Tel Keppe (also spelled Tel Keipeh ܬܠ ܟܦܐ in Syriac; TalKayf or Tel Kaif تل كيف in Arabic), one of the largest Assyrian (Chaldean-rite) towns in Iraq, is located in the Ninawa Governorate, less than 8 miles North East of Mosul (Nineveh) in northern Iraq.

Tel Keppe is now considered a suburb of Mosul. Currently only around 5,000 Chaldeans live in it, the majority of the inhabitants being Kurds and Arabs, while an estimated 100,000 Chaldeans who trace their origins to Tel Keppe now live in Baghdad-Iraq, San Diego, California, and Detroit, Michigan. In a publication written 1836 by Claudius James Rich, the town was described as being "wholly inhabited by Assyrians." [1]

The name "Tel Keppe", is of Aramaic origin and is made of two words; "Tel" which means "hill" and "Keppe" which means "stones" i.e. Hill of Stones. This is probably a reference to its location over a ruined suburb of Nineveh, capital of old Assyria. This may explain why Tel Keppe was rarely referred to as a separate town from Nineveh by the Assyrians. The first mention of the name is at the end of the fifth century BC. (after the fall of Nineveh to the Chaldean-Medes alliance in 612 BC), by Zenfonenus, the Commander of the Greek army's campaign in northern Mesopotamia in 401 BC.

Due to the presence of the only cemetery over the hill that make up Tel Keppe, it has been difficult to excavate the Assyrian ruins of this suburb of Nineveh. However, so far what had been able to be excavated is the water irrigation canals that were built by Assyrian King Sennacherib (705- 681 BC) to irrigate the land around Tel Keppe. Also, an excavation by the Iraqi Directorate of Antiquities succeeded in finding vases dating to 2000 years BC, and other items even much older and of a prehistoric time. In addition to that, several old ruins of churches and monasteries dating to early Christianity were found in Tel Keppe. Currently, Tel Keppe has 5 old churches and one large new one.

Tel Keppe gained fame in Iraq due to the impressive role played by her children who were the first Chaldeans migrating from northern Iraq to Baghdad around mid 19th century. They were the first Iraqis to use steam ships on the Tigris river, in addition to being the first who introduced the concept of "modern days hotels" in Iraq. Their role in taking the Iraqi society from its backward tribal state into a civil and urban one was striking. Actually, the first Iraqi newspaper dealing with women's issue, that of "Arabian Woman" (Fatat al-Arab), was published by the Tel Keppian, Mariam Narmy, in 1937 at a time when the population of Iraq had no experience with "public women" let alone with a female journalist fighting for women's rights. Tel Keppians chose journalism as their way of educating the rest of the Iraqi population with current political and social issues.

Disasters of Tel Keppe

As was the case with most of the Assyrian towns around Nineveh, Tel Keppe had its share of the savage attacks of the Mongols, Persians, and the Kurds. In 1436, Tel Keppe was attacked by the Mongols, and again in 1508, both attacks resulted in the death of hundreds of its children and the destruction of many of its churches and the burning of its crops. So was the fate of the other Assyrian towns of Tel Skuf, Alqosh and its Rabban Hirmizd Monastery.

In 1743, the Persian King Nader Shah attacked Tel Keppe, Karamles, Bakhdida, Bartella and other Assyrian towns savagely. His destructive acts resulted in the death of many thousands and the destruction of their churches and crops. Those who were able to survive did so by fleeing to the mountains.

The 1833, Kurdish governor of Rowanduz, Mira Koor, attacked Tel Keppe and Alqosh and killed thousands of its inhabitants, kidnapped their women and children, and burned and destroyed what he can not take with him.

On April 1st, 1949, a massive flood drowned 44 people in Tel Keppe. 42 of them were young girls at a school in Tel Keppe. One of them was an 18 month old baby, and the other was a grown man. The flood was caused by a massive thunderstorm.

Tel Keppenayes in the US

The presence of TelKeppenayes in the United States span a hundred years, however, the largest migrations were those during the last 30 years when TelKeppians started leaving Iraq en masse due to discrimination and Iraq's turbulent politics. In their new homeland, and true to their fame as honest and hardworking people, the Tel Keppians were quick to establish and acquire large and successful businesses. Having been free from the control of corrupt and prejudicial Iraqi governmental agencies, those businesses quickly developed into an economic empire.

Actually, that economic power manifested itself when President Bill Clinton became, and in 1996, the first American President to ever meet with an immigrant Middle Eastern community. With that the Chaldeans of Iraq, led by the Tel Keppians, became that First Middle Eastern community to be recognized by an American President. Also, during Mr. Clinton presidency, his wife, the Secratory of State, Hillary Rodham-Clinton, was hosted twice by the Tel Keppenayes of Detroit.

Famous Tel Keppians

  • Chaldean Patriarch Mar Joseph II Sliba Maruf (1667-1713).
  • Author and explorer, Maria Theresa Asmar, born in 1804. Published her memoir "Babylonian Princess" in English in 1844.
  • Poet Toma Taqteq, died in 1860.
  • Napoleon Bashi. Owner and Editor-in-Chief of 2 Chaldean newspapers in the Detroit area (The Orient and Chaldean Free Voice) Political assassination in 1982.
  • Shemoel Jamil (1847-1917), who was in charge of all Chaldean monasteries.
  • Journalist Maryam Narmy, born in 1890. Published first Iraqi women's issues "Arabian Woman" newspaper in 1937.
  • Yousif Malik, one of the leaders of the Assyrian movement in Iraq during the 1930s. Author of "The British Betrayal of the Assyrians". Died in 1957 in Lebanon after being forced into exile by the Iraqi government which also stripped him off his Iraqi citizenship.
  • Joseph Hirmis Jammo, author of "Nineveh's Ruins or History of TalKayf" published in 1937.
  • Journalist Alexander Marouf (The Mayor).
  • Rofael Babu Ishaq, born in 1893 and author of "History of Iraqi Christians". Died in 1964.
  • Journalist Hanna Yatooma.
  • Journalist Joseph Antone.
  • Journalist Zareef Jabero.
  • Tariq Aziz
  • Najib Kakos
  • Shaun Mansour
  • First Chaldian Bishop to North America Biship Ibrahim Ibrahim
  • Chaldean Bishop and Pioneer of American Chaldean Church Mar George Garmo
  • Chaldean Cardinal-Patriarch Mar Emmanuel III Cardinal Delly
  • Chaldean Bishop Archbishop Jibrail Kassab
  • Chaldean Bishop Mar Sarhad Yawsip Jammo
  • Simon Hanna Gumma, born in 1974 in Detroit, MI USA (first generation), served two terms (1999-2002) as President/Mayor of the Village of Caseville, MI. First Chaldean known to hold an elected position of a municipality as its President/Mayor.

See also


  1. "Narrative of a Residence in Koordistan, and on the Site of Ancient Nineveh", Claudius James Rich 1836

Originally based on an article by, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, used with permission.

External links

ar:تلكيف arc:ܬܠ ܟܐܦܐ ro:Tel Keppe

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