The migration of Circassians to the lands of modern Iraq continued until the beginning of the 1920s. The Circassians, who played an active role in the last period of the Ottoman state and the social, cultural and political life of the early years of Iraq’s independence, have today been left in the shadows of Iraqi society.
The Ottoman state was able to take advantage of empty lands through the Circassians, who had farming techniques that were superior to those of the locals. They were also able to use Circassians, who had a strong military tradition, in the face of the increasing uprisings towards independence. Furthermore, Circassians increased the population of Muslims in the Ottoman state. The settlement of Circassians in Iraq occurred in two phases, with one wave directly from the Caucasus and one wave coming from the Balkans. Circassian migrants played a role in the economic development of the areas in Iraq they settled in. They produced more advanced agricultural tools, wagons with steel wheels, stone houses and mills. They utilized traditional methods of agriculture for the most part, but they also produced new crops on the lands on which they lived, such as maize and oats. They were hard working and kept their fields neat and fertile. Thus, almost all of them achieved a life that could be considered wealthy, or at least well off.
Those who settled in the Iraq of today were of Chechen, Dagestani and Adygea origin. These families settled mostly in Kirkuk, in addition to the Diyala, Baghdad, Mosul and Anbar (Fallujah) regions. Also, families coming from North and South Dagestan were settled in Duhok, Arbil and Sulaimaniya. Among them were bureaucrats, commanders and military families who did not flee Iraq even after the Ottoman Empire’s collapse. The Habur Gate area Chechens passed through Mosul before they settled on the left side of the River Tigris, across from the city of Tikrit. They later migrated to other regions. Accordingly, the neighborhood of Baghdad where Chechens gathered was given the name “Chechen neighborhood.”
The estimates of migration from the North Caucasus to Iraq vary significantly between sources. Accurate census data cannot be found. In light of the information that can be found, it can be said that 10,000 people settled in the area. Currently, different figures -- 2,000, 15,000 and even 30,000 -- are given when speaking of this population. We must consider that these populations may have become Arab, Kurdish or Turkmen over the years. Today, this population lives in Duhok, Zaho’s east, Arbil’s south, Kirkuk, Taza Khurmatu, Diyala, Fallujah and Sulaimaniya. Also, there are hundreds of families in Iraq that have been dispersed to various cities. Approximately 500 Circassian families of Chechen, Dagestani and Adygea origin are in Baghdad. In Iraq, for marriage celebrations, births and other special days, North Caucasian families continue to prepare their traditional food and maintain their customs.
During the Saddam Hussein period, Circassians were under intense pressure from the Baghdad administration, as they were seen as the appendage of Turkey and the Ottoman government. After the US invasion in 2003, without any government aid, Circassians began their own democratic organization. Within this framework, in 2004 a charitable society was founded by Circassians. The organization published a periodical under the name “al-Tadamon,” which can be translated as “unity.” The headquarters of this foundation are in Kirkuk, as this is an area densely inhabited by people from the North Caucasus.