The Iraqi Republic
Arabic: (OFFICIAL:) ‘al-jumhūriyyatu l-¢irāqiyya
Arabic: (SHORT:) ‘al-¢irāq
Independent republic in Asia with 28.9 million (2009 estimate; 16.3 million at the 1987 census) and an area of 437,000 kmē. Its capital is Baghdad, also the largest city of the country. Iraq is divided into 18 governorates, called muhafaza.
The Kurdish-dominated northern parts of Iraq have autonomy, and many consider this part of Iraq to be in a process that will conclude with the establishment of a sovereign Kurdish state.
Iraq has since April 2003 been under the control of a US-led force. Administration today is effectively shared between the Iraqis and the Americans.
The national holiday is July 17, 1968, which is called Day of Revolution. Another day which has been commemorated is July 14, 1958, which was the date of the republican coup. The actual date of independence is October 3, 1932.
Head of state is since 2005, President Jalal Talabani (Kurdish and Sunni Muslim). Prime minister is since 2006, Nouri al-Maliki. The National Assembly is called Council of Representatives of Iraq and has 275 members.
Iraq has not been ranked on on the Human Development Index since the early 2000’s. Even then, before the war, the country performed poorly, being ranked as no. 130 of 182 world states. On a scale with 1.000 as maximum, Iraq gained 0.567 points.
The currency of Iraq is the dinar (IQD) underwent superficial restructuring since the war began in 2003. Its value fell drastically through the 1990’s, but in recent years, its value has stabilized compared to western currencies.
Although life in the north is quickly improving, the economy of Iraq as a whole remains weak, suffering from the instability and the many Iraqis of higher education that have sought refuge abroad. The present GDP per capita at US$3,200 (2008 estimate), places Iraq 69% below world average. Unemployment is at 18% even if the country is in a great need of rebuilding. There is no data for the percentage of population living under the poverty line, but it is by all measures one of the very highest in the MENA region, quite possibly exceeding 50%.
After years of sanctions, then followed by war, Iraq has seen its health infrastructure collapse. Doctors belong to the elite that most easily could leave the country during hard times. Still, life expectancy is better than one could expect.
Education structures have suffered as much as health structures, but there is presently a boom for higher education in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Being a junction of the worlds since ancient times, the ethnic diversity of Iraq is vast. Many peoples have mixed, but the mountains have secured the preservation of several unique identities.
As the people groups have preserved their identities, they have also held on to their native languages. Arabic dominates in all parts of the country, except in the north, where Kurdish is the main language.
As is the case with identity and language, several religions have survived in between the Iraqi mountains. In the flatland Islam has subjugated all but a substantial Christian minority, and a tiny Mandaean. In the mountains unique religions are most vital even in modern times.
Despite hardship over almost two decades, Iraqi women give birth to 4 children each, and judged from present indicators the population of Iraq will more than double within a generation.
It could be said that Iraq is the place where history begins, and Iraq is even in our times a country of the headlines. The history of Iraq passes through that of Mesopotamia, Babylon, the Caliphate and Saddam Hussein.
List of Cites and Towns
By Tore Kjeilen