Infobox Settlement
official_name = Pagename
other_name = Kurdish form of the name: Hewlêr
native_name = هه‌ولێر
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pushpin_map_caption = Arbil's location in the Republic of Iraq.
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subdivision_type = Country
subdivision_name = Iraq
subdivision_type1 = Governorate
subdivision_name1 = Arbil
subdivision_type2 =
subdivision_name2 =
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subdivision_type4 =
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government_type =
leader_title = Governor
leader_name = Nawzad Hadi
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established_title = Settled
established_date = 23rd century BC
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unit_pref =Imperial
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population_as_of = 2008 Est.
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population_total = 2,886,756Fact|date=August 2008
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timezone = GMT +3
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timezone_DST = GMT +4
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latd=36 |latm=20 |lats=0 |latNS=N
longd=44 |longm=1 |longs=0 |longEW=E
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coordinates_type = type:city_region:IQ
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Arbil (also written Erbil or Irbil; BGN: Arbīl; Kurdish: unicode|هه‌ولێر, "Hewlêr"; _ar. اربيل, "Arbīl";; Syriac: ܐܪܒܝܠ, "Arbela", Turkish: Erbil) is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and is one of the larger cities in Iraq. [] [ Iraq | Things To See and Do in Iraq ] ] The city lies eighty kilometres (fifty miles) east of Mosul. The city is the capital of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region and the Kurdistan Regional Government.


Ancient history

Urban life at Arbil can be dated back to at least the twenty-third century BC. The city's archaeological museum contains only pre-Islamic objects. The name of Arbil appears to be of non-Semitic origin. The initial "ar" element is a feature of a number of Hurrian place names. The name "Arbil" was mentioned in the Sumerian holy writings (about 2000 B.C.) as "Arbilum", "Orbelum" or "Urbilum". Later, Akkadians based on similarity and folk etymology rendered the name to mean "four gods" (arba'ū ilū). [A Grammar of Neo-Aramaic: The Dialect of the Jews of Arbel, page 2, Geoffrey Khan, Published 1999 BRILL, 586 pages, ISBN 9004115102] The city was a centre for the worship of the Assyrian goddess Ishtar. In classical times, the city was known by its Aramaic name, "Arbela".

Under Median Empire the Median King Cyaxares settled a number of Sagarthian tribes of Zagros in Arbela and Kirkuk, probably as a reward for their help in capture of Nineveh.After revolts of Medes led by Phraortes king of Media (522-521 BC) were put down by Darius I of Persia, the Sagartians of Arbela rebelled against Darius continuing the Median revolts. Darius sent an army led by a Median general named Takhmaspâda, and in the summer of 521 BC defeated Sagartians, led by Tritantaechmes, who claimed to be a descendant of the Great Median King Cyaxares. According to Darius, the rebel of Arbela was the last revolt of Media which he put down. These incidents are carved on the Behistun Inscription around Kermanshah.

The Battle of Gaugamela, in which Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia in 331 BC, took place about one hundred kilometres (sixty miles) west of Arbil. After the battle, Darius managed to flee to the city, and, somewhat inaccurately, the confrontation is sometimes known as the "Battle of Arbela".

The name "Hewlêr", is also used for this historic town of Mesopotamia by Kurdish settlers of the city and derives from "Horlêr", meaning "Temple of the Sun" in the Kurdish language. This may have originated from the religions of Mithraism, Yazdanism and Zoroastrianism practiced by Kurds in which the sun and fire play a significant role (see also: Helios).

Arbil became, like Amida (Diyarbekr), part of the region disputed between Rome and Persia under the Sassanians. Under Emperor Trajan it was named the Roman province of Assyria, and after a century of independence was reoccupied by Rome. The Jewish kingdom of Adiabene (Greek form "Hadyab") had its center at Arbil, and the town and kingdom are known in Jewish Middle Eastern history for the conversion of the royal family to Judaism, although the general population may have remained eclectic but with a strong eastern Christian presence.

Arbela was an early center of Christianity. By AD 100 there was a bishop headquartered in the city. Most of the early bishops had Jewish names, suggesting that most of the early Christians in this city were converts from Judaism. [Gillman, Ian and Hans-Joachim Klimkeit. "Christians in Asia before 1500". (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1999) p. 33]

The queen of the Adiabenians apparently adopted Christianity, and it spread throughout this region, so that the area became a Christian stronghold. It served as the seat of a Metropolitan of the Church of the East. It is known from Butler's "Lives of the Saints" (see Martyrs of Hadiab) as the site of the Sassanian Persian martyrdom of almost 350 Christians in the year 345.

Medieval history

Until 10th century Arbil was populated by Hadhabani (Adiabeni) Kurds who gradually migrated northward.Fact|date=October 2008 In 1310 the Assyrian population suffered a massacre by the Arabs; [(Budge, E.A. Wallis. The Monk of Kublai Khan, [] ] but the Kurds had no share in it???. [E.J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam 1913-1936, M. Th. Houtsma, E. van Donzel, page: 1141, Published 1993 BRILL, ISBN 9004097961] Its Aramaic speaking Assyrian population remained significant in size until destruction of the city by the forces of Timurlane in 1397. [Edwin Munsell Bliss, Turkey and the Armenian Atrocities, Chicago Ill. 1896 p. 153] From its Christian period come many church fathers and well-known authors in Syriac, the classical language off-shoot of Aramaic. The 13th century Syriac writer Gewargis Warda Arbillaya Fact|date=July 2008 [from Arbil] identifies the Christian population of Arbil and neighboring areas as Assyrians in a prayer dedicated to the Rogation of the Ninevites. In the wake of Timur's raids, when only one Christian village is alleged to have survived, Arbil increasingly became a Muslim-dominated town. As is attested in the region in general, those who converted to Islam became enfolded into the ethnic Muslim culture of the region, whether Turkish, Arab, Persian or Kurdish. Arbil is also the birth place of the famous Muslim historian and writer of 13th century, Ibn Khallikan.

The modern town of Arbil stands on a tell topped by an Ottoman fort. During the Middle Ages, Arbil became a major trading centre on the route between Baghdad and Mosul, a role which it still plays today with important road links to the outside world. A small population of Assyrian Christians (about 15,000) live mostly in suburbs such as Ankawa.

The Kurdish name for the city is "Hawler" meaning "the place where sun is worshipped". The name is thought to derive from the Greek "helio" (sun). [ [ The Iraq War & Archaeology Archive 65 ] ]

Modern history

The parliament of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region was established in Arbil in 1970 after negotiations between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Mustafa Barzani, but was effectively controlled by Saddam Hussein until the Kurdish uprising at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. The legislature ceased to function effectively in the mid-1990s when fighting broke out between the two main Kurdish factions, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The city was captured by the KDP in 1996 with the assistance of the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. The PUK then established an alternative Kurdish government in Sulaimaniyah. On March 1996 PUK asked for Iran's help to fight KDP. Considering this as a foreign attack of Iraq's soil, KDP asked the central Iraqi government for help.

While the forces of Saddam Hussein ransacked Arbil, many NGO's and International Organizations fled. These same organizations were able, with the assistance of the United States and other countries, to accept many Kurds as refugees. Many bound to the US were first taken to Guam.

The Kurdish Parliament in Arbil reconvened after a peace agreement was signed between the Kurdish parties in 1997, but had no real power. The Kurdish government in Arbil had control only in the western and northern parts of the autonomous region.

During the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, a United States special forces task force was headquartered just outside of Arbil. The city was the scene of rapturous celebrations on April 10, 2003 after the fall of Baghdad.

Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, only isolated, sporadic violence has hit Arbil, unlike many other areas of Iraq. Parallel bomb attacks against the Eid celebrations arranged by the PUK and KDP killed 109 people on February 1 2004. Responsibility was claimed by the Islamist group Ansar al-Sunnah, and stated to be in solidarity with the Kurdish Islamist faction Ansar al-Islam. Another bombing on May 4, 2005 killed 60 civilians. Despite these bombings the population generally feels safe.

The new Iraqi constitution of 2005, explicitly recognizes the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the two parallel administrations, in January 2006, signed an agreement to unify the administration of the entire Kurdish region under a new multi-party government in Arbil. In May 2006 the unitary government of the Kurdistan region was formally presented. [ [ BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Single government for Iraqi Kurds ] ]


Arbil has been a center of communications for many centuries. It was a major stop on the Silk Road.


Erbil International Airport, a new airport flying the Kurdish flag instead of the Iraqi flag, was opened in autumn of 2005, with portraits of Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani, and Masoud Barzani. It has scheduled flights to a number of airports in the Middle East and to Vienna via Austrian Airlines 5 flights weekly. Royal Jordanian flies in from Amman and Kurdistan Airlines flies to many locations across the Middle East.

Moreover, the KRG is building a new $325 million airport adjacent to the existing terminal, which will have the capacity to accept the largest aircraft in the world, including the Russian Antonov 225 cargo plane and the American C-5 Galaxy. It is scheduled for completion in 2008.

Visa information

Visas on arrival are available for citizens of the United States and most European countries. Other nationalities must obtain a visa before arrival. As of Spring 2007, the enforcement of this policy became more strict.

Famous writers of Arbil

*Ibn Khallikan (1211–1282)
*Abdulla Pashew (1946–)
*Muhammad al-Khatib Arbili

Historical landmarks

*The Citadel of Arbil
*The Mudhafaria Minaret
*The Mound of Qalich Agha
*The Qayssarria-Bazaars

Villages and towns

* Azadi
* Armota
* Geitl (Sheikhani) in the road of gweir
* xalan, haji omaran, shaqlawa, hasnan, sidakan, qushtapa

Views of Arbil



* [ The Kurdish Globe] - English-language news.


* [ FallingRain Map - elevation = 536m (Red dots are railways)]

External links

* [ Arbela]

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