40,194,216 (Jul 2018)
Iraq, as we know it today, is situated on the historically significant Mesopotamia, where the first known human civilization, the Sumerians, lived and farmed the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It is a region famed for the creation of writing and the wheel, as well as a land of diverse cultures and ethnicities as a result of its central location between three continents.
Under the control of the Ottoman Turks until 1920, Iraq was assigned to the British after World War I under the name Mandate of Mesopotamia. It gained independence in 1932 under the revived Hashemite monarchy, which was overthrown in a military coup in 1958 by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party.(1) The party remained in power until 2003, with General Saddam Hussein as President from 1979 onward. He ruled the country through its war with Iran in the 1980s and the first Gulf War before finally being toppled by a US-led coalition in 2003. The power vacuum that followed led to years of violent attacks by different groups.
In 2003, General Saddam Hussein was displaced as leader of Iraq, due to US concerns over the potential manufacturing and stockpiling of illegal chemical weapons, as well as the alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction. Elections were held in December 2005, when the majority of the population voted along ethnic lines, sparking fears of the new government furthering ethnic division. The Parliament then nominated Nouri al-Maliki as Prime Minister (the head of government). After the alliance of parties he led in the 2010 elections lost the poll by two votes, he nevertheless formed a government of national unity after protracted negotiations. In spring 2014, elections were held using the country’s proportional representation system, and Fuad Masum was elected President. Haider al-Abadi became prime minister, and he formed a cabinet with Sunni and Kurdish support. Mr. al-Abadi helped strengthen Iraqi and Kurdish leaderships, which in turn created a united nation. The military became strong enough to overrun ISIS in October 2016.
Iraq’s economy is dependent on its large oil reserves, from which it earns over 90% of its annual Gross National Product. There is currently relatively little foreign investment in industry or resources due to the unstable security situation, as well as difficulties in obtaining land as the government attempts to rebuild and regain momentum.
There is a 16% unemployment rate in Iraq, with nearly a quarter of the population living below the poverty line.(2)
Iraq currently has a population of 40 million people, of which 75% are ethnically Arab, 15-20% Kurdish, and the remainder a mixture of Iraqi Turkmen or foreigners.(3) Due to the isolated pockets of population, resulting from the geographical characteristics of Iraq, there is much regionalism and ethnic division. During the reign of Saddam Hussein, the Kurdish ethnic minority in northern Iraq were persecuted in the Al-Anfal genocide from 1986-1989, with estimated fatalities of 1,700,000.(4) Ethnic racism and the legacy of tragic historical events, such as the Al-Anfal genocide, continue to divide the population of Iraq.
The number of refugees and internally displaced people (IDP's) throughout Iran is staggering. The greatest number of refugees comes from Syria (over 250,000), while sizeable numbers also come from Turkey, the West Bank & Gaza Strip, and Iran. IDPs total 2,619,236, which includes displacement between 2006 and 2008 due to ethno-sectarian violence and displacement in central and northern Iraq since January 2014. (5)
SAT-7 viewer statistics estimate that around 3% of the Iraqi population watch SAT-7,(6) which is remarkable considering the turbulence and violence that has displaced so many in the past years.
Iraq is 55% Shiite Muslim, 20% Sunni Muslim, 20% Kurdish and 5% Christian, of which the largest denominations are the Assyrian and Chaldean Churches. Although all groups have faced some form of discrimination or unrest throughout the history of modern Iraq, the rapid emigration rate of Iraqi Christians, an estimated 3,000 per year,(7) indicates that the Christian minority has come under much persecution in recent years.
There have been numerous incidences of violent attacks, kidnappings and murders against Christians in recent years. In October 2010 at least 58 Christians died and many were injured in a bomb attack on a church in Baghdad. Al-Qaeda has declared that Christians are legitimate targets.
- Continue to pray for greater stability and security for the people of Iraq.
- Pray that our Christian brothers and sisters find the courage to turn to one another in this time of trouble, rather than fleeing.
- Pray that the Lord watches over the families and friends of those lost to the turmoil and violence in recent years.
 BBC Middle East Guide
 CIA World Factbook
 CIA World Factbook
 SAT-7 2008 Viewer Statistics
 Persecution – International Christian Concern