The Citadel, a Kirkuk province historical site
February 11, 2009
Iraq is rich in history, from its start as the cradle of civilization to its significant locations and people mentioned in the Bible and the Koran.
Kirkuk province has its share of historical sites, some of which date back three thousand years. This province is also different from surrounding provinces because the population consists of a variety of ethnicities - Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomen and Arabs. One historical site, which holds great importance because of the unity it provides for the people within the city and province, is the Kirkuk Citadel.
The Citadel originally housed a Jewish temple, which was then turned into a Christian church and lastly into a Muslim mosque.
"It is the only place in Kirkuk in which Muslims, Christians and Jews can all come together," said Ayad Tarik Hussein, the director general of antiquities for Kirkuk province.
This historic site is located in the center of Kirkuk and is considered to be the oldest part of the city. It stands on a mound 130 feet high and is situated across from the Khasa River. It is believed that the enormous structure was constructed between 884 and 858 B.C. by King Ashurasirpall II. It is said to be the final resting place of the biblical prophet Daniel, ruler of Babylon.
Azariah and Hananiah, children mentioned in the Old Testament's Book of Daniel, are also said to be buried inside the Citadel.
The word "citadel" is defined as a stronghold within or close to a city; any strongly fortified building or place of safety; refuge. For many years, Turkomen and Kurdish families lived in houses within the Citadel's protective walls. However, in the 1990's, Saddam Hussein, who was then the President of Iraq, launched a campaign to beautify the area. But many believed that the campaign's true intentions were to remove the many Turkomen and Kurdish families who lived there.
Many buildings within the Citadel's walls were destroyed during that campaign, but under the Antiquities Law, Hussein could not damage the area in which the tombs lay, said caretaker Faruq Muhammed Saleh, whose family has watched over the Citadel for 1,400 years.
"God has blessed my fathers with having the opportunity to watch over this site for 1,400 years and I now feel very honored to be doing the same," Saleh said.
Over the years, the Citadel's physical structure has been deteriorating, and piles of rubble are strewn on the grounds inside the walls. Among the reconstruction efforts happening all throughout Iraq, historical sites have not been forgotten.
Today, the Governor of Kirkuk, Abdul Rahman Mustafah Fata-eh, has taken part in refurbishing this history-rich piece of land by directing a clean-up of the Citadel.
Soldiers and civilians with the Kirkuk Provincial Reconstruction Team visited the area to check on the refurbishment progress.
"The Citadel and other cultural sites are incredibly important to this area because they define Kirkuk and its people and are a symbol of the people's heritage," said 1st Lt. Jack Gaines, public affairs officer with the Kirkuk PRT, Office of Public Diplomacy. "The preservation of these sites, and their eventual restoration, are vital."