|At least 95% percent of population adheres to some form of Islam. Government gives number of Shias as 55% but probably 60% to 65% is reasonable figure. Most Iraqi Shias are Arabs. Almost all Kurds, approximately 19% of population, are Sunnis, together with about 13% Sunni Arabs. Total Arab population in 1987 given by government as 76%. Remainder of population small numbers of Turkomans, mostly Sunni Muslims; Assyrians and Armenians, predominantly Christians; Yazidis, of Kurdish stock with a syncretistic faith; and a few Jews.|
26,783,383 (July 2006 est.)
0-14 years: 39.7% (male 5,398,645/female 5,231,760)
15-64 years: 57.3% (male 7,776,257/female 7,576,726)
65 years and over: 3% (male 376,700/female 423,295) (2006 est.)
total: 19.7 years
male: 19.6 years
female: 19.8 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.66% (2006 est.)
31.98 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
5.37 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.89 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 48.64 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 54.39 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 42.61 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 69.01 years
male: 67.76 years
female: 70.31 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
4.18 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
less than 500 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
Arab 75%-80%, Kurdish 15%-20%, Turkoman, Assyrian or other 5%
Muslim 97% (Shi'a 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3%
Arabic, Kurdish (official in Kurdish regions), Assyrian, Armenian
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 40.4%
female: 24.4% (2003 est.)female: 45% (1995 est.)
Baghdad, Iraq Metro Area Population 1950-2021
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History of Iraq
From 1980 to 1988 Iraq was involved in the Iran-Iraq war, which devastated its economy. The war also left Iraq as one of the largest military establishments in the Persian Gulf region. In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait but it was forced out in early 1991 by a United States-led U.N. coalition. Following these events, social instability continued as the country's northern Kurdish people and its southern Shi'a Muslims rebelled against Saddam Hussein's government. As a result, Iraq's government used force to suppress the rebellion, killed thousands of citizens, and severely damaged the environment of the regions involved.
Because of the instability in Iraq at the time, the U.S. and several other countries established no-fly zones over the country and the U.N. Security Council enacted several sanctions against Iraq after its government refused to surrender weapons and submit to U.N. inspections. Instability remained in the country throughout the rest of the 1990s and into the 2000s.
In March-April 2003 a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq after it was claimed the country failed to comply with further U.N. inspections. This act began the Iraq War between Iraq and the U.S. Shortly the U.S.'s invasion, Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein was overthrown and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was established to handle Iraq's governmental functions as the country worked to establish a new government. In June 2004, the CPA disbanded and the Iraqi Interim Government took over. In January 2005, the country held elections and the Iraqi Transitional Government (ITG) took power. In May 2005, the ITG appointed a committee to draft a constitution and in September 2005 that constitution was completed. In December 2005 another election was held which established a new four-year constitutional government that took power in March 2006.
Despite its new government, however, Iraq was still highly unstable during this time and violence was widespread throughout the country. As a result, the U.S. increased its presence in Iraq, which caused a decrease in violence. In January 2009 Iraq and the U.S. came up with plans to remove U.S. troops from the country and in June 2009 they began leaving Iraq's urban areas. Further removal of U.S. troops continued into 2010 and 2011. On December 15, 2011, the Iraq War officially ended.
- OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Iraq
- FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Parliamentary democracy
- CAPITAL: Baghdad
- POPULATION: 40,194,216
- OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Arabic, Kurdish
- MONEY: New Iraq dinar
- AREA: 168,754 square miles (437,072 square kilometers)
- MAJOR RIVERS: Tigris, Euphrates
Iraq is dominated by two famous rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates. They flow southeast from the highlands in the north across the plains toward the Persian Gulf. The fertile region between these rivers has had many names throughout history, including Al-Jazirah, or "the island," in Arabic and Mesopotamia in Greek.
Many parts of Iraq are harsh places to live. Rocky deserts cover about 40 percent of the land. Another 30 percent is mountainous with bitterly cold winters. Much of the south is marshy and damp. Most Iraqis live along the fertile plains of the Tigris and Euphrates.
Map created by National Geographic Maps
PEOPLE & CULTURE
Iraq is one of the most culturally diverse nations in the Middle East. Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, Mandaeans, and Armenians, among others, speak their own languages and retain their cultural and religious identities.
Iraqis once had some of the best schools and colleges in the Arab world. That changed after the Gulf War in 1991 and the United Nations sanctions that followed. Today only about 40 percent of Iraqis can read or write.
Safeguarding Iraq's wildlife is a big job. There are essentially no protected natural areas in the country. And with an ongoing war, the government is, understandably, more concerned with protecting people and property than plants and animals.
Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, several species were considered at risk, including cheetahs, wild goats, and dugongs. Scientists have not been able to assess the condition of these animals since the war started.
Iraq's rivers and marshes are home to many fish, including carp that can grow up to 300 pounds (135 kilograms) and sharks that swim up from the Persian Gulf.
GOVERNMENT & ECONOMY
In January 2005, Iraqis voted in the country's first democratic elections in more than 50 years. It took another three months for a government to take office, but Iraq's new democracy was set up to ensure all ethnic groups are represented.
Iraq has the world's second largest supply of oil. But international sanctions during the 1990s and the instability caused by the 2003 war have left Iraq in poverty.
Iraq's history is full of unsettling changes. In the past 15 years alone, it has witnessed two major wars, international sanctions, occupation by a foreign government, revolts, and terrorism. But Iraq is a land where several ancient cultures left stamps of greatness on the country, the region, and the world.
Iraq is nicknamed the "cradle of civilization." Thousands of years ago, on the plains that make up about a third of Iraq, powerful empires rose and fell while people in Europe and the Americas were still hunting and gathering and living more primitive lives.
The Sumerians had the first civilization in Iraq around 3000 B.C. The first type of writing, called cuneiform, came out of Uruk, a Sumerian city-state. Around 2000 B.C., the Babylonians came into power in southern Mesopotamia. Their king, Hammurabi, established the first known system of laws.
Babylonian rule ended in 539 B.C. when the Persians took over. In A.D. 646, Arabs overthrew the Persians and introduced Islam to Iraq. Baghdad was soon established as the leading city of the Islamic world. In 1534, the Ottomans from Turkey conquered Iraq and ruled until the British took over almost 400 years later.
Iraq became an independent country in 1932, although the British still had a big influence. In 1979, Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party took control of Iraq and promoted the idea that it should be ruled by Arabs. Hussein ruled as a ruthless dictator. In 1980, he started a long war with Iran, and in 1991, he invaded Kuwait, triggering the first Gulf War.
Islam is the official religion of Iraq, and the majority of the population is Muslim (97%). There are also small communities of Christians, Yazidis and Mandeans. Religion is deeply intertwined with daily life, government and politics of Iraq. However, the numbers of non-Muslim minority groups have declined dramatically in recent decades as the country has been riddled with sectarian tensions and conflict. This is reflected in the statistics of religious affiliations of Iraqi refugees in English-speaking countries the majority of those who have fled and been resettled belong to minority religions in Iraq. For example, the 2011 Australian Census recorded that the majority of Iraq-born people living in Australia identified as Catholic Christians (35.7%), 32% identified as Muslim and 11.9% identified as Assyrian Apostolic Christians. A further 20.4% affiliated with some other faith and 1.6% claimed to be non-religious.
The Iraqi constitution claims to recognise and protect the practice of the Muslim, Christian, Yazidi and Sabaean-Mandaean faiths. The public record does not reveal which religious denomination a person belongs to, or whether they are Sunni or Shi’a. However, to attain a national identity card, citizens are required to self-identify/register with one of these religions. 1 Without an identity card, Iraqis cannot obtain a passport, register marriages or access public education and some other civil services. For example, the Iraqi constitution explicitly prohibits the practice of the Bahá'í faith, meaning any person who self-identifies as Bahá'í is unable to gain proper civilian status. As such, people belonging to an unrecognised minority faith often have to self-identify as Muslim. Unfortunately, even in the cases where religious minorities have constitutional recognition, this official status has not been able to protect many from intimidation and prosecution, such as kidnapping and destruction of property.
Iraq has been a Muslim-majority country since the time period surrounding the Prophet Muhammad's death. As such, the cultural and national identity of the country is deeply shaped by the religion. Faith in Islam is expressed on a daily basis in Iraq, through dress, dietary codes, regular prayers and language. For example, an Iraqi man who is dedicated to Islam in politics and society may grow their beard quite long to indicate their religious association. Reverence to Allah is also very evident in the way many people speak it is common to slip praise into casual conversation.
The Iraqi Muslim population is particularly complex as it has large populations of followers from both the Sunni and Shi’a sect . It is estimated that 55-60% of the population is Shi’a whilst roughly 40% are Sunni Muslims. Indeed, Iraq is the only Arab state in which Shi’a Muslims constitute the majority. However, many Sunnis dispute their minority status, and do not trust religious estimates. Most Shi’a Muslims are ethnically Arab, but there are some Turkomen and Kurdish Shi’a Muslims as well. Of the Sunni Muslim population, it is estimated 60% Arabs, 37.5% are Kurds, and 2.5% are Turkomen. 2
Iraq has struggled with sectarian tensions between its Sunni and Shi’a populations. Sunnis and Shi’as differ theologically in that they hold different beliefs over who should have taken power after the Prophet Muhammad's death. However, today the contemporary differences generally centre around government representation and entitlement to political power in Iraq. The Sunni-Shi’a relationship deteriorated further during the US-led invasion of Iraq and subsequent intervention into the country’s politics. ISIS has harnessed the disputes between Sunnis and Shi’as to further their campaign. As a Sunni fundamentalist group, they have been able to mobilise support against the largely Shi’a Iraqi military framing the Shi’ites as the source of the Sunni people’s grievances.
Iraq has been home to Christian communities for thousands of years. Indeed, the land of present-day Iraq was majority Christian before Islam became the dominant religion (around 634 C.E.). The majority of Iraqi Christians are ethnic Assyrians and belong to four main denominations: the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Syriac Catholic Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church. There are also a number of Armenians who follow the Armenian Apostolic Church and Armenian Catholic Church.
The Chaldean Catholic Church has the largest following (approximately 67% of Iraqi Christians), followed by the Assyrian Church of the East (20%). 3 The followers of these two churches are believed to be the descendants of some of the earliest Christian communities. One’s Christian belief and following is often correlated with their ethnicity throughout Iraq. Most Christian communities speak neo-Aramaic languages specific to their ethnicity instead of Arabic.
At the beginning of the 20th century it was estimated there were between 800,000 - 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. However, years of political instability and religious persecution has seen the population to decline to less than 250,000. 4 Insurgent Islamic groups (such as ISIS) have sought to target Christians, often kidnapping or killing them and destroying their churches and communities. Iraqi Christians are also subject to continued harassment and abuses by regional militias and internal security forces. Many have had to flee as refugees or risk tragic consequences. As such, the Iraqi population in Australia is majority Christian as their claims for protection were well-founded. The 2011 census recorded that 36% of Iraq-born people living in Australia identify as Catholic Christians (including Chaldean) and 12% identify with Assyrian Apostolic churches.
The Yazidis (or Yezidis) are an ethno-religious group that practice a syncretic religion. Their faith combines aspects of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. They believe in a single god that is helped by seven angels, the most prestigious of which is a Peacock King (Malak Tawous). In the Yazidi religion, one prays to this angel five times a day.
The Yazidis are endogamous in that they are expected to marry within the religion. A Yazidi who marries outside the faith is then considered to have automatically converted to the religion of their spouse. Yazidis identify as ethnically Kurdish and speak Kurdish. However, there remains dispute among both Yazidis and Muslim Kurds as to whether they form a distinct ethnic group separate from the larger Kurdish population.
The Yazidis religion and community originated in Iraq, however their population has declined. In 2014, ISIS sought to ‘purify’ Iraq of non-Islamic influences by massacring Yazidis, who they describe as infidels and “devil worshippers”. Thousands were killed or died of starvation as their resources were cut off. Thousands more have fled to escape religious persecution, abduction, enslavement and death. The most recent reports from Yazidi leaders estimate that between 350,000 and 400,000 people remain in the north of the country. Many have sought protection in Western Europe and some have settled in Australia.
Iran Population History
From 1880 till 1920 the population of Iran remained at 10 million or below. From 1920 on it increased steadily, and the population rate reached 20 million by 1955. Then, according to the statistics, the drastic increase made the population reach 50 million in 1985. After increasing to 60 in 1995, it grew straight up to 70 million in 2005. The population statistics graph shows how dramatically the population had been increasing from year to year, and now the population of Iran is over 78 million.
Kurdistan Regional Government
Today, Iraqi Kurdistan is governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government or KRG. The KRG is located in the city of Erbil, which is also known in Kurdish as Hewlêr. Revenue for the Kurdish government is generated primarily from oil, although the KRG and the Iraqi government contest the ownership of this resource.
Source: Council on Foreign Relations
The army of Iraqi Kurdistan is the Peshmerga, and this army is protecting Iraqi Kurdistan from direct advance from the so-called Islamic State.
United States invades Iraq, 2003
The United Nations, an organization of the world's nations created to resolve conflicts in the world and provide humanitarian aid where needed, passed resolutions throughout the 1990s demanding Hussein halt any productions of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear and biological weapons capable of killing large numbers of people). Hussein continued to terrorize the Kurdish and Shiite populations as the United States carried out numerous bombing missions against Iraqi military installations including Operation Desert Strike that lasted several weeks in October 1996 and Operation Desert Fox in December 1998. The resolutions seemingly went unheeded and U.S. forces invaded Iraq in the spring of 2003 amid an international controversy over whether any weapons of mass destruction actually existed. Hussein's government fell on April 9, 2003, and Hussein was captured on December 13, 2003. Shiítes for the first time in eighty years were no longer under Sunni rule. However the Iraq war continued even though U.S. president George W. Bush (1946– served 2001–) had declared it over in 2003. By 2006 a civil war had developed between the Sunnis and Shiítes.
Shiítes embraced their newfound freedom enthusiastically. They immediately renamed streets, bridges, and public gathering areas after Shiíte leaders and heroes. All likenesses and representations of Hussein were destroyed. Pilgrimages to Najaf and Karbala began again and crowded those cities. Merchants sold prayer beads, rugs, and clogs of earth from the holy cities to the faithful.
Shiítes again performed public religious rituals once banned under Hussein. For example, Shiíte men paraded through streets beating their backs with chains. The ritual symbolized Ali's suffering. The Shiítes again publicly commemorated their holiest day of the year, Ashoura, marking the death of Husyn in Karbala in bce 680.
The already vast cemeteries around Najaf and Karbala grew dramatically as Shiítes brought back corpses of loved ones they had sought and found. Human rights groups estimated anywhere from three hundred thousand people to seven million, mostly Shiítes, were murdered under Hussein's rule. At the end of 2003, two large issues loomed. Iraqi Shiítes would have great difficulty putting aside grievances and deep hurt. They, along with the Sunni, would need to carve out a new Iraqi self-image as one people, which would require Sunnis to accept not being in total control of the country.
By early 2006, Iraqis had freely elected a permanent government. Reflecting the Iraqi population makeup, Shiítes won a clear majority, but about 20 percent of representatives were Sunni. A new constitution had been completed and approved by the people in October 2005. The constitution provided several basic principles: a democratic (power of government held by the people through election of political leaders) form of government freedom of religion though Islam is identified as the national religion and, the right to assemble. Whether the new Iraq would actually work was uncertain because of the sectarian (religious) strife that steadily worsened through 2006.
The United States still maintained an occupation force of about 150,000 troops in Iraq to attempt to keep order. However, daily violence continued claimed the lives of Iraqi civilians, police, and military, as well as American soldiers. By late 2005 and early 2006, Iraqis were segregating into Shiíte and Sunni enclaves. By late 2006 some 53,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed and over 3,000 U.S. and other coalition soldiers including over 2,700 U.S. soldiers after the war was declared over by American leaders.
Iraq Population - History
Historical Evolution: The Republic of Iraq, aljumhuriyya al-'iraqiyya, is an Arab nation located in southwestern Asia, at the head of the Persian/Arabian Gulf. Iraq is bordered by its Arab neighbors Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria and by non-Arab Turkey and Iran. The capital of Iraq is Baghdad, also its largest city. The land area measures 438,446 kilometers (175,378 square miles). In July 2000 the population was estimated to be more than 22.6 million. About three-fourths of Iraq's people live in the fertile area that stretches from Baghdad, following the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The ancient Greeks named this area Mesopotamia, or "between rivers." For thousands of years, the agriculture of the area has depended on the flow of irrigation from these two sources.
The country is comprised of 18 administrative units, or governorates (muhaafatha, plural muhaafathaat), further divided into districts and subdistricts. Iraq is a nation of varied ethnic groups and cultural heritages Iraqis of Arab descent comprise 75.8 percent of the population, while Iraq's Kurdish peoples number 15 to 20 percent. Turkomans, Assyrians, and other groups compose the remaining 5 percent of the population. The three governorates of Arbil, Sulaymaniya, and Dohouk form the Kurdish Autonomous Region, an area of limited self-rule by Iraq's Kurdish minority. Kurdish is the official language of the Autonomous Region and is widely used as the language of educational instruction in the area. Nearly 97 percent of Iraq's people are Muslim, along with tiny groups of Christians, Jews, and Yezidis. The Muslim population is split into the Sunni (32 to 37 percent) and the Shi'a sects (60 to 65 percent). Approximately three-quarters of the population speak Arabic as their native language. Arabic is the official language of Iraq, with Kurdish, Assyrian, and Armenian spoken among their respective ethnic groups.
Iraq's natural resources give it the potential to be one of the wealthiest nations in the region and the world. A founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Iraq possesses more than 112 billion barrels of oil&mdashthe world's second largest proven reserves. Iraq also benefits from its geography, unique in the region two great rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, converge in the heart of the nation, creating a fertile alluvial plain and generous tracts of cultivatable land.
The history of Iraq has been marked by cultural ascendance comparable only to the glory of the ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman civilizations. Mesopotamia sustained its place as an axis of learning for more than 4,000 years, attracting students, thinkers, and intellectuals from around the world. The world's first civilization developed in the area of Mesopotamia known as Sumer around 3500 B.C.E. Ancient Iraq was also the site of the Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations, extant in the period from 3500 B.C.E. to 53 B.C.E. The Code of Hammurabi, the first codified legal system, and cuneiform, the first system of writing, were both invented in what is now modern Iraq. The Arab conquest of 637 C.E. brought with it Arabic, the language of the Qur'an, and the Islamic faith. Mesopotamia was soon to be the hub of trade and culture in the Muslim world, becoming the seat of the Abbasid dynasty in 750 C.E. Saladin, or Salah Al-Din, a Kurdish warrior from Mesopotamia, defeated the Crusaders in Jerusalem in 1187. In 1258, Arab rule over the area was brought to an end by invading Mongol forces from central Asia. Mesopotamia lost its preeminence through Mongol neglect and fell into a deep decline. The Ottoman Empire's domination of the region began in the early 1500s and continued until Britain seized Mesopotamia from the Ottomans during World War I.
Modern Political Contexts: The League of Nations, the international organization that preceded the United Nations, granted Britain a mandate over the area in 1920 Britain promptly renamed the country Iraq and installed a puppet monarchy. France, Britain, and the United States competed for dominance of the Middle East beginning after World War I, when massive oil reserves were discovered there. In 1945, the U.S. State Department described the petroleum of the region as "one of the greatest material prizes in world history." Though Britain's mandate ended in 1932 making Iraq an independent nation, the British continued to exert influence on Iraqi affairs, including a stake in national oil profits and considerable sway over the monarchy they had installed. The year 1958 saw Iraq's first modern revolution: King Faisal I was overthrown by Iraqi army officers and a republic was declared. In 1963, military officers and members of the socialist, pan-Arab Baath Party (Arabic for "resurrection") assassinated the premier, General Abdelkarim Qassem. A second revolution followed in 1968. In 1973, the Iraqi government fully nationalized the nation's oil industry and huge profits were realized, especially in light of the oil explosion of the 1970s. Saddam Hussein rose to power as president in 1980 after years of behind the scenes influence within the ranks of the Baath. The Baath Party continues to dominate contemporary Iraqi politics and government.
The recent history of Iraq is fraught with almost unabated military conflict, at a great cost to the Iraqi government and people. In 1980, Iraq invaded neighboring Iran, and an eight-year long war caused egregious losses on both sides a cease-fire was declared in 1988 and no clear winner emerged. Conflicts with its Kurdish minorities in the north and Shi'a groups in the south have lead the Iraqi government to take such steps as: the forced resettlement and dispersal of entire communities of Iraqis the draining of marshland integral to the way of life of its occupants and the use of armed forces to curb opposition.
In 1990, Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait after protracted disputes involving Iraqi debt to the Gulf state, border disputes, and accusations of illegal oil drilling. Allied forces from more than 30 nations ejected the Iraqi military from Kuwait, and Operation Desert Storm came to a halt in February 1991. In response to Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait, the United Nations, led by the United States, effected a complete trade embargo on Iraq that has crippled its economy. This embargo, a form of international sanctions, legally prevents Iraq from exporting oil or importing any products, save for a small amount intended for humanitarian supplies ("Oil for Food") and reparations to Kuwait.
The Impact of Sanctions: The sanctions have become the key factor preventing the Iraqi government from recovering from its costly conflicts, rebuilding its infrastructure, and providing for its population. The sanctions prevent Iraq from selling oil and, thus, sever the most significant part of the Iraqi economy. Since 1991, Iraq's economy has shrunk by two-thirds inflation reached 135 percent in 1999. More than 150,000 Iraqi people died as a result of the Gulf War more than 1 million more have perished as a result of the sanctions, which some have described as genocide. The mortality rate for young children has more than doubled since 1989. Iraq's health care, social infrastructure, employment, and its ability to extend educational opportunity to its citizens, a primary goal of the Iraqi government since the late 1960s, have all been paralyzed by the trade embargo. In 1989, Iraq had a nearly 100 percent primary school enrollment rate. Once on the threshold of the first world, Iraq's standard of living has been reduced to less than that of such developing nations as Bangladesh. Any consideration of the future of this nation must take into account the sanctions' devastating effect on the Iraqi people.