration of Sharezoor, thus it stands to reason that Kirkuk was a part of that province and therefore part of Kurdish territory. This information was gathered through the finding of a ‘valuable manuscript’ which was written by Bega Buck in 1574. The document has since been authenticated and published.
Things remained the same for over a century, until Sultan Murad IV, regained control of Iraq (1638) and so direct Ottoman rule continued under a harsh regime. Murad only changed one item administratively: he amalgamated the province of Basra with that of Baghdad making Iraq a country of three provinces. However, in the early 18th century there was further upheaval which ended with Kirkuk being separated from the province of Sharezoor.
With regard to the remarks purported to have been made by Wellsted4: ‘….much of these lands were occupied by Kurdish nomads …’ it could be asserted here that this was only his opinion and that the word ‘occupied’, in this case, means settled, resident or very obviously living there. Therefore, although he casts some doubt on their status, he does confirm their strong presence in that area.
This, the above, is very inward facing and we must remember that there would be outside influences to be taken into consideration: that by 1864 the Ottoman Empire was active within a new social, economic and political world and the empire was reorganised administratively. This system came into effect in December 1870 under Madhat Pasha. With these changes so the geographical picture began to change as Iraq now became divided into 2 provinces: those of Baghdad and Mosul. Here it is important to note that Iraqi Kurdistan was absorbed into three administrative areas:
‘….Mosul, Kirkuk and Suleimaniyah. The Kirkuk governate comprised of Kirkuk town with the suburbs of Daquq, Altun Kupri, Gel, Malha, Shwan in addition to Arbil town with the suburbs of Sultaniyah and Dizayie, and Rwandoz town with the suburbs of Betwata, and the town of Salahiyah (Kifri) with the suburb of Tuzkhurmatu and Qara Tapa and Koysinjaq town with the suburb of Ballesan and Shaqlawa…’. It is also noted that the largest section of historical Sharezoor province remained associated with Kirkuk as was in fact referred to by many sources as the ‘Capital of Sharezoor’5
It should be noted also that the administrative connection between Kirkuk and Suleimaniyah has been documented since 1289 (H) and continued into the British residency over Iraq in the late 19th century A.D. Documents, which include school primers used throughout the Ottoman Empire, recognised both the geography and the administrative law; refer constantly to Kirkuk as having its own governate and defines ‘…Sharezoor, i.e. Kirkuk and within it Arbil, Diwaniyah, Basra, Muntafik and Karbala’.6 This situation continued to be documented in this way up until World War II, particularly in the Ottoman (Sallnama) Yearbook (1329/1911): a usually reliable and respected point of information, where it is stated:
‘….Kirkuk province consisted of Arbil, Rwandoz, Koysinjaq, Raniyah, Al-Sallahiyah (Kifri) and all the dependencies of these towns’7
References: 1 AHMED, Dr. KM. Kirkuk and Its Dependencies: Judgement of History and Conscience: A documentary study on the Kurdish issue in Iraq: Part One Translated from Arabic by Anwar Mohammed Qaradaghi, Ministry of Culture, Reg. No.53