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Sulaymaniyah or Slemany, is a city in Iraqi Kurdistan. Sulaymaniyah is surrounded by the Azmer Range, Goyija Range and the Qaiwan Range in the northeast, Baranan Mountain in the south and the Tasluja Hills in the west. The city has a semi-arid climate with very hot dry summers and cool wet winters. Sulaymaniyah served as the capital of the historic Kurdish principality of Baban from 1784 to 1850.
The modern city of Sulaymaniyah was founded on 14 November 1784 by the Kurdish prince Ibrahim Pasha Baban who named it after his father Sulaiman Pasha. Because it was founded as the capital of a powerful Kurdish principality, Sulaymaniyah has developed into a large city with a population of more than 1,500,000 people. It is an important economic center for northern Iraq and has been named the cultural center for Sorani-speaking Kurds continuously since 1992.
From its foundation Sulaymaniyah was always a center of great poets, writers, historians, politicians, scholars and singers, such as Nalî, Mahwi, Piramerd, Muhammed Emin Zeki Bey, Taufiq Wahby, Sherko Bekas, Bachtyar Ali, Mahmud Barzanji, Mawlawi, Mawlânâ Khâlid and Mustafa Zihni Pasha.
History of Sulaymaniya
The region of Sulaymaniyah was known as Zamwa prior to the foundation of the modern city in 1784. The capital of the Kurdish Baban principality (1649–1850), before Sulaymaniyah was a territory named “Qelaçiwalan”. At the time of the Babani’s rule there were major conflicts between the Safavid dynasty and the Ottoman Empire. Qelaçiwalan became a battleground for the two rivals.
Being of strategic importance and lying deep inside Safavid territory, there was concern that Qelaçiwalan would be attacked and captured if the Babanies did not give the Safavids military support, as both Sultan Mahmud II and Nadir Shah were trying to gain the support of the dispersed Kurdish Emirates. This obliged Mahmud Pasha of Baban in 1781 to think about moving the center of its Emirate to another safer place. He chose Melkendî, then a village but now a district in central Sulaymaniyah, to construct a number of Serahs for his political and armed units.
In 1783, Ibrahim Pasha of Baban became ruler of the Emirate and began the construction of a new city which would become the capital of the Baban Emirate. In 1784 he finished erecting a number of palaces for trade called Qeyserîs and bazaars, which were also used as baths, and began inviting people from the surrounding villages and Emirates to move to the newly established city. Soon Melkendî, which was originally intended to be the city itself, instead became one of its quarters and still is today.
Sulaymaniyah has since its foundation been the center of Kurdish nationalism, and it was from here that Mahmud Barzanji sparked the first rebellion against the British occupation on 22 May 1919 with the arrest of British officials in Sulaymaniyah. He attempted to declare an independent Kingdom of Kurdistan on 10 October 1921, issuing a statement in Sulaymaniyah, then the capital of Kurdistan, to establish the Kingdom of Kurdistan. Sheikh Mahmud Barzanji, now backed by the British, declared himself King of the Kingdom of Kurdistan.
The British occupation declared Sheikh Mahmud king in order to persuade the residents of Sulaymaniyah to stop their rebellion, but Sheikh Mahmud ruled independently from the British and wanted them out of the kingdom. As a result, in the same year he was exiled for several years to the Andaman islands in India by the British, only to return and raise another unsuccessful rebellion in 1923, centered in Sulaymaniyah.
In January 1926 the League of Nations gave the mandate over the territory to Iraq, with the provision for special rights for Kurds. In 1930-1931, Sheikh Mahmud Barzanji made his last unsuccessful attempt to free Kurdistan. He retreated into the mountains and later signed a peace accord with the Iraqi government and settled in the new Iraq in 1932.
The first and oldest neighborhood in the city is called “Goizha” (Kurdish: Goyija), which was named after the mountain overlooking the city. Sabûnkaran was of the city’s first neighborhoods; its name means “those who make soap” in Kurdish and its residents were mainly involved in the soap industry. Cûlekan, the Jewish neighborhood, was mainly inhabited by Kurdish Jews. In the 1950s, after the establishment of the state of Israel, most of its inhabitants migrated to the newly created state.
On 23 April 1982, during the Iran-Iraq War, a demonstration broke out in the city against the arrests and torture of the city’s youths who were accused of planning a revolt against the ruling Arab Ba’ath regime.
Following the Gulf War, a series of nationwide uprisings broke out across Iraq against the Ba’athist rule, including the 1991 uprising in Sulaymaniyah, led by the Kurdish separatist parties KDP and PUK. Since its successful liberation in 1991, Sulaymaniyah has been administered by the Kurdish Region Government (KRG) and serves as a principal metropolis of northern Iraq.
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