View of the southern side of the town.
Coordinates: 36°18′13″N 43°24′46″E / 36.30361°N 43.41278°E / 36.30361; 43.41278Coordinates: 36°18′13″N 43°24′46″E / 36.30361°N 43.41278°E / 36.30361; 43.41278
Country Iraq
Governorate Ninawa
Municipality Al-Hamdaniya
Population (2015)
  Total 0
  10,000 prior to ISIS invasion
Time zone GMT +3

Karemlash (Syriac: ܟܪܡܠܫ, Arabic: كرمليس; also spelled Karemles, Karemlish) is an ancient Assyrian town in northern Iraq located less than 18 miles (29 km) south east of Mosul.

It is surrounded by many hills that along with it made up the historical Assyrian city of Kar-Mullissi (written URU.kar-dNIN.LÍL[1]), which means "the city of Mullissu" in Akkadian. Residents of the town fled for Iraqi Kurdistan following the invasion of the town by ISIS in August 2014. The town was liberated by Iraqi Security Forces from ISIS rule on October 24, 2016 as part of the larger Battle of Mosul.


There are between 600 and 650 families in Karemlash. The vast majority of the population is ethnically Assyrian. Historically, the population was mostly part of the Church of the East; however, many converted to Catholicism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Today, the inhabitants of Karemlash are mainly members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, but there are also members of the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.


Karemlash is believed to be among the first human colonies. Hence, it was visited by almost all Mesopotamian archaeologists searching for the ruins of old Assyria and Babylonia. The first person to excavate in the hills of Karemlash was the Englishman Austen Henry Layard in 1846. Many relief sculptures with cuneiform scripts were found in Tel Ghanim and Tel Barbara (two of the hill surrounding Karemlash). On them were found the names of Assyrian Kings of Sargon and Shalmensar. The remains of an Assyrian temple were found at Tel Barbara, and the remains of an Assyrian palace were found at Tel Ghanim.

Karemlash lost its important stature during the era of Shalmaneser III (859 – 824 BC), whose son Assur-danin-pal led a rebellion against his father along with another 27 cities. His father empowered his other brother, Shamshi-Adad V, the Governor of Kalah (Nimrud). The civil war lasted for four years, from 827 to 824 BC. With the end of the rebellion, however, Karemlash's neighbor Nimrud did not survive the ravages of the war. Karemlash was so impacted by that rebellion that its people left and it was given the name of "Oro-Karmash", meaning "The Ruined City". Karemlash is still referred to by its Assyrian neighbors as "Karmash". However, Karemlash was reinvigorated during the reigns of Kings Shalmaneser V (726 – 722 BC) and Sargon II (722 – 705 BC), who used it as his temporary capital.

The Battle of Karemlash 331 BC

This great historical battle between the Greek Alexander of Macedonia and the Persian Emperor Darius III ended with the defeat of the latter and the ushering of the Greek reign over the Near East. Karemlash at the time was called Ko-Komle (which meant in Aramaic "The Camels' Square") after the death of most of the camels of the Persian Emperor Daryos Dara I around the city due to their exhaustion. Hence, historically the Battle of Karamlish is known as the Battle of Ko-Komle.

Patriarchal seat of the Church of the East

Karemlash was the seat of the Nestorian patriarch Denha II (1336/7–1381/2) for at least part of his reign. The continuator of the Ecclesiastical History of Bar Hebraeus mentions several contacts between Denha II and the Jacobite church in Karamlish between 1358 and 1364. At this period Karemlash had Jacobite and Armenian communities alongside its Nestorian majority, and its village chiefs styled themselves 'emirs'. The prosperity enjoyed by the village during the reign of Denha II presumably came to an end when the patriarchate was relocated to Mosul at an unknown date in the fourteenth or fifteenth century.[2]

Karemlash as center of principality

During the fourteenth century, Karemlash became the center of a principality, earning it fame. It was mentioned in several books as a trade center of immense importance. Among some of the governors during this period were:

  1. Prince Masoud (1317)
  2. Prince Nasser El-Deen
  3. Prince Hassan (1358)
  4. Prince Matti (brother of Prince Hassan)
  5. Prince Beyazeed (1364)
  6. Prince Sahab Masoud (end of 14th century)

The destruction by Nader Shah

During the wars between the Persian and Ottoman Empires, Nader Shah of Persia decided in 1732 to attack and occupy Mesopotamia. After occupying Baghdad the same year, he sent a small part of his army (8,000 soldiers strong) to occupy Nineveh and its surroundings. However, his army was defeated. This angered Nader Shah, who decided in 1743 to go himself with 300,000 soldiers and 390 cannons. After occupying Kirkuk and Erbil, he moved to Nineveh and its villages. He decided to bomb Karemlash before entering it. Most of the houses of the village were ruined, in addition to Mar Yohanan Church and Beth Sahda "Church of the Forty Martyrs". Nader Shah stayed in Karemlash for four days. It was estimated that over 4,000 Assyrian Christians were massacred during those four days.

Churches and monasteries

Christianity is the main identity of the town today.

Historians kept the memories of many churches and monasteries of the Church of the East (Nestorian) in Karemlash intact. These ancient churches include the monasteries of Mar Giwargis (St. George), Mar Yonan (St. Jonah), Mar Youkhanna (St. John), and Dair Banat Maryam (the Monastery of St. Mary's Daughters). The last two have long been forgotten; meanwhile, Mar Yonan became the grounds of a school in the early twentieth century. Below is a list of the known monasteries and churches in Karemlash:

Mar Giwargis Monastery

Post Iraq War

Karemlash has been relatively calm following the US-led Iraq War. In late 2003, the town came briefly under the control of the 101st Airborne Division (377th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion).[3]

The town has shown strong support towards the Assyrian Democratic Movement during the parliamentary and local elections in 2005, 2007 and 2010.[4] The town has also received thousands of Assyrian and other Christian refugees from other parts of the country after recent waves of violence against them. In response to this influx of refugees, Sarkis Aghajan and the Supreme committee of Christian affairs built and renovated new homes, churches, cemeteries, infrastructure and a complex for Armenian Refugees, among other improvements.[5]

On August 6, 2014, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria took over the town, leading to all of its inhabitants fleeing to Erbil. The region is still controlled by ISIS, and during their occupation of the city they burned an 80-year-old Assyrian woman to death for "failing to comply with the strict laws of the Islamic State.",[6] and destroyed a large portion of the Historic Mar Behnam Monastery.[7]

On October 24, 2016, the city was liberated by the Iraqi Army, which, on the same day, returned crosses on the dome of some of the main churches.[8]

See also


Originally based on an article by Habib Hannona and Fred Aprim on karemlash.com, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, used with permission.

  1. http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/rinap/rinap3/cbd/qpn-x-places/qpn-x-places.x001961.html
  2. Wilmshurst, EOCE, 218–19
  3. "U.S. Soldiers Adopt Assyrian Village with Educational Results" - www.Gulf1.com, 28 December 2003; Spc. Joshua Hutcheson
  4. نتائج الانتخابات في سهل نينوى Zahrira.net
  5. http://www.ishtartv.com/en/viewarticle,35768.html
  6. BasNews Islamic State Militants Burn Christian Woman in Nineveh Village
  7. http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-blows-famed-4th-century-mar-behnam-catholic-monastery-iraq-1492703
  8. "بسام النصرالله on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2016-10-24.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/31/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.