According to Countryaah, Iraq had an average population density of 88 residents per km 2 in 2019, but the geographical variations were large. The river plains around the Euphrates and Tigris were the most densely populated areas, with up to 500 residents per km2, while the desert areas in the west and south were in the immediate public. Urbanization has increased strongly, and today 71 percent is estimated to live in cities. The capital Baghdad is the clearly dominant city with 8.8 million residents (2015). The population statistics for the country are very uncertain as a result of war and extensive domestic struggles.
Iraq’s population is mainly Arabs (75-80 percent) and Kurds (18 percent). The rest consists of Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, Armenians, Mandans, Jesuits and Iranians, as well as minor ethnic groups. The Kurds live in the northern and northeastern parts of the country, while the Iranians are concentrated in areas near the border with Iran. Other groups are spread throughout the country. As a result of the humanitarian crisis following the US march into the country in 2003, an increasing number of people have fled Iraq. In Jordan and Syria alone, in 2009, there were millions of refugees; in Sweden, the Iraqis make up the largest individual refugee group. Representatives of the country’s minorities are also moving. Of the mandates, perhaps 7,000 people remain (2009); yet in the 1990s there were 70,000 residents in the country. Armenians and Chaldeans are also declining rapidly.
About 97 percent of the population is Muslim, about 3 percent Christian. More than half of the Muslims are Shiites and the rest Sunnis, making Iraq the only Arab country where the Shiites are in the majority. Yet, both economics and politics have long been dominated by Sunnis.
The official language is Arabic. About 80% of the residents speak Arabic dialects which fall into two groups: one northern and one southern. The other languages are Kurdish (16%), Persian (1%), Turkish (1%) and New Aramaic (Chaldean, Urmic) around Mosul.
Most of Iraq’s population belongs to Islam; just over half are Shiites. Shiite Islam is more dominant in the south, Sunni in the north. The Kurds are mostly Sunnis. Iraqis of Persian descent are almost always Shiites. As a rule, Sunni Islam has been more closely tied to political power and to the leading strata of society. However, the political leadership has had to take into account the significant role of Shiite Islam in the country; this is not least because of some of the most significant pilgrimage sites of the Shiites in Iraq: Najaf, where the first Imam Ali has his grave, Karbala, where the third Imam Husayn was killed and where his tomb mosque is, and Samarra with the tomb of the eleventh Imam and where the twelfth “went into secrecy”; Karbala has special significance, see Ashura, and both there and in Najaf there are significant theological institutions. A fourth pilgrimage is the Kazimiyam Mosque in Baghdad, where the tombs of the Seventh and Ninth Imams are located.
There are significant religious minorities. Baghdad is then an old center of Oriental Christianity. Several churches are represented: the Chaldean (unified with the Roman Catholic), the Syrian Orthodox (monophysite) and the Nestorian or Eastern Assyrian church. During the first half of the 20th century, the Jewish population was 2%, but after the advent of Israel and the subsequent conflicts, most Jews left Iraq. The Mandans constitute their own ethnic-religious ethnic group of some tens of thousands, mainly settled in the swamp areas of southern Iraq. Their situation after the 1980s and 1990s wars is unknown. The same goes for the small group of Kurdish Yazidis. So-called Ahl-e Haqq also occurs. They are followers of a dervish order-like popular form of religion with belief in several deity manifestations and of self-transformation.
Baghdad, the capital and largest city in Iraq; approximately 7.2 million residents (2011). Baghdad lies on the large plain between Euphrates and Tigris in central Iraq, and Tigris runs through the city. The location in the middle of the Iraqi bush causes Baghdad to be one of the world’s hottest cities in the summer. The eastern part of the city, al-Rusafah, houses the oldest neighborhoods, while modern-day Baghdad, built in the period after 1920, is located on Tigris’ western shore, al-Karkh. The two boroughs are connected by a series of bridges.
There is very little left of the medieval town. Baghdad is dominated by modern industry, large high-rise buildings, congested thoroughfares and extensive slums both in the city itself and in its periphery. Since the 1960’s, there has been a strong influx from the rest of the country, with uncontrolled urban growth and rising slums. To relieve the city, in the late 1980’s it was decided to build three satellite towns in the area. The war, which followed the Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1990, caused widespread destruction of the city. The international sanctions in the 1990’s, which included limiting Iraq’s oil exports meant that the city was largely not rebuilt during the 1990’s. The bombings and fighting in the 2003 Iraq war also led to devastation in the city.
Following the US-led coalition’s invasion of Baghdad in April 2003, there were extensive looting of public buildings, offices, museums and presidential palaces, as well as the destruction of symbols of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The city continues to suffer from extensive riots and violence, and electricity and water supplies are unstable. The security situation has caused several foreign companies and NGOs to withdraw their employees from Iraq, which has complicated and slowed the reconstruction process. Furthermore, it has been necessary to allocate additional funds for security, as reconstruction projects have repeatedly been targets of terrorist acts. The coalition has since set up the International Zone or the Green Zone, which is a 10 km2 heavily guarded and controlled part of Baghdad with several official offices and foreign representations.
Excluding the oil sector, approximately 70% of Iraq’s industry is located in Baghdad. The city houses a number of colleges, including three universities, of which Baghdad University from 1958 is the largest. In the suburb of Kazimayn lies the Golden Mosque, an important Shiite pilgrimage site. Traditionally, Baghdad has been dominated by Sunni Muslims, but in several slums, not least the Sadr City district, the majority are Shiites.
Baghdad was constructed as a circular city (about 2 km in diameter) whose outlines have now disappeared. It was fortified with several concentric walls and divided into neighborhoods according to the ethnic and social status of the population. Canals from Tigris provided the water supply for gardens and parks. In the middle lay the mosque and the palace that continued the Sasanid building custom. In the center is the green dome, on top of which is a statue of a rider, which can be seen everywhere. The palace was known knowledge, among other things. for its mechanical, gilded silver tree with singing birds and 15 moving riders on each side. In time, the city expanded with magnificent architecture, especially during al-Muqtadir (908-32). Baghdad today has numerous mosques, mattresses, caravans and mausoleums; the elders go back to approximately 1200, when the Abbasid Palace was also erected. The museum’s rich collections of archaeological finds illuminate both the Mesopotamian ancient cultures and the Islamic period. Following the military coup in 1958, several major monuments have been erected, including the Martyr’s Monument (1983) in memory of the victims of the Iran-Iraq War.
When the Abbasids in 749-50 had secured their caliphate, al-Mansur in 762 built Baghdad as a new residence. The city was to house the court, the Caliphal administration and parts of the Abbasid army. It was early called Madinat al-salam, ‘The City of Peace’. Development was fast and already around 800 it stretched on both sides of the Tigris.
Baghdad stayed in the 800- and 900-t. one of the largest cities in the Caliphate with numerous impressive buildings and thus a natural cultural power center with an ethnically and religiously composed population. Medieval sources put the population at almost 1 million, but the figure is undoubtedly greatly exaggerated.
In 1258 the city was occupied by the Mongols, which put an end to the Abbasid caliphate. The Mongol conquest brought significant destruction, but Baghdad remained a residence city for other subsequent dynasties as well. The town was in the 1500’s and 1600’s. the subject of both Safavid and Ottoman conquests. The Ottomans had control of the city from 1638 until 1917, when it was occupied by British forces.
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When the Kingdom of Iraq was created in 1920 at British initiative, Baghdad became the capital of the new kingdom and soon underwent rapid development. The city became Iraq’s largest and the country’s administrative, cultural and political center, which also left clear traces in the city’s architecture especially through the 1970’s and early 1980’s, when Iraq earned huge sums on oil sales. During 1991, during the Gulf War, Baghdad was subjected to heavy aerial bombardments, resulting in major destruction. The damage was only partially repaired during the 1990’s due to international financial sanctions. During the March-April 2003 war, the city was once again subjected to violent bombings, and since 2004 it has been hit by a series of terrorist acts that have caused further destruction to the city.