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Şanlıurfa , pronounced [ʃanˈlɯuɾfa], often simply known as Urfa in daily language (Kurdish Riha, Arabic الرها ar-RuhāSyriac ܐܘܪܗ Urhoy), in ancient times Edessa (Έδεσσα in Greek), is a city with 561,465 inhabitants[3]in south-eastern Turkey, and the capital of Şanlıurfa Province. It is a city with a primarily Kurdish population. Urfa is situated on a plain about eighty kilometres east of the Euphrates River. Urfa's climate features extremely hot, dry summers and cool, moist winters.

The city has been known by many names in history: Ուռհա Uṙha in Armenian, ܐܘܪܗܝ Urhai in Syriac, ره, الرها, Ar-Ruhā in Arabic and Ορρα, Orrha in Greek (also Ορροα, Orrhoa).[citation needed] For a while during the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175 - 164 BCE) it was named Callirrhoe or Antiochia on the Callirhoe (Ancient GreekἈντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Καλλιρρόης). During Byzantine rule it was named Justinopolis. Prior to Turkish rule, it was often best known by the name given it by the SeleucidsἜδεσσαEdessa.

Şanlı means "great, glorious, dignified" in Turkish, and Urfa was officially renamed Şanlıurfa (Urfa the Glorious) by the Turkish Grand National Assembly in 1984, in recognition of the local resistance in the Turkish War of Independence. The title was achieved following repeated requests by the city's members of parliament, desirous to earn a title similar to those of neighbouring cities 'Gazi' (veteran) Antep and 'Kahraman' (Heroic)Maraş.

The history of Şanlıurfa is recorded from the 4th century BC, but may date back at least to 9000 BC, when there is ample evidence for the surrounding sites at DuruHarran and Nevali Cori.[4] Within the further area of the city are three neolithic sites known: Göbekli TepeGürcütepe and the city itself, where the life-sized limestone "Urfa statue" was found during an excavation in Balıklıgöl.[5] The city was one of several in the upper Euphrates-Tigris basin, the fertile crescent where agriculture began.

According to Jewish and Muslim tradition, Urfa is Ur Kasdim, the hometown of Abraham. This identification was disputed by Leonard Woolley, the excavator of the Sumerian city of Ur in 1927 and scholars remain divided on the issue. Urfa is also one of several cities that have traditions associated with Job.

For the Armenians, Urfa is considered a holy place since it is believed that the Armenian alphabet was invented there.[6]

Urfa was conquered repeatedly throughout history, and has been dominated by many civilizations, including the EblaAkkadiansSumeriansBabyloniansHittitesArmeniansHurri-Mitannis (Armeno-Aryans), AssyriansChaldeansMedesPersiansAncient Macedonians (under Alexander the Great), SeleucidsArameansOsrhoenesRomansSassanids,Byzantines, and Crusaders.

Although the site of Urfa has been inhabited since prehistoric times, the modern city was founded in 304 B.C by Seleucus I Nicator and named after the ancient capital of Macedonia. In the late 2nd century, as the Seleuciddynasty disintegrated, it became the capital of the Nabataean Abgar dynasty, which was successively a ParthianArmenian, and Roman client state and eventually a Roman province. Its location on the eastern frontier of the Empire meant it was frequently conquered during periods when the Byzantine central government was weak, and for centuries, it was alternately conquered by ArabByzantineArmenianTurkish rulers. In 1098, the CrusaderBaldwin of Boulogne induced the final Armenian ruler to adopt him and then seized power, establishing the first Crusader State known as the County of Edessa and imposing Latin Christianity on the Greek Orthodox andArmenian Apostolic majority of the population.

Islam had first arrived in Urfa around 638 AD, when the region surrendered to the Rashidun army without resisting, and had become a significant presence under the Ayyubids (see: Saladin Ayubbi), Seljuks. In 1144, the Crusader state fell to the Turkish Abassid general Zengui, who had most of the Christian inhabitants slaughtered together with the Latin archbishop (see Siege of Edessa) and the subsequent Second Crusade failed to recapture the city.[7] Subsequently, Urfa was ruled by ZengidsAyyubidsSultanate of RumIlkhanidsMemluksAkkoyunlu and Safavids before Ottoman conquest in 1516.

Under the Ottomans Urfa was part (Sanjak) of the Aleppo Vilayet. The area became a centre of trade in cottonleather, and jewellery. There was a small but ancient Jewish community in Urfa,[8] with a population of about 1,000 by the 19th century.[9] Most of the Jews emigrated in 1896, fleeing the Hamidian massacres, and settling mainly in AleppoTiberias and Jerusalem. There were three Christian communities: SyriacArmenian, and Latin. According to Lord Kinross,[10] 8,000 Armenians were massacred in Urfa in 1895. The last Neo-Aramaic Christians left in 1924 and went to Aleppo (where they settled in a place that was later called Hay al-Suryan "The SyriacQuarter").

In 1914 Urfa was estimated to have 75,000 inhabitants: 45,000 Muslims, 25,000 Armenians and 5,000 Syriac/Assyrian Christians. There was also a Jewish presence in the town.[citation needed] During the First World War, Urfa was a site of the Armenian and Assyrian Genocides, beginning in August 1915.[12] By the end of the war, the entire Christian population had been killed, had fled, or was in hiding.

The British occupation of the city of Urfa started de facto on 7 March 1919 and officially de jure as of 24 March 1919, and lasted until 30 October 1919. French forces took over the next day and lasted until 11 April 1920, when they were defeated by local resistance forces before the formal declaration of the Republic of Turkey on 23 April 1920).

The French retreat from the city of Urfa was conducted under an agreement reached between the occupying forces and the representatives of the local forces, commanded by Captain Ali Saip Bey assigned from Ankara. The withdrawal was meant to take place peacefully, but was disrupted by an ambush on the French units by irregular Turkish and Kurdish Muslim forces at the Şebeke Pass on the way to Syria, leading to 296 casualties among the French, and even more among the ambushers.