Rawanduz cannon, a symbol of Kurdish strength
King Mohammed sent Rajab, an artisan, to France in 1813 to learn how to make cannons. Rajab mastered the craft in no time and came back to Rawanduz, the capital city of the Soran Kingdom.
Rajab, locally known as Wasta Rajab, made more than 200 cannons, making the Kurdish kingdom a powerful military force in the 18th century.
King Mohammed’s reign (1813-1837) lasted for over 20 years. His cannons played a key role in the development of his kingdom.
“When the Ottoman army destroyed the kingdom, they got rid of the cannons so that the enemy would not benefit from them,” said Krekar Nawzad, a local archaeologist in Erbil. “They threw them in Rawanduz Canyon, into the river.”
Taha Shmzini, the first mayor of Rawanduz, led a campaign in 1923 to find the cannons. His team found only two. One is in the center of Rawanduz and the other in Baghdad, in front of the Ministry of Defense. Both have become symbols of resilience and victory.
Local people in Rawanduz consider Wasta Rajab cannon as a symbol of a Kurdish state.
“Once we as Kurds had our own country with a strong army,” said Arazoo Bejan, a history teacher from Rawanduz. “Wasta Rajab cannon is evidence that Kurds had their own king and state and ruled here in Rawanduz. We in Rawanduz are proud of the cannon.”
Since its discovery until the late 1980s, the cannon had another use during Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims.
“At dusk, people would gather around the cannon, and one of them would fire a shot once every day during Ramadan, just before we broke our fast,” Nawzad recalled. “After the shot, mosques would call for Maghrib prayer to break the fast. It was wonderful to observe that during Ramadan.”
King Mohammed had vast weapons arsenals. Sending Rajab to France at that time proved his foresight and strategic thinking.
“What King Mohammed did was surprising,” said Bejan. “It proves his leadership and long-term plans. We can learn a lot from his leadership. If a Kurdish king becomes that strong at that time, why not now?”
“We can be even stronger now, but we have to think strategically.”