Iraq (Arabic: العراق al-Irāq), also known as the Republic of Iraq (Arabic: جمهورية العراق Jumhūriyyat al-Irāq; Kurdish: كۆماری عێراق) is a Western Asian country bordering Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Kuwait. Historically, the region has been known as Mesopotamia, and is the site of the world's oldest civilization, Sumer. Nowadays, the country is a constitutional electoral Islamic republic on its way to securing its territory.
Iraq has long been one of the centers of Arabic-language culture, and Arab identity is fairly heavily ingrained among the Arabic-speaking community (to the point where Iraq was the only country not to border Israel to participate in all three Arab-Israeli Wars (1948, 1967, and 1973). The joke in Arab high culture is that Egypt writes, Lebanon publishes, and Iraq reads. It is the centerpiece of the "Arabian Nights" Days after all, and the capital Baghdad really was a city of wonder and secrets before it gained its current reputation as a Crapsack City that eats explosives for breakfast.
Arabs, however, are not the only ethnic group to live in the country, which includes:
- Kurds: A significant but frequently-forgotten-to-be-mentioned-in-the-media ethnic group who speak an Indo-European language related to Persian and to an extent, Pashto and Ossetian. Though they mostly adopted the same religion as the Arabs (i.e. Islam), they have a very different culture, including claiming Yazidis (a monotheistic Mesopotamian faith unrelated to the Abrahamic religions) as their cultural heritage and being more egalitarian. They were historically nomadic, but now seem to settle in permanent dwellings. They celebrate Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. The Kurds not only lived in Iraq but also northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and northwestern Iran, which resulted when the Great Powers foolishly drew the borders for the former Ottoman Empire after World War I without considering the ethnic groups first; Kurds felt cheated by this and have since started rebellions in the regions in an attempt to unite Kurdistan or at least try to have an autonomy of their own. As you can see, Iraq is the only partial-success story for them by managing to recognize their autonomy and language. But Kurds aren't the only one who inhabit the "Kurdistan", because there's also:
- Iraqi Turkmens: Not to be confused with the Turkmens who inhabit Turkmenistan, Iraqi Turkmens are the descendants of Seljuq Turks who settled in the area before and after their conquest of Anatolia and eventually establishing the Ottoman Empire. Basically, they're Turkish people who are left stranded after the Ottoman Empire lost World War I and was reduced to just Turkey, akin to the Turkish Cypriots who inhabits North Cyprus or the random Turks found scattered in the Balkans. Though they number in the hundred thousand up to millions, they are a Butt-Monkey in the eyes of both the Arabs and the Kurds, who treat them only a little better when the area they inhabit became a part of the Iraqi Kurdistan (think of the German diaspora who were left at the mercy of their countries after they lost both of the World Wars).
- There's also a plethora of other minority groups who adopted their own faiths, thus called "ethnoreligious group", including Assyrians, the now Christian Aramaic-speaking descendants of the ancient Mesopotamians who practice a kind of Eastern Christianity called the Assyrian Church of the East who adopts Nestorian teachings (i.e. believing that Jesus' human and divine aspects are distinguishable), which have long since been discredited and condemned in the First Council of Nicaea and resulting the group being not in communion with any other church in the world. Their ethnic names are different depending on the church they follow: Chaldeans are follow the Chaldean Catholic Church and Syriacs follow the Syriac Orthodox Church. There's also Yazidis, a subset of the Kurds who still practice their historical faith as mentioned above, and very small gnostic faiths like the Mandaenism and Manichaenism. While the Iraqi Turkmens are the Butt-Monkey, these groups are outright persecuted because of their faith (the Iraqi Turkmens are at least Muslim) and are sadly dwindling in number since the onset of the War on Terror.
Contrary to modern depictions, not all of Iraq is covered in desert. In fact, Kurdistan is pretty mountainous and snowy. Sure, half of the country is an uninhabitable bed of sand, but the other half is not something to be overlooked, especially since the cradle of civilization had its base there. Basically, there are four different parts of Iraq, all of which are crossed by the two rivers that originated from the mountains of southern Turkey, the Euphrates and Tigris, which gave Iraq its ancient name, Mesopotamia ("land between two rivers").
- Lower Mesopotamia: A fertile plain that extends from the point where the two main rivers narrow before expanding and finally converging near Iraq's second largest city and historical port town, Basra, after which it ultimately flows to the Persian Gulf. It starts with Baghdad, the capital city, which is located right in the middle of where the rivers narrow, and goes from there. It's notable for its flatness (the whole area is on or near the sea level) and for having many swamps in the area near Basra, which are inhabited by people living in floating shacks. The cradle of the world civilization, Sumer, was based here, as did Babylonia after its breakup from the Akkadian Empire. Some of the holiest cities in Shia Islam are located here, including Karbala (where Imam Hussein was martyred) and Najaf (the location of Imam Ali's shrine). Other major cities include Hillah, Nasiriya, Kut, and Umm Qasr (Iraq's main port). Accordingly, it's mainly populated by Shia Arabs, though the area around Baghdad has significant Sunni communities too.
- Upper Mesopotamia: A valley enclosed by the two rivers located to the northwest of Baghdad. Also known as Al-Jazirah ("the island") since the Arab conquests. It's much more arid and can be said as desert-lite. Assyria was based here after its breakup from the Akkadian Empire. It's mainly populated by Arabs professing the Sunni faith, with Kurds, Assyrians, and Iraqi Turkmen populating the farthest north. Major cities include Mosul, the third-largest and the largest Sunni-majority city in Iraq, Kirkuk, the fifth largest city and is currently contested by the Kurds, who claims the historically Kurd-majority city as part of their autonomous region, and Samarra, once a capital of the Arab empires (yes, it's the same Samarra where Death wants to make an appointment with that inspired Appointment in Samarra),
- The Desert: The region everyone knows about. It's where the sandy dune-Arabian Desert meets with the rocky Syrian Desert. Very sparsely populated (mainly by Sunni Arabs), the only major population center is Rutbah, which serves as a transit point between Iraq and neighboring Jordan. The western part of the desert stands on a plateau that rises higher than both parts of the Mesopotamia.
- The Highlands: Located in the northeast, it's a dramatically different world than the other parts of the country. It is more similar to the rest of the Caucasus or even other - stan counties in terms of climate and landscape. As the name implies, it's mountainous, being part of the Zagros range that expands from the extreme southeast of Turkey to northwestern Iran, some of which are covered in snow. The area is part of Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region also known as "South Kurdistan" which elects a separate President and Prime Minister, as per an agreement with the Arabs in the 1990s. It's the most stable region of the country and serves as a safe haven whenever war breaks out in the lowlands. It is often described as being safer than Europe. It's also very diverse in term of population, being settled by Sunni Kurds, Iraqi Turkmens, Yazidis, and Assyrians, to name a few. Major cities include Erbil (Hawler in Kurdish and Arbela in Syriac, the capital, the fourth-largest city, and the largest city having a non-Arab majority), Sulaymaniya, Dohuk (Nohadra in Syriac), and Halabja.
Not to be confused with Qurac, though it is often portrayed in this manner in media.
Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Mitannis, Assyrians and Chaldeans, Oh My!
Iraq under the Persian Empire
The Islamization of Iraq
Iraq under the Ottomans and Mamelukes
Brits, Kings and an Iraqi Republic
The Saddam Regime
For more information on Iraq's recent history, see The War on Terror.
Iraq and its inhabitants in fiction
- The online game Kuma War follows events from the period in a rather literal case of a Real Life Writes the Plot storyline.
- Shows up as a setting for numerous levels in Project Reality, in the post-Saddam phase.
- Former President Saddam Hussein is Satan's homosexual lover in South Park, as well as The Man Behind the Man in the movie. He is drawn - and acts - like most Canadians in the series: very crudely drawn and with a quite high-pitched voice. Interestingly, unlike many Canadians, he is not flatulent.
- Generation Kill, which follows a group of US Marines during the 2003 invasion and through daily life in post-Saddam Iraq.
- Valley Of The Wolves Iraq, a Turkish film, which flopped outside of it's home country.
- Sayid on Lost is Iraqi, so a number of his centric episodes take place in Iraq (with Hawaii doubling.)
- The cancelled Konami pseudo-Survival Horror game Six Days In Fallujah was set during the Second Battle of Fallujah, a city in Iraq.
- Oran, one of the heroes (well, Anti Heroes) of Broken Saints, hails from Baghdad. Interestingly enough, unlike most other instances, Oran was introduced well before the second Gulf War, and was actually written in response to the Western interference in the Middle-East during the 90s. And unlike with most other instances, it is his deep religiosity which causes him to have doubts about his violent actions.
- The Devil's Double deals with Uday Hussein's body double.
- In "Scimitar" from 1996 an American Marine parolling the Kuwaiti border accidently crossed the iraqi border and was captured by the Iraqis.
- Iraq is also the setting for several episodes post the 2003 invasion.
- See the shows listed in "Iraq War" in the During the War article.
- Overwatch has the Oasis map, which is set in Iraq. While many works written during The War on Terror depict Iraq as a war-torn zone, the game goes for the opposite, depicting it as an architect's dream and a center of scientific advancement.
- Command & Conquer: Generals: The opening mission for the USA takes place in Baghdad. In a clear reference to Operation Desert Storm, a battalion of American tanks with heavy air support blasts its way through a line of GLA tanks with no casualties.
- SEAL Team's twelfth episode takes place during the battle of Al-Qaim in late 2017 as they try to recover the hard drive from a crashed Air Force drone that has been captured by ISIS fighters.
The Iraqi flag