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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.