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الجمهورية العراقية
Al-Jumhuriyah Al-Iraqiyah
كۆماری عێراق
Komara Iraqê
Republic of Iraq
Flag of Iraq Coat of arms of Iraq
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Allahu Akbar (Arabic: God is great)
Anthem: Mawtini1
Location of Iraq
Capital Baghdad2
33°20′ N 44°26′ E
Largest city Baghdad
Official language(s) Arabic, Kurdish3
Prime Minister
Parliamentary democracy
Jalal Talabani
Ibrahim al-Jaafari
From the Ottoman Empire
From the United Kingdom
From the CPA

October 1, 1919
October 3, 1932
June 28, 2004
• Total

• Water (%)

437,072 km² ( 58th)
{{{areami²}}} mi²

• 2005 est.
• [[As of |]] census

• Density

26,074,906 ( 45th)

59/km² ( 112th)
• Total
• Per capita
2005 estimate
,800,000,000 ( 58th)
,500 ( 122nd)
HDI ( 2003) ( n/a) – unranked
Currency Iraqi dinar ( IQD)
Time zone
• Summer ( DST)
( UTC+3)
( UTC+4)
Internet TLD .iq
Calling code +964
1The Kurds use Ey Reqîb
2The capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Region is Arbil
3Official language in three Kurdish regions
The Republic of Iraq ( Arabic: ; Kurdish: عيَراق) is a Middle Eastern country in southwestern Asia encompassing most of Mesopotamia as well as the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range and the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and it also includes southern Kurdistan. It shares borders with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the west, Syria to the northwest, Turkey to the north, and Iran to the east. It has a very narrow section of coastline at Umm Qasr on the Persian Gulf.Iraq contains a mixture of various Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians cultures (with a small smattering of minorities including some Christians), deeply influenced by Persian and Ottoman rule and societies. It also hosts three of the most important religious sites in Shi'a Islam — the Sacred Mosque of Imam Ali in Najaf and the mosques of Imam Hussein and Hadrat Abbas Shrine in Karbala.After the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by American and British military forces, which drove Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Party from power, a transitional government of Iraq was elected in January 2005.On October 15, 2005, Iraqi voters approved a new constitution in a referendum. Though it received a 79% "yes" vote, it was opposed by a large majority of Sunni Arab Iraqis. A majority of all Iraqis or any three provinces rejecting it by more than 2/3 vote would have meant a failure to pass.On December 15, 2005, Iraqis voted for their first permanent National Assembly under the new constitution. The turnout was described by various media sources and official estimates as being around 70%. A large number of Sunni Arabs voted in the election.American offensives on such cities as Fallujah and Tal Afar, the continued lack of such basic services as electricity and clean water, and deep political division in the country, have continued to contribute to disenchantment and disorder in Iraq. Supporters of the Iraqi insurgency blame the occupying forces for the disorder, but others blame the insurgency itself. In the meantime, the country is still struggling to gain stability in various aspects.

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History - Contents

The Republic of Iraq sits on land that is historically known as Mesopotamia, which means 'land between the rivers' in Greek. This land was home to some of the world's first civilizations, including the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian cultures, whose influence extended into neighboring regions as early as 5000 BC. These civilizations produced some of the first writing, science, mathematics, law and philosophy in the world, making the region the center of what is commonly called the " Cradle of Civilization". Ancient Mesopotamian civilization dominated other civilizations of its time. John Randal Baker suggested a big similarity of the Sumerians to the Kurds and Iranians acknowledging Sumer's unique cultural achievements. Beginning in the seventh century AD, Islam spread to what is now Iraq. Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, was the leading city of the Arab and Muslim world for five centuries. In 1258, Baghdad was devastated by the Mongols and was later occupied by the Ottoman Turks. Ottoman rule over Iraq lasted until the Great War (World War I) when the Ottomans sided with Germany and the Central Powers. After World War I, the Turks were driven from the area by the United Kingdom during the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.At the end of World War I, the League of Nations granted the area to the United Kingdom as a mandate. It was formed out of three former Ottoman vilayets (regions): Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. The British gave the mandate the name Al-Iraq, a name which was previously applied only to the southern region of the Basra vilayet.The word ırak in Turkish means far or distant and this is where the name comes.Iraq was granted independence in 1932. The British-installed Hashemite monarchy lasted until 1958, when it was overthrown through a coup d'etat by the Iraqi army, known as the 14 July Revolution. The coup brought Brigadier General Abdul Karim Qassim's government to power (which withdrew from the Baghdad Pact and established friendly relations with the Soviet Union) from 1958 until 1963, when he was overthrown by Colonel Abdul Salam Arif with American complicity . Salam Arif died in 1966 and his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, assumed the presidency. In 1968, Rahman Arif was overthrown by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, with the alleged backing of the U.S. . The Ba'ath's key figure became Saddam Hussein who acceded to the presidency and control of the Revolutionary Command Council (Also known as RCC), Iraq's supreme executive decision making body, in July 1979, killing off many of his opponents in the process. Saddam's absolute and particularly bloody rule lasted throughout the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988), in which the United States, Soviet Union, and France backed Saddam after 1982, a war that ended in stalemate; the al-Anfal campaign of the late 1980s, which led to the alleged gassing of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq; Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 resulting in the Gulf War; and the United Nations economic sanctions imposed at the urging of the U.S. In as much as the economic sanctions were designed to disarm Saddam of WMDs [3], they were a failure. Between 400,000 and 800,000 Iraqi children died as a result of the sanctions The U.S. and the U.K. declared no-fly zones over Kurdish northern and Shiite southern Iraq to protect the Kurds and southern Shiites.After the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, Iraq was ruled by the U.S.-led coalition authority and later by the Iraqi government that the U.S.-led coalition installed, and is now independent from the United States of America. With ceremony to a minimum, on Monday, June 28, 2004, self-rule was officially restored by the United States to Iraqis two days ahead of schedule. After handing the formal sovereignty document to Prime Minister Allawi who was chosen by the occupation authority. Free elections were held in 2005, but over 140,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq.

Politics - Contents

Iraq was under Ba'ath Party rule from 1968 to 2003; in 1979 Saddam Hussein took leadership and became president until 2003, when he was unseated by a US-led invasion.The unicameral Iraqi parliament, the National Assembly or Majlis al-Watani, had 250 seats and its members were elected for four-year terms. No non-Ba'ath candidates were allowed to run.In November 2003, the US-managed Coalition Provisional Authority announced plans to turn over sovereignty to an Iraqi Interim Government by mid-2004. The actual transfer of sovereignty occurred on 28 June 2004. The interim president installed was Sheikh Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, and the interim prime minister was Iyad Allawi, a man who had been a CIA asset according to former U.S. intelligence officials (NY Times June 9, 2004, January 30, 2005, a majority of Iraqi voters voted in an election conducted by their transitional government which elected a 275-member Transitional National Assembly. The election was seen by some as a victory for democracy in the Middle East, but that opinion is not shared by all. Seymour Hersh has reported that there was an effort by the U.S. government to shift funds and other resources to Allawi and that there may have been similar under-the-table dealings by other parties. Although he did not get the most seats in the Iraqi Congress, Allawi's delegation jumped from a projected 3-4% of the vote to 14% of the vote, giving him power in the writing of the Constitution.The Iraqi Assembly would:
  • Serve as Iraq's national legislature. It has named a Presidency Council, consisting of a President and two Vice Presidents. (By unanimous agreement, the Presidency Council will appoint a Prime Minister and, on his recommendation, cabinet ministers.)
  • Draft Iraq's new constitution. This constitution was presented to the Iraqi people for their approval in a national referendum in October 2005. Under the new constitution, Iraq would elect a permanent government in December 2005.
Under the Iraqi transitional constitution, signed March 2004, the country's executive branch is now led by a three-person presidential council. The election system for the council effectively ensures that all three of Iraq's major ethnic groups are represented. The constitution also includes basic freedoms like freedom of religion, speech, and assembly, and is perceived by some to be more progressive than the U.S. Constitution. [4] Controversially, however, it states that all laws that were in effect on the transfer date cannot be repealed. Furthermore, since the coalition forces are currently working to maintain order and create a stable society under the United Nations, coalition troops can remain in control of the country indefinitely despite the transfer of sovereignty. Since Iraqi forces are currently considered not fully trained and equipped to police and secure their country, it is expected that coalition troops will remain until Iraqi forces no longer require their support. However, these rules will be set aside once the Transitional National Assembly is seated.On 5 April 2005, the Iraqi National Assembly appointed Jalal Talabani, a prominent Kurdish leader, President. It also appointed Adel Abdul Mehdi, a Shiite Arab, and Ghazi al-Yawar, the former Interim President and a Sunni Arab, as Vice Presidents. Ibrahim al-Jaafari a Shiite, whose United Iraq Alliance Party won the largest share of the vote, was appointed the new Prime Minister of Iraq. Most power is vested in him. The new government was faced with two major tasks. The first is to attempt to rein in a violent insurgency, which has blighted the country in recent months, killing many Iraqi civilians and officials as well as a number of U.S. troops. (As of mid-2005, approximately 135,000 American troops remain in Iraq with 2,214 U.S. soldiers killed). The second major task was to re-engage in the writing of a new Iraqi constitution, as outlined above, to replace the Iraqi transitional constitution of 2004.In the meantime, the Iraqi government is considered by many international governments to be a legitimate government. According to the U.S. administration, the judiciary in Iraq operates under the primacy of rule of law, so war criminals from the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein will get a fair and open trial, in which their rights will be subjected to due process and be protected by the scrutiny of a free press, the requirements of modern court proceedings.On October 15, 2005, more than 63% of eligible Iraqis came out across the country to vote on whether to accept or reject the new constitution. On October 25, the vote was certified and the constitution passed with a 78% majority. [5] The new constitution had overwhelming backing among the Shia and Kurdish communities, as well as among a sizeable minority of the Sunni Arabs of Western Iraq. Three provinces rejected it ( Salah ad Din with 82% against, Ninawa with 55% against, and Al Anbar with 97% against), but the final vote against the constitution was not 67%, which would have defeated the constitution. Although fraud is widely believed in the Ninawah results, the results are unlikely to be overturned.Under the terms of the constitution, the country conducted fresh nationwide parliamentary elections on December 15 to elect a new, permanent government.The most influential Shia figures are Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Ayatollah Hadi al-Modarresi, Sayed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and Muqtada al-Sadr.Iraqi politicians have been under significant threat by the various factions that have promoted violence as a political weapon. The ongoing violence in Iraq has been incited by an amalgam of religious extremists that believe an Islamic Caliphate should rule, old regime Sunnis that had ruled under Saddam that want back the power they had, and Iraqi nationalists that are fighting against what they view as a foreign occupation.

Minority situation
Assyrians, Mandeans, Yezidis, Turkmens (Turkomans), Gypsies, and Kurds have allegedly not enjoyed equal status throughout Iraq's eighty-five year history. The situation of the Kurds has changed since the Ba'ath party was removed from power. The remainder of these ethnic groups continue to struggle against Islamic extremists, Arab nationalists, and criminal elements.Since the 1977 census, the ruling Ba'ath party forced people to answer the question of ethnicity as either Arab or Kurd. Despite Iraq being the second most multi-ethnic and multi-religious country in Asia [ citation needed], the other groups were forced to deny their identities. During the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam's secret police forced over 200,000 Assyrians and 150,000 Kurds to move from the Nineveh Plains to Baghdad, as part of an Arabization campaign in Iraq.But perhaps the worst event of minority persecution in Iraq took place in 1980's, in what is now referred to as the Anfal campaign. Estimates from 200,000 to 400,000 of Kurds were either massacred in a genocidal offensive or have been missing ever since, in and around mostly the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

Governorates - Contents

Governorates of Iraq
Governorates of Iraq
Iraq is divided into eighteen governorates or provinces (Arabic: muhafadhat, singular - muhafadhah, Kurdish: پاریزگه Pârizgah). Particularly in Iraqi government documents the term governorate is preferred:
  1. Baghdad Arab,Assyrian, Kurdish
  2. Salah ad Din Arab, Kurdish
  3. Diyala Arab, Kurdish, Turkmen
  4. Wasit Arab
  5. Maysan Arab
  6. Al Basrah Arab
  7. Dhi Qar Arab
  8. Al Muthanna Arab
  9. Al Qadisyah Arab
  10. Babil Arab
  11. Karbala Arab
  12. An Najaf Arab
  13. Al Anbar Arab
  14. Ninawa Arab, Kurdish, Assyrian, Turkmen
  15. Dahuk Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian
  16. Arbil Kurdish, Assyrian, Arab, Turkmen
  17. At Ta'mim (Kirkuk) Arab, Kurdish, Turkmen, Assyrian
  18. As Sulaymaniyah Kurdish

Geography - Contents

Map of Iraq
Map of Iraq
Tigris River near Mosul
Tigris River near Mosul
Mosque in Mosul
Mosque in Mosul
Mosque in Kerbela
Mosque in Kerbela
Meshed Ali, Najaf
Meshed Ali, Najaf
Large parts of Iraq consist of desert, but the area between the two major rivers ( Euphrates and Tigris) is fertile, with the rivers carrying about 60 million cubic metres (78 million cu. yd) of silt annually to the delta. The north of the country is largely mountainous, with the highest point being a 3,611 metres (11,847 ft) point, unnamed on the map opposite, but known locally as Cheekah Dar (black tent). Iraq has a small coastline with the Persian Gulf. Close to the coast and along the Shatt al-Arab (known as arvandrūd: اروندرود among Iranians) there used to be marshlands, but many of these were drained in the 1990s.The local climate is mostly a monsoon climate with mild to cool winters and dry, hot, cloudless summers. The northern mountainous regions experience cold winters with occasional heavy snows, sometimes causing extensive flooding. The capital of Baghdad is situated in the centre of the country, on the banks of the Tigris. Other major cities include Basra in the south and Mosul in the north.

Economy - Contents

An old 50 dinar bill
An old 50 dinar bill
Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings. In the 1980s financial problems caused by massive expenditures in the eight-year war with Iran and damage to oil export facilities by Iran led the government to implement austerity measures, borrow heavily, and later reschedule foreign debt payments. Iraq suffered economic losses from the war of at least US0 billion. After hostilities ended in 1988, oil exports gradually increased with the construction of new pipelines and restoration of damaged facilities. A combination of low oil prices, repayment of war debts (estimated at around US billion a year) and the costs of reconstruction resulted in a serious financial crisis which was the main short term motivation for the invasion of Kuwait.Iraq's seizure of Kuwait in August 1990, subsequent international economic sanctions, and damage from the ensuing Gulf War of 1991 drastically reduced economic activity. Although government policies supporting large military and internal security forces and allocating resources to key supporters of the Ba'ath Party government hurt the economy, implementation of the United Nations' corruption-plagued oil-for-food program in December 1996 was to have improved conditions for the average Iraqi citizen.In December 1999, the UN Security Council authorised Iraq to export under the program as much oil as required to meet humanitarian needs. Iraq changed its oil reserve currency from the US dollar to the euro in 2000. Oil exports were more than three-quarters of the pre-war level. However, 28% of Iraq's export revenues under the program were deducted to meet UN Compensation Fund and UN administrative expenses. The drop in GDP in 2001 was largely the result of the global economic slowdown and lower oil prices. Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the economy to a great extent shut down; attempts are underway to revive it from the damages of war and rampant crime.As chief executive of Iraq, Paul Bremer issued a series of orders designed to restructure Iraq's broadly socialist economy in line with neo-liberal thinking. Order 39 laid out the framework for full privatization in Iraq, except for "primary extraction and initial processing" of oil, and permitted 100% foreign ownership of Iraqi assets. Other orders established a flat tax of 15% and permitted foreign corporations to repatriate all profits earned in Iraq. Opposition from senior Iraqi officials, together with the poor security situation, meant that Bremer's privatization plan was not implemented during his tenure, though his orders remain in place. Privatization of the oil industry, in addition to around 200 other state-owned businesses, was scheduled to begin sometime in late 2005, though it is opposed by the Federation of Oil Unions in Iraq. [6]One of the key economic challenges was Iraq's immense foreign debt, estimated at 5 billion. Although some of this debt was derived from normal export contracts that Iraq had failed to pay for, some was a result of military and financial support during Iraq's war with Iran. The Jubilee Iraq campaign argued that much of these debts were odious (illegitimate). However, as the concept of odious debt is not accepted, trying to deal with the debt on those terms would have embroiled Iraq in legal disputes for years. Iraq decided to deal with its debt more pragmatically and approached the Paris Club of official creditors.On 20 November 2005, the Paris Club agreed to write off 80% (up to 0 billion) of Iraq's external debt. This will be implemented over three years in line with delivery by Iraq on economic reform. By the end of 2005, some billion of Iraq's debt should have been cancelled.

Demographics - Contents

Distribution of Religious and Ethnic Groups in Iraq
Distribution of Religious and Ethnic Groups in Iraq
Boat on the Euphrates River
Boat on the Euphrates River
Seventy-five to eighty percent of Iraq's population are Arabs; the other major ethnic groups are the Kurds at 15-20%, Assyrians, Turkomans and others (5%), who mostly live in the north and northeast of the country. The Assyrians, Kurds, and Turkomans differ from Arabs in many ways, including culture, history, clothing, and language. Other distinct groups are Persians and Armenians (possible descendants of the ancient Mesopotamian culture). About 2,500 Jews and 20,000–50,000 Marsh Arabs live in Iraq. Arabic and Kurdish are official languages; English is the most commonly spoken Western language. Assyrian is also used by the country's Assyrian population.There are more Arab Iraqi Muslim members of the Shiite sect than there are Arab Iraqi Muslims of the Sunni sect; but there is a large Sunni population as well, made up of mostly Arabs and Kurds. (Shiites: 60% of total population made up of mostly Arabs). Iraq's sizable Christian population numbers some 750,000; most are of the Chaldean rite, almost all of whom are Chaldeo-Assyrian people. Bahá'ís, Mandaeans, Shabaks, and Yezidis also exist. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims.Demographic information from the 2005 edition of the CIA's The World Factbook [7]:
  • Ethnic groups: Arab, 75–80%; Kurdish, 15-20%; Turkoman, Assyrian or other 5%.
  • Religions: Muslim, 97% (Shi'ite, 60-65%; Sunni 32-37%); Christian or other, 3%.

Culture - Contents

In the most recent millennium, what is now Iraq has been made up of five cultural areas: Kurdish in the north centered on Arbil; Sunni Islamic Arabs in the center around Baghdad; Shi'a Islamic Arabs in the south centered on Basra; the Assyrians, a Christian people, living in various cities in the north; and the Marsh Arabs, a nomadic people, who live on the marshlands of the central river. Markets, and debating the price of goods, are the common form of trade.

Music - Contents

Iraq is known primarily for an instrument called the oud (similar to a lute) and a rebab (similar to a fiddle); its stars include Ahmed Mukhtar and the Assyrian Munir Bashir. Until the fall of Saddam Hussein, the most popular radio station was the Voice of Youth. It played a mix of western rock, hip hop and pop music, all of which had to be imported via Jordan due to international economic sanctions. The Corrs and Westlife are especially popular. Iraq has also produced a major pan-Arab pop star-in-exile in Kazem al Saher, whose songs include Ladghat E-Hayya, which was banned for its racy lyrical content.>
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