Tikrit

Tikrit sometimes transliterated as Takrit or Tekrit, is a city in Iraq, located 140 kilometres (87 mi) northwest of Baghdad and 220 kilometres (140 mi) southeast of Mosul on the Tigris River. It is the administrative center of the Saladin Governorate. As of 2012, it had a population of 160,000.

Under Ba’athism, Tikrit was notable as the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, and early on as a power base for the regime. In recent years the city has been the site of conflict culminating in the Second Battle of Tikrit from March through April 2015, resulting in the displacement of 28,000 civilians. The Iraqi government regained control of the city from the Islamic State on March 31, 2015. But the city was recaptured at the end of 2015 and now is in peace.

As a fort along the Tigris (Akkadian: Idiqlat), the city is first mentioned in the Fall of Assyria Chronicle as being a refuge for the Babylonian king Nabopolassar during his attack on the city of Assur in 615 BC.

Tikrit is usually identified as the Hellenistic settlement Birtha.

Until the 6th century, Christianity within the Sasanian Empire was predominantly dyophysite under the Church of the East, however, as a result of Miaphysite missionary work, Tikrit became a major Miaphysite (Orthodox Christian) centre under its first bishop, Ahudemmeh, in 559. Under Marutha of Tikrit, the bishopric was elevated into a maphrianate and the city’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction extended as far as Central Asia.

The city remained predominantly Syriac Orthodox Christian in the early centuries of Islamic rule and gained fame as an important centre of Syriac and Christian Arab literature. Some famous Christians from the city include its bishop Quriaqos of Tagrit who ascended to become the patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, theologians Abu Zakariya Denha and Abu Raita, and translator Yahya ibn Adi.

From the ninth century Christians of Tikrit began to migrate northwards due to restrictive measures taken by some Muslim governors. Many settled in Mosul and villages in the Nineveh Plains, especially Bakhdida, as well as Tur Abdin. The Christian community received a setback when the governor ordered the destruction of the main cathedral known popularly as the “Green Church” in 1089, the maphrian and some of the Christians of Tikrit had to relocate to the Mar Mattai Monastery, where a village named Merki was established in the valley below the monastery. Another governor permitted the reconstruction of the cathedral. However, instability returned and the maphrian moved indefinitely to Mosul in 1156.

Regardless, the city remained an important center of the Syriac Orthodox Church until its destruction by Timur in the late 14th century. A Christian presence has not existed in the city since the 17th century.

The town was also home to the Arab Christian tribe of Iyad. The Arabs of the town secretly assisted the Muslims when they besieged the town. The Muslims entered Tikrit in 640, it was from then considered as part of the Jazira province, it was later regarded as belonging to Iraq by Arab geographers.

The Arab Uqaylid Dynasty took hold of Tikrit in 1036. Around 1138, Saladin was born there. The modern province of which Tikrit is the capital is named after him.

The city was devastated in the 14th century by Timur. During Ottoman period Tikrit existed as a small settlement that belonged to the Rakka Eyalet and whose population never exceeded 4,000-5,000.

In September 1917, British forces captured the city during a major advance against the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

The Tikriti Jewish community was mostly gone by 1948. By the time Saddam Hussein rose to power there were only two Jewish families in the city.

The city is the birthplace of Saddam Hussein. Many senior members of the Iraqi government during his rule were drawn from Saddam’s own Tikriti tribe, the Al-Bu Nasir, as were members of his Iraqi Republican Guard, chiefly because Saddam apparently felt that he was most able to rely on relatives and allies of his family. The Tikriti domination of the Iraqi government became something of an embarrassment to Hussein and, in 1977, he abolished the use of surnames in Iraq to conceal the fact that so many of his key supporters bore the same surname, al-Tikriti (as did Saddam himself). Saddam Hussein was buried near Tikrit in his hometown of Owja following his hanging on December 30, 2006.

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