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Akre (subdistrict) • ئاکرێ • عقرة • Akrê

The name 'Akre' is from Syriac 'Aqra' and means 'barren land'. Its old quarter is built as terraces in the mountainsides. Every year, it has a massive Newroz festival that attracts visitors from across the region.

Akre is mentioned in Neo-Assyrian sources as Kurbail. Many of its inhabitants were originally Assyrian Christians and Jews, giving credence to its name stemming from the Aramaic word meaning root, referring to the town as the root of the mountain above it. According to a popular Kurdish legend, the town was founded by a prince named Zand or Zeyd around 700 - 580 BC and the prince and his followers chose the name Akrê from the Kurdish word Agr, meaning fire, to reflect their Zoroastrian religion.

In 1133, Emad Deen Zangi possessed the town and it was ruled by prince Issa Hami/Hamdi. Later, when the Badinan Emirate was established, Akre was part of the Emirate. Akre was strategically important for the Emirate because it was ruled by a relative of the pasha, or a member from his family. The one who ruled the town from Mir Sevdina's family was Ismile Pasha II, the last ruler of Badinan Emirate. Sultan Hussein Wali fortified the town in 1549. Yaqut al-Hamawi mentioned Akrê in his 13th century Dictionary of Countries, saying that "Agir is an invincible castle in Mosul mountains, the people of the castle are Kurds and it is in the eastern side of Mosul known by Agir Hamidiya." Iben Athear mentioned Akrê in many places, describing it as having abundant water and resources.

The tract of land is under the control of a Pacha from Mosul, placed there by the Turkish Government. All the inhabitants speak Kurdish, with the exception of the Cadi, who speaks Turkish. The Kurds have preserved their independence of character as well as their old habits and customs; and the only token of their subjection to the Ottoman Porte consists in their payment of a moderate tribute. Benjamin II (1859), p 78

Christianity in Akre

Akre and nearby villages had large, sometimes majority Christian populations until the 20th century.

Prior to the fourteenth century, the region was part of the diocese of Marga and under the jurisdiction of the Church of the East's metropolitan see of Adiabene. Wilmshurt notes that "most villages in the Aqra region were traditionalist [Nestorian] at the beginning of the nineteenth century." Dominican proselytizing during the mid-1800s caused a drastic decline in the Nestorian community and a surge among Catholic converts. By 1913 the Chaldean Church in the Aqra district consisted of nineteen villages, ten churches, sixteen priests, and approximately 2,390 people. The town itself contained at least 250 Chaldean families with two priests, a church, and a school. The churches of Mart Maryam and Mar Gewargis illustrated the combined Chaldean, Jacobite, Nestorian character of the region. Persons of Jewish faith left Iraq between 1948 and 1949, whereas the Christians began their exodus after 1961 as a result of the pressure against them by the Iraqi authorities and irregular Kurdish forces. Aqra's diocese closed after its population had left the town. Donabed 2010, p 97 - 98

Judaism in Akre

There was a Jewish population, all of which was expelled.

This town, which is one of the most populous in these mountains, is situated on the acclivity of a barren rock, and the border of the plain. It contains upwards of eighty Jewish and 1000 Kurdish families. The former, compared with their brethren in the higher mountains, live in ease and prosperity. I visited them in their synagogue, the morning after my arrival. Stern (1848), p 120

The rabbi was hostile to the evangelising, which was no doubt itself hostile to the people being subject to (attempted) evangelisation.

The rabbi, who was a very ignorant man, felt rather disposed to be hostile ... . In the afternoon the rabbi visited me, and apologized for his violence. I reminded him of his great responsibility as a teacher, and the guilt he contracted in preventing his people from searching the truth. We then, with great moderation and calmness, discussed those truths to which he had been so bitterly opposed in the morning. Stern (1848), p 120

After a journey of three days through a desert, I came from Mosul to Akra at the foot of the Chair-mountain, where about 100 Jewish families dwell, whose Elder Elijah bears the ancient title of Nassi; which title is generally borne by the Elders of all the Jewish communities in the East. ... Around the town are fruitful and well cultivated fields. Olive and date trees as well as vines grow upon the declivities; a considerable portion of them belonging to the Jewish community. ... Many of our brethren there are very wealthy, even rich; and their condition has become more endurable since they have been under the Turkish dominion. ... In the middle of the fields, about half an hour's journey from the town, stands a Synagogue, remarkable for its great age; adjoining is a small reservoir, which serves as a bath for the women. Benjamin II (1859), p 77

Every afternoon before Vespers the Jews go to the river which flows near the Synagogue and partake there of a meal in common, and then perform their devotions. Benjamin II (1859), p 77

Formerly the women there [at the mikveh] were exposed to frequent attacks from the Kurds; several facts were related to me, of which I will here mention some. One day a woman was surprised while in the bath by four Kurds. She had however the courage to seize a large piece of wood, and to hurl it at the head of one of the men, and thereby killed him on the spot. For this her own life was the penalty; for the three other Kurds murdered her. Another woman was seized by a Kurd; she defended herself and snatched from him a dagger which she buried in his side. A friend of the wounded man accidentally passing by, saw him weltering in his blood: he immediately threw himself upon the woman, and stabbed her. Benjamin II (1859), p 77

There is an old block of houses still called Shusti, which is Kurdish for Jewish town. Akrê was a Jewish population center (former Israeli defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai was born here).

Nowadays, Old Akre is nestled against the mountain, and New Akre spills out toward the plains.

Sare Gre is a prominent crest that emerges from the city. Within its embrace is the heart of old Akre, including the bazaar. Akri became part of Duhok Governorate on 1992 July 15. After the formation of Region Government and the connection of the territory with Duhok governorate, the government offices continued supplying services to the citizens and many schools and health centers are opened. Electricity power and other projects are supplied to some villages. The region appointed a mayor who took office 1993 February 14.

Traditionally, its people were artisans highly regarded as weavers and jewelers. Adjacent to Akrê are wide, deep valleys with fruit fields. In the eastern valley is Sipa waterfall and Mazari Seedi Majthoub. Akrê itself has a thriving bazaar. It is known for producing olives, pomegranates, figs, and peaches. With abundant water and occasional flat plains, renowned rice was traditionally grown here also.



Sheikh Mave Cave

There is a great mosque built by Sultan Hussein Wali, which includes a collection of ancient texts. It is an ancient mosque and it is considered to be the greatest mosque in the town, the mosque lies in Sarai sector.

White Rock

It is said that atop a mountain, a Jewish couple was being married. When the groom used bread to wipe himself after the toilet, the bride turned to stone.

There is a mosque with a stream running through it. The ablutions are fed by this natural source.


The various waters are each associated with a different cure: Mimi Spring for skin diseases; Eshkawti Sheikhman Spring for rheumatism.

Newroz in Akre

Akre is renowned for its iconic Newroz celebration.


Stern, 1848
Reverend H A Stern, 1848. Jewish Missionary Intelligence, Volume 14, Journal of the Reverend H A Stern.

Donabed, 2010
Donabed, Sargon. 2010. Iraq and the Assyrian Unimagining: Illuminating Scaled Suffering and a Hierarchy of Genocide from Simele to Anfal
Article about the Jews of Akre.

Benjamin II, 1859