Tel Keppe (or TalKayf as it's known by the Arab Muslims of Iraq) is the largest Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac town in Iraq. It is located less than 8 miles North East of Mosul (Nineveh) in northern Iraq. Actually, Tel Keppe is now considered a suburb of Mosul. Currently, only around 5,000 Chaldeans live in it, while over 100,000 of its natives live in Baghdad-Iraq, San Diego-CA, and Detroit-MI. Unfortunately, forced by discriminatory practices in Iraq, the majority of its natives are now living in Detroit, MI away from their fathers' homeland in Mesopotamia.
The name, Tel Keppe, is of Aramaic origin and is made of two syllables; "Tel" which means "hill" and "Keppe" which means "stone" i.e. the Stone Hill. Her name comes from its location over a ruined suburb of Nineveh, capital of old Assyria. Hence, the reason why Tel Keppe was never mentioned as a separate town from Nineveh by the Assyrians. The first time her name was mentioned was at the end of the fifth century BC. (i.e. 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.
Unfortunately, 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 Senhareeb (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 (Assyria proper) 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, Maryam Narmy, in 1937 at a time when the Muslim population of Iraq had no experience with "public women" let alone with a female journalist fighting for women's rights. Actually, many Tel Keppians chose journalism as their way of educating the rest of the Iraqi population with current political and social issues.
The Tel Keppians were also very active in the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac political movement during the 1930's. The name of Yousif Malik, the great political leader of the Assyrian/Chaldean movement at the time, testifies to that role. Yousif Malik was among the three Chaldeans/Assyrians who went to the League of Nations demanding national rights for the Chaldeans/Assyrians of Mesopotamia. After the massacre of the Assyrians in Semel in 1933 by the Iraqi government, Mr. Malik fled to Lebanon where he died in 1957 stripped off his Iraqi citizenship and away from his beloved Beth Nahrain (Mesopotamia).
Disasters of Tel Keppe
As was the case with most of the Chaldean 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 Chaldean towns of Tel Esqof, Elqosh and its Rabban Hirmizd Monastery.
In 1743, the Persian King Nader Shah attacked Tel Keppe, Karamles, Bakhdida, Bartilla and other Suraya 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 Kurdish governor of Rawandows, Merkor, whose legendary hatred for Christians and Assyrians/Chaldeans is still vividly remembered by all Chaldeans/Assyrians, left no Assyrian/Chaldean town without demonstrating in it his savagery. In 1833, Merkor attacked Tel Keppe and Elqosh and killed thousands of its inhabitants, kidnapped their women and children, and burned and destroyed what he can not take with him.
Tel Keppians in the US:
True to their fame, the Tel Keppians and since they migrated to the US and settled in Detroit, MI and San Diego, CA during the last 50 years have been able to build an economic empire in their new homeland. Actually, that economic power manifested itself when President Bill Clinton became, 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. Since then, the First Lady, Hillary Rhodium-Clinton, has been hosted twice by the Tel Keppians of Detroit.
Also, the Tel Keppians led the Chaldeans in the US in mounting a very large campaign to lift the sanctions imposed on their original homeland, Iraq, after the second Gulf War. Also, large sums of donations were collected and sent to the needy in Iraq without discriminating whether the recipients were Arabs or Chaldeans, Moslems or Christians. With that campaign, the Tel Keppians proved their true noble character of forgiving the insults and discrimination against them by the Iraqi government as well as by those ignorant among the Arab Muslims.