- Researchers claim that most Irish and Britons can trace their roots to Iraq and Syria.g
- The Martyr’s Monument (al-Shaheed Monument) in Baghdad was constructed in the memory of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers who died in the Iran-Iraq War. Shaped like an egg split open with an “eternal flame” in the middle, it houses the names, weapons, and clothing of some of the soldiers.p
- Iraqis celebrate two New Year’s Days. The first celebration is Muharram on the first month of the Muslim calendar. Some Iraqis also celebrate New Year’s Eve on December 31 of the Gregorian calendar.h
- Traditionally, marriages in Iraq are arranged, though more and more Iraqis are choosing their own spouses, especially in larger cities.k
- Dance has played an important role in Iraq culture for thousands of years. One dancing style in Iraq, the hacha’a, is similar to belly dancing, but there is more neck and hand motion and less hip movement. A woman must have long hair because part of the dance involves swinging her hair to the music.s
- The traditional music of Iraq is the maqam, which is based on Arabic poetry and is very heart wrenching and slow. Maqam musical scales are said to have been influenced by the courts of ancient Arabic kings and by the Persians (ancient Iranians).b
- In Iraq, as it is in many predominately Muslim countries, it is offensive to use one’s left hand while eating because the left hand is considered to be unclean.j
- It is not considered rude in Iraq to eat food quickly or without utensils. In fact, it is a sign to the host or hostess that the food is delicious. Iraqis are also extremely offended if the family pet comes near the table during the meal.b
- If someone admires an Iraqi’s possession, such as a vase, the Iraqi will usually insist that the person takes it. Therefore, it is proper etiquette to avoid lavishly praising another person’s possessions.s
- Iraq’s national dish is Masgouf (impaled fish) and its national cookie is Kleicha (meaning circle or wheel), both of which can be traced back to antiquity.s
Nearly half of all married couples in Iraq are first or second cousins
- Traditionally in Iraq, more than half of all brides and grooms marry their first or second cousin.b
- According to the Arab American Institute, there are approximately 140,000 Iraqi Americans living in the U.S.f
- The fertile region between the two famous rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, allowed early stable populations in Iraq as far back as the 7th century B.C. This area has had many names throughout history, including Al-Jazira (“the island”) in Arabic and Mesopotamia (“the land between two rivers”) in Greek.s
- Iraq first took part in the Olympic Games in 1948 and has only won one medal, a bronze in weightlifting in the 1960 Rome Games. Iraq has never competed in the Winter Games.s
- Women in Iraq traditionally had more freedom than in other countries in the region. However, since the Gulf War, their situation has become increasingly worse. Religious groups try to force women to cover up and threaten women wearing Western-style clothes. Additionally, increasing numbers of Iraqi women are being sold into sex slavery due to the waning economy.a
- Archeologist Leonard Woolley asserts that the fear of black cats, measuring time into 12 hours for each day and each night, and reading our fortunes in the constellation were all invented in Iraq.s
- In March 1988, Saddam Hussein ordered a chemical attack on Kurds in the northern Iraqi town of Halabja, killing 5,000 people. The U.S. expressed horror at the act at the time but still supported Hussein.p
- After the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the United States encouraged the Iraqis to revolt against Hussein, but the U.S. controversially did not aid the people. Consequently, Saddam crushed the rebellion and tens of thousands of people were killed. Nearly 2 million Iraqis fled for their lives. Mass graves have been uncovered in Shia Arab in the south and in the Kurdish north.s
- One of the many mass graves at the edge of Ash Sham Desert in Iraq has been given the name “Blue Man,” named after a man in a blue shirt and trousers was found buried there. He had been blindfolded with his arms tied behind his back. His skull was also jerked upward at the neck, and his two rows of teeth were stretched apart, as if screaming. The victims in this grave were just many of the Shiite Muslims Hussein killed after the 1991 uprisings in Iraq. President Bush admitted that what happened to the Shiites after the insurrection was one of the deepest regrets of his presidency.e
Iraqis are considered Caucasian
- In 1923, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Middle Easterners were Caucasian, but were not “white” because most laypeople did not consider them as such. It changed its opinion in 1946. Currently, the U.S. Census considers Iraqis, as well as other Middle Easterners (including Jews), as “white.”s
- In December 2011, the last U.S. troops in Iraq withdrew from the country, ending almost nine years of war. This was the largest U.S. troop withdraw since Vietnam. However, there remain 1,700 diplomats, law enforcement officers, and economic, agriculture, and other experts, as well as 5,000 security contractors and 4,500 contractors in other roles.c
- More than half of Americans think the Iraq War ended in a stalemate. More than half think the Bush administration misled the public about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. About half say U.S. involvement has had a negative effect on life there, and seven out of 10 say money spent on the war is one of the reasons for the bad economy.r
- According to the UNHCR’s 2010 report, Iraqis were the second largest refugee group in the world, with 1.8 million Iraqis seeking refuge in neighboring countries. The largest group was from Afghanistan, with 2.9 million refugees.v
- Famous American Iraqis include Chris Kattan (comedian and actor for Saturday Night Live), actress Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), comedian GoRemyh, Samir Gegea (an Iraqi interpreter who captured Saddam Hussein), and Nadya Suleman (Octomom).s
- The states that have the highest number of Iraqi foreign-born populations are Michigan, California, and Illinois.s
- According to the Bible, Abraham was from Ur, which is in Southern Iraq. Isaac’s wife, Rebekah was from Nahor, which is also in Iraq. Additionally, according to legend, Iraq is the site of the Biblical Garden of Eden.b
- Mountains make up about 20% of Iraq. The two main mountain chains are the Taurus, on the border with Turkey, and the Zagros, on the border with Iran. The mountains are the only parts of Iraq that still have forests.i
- One of Iraq’s distinctive plants is licorice, which has been used for thousands of years for its health effects. Warriors in ancient armies found that chewing it kept them from getting thirsty.p
Of the more than 150,000 Iraqi deaths during the Iraq War, 4 out of 5 were civilians
- The Iraq War cost $800 billion, more than 4,500 U.S. troops were killed, and more than 30,000 were wounded. In all, 1.5 million Americans served. Between 2003 and 2010, approximately 150,000 Iraqis died, with four out of five of the dead being civilian.r
- For 5,000 years Iraqis have been keeping bees. Honey is an important source of food and income for many Iraq families.p
- In ancient Iraq, mud helped build empires. People used mud to build bricks that made powerful cities and huge ziggurats. Mud also made possible the invention of writing, as the Sumerians of ancient Iraq hardened mud to make tablets of clay.j
- Sand and dust storms rage for 20 to 50 days each year in Iraq, mostly during the summer. Sandstorms can reach heights of 50 feet (15 meters). Dust storms reach an average height of 3,000 to 6,000 feet.i
- Iraq is essentially two countries, with the two main ethnic groups that live there: the Arabs and the Kurds. Because the Kurds helped the United States invade Iraq in 2003, Kurdistan autonomy is enshrined in the new Iraqi constitution.s
- Iraqi families are usually large and family relationships are close. Most families live in one house, which is expanded when the family grows.j
- Carp in Iraq can grow to weigh up to 300 pounds, and sharks from the Persian Gulf swim up Iraq’s rivers and marshes.s
- Iraq’s nickname is the “cradle of civilization.”k
- Iraq once had one of the highest quality schools and colleges in the Arab world. However, after the 1991 Gulf War and the United Nations sanctions, today only around 40% of Iraqis can read and write.s
- Iraqis voted in the country’s first democratic elections in over 50 years in January 2005.s
- Soccer is the most popular sport in Iraq. Iraqis also enjoy basketball, boxing, weight lifting, horseback riding, and horse races.j
The current Iraqi flag was adopted in 2008
- The flag of Iraq has three horizontal stripes of red, white, and black, with three green stars against the white middle stripe. During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the words “Allah Akbar,” meaning “God is great,” were added.p
- Before the first Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was an ally of the United States. The United States helped Hussein obtain information about Iran during the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s to keep Iran from winning the war. The United States also gave weapons to Saddam Hussein during this time.d
- The war in Iraq started in March 2003 when the U.S. and its allies bombed Baghdad, the capital of Iraq. President Bush said Hussein refused to destroy his dangerous chemical and biological weapons and that he was supporting terrorism. The U.S. described its strategy as “shock and awe,” which meant to scare Iraqi troops into surrendering by bombing Iraq and then sending in troops.u
- During the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-1988, a million people died and the war bankrupted Iraq. Desperate for money, Hussein attacked Kuwait in 1990 to seize its oil field. A U.S.-led coalition drove Hussein out of Kuwait, but left him in power in Iraq.u
- The 2003 invasion of Iraq was backed by a coalition of 35 countries. The majority of the combat troops came from the U.S. (250,000), Great Britain (40,000), and Australia (2,000). Other countries provided support and security for the fighting forces. Some longtime allies of the U.S. such as France and Germany refused to take part in the invasion.u
- On February 15, 2003, 10 million people around the world protested the United States’ plan to invade Iraq. Protesters were from the U.S., Britain, France, and South Africa among others.u
- A respected Iraqi dissident expressed shock when he discovered a few weeks before the 2003 Iraq invasion that President Bush seemed wholly unaware that Muslims in Iraq were divided between Shia and Sunni Islam.u
- In 2003, Bush admitted there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11, though he said that Hussein had al-Qaida ties. Additionally, none of the hijackers were from Iraq but mainly from Saudi Arabia, which was our ally in the Middle East.t
- In A.D. 762, Baghdad became the capital of a vast Islamic empire ruled by the Abbasid dynasty. It was built in a perfect circle on Babylonian ruins and became the world’s center for culture and education, ushering in the “Golden Islamic Age.” During their rule, the Abbasids built the “House of Wisdom” as well as beautiful buildings and fountains. Reflecting the high value they placed on knowledge, they stressed that “the ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr.”h
- From 1968 to 2003, the Ba’ath Party was the only political party in Iraq and was led by Saddam Hussein, who also served as president and prime minister. Because of his cruelty to his own people, especially the Kurds, Hussein is now believed to have been one of the most dangerous dictators on Earth.b
- Iraq’s population is 97% Muslim, or followers of Islam. Muslims live by a set of religious rules called the Five Pillars of Islam. The rules include reciting “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is His Messenger,” praying five times a day, giving money to the poor, fasting during the Islamic holy month, and making at least one pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.k
- The two main branches of Islam are the Sunnis and the Shi’ites. Even though Sunnis make up 32-37% of the Iraqi population, they have held power for most of the time Iraq has been a country. Shi’ites believe that only relatives of the prophet Muhammad can serve as religious leaders. The Sunnis believe that anyone educated in the Islamic religion can lead. Many politicians fear that tensions between the Sunni and Shi’ite will lead to civil war in Iraq.q
- Most Christian Iraqis are Roman Catholic. The country forbids Christians to talk about their faith or hold any religious events outside of their church.j
- Iraq has a dry season and a wet season. During the wet season, from November to April, the country can get almost 40 inches of rain. In the dry season, between May and October, the temperature can reach up to 125 F.i
Iraq has more than 112 billion gallons of oil
- According to scientists, about 112.5 billion barrels of proven, or confirmed, crude oil are beneath the ground in Iraq. An additional 200 billion are thought to be in the ground. Although Iraq has the world’s second largest oil reserves, after Saudi Arabia, international sanctions during the 1990s and the wars have left Iraq in poverty.s
- Iraq is 438,317 square miles, about the size of California or twice the size of Idaho. It shares a border with six nations: Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey.i
- As of July 2011, the population of Iraq was 30,399,572 and ranked 39th in the world.n
- Major cities in Iraq include its capital, Baghdad (5.751 million), Mosul (1.447 million), Erbil (1.009 million), Basra (923,000), and As Sulaymaniyah (836,000).n
- Arabs make up most of Iraq (75-80%,), followed by Kurds (15-20%), and Turkoman, Chaldean, and Assyrians (5% combined).n
- Arabic and Kurdish are the official languages of Iraq, though Turkoman (a Turkish dialect), Assyrian, and Armenian are also spoken.n
- The life expectancy at birth in Iraq is approximately 70.55 years, which is ranked 146th in the world. The country with the highest life expectancy is Monaco, at 89.73 years. The United States is 50th, at 78.37 years.n
- Iraq’s fertility rate is 3.67 children, which is 42nd in the world. The country with the highest birthrate is Niger at 7.6 children per women of childbearing age. The United States is 123rd in the world at 2.06 children per woman.n
- As of 2001, less than 0.1% of the Iraqi adult population (15-49) were living with HIV/AIDS, which is ranked 131st in the world. The country with the highest rate is Swaziland with 25.9% of the adult population living with AIDS. The United States is ranked 64th in the world, with 0.6% of the adult population living with AIDS.n
- Iraq has more than 22 million date palms and is one of the top three date producers in the world.b
- The oldest known writing system developed in Iraq around 3200 B.C. Known as cuneiform, it used about 600 signs instead of an alphabet. Each sign stood for a word or a syllable.b
- The Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s first written story, narrates the adventures of a legendary king who fought to preserve an ancient Iraqi city.b
- The official name of Iraq is the Republic of Iraq (Al-Jumhuriya al-Iraqiya). The name “Iraq” may date back to the Sumerian city named Uruk. Professor Wilhelm Eilers argues that the word “Iraq” is derived from the Middle Persian eraq or “lowlands.”o
- The currency of Iraq is the Iraqi dinar, from the Latin deni, meaning “ten.”b
- The Tigris and the Euphrates have been Iraq’s main water sources for thousands of years. Both rivers begin in Turkey, with the Tigris flowing directly into Iraq and the Euphrates winding through Syria first. The Euphrates is the longer river at 1,469 miles, while the Tigris runs 1,150 miles. Though the Tigris is shorter, it carries more water because it is fed by other waterways.b
- Throughout history, many powerful empires have laid claim to Iraq, including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Arabs, and Ottomans. Powerful leaders also left their mark on the region, including Sargon I, Hammurabi II, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar II, Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, Abu’l Abbas, Hulagu Khan, and Suleiman the Magnificent.b
- Iraq has been home to some of the greatest urban centers in the world, including Ur, Babylon, Nineveh, Ctesiphon, and Baghdad.h
- The ancient Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II built a 700-room palace that was guarded by the Ishtar Gate. The gate was decorated with brick images of bulls, dragons, and other mythical creatures.b
- Iraq is shaped roughly like a piece of pie and is almost completely surrounded by land, except for a 36-mile stretch of coastline along the northern edge of the Persian Gulf.b
- The highest recorded temperature in Iraq is 124º F. The lowest recorded is 12º F at al-Salman.i
- The Iraqi desert is home to many types of scorpions. Some can grow up to 8" long.i
- Occasionally, Iraq experiences massive locust swarms. For some reason that no one completely understands, locusts sometimes swarm to about 40-80 million insects and travel up to 80 miles a day. The last major locust swarms to pass through Iraq were in 1987 and 1989.s
- The Iraqi desert is home to the dangerous saw-scale viper. Many scientists consider it the most dangerous snake in the world. The viper is known to strike without provocation and even chase its victims. Its bite often results in death.s
Iraq is the birthplace of the first accurate calendar
- Ancient Iraq was the birthplace of some of the world’s most important inventions, such as the 60-second minute and the 60-minute hour, the wheel, writing, the first accurate calendar, the first maps, and the first schools.p
- The national bird of Iraq is the Chucker Partridge (Alectoris chukar).s
- Before 2003, the Baghdad Zoo was the largest zoo in the Middle East and was home to more than 600 animals. However, after the invasion of Iraq, the zoo sustained considerable damage, and looters stole many animals leaving only 50 animals.b
- To punish the Marsh Arabs who rebelled against his rule, Saddam Hussein drained the marshes where they lived in 1991, destroying the largest area of natural wetlands in the Middle East. The Marsh Arabs (Ma’dan) and their ancestors had lived in these rich wetlands for over 5,000 years. This was one of the most serious attacks on the natural environment in world history.s
- Iraq’s highest elevation is Haji Ibrahim (11,834 feet). Its lowest elevation is sea level along the Persian Gulf.i
- Saddam Hussein introduced a new law that allowed a man who killed a woman in defense of the honor of the family to be exempt from punishment. Consequently, Iraq has seen a resurgence of honor crimes since 2003.l
- According to reports from the UN, Al-Qaida in Iraq operates a youth wing for children under the age of 14 called “Birds of Paradise” (or “Paradise Boys” or “Youth of Heaven”) to carry out suicide attacks against military, government, and civilian targets. Children are also used to spy, scout, transport military supplies and equipment, complete video attacks, and plant explosive devices.u
- According to the Lancet, suicide bombings in Iraq have killed at least 12,000 civilians and 200 coalition soldiers between 2003 and 2010. Researchers note that this large difference indicates that civilians are not just the “collateral damage” of suicide bombers in Iraq, but an intended target.m
- According to the Iraq Body Count Project, 103,536 to 113,125 civilians have died between March 2003 and October 2011. Numbers, however, vary widely and are widely disputed.m
- Iraq’s longest shared border is with Iran at 906 miles (1,458 km).i
- Approximately half of Iraq is covered by inhospitable desert.i
- The Iraq constitution established Islam as the official religion of Iraq in 1968.j
- The famous children’s story Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves was written in Iraq about 1,000 years ago.j
Timeline of Iraqi History b,c,j
|Ca. 10,000 B.C.
||Mesopotamia culture begins.
||Sumerian civilization thrives in Mesopotamia.
||Sargon establishes the Akkadian Empire.
||Hammurabi becomes King of Babylon.
||The Assyrians control Babylon.
||The reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II begins.
||The Persian Empire gains control of Mesopotamia.
||Alexander the Great conquers Mesopotamia.
||The Arabs invade.
||Caliph Ali is murdered.
||The Abbasid Dynasty is established.
||The Mongols invade and destroy Baghdad.
||The Ottoman Empire takes control of Mesopotamia.
||British troops invade Mesopotamia during WWI.
||The British are given a U.N. mandate to govern Iraq.
||The British appoint Faisal I as king of Iraq.
||The boundaries for the modern state of Iraq are established.
||Oil is discovered in Iraq.
||Iraq becomes independent.
||The Iraqi monarchy is overthrown in a military coup.
||Iraq’s oil industry is nationalized.
||The Iran-Iraq War begins.
||The Gulf War begins.
||Saddam Hussein is ousted during the Iraq War.
||Iraqis vote to ratify a new constitution that will create an Islamic federalist government. Two months later, Iraqis elect their first full-term parliamentary government since the invasion.
||Saddam Hussein is found guilt of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death; he is hanged in December.
||The United States withdraws from Iraq.
Iraq’s Linguistic History b,s
|3500 B.C–2200 B.C.
|2200B.C. –700 B.C.
|700 B.C. – 800 A.D.
|800 A.D. – present
-- Posted February 5, 2012
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b Augustin, Byron and Jake Kubena. 2006. Iraq: Enchantment of the World. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.
c Basu, Moni. “Last U.S. Troops Leave Iraq.” CNN. December 17, 2011. Accessed: December 23, 2011.
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i ----. 2005. Iraq: The Land. New York, NY: Crabtree Publishing Company.
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k Hassig, Susan and Laith Muhmood Al Adely. 2004. Iraq (Cultures of the World). New York, NY: Benchmark Books.
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o “Iraq.” Online Etymology Dictionary. 2011. Accessed: December 23, 2011.
p Malhotra, Sonali. 2004. Welcome to Iraq. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens Publishing.
q Mazzetti, Mark. “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat.” The New York Times. September 24, 2006. Accessed: December 23, 2011.
r “More Than Half of Americans Think Iraq Ended in Stalemate.” CNN. December 21, 2011. Accessed: December 23, 2011.
s Samuels, Charlie. 2007. National Geographic Countries of the World: Iraq. Washington D.C.: National Geographic.
t Shepard, Scott. “Bush: No Iraq Link to 9/11 Found.” Seattle Pi. September 17, 2003. Accessed: December 23, 2011.
u Watts, Franklin. 2009. The War in Iraq.New York, NY: Scholastic Inc.
v “Working Environment.” UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency. 2012. Accessed: January 3, 2012.