View on Zakho

Location in Iraq

Coordinates: 37°08′37.00″N 42°40′54.88″E / 37.1436111°N 42.6819111°E / 37.1436111; 42.6819111
Country  Iraq
Region  Kurdistan
Province Dohuk Governorate
Elevation 440 m (1,440 ft)
  Total 350,000+[1]
Time zone UTC+3
  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC)

Zakho (Kurdish: Zaxo, ; زاخۆ, Arabic: زاخو; Syriac: ܙܵܟ̣ܘ̇; Zākhō) is a city, centre of the eponymous Zakho District of the Dohuk Governorate of Iraq, located a few kilometers from the Iraqi-Turkish border. The city has a population of 350,000.

It may have originally begun on a small island surrounded on all sides by the Little Khabur river, which flows through the modern city. The Khabur flows west from Zakho to form the border between Iraq and Turkey, continuing into the Tigris. The most important rivers in the area are the Zeriza, Seerkotik and the aforementioned Little Khabur.[2]

In July 2010, Zakho became the seat of the University of Zakho: one of only eleven public universities in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.


There are several theories concerning the derivation of the name "Zakho". Some Aramaic sources maintain that the name comes from the Aramaic "Zakhota" (victory), after the battle fought between the Romans and the Persians near the city, which resulted in a Roman victory. Another version maintains that the name comes from the Kurdish words "Zey- Khowin" ("river of blood"), possibly referring to the same battle.

A third opinion attributes the name to the Kurdish "Zey" (river) and "Khowak" (a curved place which blocks the water).[3]


The town of Zakho was known to the ancient Greeks. In 1844, the traveller William Francis Ainsworth commented: "The appearance of Zakho in the present day coincides in a remarkable manner with what it was described to be in the time of Xenophon."

Gertrude Bell was convinced that Zakho was same place as the ancient town of Hasaniyeh. She also reported that the first Christian missionary to the region, the Dominican monk Poldo Soldini, was buried there in 1779. His grave was still a pilgrimage destination in the 1950s.[4][5]

Jews of Zakho

Zakho was formerly known for its synagogues and large, ancient Jewish community and was known as "The Jerusalem of Assyria". The Jews spoke the Aramaic of their ancestors. The banks of the nearby Khabur River are mentioned in the Bible as one of the places to which the Israelites were exiled (1 Chronicles, 5:26,[6] 2 Kings 17:6, 2 Kings 18:11).

There were serious attacks on the Jews in 1891, when one of the synagogues was burnt down. The troubles intensified in 1892, with heavy taxes being imposed, outbreaks of looting and Jews being arrested, tortured and ransomed. Jews from Zakho were among the first to emigrate to Palestine after 1920. Most of the others relocated to Israel in the 1950s.[7][8][9][10]

While the Jews of Zakho were among the least literate in the Jewish diaspora, they had a unique and rich oral tradition, known for its legends, epics and ballads, whose heroes came from both Jewish and Muslim traditions.[11]

Assyrians of Zakho

Assyrians have lived in Zakho since at least the 5th century, with Some Assyrian bishops being mentioned from the fifth to the seventh century, which indicates its long history (Chabot, "Synodicon orientale", 676). Additionally, The city was the center of a large Chaldean Catholic diocese up until the middle of the nineteenth century, when it was divided into three dioceses: Amadia, Zakho, and Akra-Zehbar. The historic diocese of Zakho corresponded with the ancient Diocese of Malta, formerly a suffragan of Arbela, and it had many Chaldean Catholic villages and parishes in the mountains to the north of the city.[12] However, the diocese was recently merged(or in religious terminology, suppressed) back into the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Amadiya in 2013 due to becoming vacant after the death of its Bishop in 2010. Prior to merging with Amadiya, The diocese comprised 3500 Assyrian Catholics, ten resident priests, fifteen parishes or stations, twenty churches and chapels, and one primary school. In regards to the city of Zakho itself, there is a large Assyrian population. The Assyrians of Zakho are primarily Chaldean Catholic Christians and have a large church which lies in the center of the city which once functioned as the Cathedral of the Diocese,[13] in addition to a smaller Church as well.[14]

Armenians of Zakho

The Armenians of Zakho established their community after the Armenian Genocide from 1915-1923, with the first church Armenian church in the city being established in 1923.[15] Some of the Armenians of Zakho left in 1932 to found the village of Avzrog Miri in the plains west of the city of Simele.[16]

Recent history

Zakho has served as a checkpoint for many decades. It is a major marketplace with its goods and merchandise serving the Kurdish controlled area and most of north and middle Iraq. Writing in 1818, Campanile described the town as a great trading centre, famous for its gallnuts as well as rice, oil, sesame, wax, lentils and many fruits.[5]

Due to its strategic location and the abundance of job opportunities, Zakho has attracted many workers and job seekers from different parts of Iraq and even from Syria and Turkey. Trade with Turkey is now the major element of the economy.[17] Oil drilling began in 2005.[18]

In 1991 Zakho was the centre of the haven established by the British and the Americans in Operation Provide Comfort to protect the Iraqi Kurds from being massacred by Saddam Hussein when he responded brutally to the Kurdish rebellion. Most of the inhabitants of the city had fled to the mountains. When the American forces arrived, they described the town as a ghost city.[19]

When the American Army closed its military base in Zakho in 1996, it evacuated several thousand Kurds who had had connections to the base and who feared reprisals. Many of them were given asylum in the USA. According to McDowall, this constituted a sudden and brutal brain-drain, with Zakho losing many of its most educated citizens.[20]

In 2008 it was reported that the Turkish army maintained four bases in the Zakho district, under an agreement concluded with the Iraqi government in the 1990s.[21]

The 2011 Dohuk riots which targeted Assyrian-owned businesses were sparked by Muslim clerics in the town.[22]


Delal Bridge

One of Zakho's famous landmarks is the Delal Bridge. It is made with large stones which adds to the aesthetic value of the bridge and makes it a source of many theories as to how it was built. (The stones are very large, and there was no machinery available at that time.)

Zakho castle lies in the city centre on the western bank of Khabir river. It served as the governor's house in the reign of the Badinan Emirate and was extended by prince Ali Khan. It was built on the ruins of an older castle. Today, only the tower remains.

Sharansh waterfall

Qubad Pasha castle, in Zakho cemetery, is hexagonal, with six windows and an entrance gate.[3]

Population displacements

Many Assyrian people living in the diaspora, notably from American cities such as Nashville, Detroit, San Diego, Houston, and Phoenix, trace their origins to Zakho.

In 2007, the UNHCR reported that there were still 10,000 internally displaced persons in the Zakho district as a result of the Iraq war.[23]


Zakho Football Club (Zakho FC) is a sports club in Iraqi Kurdistan, which was founded in 1987. The sports club plays in the Iraqi Premier League, where only the top 16 Iraqi football clubs play. Zakho FC has its own stadium with a capacity of 20,000 seats.

Football Stadium of Zakho

Zakho Basketball Club (Zakho SC) is a team based in Zakho, Iraqi Kurdistan. In 2011 Zakho SC won the Kurdistan Basketball Super Cup and beat Duhok SC in Erbil.[24]

See also


  1. Directorate of Health in Zakho, Directorate General of Health Duhok. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  2. retrieved the 15th of May 2011
  3. 1 2 "Zaxo". Kurdawary. 2004. Archived from the original on October 26, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  4. Bell, Gertrude Lothian (1924). Amurath to Amurath. Macmillan. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  5. 1 2 Campanile, Giuseppe (1953). "Histoire du Kurdistan" (PDF). Le Kréyé. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  6. 1 Chronicles 5
  7. Sabar, Ariel (2008). "My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq". Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  8. "Notes on Revelation, Eclipse Path, Turkey, Iraq". Judaeo-Christian Research. 1999-08-11. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  9. Brawarsky, Sandee (2008-08-13). "The Man From Zakho". The Jewish Week. Archived from the original on September 17, 2008. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  10. Gavish, Haya (2009). "Unwitting Zionists: The Jewish Community of Zakho in Iraqi Kurdistan". Wayne State University Press. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  11. Shai, Donna (2008-10-09). "Changes in the oral tradition among the jews of kurdistan". Contemporary Jewry - Springer Netherlands. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  12. "Chaldean Parishes around the world". St Peter the Apostle Catholic Diocese for Chaldeans and Assyrians USA. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  17. "KDP Flexes Muscles in Dohuk". Institute for War and Peace Reporting. 2009-07-21. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  18. "Foreign oil deal renews debate on Kurd autonomy". USA Today. 2005-12-09. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  19. Cavanaugh, John P. (1992). "Operation Provide Comfort: a model for future operations" (PDF). School of advanced military studies, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  20. McDowall, David (2004). A modern history of the Kurds. Tauris. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  21. "Iraqi Kurdish Paper Says Turkish Military Bases Inside Kurdistan Region". iStockAnalyst. 2008-08-01. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  22. Tawfeeq, Mohammed (3 December 2011). "Kurdish leader: Clerics 'instigated ... acts of sabotage,' wounding 25". CNN. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  23. "GOVERNORATE ASSESSMENT REPORT: DAHUK GOVERNORATE" (PDF). UNHCR. September 2007. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  24. "Zakho wins Kurdistan basketball Super Cup," Kurdish Globe, retrieved 2014-01-30

Coordinates: 37°09′N 42°41′E / 37.150°N 42.683°E / 37.150; 42.683

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