Country Listing

Iraq Table of Contents



Size: Area of Iraq variously cited as between 433,970 (excluding Iraqi half of Iraq-Saudi Arabia Neutral Zone shared with Saudi Arabia, consisting of 3,522 square kilometers) and 437,393 square kilometers.

Topography: Country divided into four major regions: desert in west and southwest; rolling upland between upper Euphrates and Tigris rivers; highlands in north and northeast; and alluvial plain in central and southeast sections.


Population: Preliminary 1987 census figures give total of 16,278,000, a 35 percent increase over 1977. Annual rate of growth 3.1 percent; about 57 percent of population in 1987 under twenty.

Religious and Ethnic Divisions: At least 95 percent of population adheres to some form of Islam. Government gives number of Shias (see Glossary) as 55 percent but probably 60 to 65 percent is reasonable figure. Most Iraqi Shias are Arabs. Almost all Kurds, approximately 19 percent of population, are Sunnis (see Glossary), together with about 13 percent Sunni Arabs. Total Arab population in 1987 given by government as 76 percent. Remainder of population small numbers of Turkomans, mostly Sunni Muslims; Assyrians and Armenians, predominantly Christians; Yazidis, of Kurdish stock with a syncretistic faith; and a few Jews.

Languages: Arabic official language and mother tongue of about 76 percent of population; understood by majority of others. Kurdish official language in As Sulaymaniyah, Dahuk, and Irbil governorates. Minorities speaking Turkic, Armenian, and Persian.

Education: Rapidly growing enrollment in tuition-free public schools. Six years of primary (elementary), three years of intermediate secondary, and three years of intermediate preparatory education. Six major universities, forty-four teacher training schools and institutes, and three colleges and technical institutes, all government owned and operated. Dramatic increases since 1977 in numbers of students in technical fields (300 percent rise) and numbers of female primary students (45 percent rise). Literacy variously estimated at about 40 percent by foreign observers and 70 percent by government. Academic year 1985-86: number of students in primary schools 2,812,516; secondary schools (general) 1,031,560; vocational schools 120,090; teacher training schools and institutions 34,187; universities, colleges, and technical institutes 53,037.

Health: High incidence of trachoma, influenza, measles, whooping cough, and tuberculosis. Considerable progress has been made in control of malaria. Continuing shortage of modern trained medical and paramedical personnel, especially in rural areas and probably in northern Kurdish areas.

Data as of May 1988