The Armenians of Zakho: A Tale of Resilience and Survival

In the complex tapestry of Middle Eastern history, the experiences of minority communities often remain overshadowed. One such story is that of the Armenians in Zakho, a town in Iraq, and their struggle for survival amidst regional turmoil.

Obedience under Saddam’s Regime

Under the rule of Saddam Hussein, the Armenian community in Zakho demonstrated a distinct adherence to the law. This compliance was particularly evident during the period of Kurdish evasion of military service. While many Kurds from Zakho fled to escape conscription, the Armenians chose a different path, aligning with Saddam’s forces. This decision, born out of necessity rather than allegiance, led to tragic consequences. During the Allied air attack in 1991, three Armenian soldiers from Zakho lost their lives in various locations including Kuwait, Basra, and Mosul. The Iran-Iraq war, spanning eight years, further claimed the lives of over 130 Armenians from the town, marking a period of significant loss for the community.

The Kurdish Revolt and Its Aftermath

The Kurdish revolt, a significant event in the region’s history, surprisingly did not bridge the gap between the Kurdish and Armenian communities in Zakho. Post-revolt, when the Kurds returned under U.S. protection, they discovered that the Armenians had not abandoned their homes. Misunderstandings arose, with some Kurds believing that the Armenians had sided with the government. An Armenian resident’s words poignantly capture their predicament: “They didn’t understand that we could not afford to rebel. We are too few.” This statement reflects the delicate position of the Armenians, a minority caught in the crossfire of larger political and ethnic conflicts.

Exodus and Shared Tragedies

The collapse of the Kurdish rebellion led to several Armenian families fleeing to the mountains. Among them were four Armenian babies who tragically perished at the Turkish border. Their deaths symbolize a shared suffering with the Kurds, as they were laid to rest alongside the descendants of those who had once persecuted their ancestors. This poignant moment underscores the complex interplay of history, where past atrocities and present struggles intertwine.


The story of the Armenians in Zakho is a testament to the resilience of a community navigating the treacherous waters of political unrest and ethnic conflict. Their experience underlines the broader narrative of minority groups striving to maintain their identity and safety in a volatile region. It’s a reminder of the intricate dynamics of Middle Eastern history, where communities often find themselves making difficult choices for survival, sometimes leading to unforeseen consequences and shared destinies.

In conclusion, the Armenians of Zakho represent not just a footnote in history, but a narrative of endurance, adaptation, and the quest for survival in a constantly shifting geopolitical landscape. Their story, though marked by tragedy, also speaks to the enduring spirit of a community that has faced numerous challenges yet continues to persevere.


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