Traveler Frederic Millingen mentioned about population of Hakkari as 210,000 individuals in 1870, of which 2,000 were Jewish. Two decades after Millinge, Vital Cuinet estimated a total population of Hakkari as 300,000 at the end of the nineteenth century. Of this number 4,000 were Jewish and 112,000 Christians.

During my fieldwork I met with only one Jew from Gever (modern Yüksekova) in Hakkari Province now living in Israel. Gershom Şenyuva was born in Van in 1939 but he grew up in Yüksekova until he was ten years old. However Gershom’s family originally were not residents in Yüksekova. As he told me his fathe Jacob (Yakub) came from a Kurdish populated region in Iraq to Urmia, Iran. While his father was in Urmia he met his mother and got married. After a while he migrated to Yüksekova. For a short time they lived in Başkale as well, then they moved back to Yüksekova.

Gersho, clamed that they were last remaining Jewish family in Yüksekova in 1950s. Avigdor Şekerci, son of the las rabbi of the Başkale Jewish community, confirmed this information. The Gershom family was living as servants under the patronage of an Aga, a tribal chieftain from Hakkari region. His father was a peddler. He has an excellent voice. People invited him to sing in their wedding ceremonies. In 1952 they moved to Istanbul. After six years working in Istanbul, he immigrated to Israel in 1958.


This article was quoted from the book “Jews of Turkey, Migration, Culture and Memory“, 2019 – by Süleyman Şanli. Publish with the kind permission of the author.

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