MĀLIK, Mīrzāʾ DĀWĪD GĪWARGĪS, Assyrian poet and historian (1861-1931; Figure 1). Mīrzā Dāwīd was born in the village of Sipūrḡān (Per. Sopurḡān) in the Urmia plain, Azerbaijan. He was the older son of Šamāšāʾ (deacon) Gīwargīs Dāwīd Mālik. After completing studies in the village primary school and Urmia College, Mīrzā Dāwīd traveled to Russia to study history at the University of St. Petersburg, from which he graduated in 1900 (Baaba, p. 60). Upon his return to Urmia, he served as secretary of the Patriarchal Church Committee (Figure 2), which was created to help support and preserve the Church of the East in Urmia. The committee sponsored a number of schools and attempted to reclaim some of the church buildings and property that had been confiscated by the recently arrived Russian Orthodox Mission (Malech, pp. 351-73). In 1903, he participated in a delegation that was sent to Tabriz to argue the case for the return of churches before the Persian government. In connection with this partially successful effort, he was given the title of Ḫān (Per. ḵān) and was thereafter called Mīrzāʾ Dāwīd Ḫān (Baaba, p. 67). He also participated in the establishment of the Ḫūyādāʾ ʾŪmtānāyāʾ (National Union), which sought to promote the unity of the Assyrians by discouraging tribal and sectarian divisions (Macuch, p. 224).

Mīrzāʾ Dāwīd was a prolific writer in both Assyrian (see NEO-ARAMAIC)  and Azeri Turkish. Some of his poems appeared in various contemporary Assyrian periodicals, but only two of his books were published during his lifetime. Neither is mentioned by P. Sarmas or R. Macuch. The first was published in Chicago in 1916 by the Māṭbaʿtāʾ d-Mašḫidānāʾ Sūrāyāʾ (Assyrian Herald Press), while he was still in Iran, under the title of Kūrsyāʾ d-Sālīq (The throne of Saliq). This book of eighty pages consists of an essay on the Patriarchate of the Church of the East and five poems: ʾŪlītāʾ w-bāʿōtāʾ (Lamentation and petition); l-ʿidāʾ d-biyt yaldāʾ d-ša(n)tāʾ 1914 qāʾ Sūrāyēʾ d-ʾĪrān wad-Kūrdistān (For Christmas 1914 for the Assyrians of Iran and Kurdistan); Mālik malkēʾ (King of Kings), in honor of Tsar Nicholas II; Ktāḇāʾ mūšḫāʾīt min ʾĀmariqāʾ l‑ ʾŪrmī (Poetical letter from America to Urmia); and Ḫūbāʾ šarīāʾ (True love; for tr. of selected verses, see Becker, pp. 340-51). At the end of the book, he adds an eleven-page glossary to explain new or difficult words used in his writings. This glossary provides an early witness to the attempts of Assyrian writers to replace foreign vocabulary in Assyrian with new words based on Syriac (e.g., ʾasyāʾ instead of hakīm for “doctor”).

The second book was published in Chicago in 1931, after he had left for Baghdad, by the Māṭbaʿtāʾ d-ʾAprēm ʾAḇrāhām d-Dēzātakyāʾ (The Press of Aprem Abraham of Dezatakya). It is entitled Pāsīqātēʾ ʿal tāšʿītāʾ d-Ātōr (Notes on the history of Assyria; Figure 3). Its ninety-two pages contain a speech on the Patriarchate of the Church of the East; a list of the names and dates of the Patriarchs; various poems; lists of names and dates of Assyrian and Babylonian kings; and outlines of his unpublished works.

Both works have been reprinted (The Throne of Saliq and Notes on the History of Assyria, Chicago, ATOUR Publications, 2005).

Sarmas lists three works attributed to Mīrzā Dāwīd in addition to “various dramas, novels and poems” (I, p. 236): Tāšʿītāʾ d-mdī(n)tāʾ d-ʾŪrmī (History of the city of Urmia); Miʾmrēʾ ʿal ḫayēʾ d-ḫa(d)kmāʾ malkēʾ Ātōrāyēʾ (Essay on the lives of some Assyrian kings); Nūhārēʾ ʿal tāšʿītāʾ d-Mōgōlāyēʾ (Commentaries on the history of the Mongols). None of these appears to survive today. It is possible that some of this material was incorporated into his other works that have survived in manuscript (Sarmas, I, p. 236). Sarmas provides the text of four of Mīrzā Dāwīd’s poems: ʿōtāʾ (Petition); ʿŪdrānāʾ d-milat (Help of the nation); ʾAḡrāʾ u-qūštāʾ (Reward and justice); and ʿal tāʿītāʾ d-Ātōr rabtā (On the history of Assyria the Great) (Sarmas, II, pp. 71-82).

Mīrzāʾ Dāwīd survived World War I and the exodus of the Assyrians from Urmia in July, 1918. He was forced to leave behind all of his writings in Urmia. The manuscripts that survive today were written during his years as a refugee in France and Chicago. He was unsuccessful in getting his works published in Chicago and decided to rejoin the Assyrians in the Middle East. He died shortly after his arrival in Baghdad in 1931. His surviving works in manuscript include (1) Tāšʿītāʾ d-Ātōr min šūrāyāʾ hal zāḇnāʾ d-qāʾīm (History of Assyria from the beginning to the present time), a massive work of 1,290 pages covering ancient Assyrian history, Syriac Christian history, and the modern history of the Assyrian people (facs. repr., 3 vols., Chicago, ATOUR Publications,  2005). (2) Hāqyat d-Šamīrām maliktāʾ d-Ātōr (Story of Shamiram, queen of Assyria), 350 pages. (3) Hāqyat d-ʾAslēʾ w-Kārām (Story of Asli and Karam), 240 pages. (4) Hāqyat d-Kūriš gūrāʾ wad- ʾĀnūh brātāʾ d-ḫāltēh (Story of Cyrus the Great and his cousin Asnuh), 240 pages. (5) Dḵārāʾ min Dāwīd Gīwargīs Mālik qāʾ brōnōh mūḫibāʾ Šmūʾēyl (Remembrance from Dāwīd Gīwargīs Mālik for his beloved son Samuel), 230 pages. This manuscript contains a collection of poems in Assyrian and Azeri Turkish, written in Assyrian letters, and a short history entitled Bēt maʿmrāʾ w-šarbtāʾ d-mālikēʾ d-Sipūrḡān (The house and genealogy of the Maliks of Sipūrḡān).


Y. A. Baaba, “Nātōrē d-lišānāʾ w-siprāyūtāʾ Ātōrāytāʾ: Mīrzāʾ Dāwīd Mālik” (Guardians of Assyrian language and literature: Mirza Dawid Malik), Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies 20/2, 2006, pp. 59-68.

Adam H. Becker,  Revival and Awakening:  American Evangelical Missionaries in Iran and the Origins of Assyrian Nationalism, Chicago, 2015.

R. Macuch, Geschichte der spät- und neusyrischen Literatur, Berlin, 1976, pp. 224-25.

G. D. Malech, History of the Syrian Nation and the Old Evangelical-Apostolic Church of the East, Minneapolis, 1910, pp. 351-73.

P. Sarmas, Tāšʿītāʾ d-siprāyūtāʾ Ātōrāytāʾ (History of Assyrian literature) I, Tehran, 1962, pp. 236-37; II, Tehran, 1970, pp. 70-82.

(David G. Malick)

Originally Published: October 4, 2016

Last Updated: October 4, 2016

Cite this entry:

David G. Malick, “MĀLIK, DĀWĪD GĪWARGĪS,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/malik_dawid-giwargis (accessed on 20 September 2016).