Iraq Geography and Population

By | January 8, 2023

Iraq (Geography)

Iraq’s borders run predominantly through uninhabited and impassable areas, and most are disputed. The former neutral territory on the border with Saudi Arabia in the south was divided between the two countries in 1967. Negotiations against Iran are bounded by the Euphrates-Tigris river valley by the Zagros Mountains, which rise steeply from the flat plain SE of Baghdad. To the north, the transition from river plain to mountainous land is more gradual with several rows of low mountain ranges sliding into the oak. Zagros Mountains with peaks over 3000 m. These own north and east of Baghdad, ancient Assyria, is predominantly inhabited by Kurds and is called Iraqi Kurdistan. The western side of the great river plain rises slowly up towards a plateau towards Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria; in Iraq the altitudes do not exceed 1000 m. The climate is predominantly subtropical and mainland with mild winters and extremely hot summers; temperatures above 50 °C occur regularly and are very unpleasant due to the high humidity of the river valley. Precipitation is almost everywhere insufficient for agriculture, and without irrigation from the two rivers, the natural vegetation is bush steppe and desert. Only in Iraqi Kurdistan does up to 1000 mm of annual precipitation fall, much of it as snow in winter. In southern Iraq there was a 10,000 km2large marshland; since the 1970’s it has been drained. Drainage gained momentum after Shia Muslims in southern Iraq in 1991 after the Gulf War tried to revolt. The drainage was done by means of dams, which prevented the Tigris and Euphrates from flooding the wetlands, and by diverting water from the area via newly dug canals. Thus, almost 200,000 so-called marsupials were displaced. In 2001, it was estimated that 90% of the area was drained. Following the fall of the Iraq war and the fall of Saddam Hussein, great efforts have been made to re-establish wetlands. However, it is still threatened due to extensive dam construction and irrigation systems further up the rivers.


The population of Iraq in 1987 was estimated at 16.3 million. population, and in the period 1990-2003 the population growth was 2.4%; 39% of the population is estimated to be under 15 years of age. Compared to the other countries in the region, Iraq has a very complex ethnic and religious population. Just over 75% of the Iraqi population are Arabs and 15-20% are Kurds. In addition, a smaller proportion of Turkmens, Assyrians and various tribes. approximately 95% of the Iraqi population are Muslims, of which 60-65% are Shia Muslims and approximately 35% Sunni Muslims. In addition, there is a small group of Christians (about 3%). The Arab Sunni Muslims dominated the economy, politics and military under Saddam Hussein’s regime, and it is from this group that most of the militant rebels are found in the fight against first the US-led invasion and then against the Shia-Islamic-led Iraqi government. Until 2003, the Kurds have had regional self-government, while the Shia Muslims in the south have been under Sunni-dominated rule. The ethnic and religious differences are complicated by deep economic and cultural divides between an extremely poor rural population and a relatively affluent middle class in the cities, especially in Baghdad, which is the all-dominating center politically, economically and culturally. Here live approximately 6.5 million residents (2005), many in fast-growing, vast slums. The regional centers Basra and Mosul in respectively. Southern Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan both have over 1 million. residents.

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Iraq’s population is young and the birth rate high, but after the 1991 Gulf War and subsequent sanctions, infant mortality has risen from 40 per cent. 1000 in 1990 to 102 per. 1000 in 2002. In the 1970’s, the health care system, like the education sector, was considered the best functioning in the Arab world, but is now quite run-down and overloaded as a result of the long and bloody Iran-Iraq War 1980-88, the Gulf War, those of the UN imposed sanctions, the occupation and the extensive internal struggles. In addition, there is a shortage of medicine and equipment. The population suffers from a relatively high mortality rate, serious health problems as well as widespread malnutrition and malnutrition of children.

Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, the population was held together by an extremely strong regime, probably the most brutal in the Middle East. The government used already in peacetime 1/3of the state’s large oil revenues in several attempts to defeat the Kurds militarily, because Iraqi Kurdistan around Kirkuk contains the country’s largest oil fields. The government of Baghdad could therefore not give the Kurds autonomy without at the same time relinquishing control of a significant portion of oil revenues. The opposition between the regime and the Kurds, on the other hand, helped to downplay the religious conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites, which remarkably did not materialize during the Sunni regime’s eight-year war against Shiite Iran. However, after the end of the Gulf War and under the impression of the Islamic fundamentalism of the 1990’s, there were violent clashes between the central government, the Shiites in the south and the Kurds in the north. The regime cracked down hard on opposition from Shia Muslims and Kurds, and it led to extensive refugee flows. After the invasion in 2003, the antagonisms between the religious groups flared up and there have been numerous attacks on Shia Muslim shrines and churches.


Oil.Iraq is estimated (2003) to have 10% of the world’s known oil reserves, which places Iraq among the world’s largest oil states sm Saudi Arabia and Iran. Production began in 1927; in 1979, 3.7 million were produced. barrels per. day, and in July 1990, just before the invasion of Kuwait, 3.5 million. barrels per. day. Under the sanctions, oil production was curtailed, and in 1997 1.2 million tonnes were produced. barrels per. day. In 2003, Iraqi oil production varied sharply, but in August 2003 is estimated to be just under 1 million. barrels per. day. In 2005, production had increased to DKK 2 million. barrels per. day. However, the potential is far greater, but it presupposes that the sector is modernized and investments are made, which is difficult due to the extensive acts of sabotage against the oil plants,

Agriculture. Only 12% of the area is cultivated; in addition, a slightly smaller area is used for pastures. Large areas are irrigated, but growing areas are suffering from salinization, drainage problems and generally from lack of investment and maintenance, and Iraqi agriculture cannot feed the country, which is why Iraq is dependent on imported food. The main crops are wheat and barley. Date cultivation is among the largest in the world, and Iraq was formerly one of the main suppliers of dates to the world market. Although approximately 1/3of the labor force is found in agriculture, the industry contributes only an estimated 5% of GDP. An agricultural reform that began in 1958 has never been implemented, but it has resulted in many farmers switching from private to state ownership and giving up growing crops for the market instead of subsistence farming. After 1988, attempts have been made to privatize, but many organizations and the agro-industry remain state-run under politically appointed leadership. Major dam projects in Syria and Turkey have periodically threatened to drain the Euphrates, and Iraq, under Saddam Hussein’s regime, has given priority to dam construction to secure water resources within the country’s borders.

Iraq is a major food importer, and until 1990 the United States was the main supplier of grain and flour. As a result of the UN sanctions after the Gulf War, these exports were suspended in 1991. In 1992, Iraqi outstanding countries were released to pay for wheat imports from Australia and France, but although food is explicitly kept out of the world community embargo, the situation has been marked by a lack of basic foods. In the period 1991-2003, Iraq was subject to sanctions by the UN that allowed Iraq to sell certain quantities of oil in return for the purchase of medicine and food. However, the regime sought to prevent food and medicine from reaching the population, and there was widespread corruption and circumvention of the sanctions. The UN estimates that approximately 500,000 infants and 60,000 other Iraqis lost their lives during the sanction period, partly as a result of the sanctions, partly as a result of the brutality of the Saddam Hussein regime. Following the end of the sanctions, up to 96% of the Iraqi population continued to receive food rations from the government (2004).

Infrastructure and industry

As part of the Germans’ attempt to gain influence in Iraq, in 1902 they took over the concession for the construction of the Baghdad Railway, which was to continue the Orient Express.from Istanbul to the capital of Iraq. However, Germany’s Oriental policy ended with the defeat in World War I, and the course was not completed until 1940. Since the great oil revenues began to come, infrastructure has been a high priority. A heavily developed railway network to connect Iraq with the Arabian Peninsula, Turkey, Syria and Jordan has been planned, and Baghdad’s airport has long been under construction. Port and canal facilities in Basra have also been under construction for a long time, but were hampered by the war against Iran and unresolved territorial problems at Shatt al-Arab. Finally, it seeks to exploit river systems for transport purposes, just as a major expansion of the road network is a high priority. In addition, the Danish Cowiconsult has delivered a project design for approximately 6 billion dollars. However, both the projects and the existing infrastructure have suffered as a result of the Gulf War. After the wars, virtually all modern communication systems were put out of action, including the telephone network. Roads, ports, railways and over 100 bridges were destroyed, and immediately after the 1991 war, the only public transport connection to the outside world was beyond the air road connection through Amman to the Gulf of Aqaba. The reconstruction of the infrastructure was hampered by a lack of money and materials as a result of the UN sanctions.

Before the war against Iran, Iraq was engaged in a cautious construction of industry based on petrochemicals, but it was severely damaged in the first years of the war. In addition, there were also certain light industries and cement and building materials manufacturing for the domestic market. A privatization program from 1987 had some success in the light industry, but in 1989 the government again took control. In the 1990’s, many factories have been closed, according to the government, due to UN sanctions. The sanctions imposed on Iraq by the UN in the period 1991-2003 led to serious deterioration in sanitation, electricity and water supply. The abolition of sanctions and the presence of the temporary coalition authority have meant that schools have been reopened and health centers rebuilt, but even though 98% of all households are connected to the electricity grid,

Due to the security situation in the country, the reconstruction has stalled in some places and foreign companies are refraining from investing. At the same time, the difficult security situation has meant that large sums of money, allocated to the reconstruction, have not been spent.

Iraq – language

The official languages ​​from 2005 are both Arabic and Kurdish. Spoken language for approximately 80% of the population are different Eastern Arabic dialects, while the written language is standard Arabic. Kurdish is spoken by approximately 16% in the northern part of the country. The so-called Turkmen minority does not speak Turkmen, but a variant of Turkish. Of other smaller groups, Persian and Neo-Syrian are spoken. For culture and traditions of Iraq, please check animalerts.

Iraq (Religion)

Ca. 95% of Iraq’s residents are Muslims, while the rest belong to various Christian denominations. Of the country’s Muslim population, approximately 60% Shia Islam, while the rest are Sunni Muslims. The Sunni Muslim population is very diverse and includes Arabs, Kurds and smaller groups of Turkmens. The Shia population includes predominantly Arabs, who traditionally live in the southern part of the country. The two cities of al-Najaf and Kerbala house several important Shia Muslim centers, where scholars such as Ayatollah Khomeini and Musa al-Sadr have studied and taught.

Islam is not a formal state religion, and the Iraqi constitution guarantees the people religious freedom. But the historical significance of Islam for Iraq has led to the government always having a special minister for religious affairs and for the economic values ​​that have been bequeathed as waqf, i.e. religious foundations, as well as the country’s legislation regarding family law, provide some opportunity to follow Islamic legal tradition.

Iraq Geography