Diyarbakir (Syriac: ܐܡܝܕ; Zazaki and Kurdish: Amed; Turkish spelling: Diyarbakır) is a city in Turkey, situated on the banks of the River Tigris. The city's population is 1,244,273 (2005), but including the slums surrounding the estimated population is above one and half million.
Nicknamed "The Paris of the East", it is capital of the Diyarbakir Province.
The city is the unofficial capital of the Kurdish regions of Turkey and it is also the capital of the great Kurdistan. Situated in the fertile crescent, it is a city of great antiquity having been inhabited for at least 5,000 years. It was the capital of the ancient Armenian empire, then known as the Armenian name Tigranakert. It was known as Amida in Roman times, and was renamed Diyarbakir (tr. Bakr's Dream) after being captured by the Arabs in 629.
Hamdum, an Arab chief, conquered Altzniq and Amida (Diyarbakir), around 962. In 963 a sister of Hamdun whose name is not quoted in the original sources, governed the region for ten years. Later than 973 there's not more news.
The city is surrounded by a dramatic and fully intact set of black basalt walls, first constructed in 297, extending in a 5.5 km circle around the old city. The dramatic warren of alleyways and old-fashioned tenement blocks which makes up the old city contrast dramatically with the sprawling suburbs of modern apartment blocks and gecekondu slums to the west. Diyarbakir boasts numerous medieval mosques and madrassahs, crowned by the 11th Century Ulu Cami (tr. Great Mosque) constructed by alternating bands of black basalt and limestone. The same patterning was used in the 16th Century Deliler Han Madrassah, which is now a hotel, and the 12th Century Castle Mosque (Kale Camii).
The Assyrian Orthodox Church of Our Lady, was first constucted as a pagan temple in the 1st Century BC, and is still in use as a place of worship today.
Diyarbakir also boasts one of the region's most lively and dramatic street markets.
The 20th Century was a turbulent one for Diyarbakir. During World War I most of the City's Assyrian and Armenian population were driven from the City. After the surrender of the Ottoman Empire, French troops attempted to occupy the city, while in 1925 it was the centre of the great Kurdish rebellion against Kemal Atatürk.
Always a centre of Kurdish nationalism, Diyarbakir became a stronghold of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) after the beginning of the guerilla war in southeastern Turkey in 1984. During this conflict, the population of the city grew dramatically as villagers from remote areas where fighting was serious left or were forced to leave for the relative security of the city. Diyarbakir was also one of the areas where Turkish Hezbullah was most active in the early to mid 1990s, with this group often targeting PKK activists and the city's tiny Christian community of Armenians and Assyrians.
After the PKK's cessation of hostilities, a large degree of normality returned to the city, with the Turkish government declaring a 15 year period of emergency rule over on 30 November, 2002. The local economy is slowly improving and as of July 2004, Diyarbakir is safe to visit.