- Tuz Khourmatu - Kirkuk
A. belonged to a well-known and rich Turcoman family in Kirkuk. He was
a restless soul and an unstable person who hated to work and if he worked,
he changed work frequently. He spent his money on drinking, gambling
and prostitutes. A man in his thirties with no perspective of a stable
life or marriage. He lived for the day. The future was not a concern.
Although the rather conservative society of Kirkuk of that time tolerated
dissent, it did not approve the behaviour of people who did not observe
the socially recognized moral standards.
In the early fifties of the past century, the growing oil industry in
Kirkuk was accelerating development and change. Kirkuk was a flourishing
city where progress could be observed in all aspects of life.
At that time, Kirkuk witnessed the opening of a malha (cabaret, nightclub).
In the evenings, people went there to drink and watch singing and dancing
shows performed by women brought from Baghdad. The women (artistat,
as they where called) lived in the hotel adjacent to Ar-Rafidain Bank
near the old Ottoman stone bridge. During the day, they sometimes appeared
in nightgowns in the balconies. By passers would stop and look up at
them as if they where creatures from another planet.
The malha was a magnet for the rich, and above all for single men like
Abdullah A. They went there, got drunk and fought each other as they
competed for the artistat.
Once Abdullah A. and my uncle had a fight in the malha. Like Abdullah,
my uncle, who was in his early thirties and worked with the Iraq Petroleum
Company (IPC), was a frequent visitor of the malha. I remember how he
prepared himself to go to the malha on some evenings. He would shave,
put his suit on, place his pistol in his belt and walk out into the
The history of the malha was short. It suddenly came to an abrupt and
definitive halt. One night, a man was shot dead in the malha. The next
day the Mutassarif (governor) of Kirkuk revoked the malha licence and
closed it for good.
Time passed and the people forgot the malha. In the autumn of 1955,
I started to work as mud tester with the chemical department of the
IPC. I was attached to a drilling crew and worked and lived in camps
in the province of Kirkuk. I was nineteen and had recently graduated
from high school. It was an exciting and interesting work, my first
work experience that had an everlasting positive effect on my life.
After working and living in the camp at Jambour, a new oil field some
thirty kilometres southeast of Kirkuk, during the winter of 1955 and
the spring of 1956, my crew was transferred further to the south, to
the Injana oil field. We worked in drilling wells, but instead of living
in a camp, the IPC rented homes for the workers in the nearby town of
Few days after our arrival in Tuz Khormatu, Abdullah came to live in
the house of my crew. He told us that he was recently appointed by the
Abdullah was an easy-going fellow and we soon came to know each other.
I had some resentment towards him because of his fight with my uncle.
But I never spoke to him about that and he never knew that he once quarrelled
with my uncle.
Tuz Khormatu was known for its vineyards and good wine. Few days after
his arrival he told me that he discovered some good wine and had already
bought many bottles because the price was reasonable. He took me to
the house cellar to show me the wine. There he had dozens of bottles
of red wine. He was happy with his huge reserve. From there on he was
more concerned with finding wine and drinking than with work.
After one or two months, the IPC was fed up with his lack of discipline
and discharged him. He disappeared and I lost contact with him.
In that same year I left the IPC and took a crash course for teacher
training and become primary school teacher. On July 14, 1958 the army
toppled the monarchy and Iraq became a republic. A turbulent period
followed. On July 14, 1959, during the first anniversary of the so-called
July revolution, riots broke out in Kirkuk and thirty-five Turcomans
That day was the start of a dark chapter in the history of Kirkuk. On
that day the city lost its innocence and was pushed deep into the swamp
of hatred and violence. Kirkuk was never again the same.
Conservative Turcomans accused the Kurds and the leftist parties of
organizing what came to be known as the Kirkuk Massacre. In the ensuing
period, conservative Turcomans and city authorities who sided with them
conducted a huge campaign of persecution. Many people were arrested.
The railways club at the railway station was used to house the First
Emergency Military Tribunal, which started processing those accused
of participating in the massacre. Truth and lies went together. People
were dragged to the tribunal just because of their political beliefs.
There was no shortage of liars and biased serial witnesses who would
testify in more than one case. It was enough to have two witnesses to
condemn a person and sentence him to death. All in all, it was a sad
campaign of falsification, hate and revenge in which the guilty and
the innocent stood the same chance of being condemned and sentenced
to death. During two years of processing, the tribunal sentenced twenty-six
persons to death, a mixture from almost all nationalities: Kurds, Turcomans,
Subbis, Arabs, and from all walks of life: teachers, lawyers, artisans,
policemen, soldiers, poor and rich.
To my surprise, the first case that was brought before the tribunal
was that of Abdullah.
Since he left the IPC, I had no knowledge of his whereabouts. It was
just unbelievable to hear that he, being from a conservative Turcoman
family, was among those accused of killing Turcomans. It was a bizarre
situation since his family and other rich and conservative Turcoman
families - some of whom had lost family members in the massacre - spearheaded
the ongoing witch-hunt in Kirkuk.
Since all the accused where either members of Kurdish or leftist parties
or sympathized with them, it was astonishing to hear that Abdullah was
among the accused. Why, what was the truth about him? During his brief
stay in Tuz Khormatu he never showed interest in politics. Did he really
participate in the massacre, and if so, why? Or was he accused simply
because he sympathized with the left?
At that time, Turcomans sympathizing with the left attracted the wrath
and the uncompromising hate of conservative Turcomans who considered
them allies of the Kurds and traitors of what they believed to be the
national cause of the Turcomans.
Abdullah appeared once or twice in the tribunal and was hastily sentenced
to death. He was the first of the twenty-six who were to be sentenced
The government of General Qassim, motivated by political considerations,
did not proceed to hang the twenty-six men. Instead, they were sent
to different provinces where they were kept in prisons.
On February 8, 1963, the Baath party came to power in a bloody coup.
In the summer of that year, the Baath ordered that the twenty-six prisoners
be transferred to the central prison of Kirkuk. They arrived in groups
in the afternoon. On that same day, from midnight to the early hours
of the next morning, the prison personal hanged them all. They were
hanged one by one. Before being put to death, almost all of them shouted
political slogans praising the parties they belonged to or sympathized
with, slogans like "Long live…" this or that party. Their voices resounded
in the quiet night. After hanging, they were brought out on stretchers
to the prison courtyard. Extremist Turcomans were then allowed to enter
the courtyard. They went from one dead to another mustering the faces,
making comments, joking and spitting in the faces. After that they loaded
the bodies on trucks and took them for a second hanging from the light
posts in the main streets of Kirkuk.
In the morning, some Turcomans came out with drums and music to celebrate.
Abdullah was among the twenty-six who were hanged.