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Alwand River in Khanaqin at night with the historical Alwand Bridge on top of it
Alwand River in Khanaqin at night with the historical Alwand Bridge on top of it
Khanaqin is located in Iraq
Khanaqin's location inside Iraq
Coordinates: 34°20?N 45°23?E / 34.333°N 45.383°E / 34.333; 45.383Coordinates: 34°20?N 45°23?E / 34.333°N 45.383°E / 34.333; 45.383
Country Iraq
GovernorateDiyala Governorate
183 m (602 ft)
 o Total175,000

Khanaqin (Arabic: ‎,[2] Kurdish: ? ,Xaneqîn[3][4]) is the central city of Khanaqin District in Diyala Governorate, Iraq, near the Iranian border (8 km) on the Alwand tributary of the Diyala River.[1] The town is mostly populated by Kalhori-speaking Kurds.[5] Khanaqin is situated on the main road which Shia pilgrims use when visiting holy Islamic cities.[1] The city is moreover rich in oil and the first Iraqi oil refinery and oil pipeline was built nearby in 1927.[6][7]

The city experienced Arabization during the Saddam era, but this has been substantially reversed after the fall of the regime in 2003 and remains disputed.[1][8]


In the early 11th century, the city was under the Banu Uqayl and later the Annazids until the Oghuz Turks captured the city around 1045.[9]

Khanaqin was part of Baban until the 1850s.[10]

The population of Khanaqin in the mid-19th century was small with only fifty Muslim and five Jewish households, with a significant Kurdish tribal population around the town. It had three mosques and three caravanserais. Khanaqin was a mere caravan station for caravans carrying Shia pilgrims before the Treaty of Erzurum in 1847 which made it a more significant frontier town between the Ottoman Empire and Qajar Iran. An immigration office was established just after the signing of the treaty to manage the growing pilgrimage.[11] A customs house would later be established as well.[12]

During the Persian Campaign, the Ottomans were attacked in Khanaqin on 3 June 1916 by Russian forces led by Nikolai Baratov but managed to push back the Russian cavalry. While the Ottomans lost about 300 men, the Russian casualties were greater.[13] However, the Russians succeeded in capturing the town in April 1917 due to Ottoman weakness and collapse of the Iranian government. Russia received support from the Kurdish tribes and allowed them to govern the area. Nonetheless, the Russian forces had to withdraw from the area in June 1917 due to the Russian Revolution which allowed the Ottomans to retake the town. The United Kingdom captured the city in December 1917 during their Mesopotamian campaign.[14] After the capture, Britain approached the regional Kurdish tribes including Bajalan leader Mustafa Pasha Bajalan to consolidate their control.[15] Khanaqin District was established in 1921.[16]

Khanaqin saw no fighting during World War II but became an important base for Commonwealth forces and a field hospital was constructed in the town. Many Polish prisoners of war, who escaped Russia and attempted to link up with Commonwealth forces in Khanaqin, arrived at the town in September 1942. They would remain in the town but many perished and a cemetery was built in the town for them. Maintenance of the Khanaqin War Cemetery was later abandoned and a memorial was built in Baghdad.[17] In 2020, the cemetery was damaged by 'extremists'.[18]

The town experienced shelling by Iran during Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s[19][20] and its people were displaced.[1] Peshmerga captured the town in March 1991 during the uprisings in Iraq[21] and again in April 2003 during the invasion of Iraq.[22] In the December 2005 parliamentary election, the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan won the city with 99.4%.[23]

In September 2008, Peshmerga withdrew from the city allowing Iraqi police to control the city. The town experienced protests against the shuffle.[24] As part of a compromise, Kurdistan Region was allowed to administer the city with Asayish presence,[25] but Peshmerga would ultimately enter the city again in September 2011.[26] Peshmerga withdrew from the city again in October 2017 which made the city witness frequent security breaches.[27]


In 1947, out of the 25,700 people in the town, 20,560 (80%) were Kurds.[28] In the 1957 census, Kurds constituted 74.6% of the population, while Arabs were 23.7% and the Turkmen population stood at 1.6%. In 1965, the numbers stood at 72.1%, 26.2% and 1.7% for Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens, respectively.[29] During the 1970s, the Arabization-efforts by Iraq intensified,[30] and the 1977 census showed that the Arab population had become 47.5% of the population, while Kurds constituted 45% and Turkmens, 6.1%. In 1987, the Arab population stood at 49.5%, the Kurdish population at 45.8% and the Turkmen population at 4.7%. In 1997, Arabs were 54.7% of the population, while Kurds were 39.4% and Turkmens were 5.8%.[29] The Arabization of Khanaqin was mostly reversed after 2003 by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.[1][30] Khanaqin mayor Muhammad Amin Hassan Hussein stated in 2014 that the Arab population fell to 1% in 2003.[8] In 2020, one Christian remained in the city.[31]

Jewish community

Khanaqin had a Jewish community until the early 1950s when they were forced to migrate to Israel. In the middle of the 19th century, about 20 Jewish families lived in the town. This number increased to 700 individuals shortly after. The languages spoken by the community were Arabic and Mlahsô (Mountain Aramaic). By the 1920s, the community was introduced to Zionism and most would leave for Israel after the community leader was arrested in August 1949.[32]

Notable people


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Khanaqin". Britannica. Retrieved 2020.
  2. ^ " ? ? ". Kirkuknow (in Arabic). 1 February 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  3. ^ "Dai?ê li Gulale û Xaneqîn hêri? kirin ser hêzên Îraqê" (in Kurdish). Retrieved 2019.
  4. ^ " ? ? ? ? ? ?". ANF News (in Kurdish). Retrieved 2019.
  5. ^ Chaman Ara, Behrooz; Amiri, Cyrus (12 March 2018). "Gurani: practical language or Kurdish literary idiom?". British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 45: 11. doi:10.1080/13530194.2018.1430536.
  6. ^ "Diyala ()". ISW - Institute for the study of war. Retrieved 2020.
  7. ^ Sorkhabi, Rasoul (2009). "Oil from Babylon to Iraq". Geo ExPro. Retrieved 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Khanaqin, once known as 'city of tolerance,' still open to Arab refugees". Rûdaw. 3 December 2014. Retrieved 2020.
  9. ^ A?mad, K. M. (1985). "?ANNAZIDS". Iranica Online. II.
  10. ^ Rasoul, Rasoul Muhammed (2017). "History of Kirkuk from the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century until Becoming Part of the Iraqi Monarchy in 1925" (PDF). University of Erfurt: 91. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ Tomoko, Morikawa (2014). "Pilgrims beyond the border: Immigration at Khanaqin and its procedures in the nineteenth century". Pilgrims beyond the border: Immigration at Khanaqin and its procedures in the nineteenth century. 72: 100-102.
  12. ^ Tomoko, Morikawa (2014). "Pilgrims beyond the border: Immigration at Khanaqin and its procedures in the nineteenth century". Pilgrims beyond the border: Immigration at Khanaqin and its procedures in the nineteenth century. 72: 117.
  13. ^ Dowling, Timothy C. (2014). Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond. ABC-CLIO. p. 409. ISBN 9781598849486.
  14. ^ Eppel, Michael (2016). A People Without a State: The Kurds from the Rise of Islam to the Dawn of Nationalism. University of Texas Press. p. 111. ISBN 9781477311073.
  15. ^ Jwaideh, Wadie (2006). The Kurdish National Movement: Its Origins and Development. Syracuse University Press. p. 160. ISBN 9780815630937.
  16. ^ Ihsan, Mohammad, Administrative Changes in Kirkuk and Disputed Areas in Iraq 1968-2003, p. 43
  17. ^ "Baghdad (North Fate) (Khanaqin) memorial". Commonwealth War Graves. Retrieved 2020.
  18. ^ "Extremists damage graveyard of Polish people in Khanaqin". Kirkuknow. 1 March 2020.
  19. ^ "A year of Iran-Iraq war seems to bring impasse". New York Times. 23 September 1981. Retrieved 2020.
  20. ^ "Big battle erupts in Iran-Iraq war". New York Times. 17 February 1984. Retrieved 2020.
  21. ^ "AFTER THE WAR: Iraq; Iraqi Loyalists Pound Shiite Mosques, Rebels Say". New York Times. 12 March 1991.
  22. ^ "Kurds to be removed from Kirkuk over Turkey anger". The Irish Times. 10 April 2003. Retrieved 2020.
  23. ^ Kane, Sean (2011). "Iraq's Disputed Territories" (PDF). p. 35. Retrieved 2020.
  24. ^ "Diyala town's allegiance: Iraq or Kurdistan?". Stars and Stripes. 8 September 2008. Retrieved 2020.
  25. ^ Cordesman, Anthony H.; Mausner, Adam (2009). Withdrawal from Iraq: Assessing the Readiness of Iraqi Security Forces. CSIS. p. 126. ISBN 9780892065530.
  26. ^ "Khanaqin warns Iraq gov't of revolution outbreak if Kurdistan flag is lowered". 14 October 2011. Retrieved 2020.
  27. ^ "Meeting results in recommendation to return Peshmerga to Khanaqin". Shafaq. 17 May 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  28. ^ C. J. Edmonds (1957). Kurds, Turks and Arabs, Politics, Travel and Research in North-Eastern Iraq, 1919-1925. Oxford University Press. p. 440. Retrieved 2019.
  29. ^ a b Ihsan, Mohammad, Administrative Changes in Kirkuk and Disputed Areas in Iraq 1968-2003, pp. 44-49
  30. ^ a b "III. Background: Forced Displacement and Arabization of Northern Iraq". Human Rights Watch. 2004. Retrieved 2020.
  31. ^ "Iraq: The Last Christian Living In The City Of Khanaqin". Al Shahid Witness. 4 March 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  32. ^ "Khanaqin". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2020.

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