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3. People & Society :

    The population of Iraq (2003 estimate) is 24,683,313. The estimated overall population density is 56 persons per sq km (146 per sq mi). The density varies markedly, with the largest population concentrations in the area of the river systems.

    The population is 67 percent urban. In the rural areas of the country many of the people still live in tribal communities.

    The population growth rate, which was 3.2 percent per year in the 1980s, declined in the early 1990s as the country’s birth rate fell. By the end of the decade, however, it had regained its former level. In 2003 the rate of population growth was 2.78 percent, the birth rate was 33.7 per 1,000 persons, and the death rate was 5.8 per 1,000 persons.


    Principal Cities

    Baghdād is the capital and largest city of Iraq. Other major cities include Al Başrah, the main port, located on the Shatt al Arab, and Mosul, or Al Mawşil, an oil center in the north.


Baghdād, Iraq Baghdād became the capital city of the newly created kingdom of Iraq in 1921, but the city’s history dates back many centuries more. Built in ad 762 on a fertile plain next to the Tigris River in central Iraq, Baghdād is the country's largest city and its center of transportation and manufacturing. In 1991, however, heavy bombing during the Gulf War destroyed much of the city's industry and transportation network.


    Ethnic Groups

    About 75 percent of the population of Iraq is Arab. Kurds, dwelling in the highlands of northern Iraq, constitute 15 to 20 percent of the population. Smaller groups include Turkmen, Jews, Armenians, and Assyrians.


    Spoken Languages

    Arabic is the official language of Iraq and is spoken by the majority of the population. The Kurds speak Kurdish. Armenian and Assyrian are spoken in rural areas in the north and west.



    Muslims make up 96 percent of Iraq’s population. Several of the holy cities such An Najaf and Karbalā’, are situated in Iraq. Among the few Christian sects in Iraq are the Nestorians , the Jacobite Christians, and offshoots of these two sects, respectively known as Chaldean and Syrian Catholics. In addition, smaller religious groups include the Yazidis, who live in the hill country north of Mosul, and a Gnostic group  known as the Mandaean Baptists living in Baghdād and Al ‘Amārah. The Yazidis are a syncretic sect, which combines the beliefs of different religions. A small community of Jews lives in Baghdād.


Imam Al Abbas Mosque The Imam Al Abbas Mosque is located in the central Iraqi city of Karbalā’. The city is a center of pilgrimage for Muslims.



    Education in Iraq is free. Six years of primary education are compulsory,  Instruction is in Arabic, although in much of the Kurdish-inhabited northern region, which has been autonomous since 1991, Kurdish is used in all levels of education alongside Arabic. Only 40 percent of Iraqis aged 15 or older are literate. In the 1998–1999 academic year 3.1 million pupils attended elementary schools, and 619,114 students were enrolled in secondary schools. More students attended vocational or teacher-training institutions. Iraq has many universities, four in Baghdād and one each in Al Başrah, Irbīl, Sulaimaniah , Mosul, Karbala , Babel , Najf , Anbar , Diyala and Tikrīt. The country also has about too many technical institutes.


    Health and Welfare

    Health standards in Iraq are low because of poor sanitary conditions and many endemic diseases. In 2003 the average life expectancy at birth was 40 years; the infant mortality rate was estimated at 55 per 1,000 live births in 2003. Iraq has 1 physician for every 2,091 people and 1 hospital bed for every 690 people. Most of the medical facilities are controlled by the central government. Working conditions are regulated by a social security law that was introduced in 1957, which also provides maternity, disability, old-age, and unemployment insurance. Sanctions imposed against Iraq have resulted in falling health standards since the Gulf War.