Iraq, Republic of (Arab. Jumhouriya al ‘Iraqia)
- Scheherazade Qassim Hassan
(Arab. Jumhouriya al ‘Iraqia)
Modern Iraq covers the region of ancient Mesopotamia between two great rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. With its first royal cities, discovery of writing and advanced overall culture, this country gave birth to the oldest cradle of civilization. Situated at the north-eastern end of the Arab world, Iraq, with an area of 438,317 km², is an important meeting-place of the various cultures of the Middle East (Persian, Turkish and others).
The country has rich agricultural plains, mountains, deserts and marshes, with cities and towns built along the rivers. The population has recently grown from about 11 million (1975) to some 23·11 million (2000 estimate). Arab Muslims form the majority (75%). Kurds form the second most important ethnic group, and there are also Turkmens (mainly around Kirkuk), Gypsies (kawlīyya) and blacks (in the South). 95% of the population is Muslim (Sunni and Shi‘a sects and some heterodox groups). There are Christians of the Chaldean, Nestorian and Armenian churches. Other religious groups are the Yezidis and the Sabaeens (known as Christians of St John). A very ancient Jewish community existed until ...