Circassians in Iraq

Circassians in Iraq are people of North Caucasian origin in Iraq, including Adyghes, Chechens and Dagestanis.

The name "Circassian" usually denotes speakers of Northwest Caucasian languages only, however in Western Asia the name may denote North Caucasus peoples in general,[1] including Chechens and Dagestanis, who speak Northeast Caucasian languages.

Circassians in Iraq
North Caucasus and Iraq
The North Caucasus (in green) and Iraq (in red).
Total population
30,000 - 50,000
Regions with significant populations
Baghdad, Sulaymaniyah
Diyala, Kirkuk, Anbar, Najaf
Mainly Arabic or Kurdish as well as either:
Adyghe, Chechen, Lezgin, Turkmen
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
North Caucasian peoples


Iraqis of North Caucasus origin mainly originate from Circassia, Chechnya and Dagestan.[1] North Caucasian tribes which settled in Iraq include: Abkhaz, Adyghes, Kabardin, Shapsugs, Ingush, Chechens, Avars, Lezgins, and Kumyks.[1]

The migration of North Caucasians to Iraq goes back many centuries,[1] peaking during the Caucasian War (1817–1864) and in the aftermath of the Russian–Circassian War with the Circassian Exile of the 1860s.[1] Adyghes came to Iraq in two waves: directly from Circassia, and later from the Balkans.[1] Chechens and Dagestanis also settled in Iraq throughout the Ottoman era.[1] Circassians also settled in large numbers in other neighbouring countries including Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine.[1]

Like all Iraqis, Circassians in Iraq faced various hardships in the modern era, as Iraq suffered wars, sanctions, oppressive regimes, and civil strife.[1]


Flag of Adygea
Flag of Adygea
National Flag of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria without Coat of Arms
Flag of Chechnya
Flag of Dagestan
Flag of Dagestan
Flag of Ingushetia
Flag of Ingushetia

The overall number of Circassians or people of North Caucasus origin in Iraq is estimated to be between 30,000 and 50,000,[1][2][3] however the total number is unknown.[1] It has been reported that there are 30,000 Adyghe families in Baghdad alone.[1] It is understood that many North Caucasians have ethnically assimilated into the Iraqi population, becoming Arabicized or Kurdicized.[1] Chechens may comprise up to three-quarters of Iraqis of North Caucasian origin.[1]

Surnames such as Al-Daghestani, Al-Shishani ("Chechen"), and Al-Sharkas ("Circassian") are common among Iraqis of North Caucasian descent.


North Caucasians have settled in all parts of Iraq, from Dohuk in the north to Basrah in the south.[1] The largest communities are in Baghdad, Sulaymaniyah, Diyala, Kirkuk, and Fallujah, with smaller communities in Najaf, Hillah, Mosul, Kut, Basrah, Tikrit, Erbil, Nasiriyah, Diwaniyah, Dohuk, Ramadi, Amarah, and Tuz Khormato.[1]

There are also several Circassian villages throughout Iraq, including a Chechen neighbourhood in Baghdad.[1]


North Caucasians in Iraq have integrated into Iraqi society while preserving their traditional North Caucasian culture and customs, such as the Khabze culture. They continue to preserve certain North Caucasian traditions in wedding ceremonies, birth ceremonies, and other special occasions, and to cook their traditional cuisine.[1]

In 2004, the Al-Tadamun Society of Iraqi, Chechen, Dagestani and Circassian Tribes was formed in Kirkuk. This cultural organization seeks to bring together Iraqis of North Caucasian heritage.[1] "Al-Tadamun" can be translated as "Solidarity".

North Caucasians in Iraq are predominantly Sunni Muslims like their ethnic counterparts in other countries. It is possible that a minority may also identify with Shia Islam, the majority faith in Iraq.


North Caucasians in Iraq speak a number of languages, including their native languages of either Adyghe, Chechen, or Lezgin, as well as Mesopotamian Arabic, Kurdish, or Turkmen.[1] The native languages are mainly spoken by the elder generations, with younger people usually speaking only Arabic or Kurdish, the main Iraqi languages.[1]

South Caucasians

Many peoples of South Caucasus origin have also settled in Iraq, including Armenians and Azerbaijanis. Ethnic Georgians also settled in Iraq historically, and actually ruled the country through the 18th and early 19th centuries (from 1704 to 1831). The Georgians who settled in Iraq were Muslim and ultimately assimilated into the Iraqi population, as a Georgian-speaking community no longer exists in the country. Naji Shawkat, the Prime Minister of Iraq from 1932 to 1933 was of Georgian descent.

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Ahmet Katav; Bilgay Duman (November 2012). "Iraqi Circassians (Chechens, Dagestanis, Adyghes)" (PDF). ORSAM Reports (134). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 April 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  2. ^ "Adyghe People". Joshua Project. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  3. ^ "Estimated population of Circassians". Retrieved 15 April 2013.
Adyghe language

Adyghe ( or ; Adyghe: Адыгабзэ, translit. Adygabzæ [aːdəɣaːbza]), also known as West Circassian (КӀахыбзэ, K’axybzæ), is one of the two official languages of the Republic of Adygea in the Russian Federation, the other being Russian. It is spoken by various tribes of the Adyghe people: Abzekh, Adamey, Bzhedug, Hatuqwai, Temirgoy, Mamkhegh, Natekuay, Shapsug, Zhaney and Yegerikuay, each with its own dialect. The language is referred to by its speakers as Adygebze or Adəgăbză, and alternatively transliterated in English as Adygean, Adygeyan or Adygei. The literary language is based on the Temirgoy dialect.

There are apparently around 128,000 speakers of Adyghe in Russia, almost all of them native speakers. In total, some 300,000 speak it worldwide. The largest Adyghe-speaking community is in Turkey, spoken by the post Russian–Circassian War (circa 1763–1864) diaspora; in addition to that, the Adyghe language is spoken by the Cherkesogai in Krasnodar Krai.

Adyghe belongs to the family of Northwest Caucasian languages. Kabardian (also known as East Circassian) is a very close relative, treated by some as a dialect of Adyghe or of an overarching Circassian language. Ubykh, Abkhaz and Abaza are somewhat more distantly related to Adyghe.

The language was standardised after the October Revolution in 1917. Since 1936, the Cyrillic script has been used to write Adyghe. Before that, an Arabic-based alphabet was used together with the Latin. In recent years, use of the Latin script has seen a resurgence, particularly among Circassian Nationalists. Originally unstandardised, all dialects of Adyghe are now included in the ICSLO (Indigenous Caucasian Standard Latin Orthography), providing a standardised Latin script that is gaining popularity. (The ICSLO treats Kabardian as a dialect of Adyghe, so Kabardian-exclusive consonants such as the labiodental ejective fricative are also represented in its Adyghe Latin script.)

Chechen diaspora

The Chechen diaspora (Chechen: Нохчийн диаспора) is a term used to collectively describe the communities of Chechen people who live outside of Chechnya; this includes Chechens who live in other parts of Russia. There are also significant Chechen populations in other subdivisions of Russia (especially in Dagestan, Ingushetia and Moscow Oblast).

Outside Russia, Chechens are mainly descendants of people who had to leave Chechnya during the 19th century Caucasian War (which led to the annexation of Chechnya by the Russian Empire) and the 1944 Stalinist deportation to the Soviet Central Asia in the case of Kazakhstan. More recently, tens of thousands of Chechen refugees settled in the European Union and elsewhere as the result of the First and Second Chechen Wars, especially in the wave of emigration to the West after 2002.

Circassian diaspora

The Circassian diaspora refers to the resettlement of the Circassian population, especially during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. From 1763 to 1864, the Circassians fought against the Russian Empire in the Russian-Circassian War, finally succumbing to a scorched-earth campaign initiated in 1862 under General Nicholai Yevdokimov. Afterwards, large numbers of Circassians were exiled and deported to the Ottoman Empire and other nearby regions; others were resettled in Russia far from their home territories. Circassians live in more than fifty countries, besides the Republic of Adygea. Total population estimates differ: according to some sources, some two million live in Turkey, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq; other sources have between one and four million in Turkey alone.

Circassians in Iran

The Circassians in Iran (East Circassian and West Circassian: Адыгэхэр Къажэрей, Adyghexer Kŭazhéreĭ; Persian: چرکس های ایران‎) are an ethnic minority in Iran. Circassians in Iran differ somewhat from other Circassians in diaspora in that most in the former stem from the Safavid and Qajar era, although a number migrated as muhajirs in the late 19th century as well. The Circassians in Iran were very influential during periods in the last few centuries. The vast majority of them have assimilated to Persian language, and no sizeable number speaks their native Circassian languages anymore. Once a very large minority in Iran, nowadays due to being heavily assimilated over the course of time and the lack of censuses based on ethnicity, population estimates vary significantly. They are, after the Georgians, the largest Caucasus-derived group in the nation.

In Persian, the word Cherkes (چرکس) is sometimes applied generally to Caucasian peoples living beyond Derbent in Dagestan, which was the northernmost principal city of Iran prior to its ceding to Russia in the first half of the 19th century following the Treaty of Gulistan.

Circassians in Syria

The Circassians in Syria (Circassian: Сирием ис адыгэхэр) refers to the Circassian diaspora, some of whom settled in Syria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in the 19th century. They moved to Syria after a forced migration to the Ottoman Empire resulting from a Russian invasion in the early 1860s. Most pre-Civil War estimates put the Circassian population at around 100,000. They are predominantly Sunni Muslims. While they have become an increasingly assimilated part of Syrian society, they have maintained a distinct identity, having retained their Adyghe language (in addition to Arabic), their tribal heritage and some of their traditional customs. Syria's Circassian population has dwindled with the advent of the civil war that has been ongoing in Syria since 2011.

Many of Syria's ethnic Circassians have left the country and have repatriated or are in the process of repatriation to the titular Circassian parts of European Russia, in particular Adygea, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, as well as to partially recognised Republic of Abkhazia.

Circassians in Turkey

The Circassians in Turkey (East Circassian and West Circassian: Адыгэхэр Тырку, Adyghexer Tyrku; Turkish: Türkiye'deki Çerkesler) are one of the largest ethnic minorities in Turkey, with a population between 130,000 and 2 million. The closely related ethnic groups Abazins (10,000) and Abkhazians (39,000) are also often counted among them. Circassians are a Caucasian immigrant people, but the vast majority of them have assimilated to the Turkish language, and only a small minority still speak their native Circassian languages. The Circassians in Turkey are almost exclusively Sunni Muslims of Hanafi madh'hab.

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