Demographics of Iraq

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The Iraqi people, sometimes colloquially, Mesopotamians, or the people of Mesopotamia[1][2][3] (Arabic: العراقيون ʿIrāqiyyūn, Kurdish: گه‌لی عیراق Îraqîyan, Classical Syriac: ܥܡܐ ܥܝܪܩܝܐ‎ ʿIrāqāyā, Turkish: Iraklılar) are people native to the modern country of Iraq, living either inside or outside of the country.[4]

Ancient Iraq is referred to as Mesopotamia and has throughout its history been a multiethnic and multicultural region. Historically, ancient peoples who inhabited Iraq were the Sumerians and Babylonians to the south, Akkadians in the central-south and Assyrians to the north of the country. An Arab population has been present in the country as early as the second or third century BC, about four centuries before the Islamic conquest in the seventh century. The earliest known recorded language in history is the Sumerian language, originating in southern Iraq (Sumer-Babylonia).[5] During the third millennium BC, a very intimate cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerians of the south and the Akkadians to further north in central Mesopotamia, in which there was very widespread bilingualism of both peoples able to speak the Sumerian and Akkadian languages.[6] The Syriac language (which originated in Mesopotamia), as well as Christianity, has been present in Iraq since the first century, which was introduced by Thomas the Apostle. Christians in Iraq are one of the world's oldest continuous communities in the world, and after Palestine/Israel, Iraq is the location of the most biblical history than any other country in the world.[7] Before the advent of Islam to Iraq, the majority of the population who inhabited Iraq followed various branches of Eastern Christianity, Judaism or indigenous ancient Mesopotamian religions. The pre-Islamic people of Iraq included people from various ethnic groups in Mesopotamia; and the majority of them spoke the Syriac language, despite not all being ethnic Syriacs, Assyrians or Christians. Syriac Christianity first emerged in Upper Mesopotamia and the Nestorian Church (Church of the East) and its successor churches were established in the major ancient Mesopotamian Greek-Persian city of Seleucia-Ctesiphon in central-southern Iraq. The first Arab kingdom outside Arabia was established in Northern Iraq in the second century and was called the Kingdom of Araba. Additionally, the Lakhmids were Arabs present in parts of central-southern Mesopotamia from the third century until the Islamic conquest. The Lakhmids were Nestorian Christians following Syriac Christianity, and were bilingual in both Syriac and Arabic, and contributed greatly to the Church of the East.[8] Iraq boasts a rich and vital contribution to Christian history, in particular Eastern and Syriac Christianity, which has been the most dominant branch of Christianity in Iraq since its establishment for over fifteen centuries, and is one of the largest in the greater Fertile Crescent region (Mesopotamia and the Levant) as a whole.[9] The Lakhmids of Mesopotamia have also played a key role in Arab history; it was in the Arab Syriac Christian capital of Al-Hirah where the alphabet of the Arabic language was standardised.[10][8] Additionally, during the Arab and Islamic Golden Age, Iraq and the capital Baghdad became the centre of the scientific world for centuries,[11] where the people of the region excelled in the development of medicine, biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, agriculture, economics, architecture, sociology, literature, art, poetry and philosophy, and included not only Arabs and Muslims, but also Persians, Syriacs, Christians, Nestorians, Assyrians and others from various ethnoreligious backgrounds, which formed an integral part in the cultivation of Arab civilization, of which Iraq and its cultural diversity has played a key and major role in.[11][12][13][14][15]

Following the Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia in the seventh century, a large proportion of the indigenous Syriac, Persian and other non-Arabic speaking people of Iraq (who largely practiced Eastern Christianity, Judaism or ancient Mesopotamian religions) became Muslims and were Arabized, eventually adopting the Arab identity with their religion, despite the majority of them not being ethnic Arabs.[16][17] Along with the Arabized Mesopotamian natives, the minor migrations that took place during the rule of successive Islamic dynasties, and the pre-Islamic Arabs who had lived in the country centuries before, the Arabic-speaking people of Iraq would eventually become the present-day Iraqi Arab ethnic group. Despite Arabization of a large proportion of the Mesopotamians, a Christian group of indigenous people from Mesopotamia, resisted Islamization as well as Arabization, retaining their Syriac Christian religion and language to this day. This group would become the present-day Chaldo-Assyrian peoples of Iraq, who make up the majority of Iraqi Christians. Mesopotamian Arabic developed as the dominant language in the country, and is a Syriac substrate, and also shares significant influences from ancient Mesopotamian languages of Akkadian, Sumerian and Babylonian, as well as other local and Middle Eastern languages such as Persian, Turkish and Greek.[18][19][20][21] Mesopotamian Arabic is said to be the most Syriac influenced dialect of Arabic, due to Syriac having originated in Mesopotamia, and spread throughout the Middle East (Fertile Crescent) during the Mesopotamian Neo-Assyrian period, eventually becoming the lingua franca of the entire region for centuries before the spread of the Arabic language.[22][23][24][25] Mesopotamian Arabs and Assyrians are the largest Semitic peoples of Iraq, sharing significant similarities in language between Mesopotamian Arabic and Syriac, and Kurds are the largest Iranic ethnic group, sharing similarities in language with the other Iranic peoples in the country, such as the Yazidis and Shabaks. Iraqi Turkmen are the largest Turkic ethnic group in the country.[26][27] Studies indicate that the different ethnoreligious groups of Iraq and Mesopotamia share significant similarities in genetics, and that Iraqi Mesopotamian Arabs, who make up the majority of Iraqis, are more genetically related to other non-Arab populations in the region such as Assyrians, Kurds, Iranians and Turks, than they are to Arabs of the Arabian peninsula.[16][17][28]

Iraq today remains one of the most multicultural countries in the region, with various indigenous peoples, as well as a diverse number of diasporic communities from around the world who have chosen to make Iraq their home. The population was estimated to be 40,194,216 in 2018 (residing in Iraq), and over 10 million living in the diaspora,[29] with most of the population being Mesopotamian Arab (75%), followed by Kurds (20%), Chaldo-Assyrians (10–15%) (500,000+ (in Iraq) to 2 million in total with diaspora numbers), Turkmen (3 million), Afro-Iraqis (1 million), Yazidis (500,000–900,000) and Shabaks (300,000–500,000). Other minorities include Iraqi-Armenians, Mandeans, Yarsans, Doms and Kawliya (Indian descent), Ajam (Persian descent), Circassians and Chechens (North Caucasian descent) and others. Iraqis are 64% Shia Muslim, 31% Sunni Muslim, 10–15% Christian (majority of whom are Syriacs but also Greek Orthodox and Melkite Catholic Arabs), 1.4% Yazidi, and several other indigenous faiths.[30] The most spoken languages are Mesopotamian Arabic (which is taught and spoken by all those living in Iraq), Kurdish, Syriac and Iraqi Turkmen of the Turkish language. The percentages of different ethnoreligious groups residing in Iraq vary from source to source due to the last Iraqi census having taken place over 30 years ago. A new census of Iraq is planned to take place in 2020 in which the populations of each ethnoreligious group in Iraq will be clearly defined.[31][32][33]


Iraq is the region known outside the Islamic world as Mesopotamia. The population estimate in 1920 was 3 million. The ruins of Ur, Babylon and other ancient cities are situated in Iraq, as is the legendary location of the Garden of Eden. Almost 75% of Iraq's population lives in the flat, alluvial plain stretching southeast from Tikrit to the Persian Gulf. The Tigris and the Euphrates carry about 70 million cubic meters of silt annually from this plain down to the delta. The water from these two great rivers, and the fertility of the soil in the alluvial plain and the delta, allowed early agriculture to sustain a stable population as far back as the 7th millennium BC.


40,194,216 (2018 estimate),[34] 38,433,600 (2018 estimate),[35][36] up from 31,234,000 (April 2009 IMF estimate)[37]

Iraq fertility rate by region (2006)[38]

Vital statistics[edit]

UN estimates[39][edit]

Period Live births per year Deaths per year Natural change per year CBR1 CDR1 NC1 TFR1 IMR1
1950–1955 327,000 158,000 169,000 53.2 25.8 27.5 7.30 197.6
1955–1960 297,000 133,000 164,000 42.6 19.1 23.5 6.20 152.9
1960–1965 343,000 122,000 221,000 43.3 15.4 27.9 6.60 120.7
1965–1970 430,000 121,000 309,000 46.5 13.1 33.4 7.40 96.0
1970–1975 475,000 121,000 354,000 43.6 11.1 32.5 7.15 76.4
1975–1980 526,000 124,000 402,000 41.2 9.8 31.5 6.80 60.4
1980–1985 571,000 185,000 387,000 39.1 12.6 26.5 6.35 48.9
1985–1990 638,000 132,000 505,000 38.8 8.0 30.8 6.15 41.8
1990–1995 719,000 105,000 614,000 38.2 5.6 32.6 5.65 43.4
1995–2000 836,000 119,000 717,000 37.9 5.4 32.5 5.19 38.1
2000–2005 960,000 144,000 816,000 34.9 5.6 29.3 4.66 35.9
2005–2010 1,079,000 187,000 892,000 34.9 5.8 29.1 4.55 34.6
2010–2015 34.5 5.3 29.2 4.55
2015–2020 32.5 4.9 27.6 4.27
2020–2025 30.6 4.7 25.9 4.01
2025–2030 29.1 4.6 24.5 3.79
2030–2035 27.8 4.6 23.2 3.58
2035–2040 26.7 4.7 22.0 3.40
1 CBR = crude birth rate (per 1,000); CDR = crude death rate (per 1,000); NC = natural change (per 1,000); TFR = total fertility rate (number of children per woman); IMR = infant mortality rate per 1,000 births

Births and deaths[40][41]

Year Population (×1,000) Live births Deaths Natural increase Crude birth rate Crude death rate Rate of natural increase TFR
2011 4.6
2013 1,077,645 189,118 888,527
2014 36,004,552
2018 3.6

Fertility ages average in 1997–2006[42][43][edit]

Age groups 1997 2006
15–19 56.2 68
20–24 210 187
25–29 276.2 221
30–34 257.9 188
35–39 196.5 136
40–44 101.4 56
45–49 31 9
Total 1,128.2 865
TFR 4.3

Life expectancy at birth[edit]

Average life expectancy at age 0 of the total population.[44]

Period Life expectancy in
Period Life expectancy in
1950–1955 37.9 1985–1990 64.3
1955–1960 44.9 1990–1995 67.4
1960–1965 50.9 1995–2000 69.1
1965–1970 56.4 2000–2005 68.9
1970–1975 59.5 2005–2010 68.0
1975–1980 61.7 2010–2015 69.2
1980–1985 59.0

Structure of the population[40][edit]

Structure of the population (1 July 2013) (Estimates) :

Age group Male Female Total %
Total 17,710,750 17,083,444 34,794,194 100
0–4 2,495,131 2,405,862 4,900,993 14.09
5–9 2,374,908 2,191,807 4,566,714 13.12
10–14 2,232,712 2,048,891 4,281,603 12.31
15–19 1,937,714 1,825,963 3,763,677 10.82
20–24 1,701,884 1,593,679 3,295,563 9.47
25–29 1,424,739 1,316,462 2,741,201 7.88
30–34 1,176,433 1,134,882 2,311,316 6.64
35–39 983,570 1,044,325 2,027,895 5.83
40–44 933,785 897,936 1,831,722 5.26
45–49 746,884 763,311 1,510,195 4.34
50–54 508,498 562,274 1,070,772 3.08
55–59 356,581 393,511 750,093 2.16
60–64 345,830 378,456 724,285 2.08
65–69 187,626 218,991 406,617 1.17
70–74 133,277 138,375 271,651 0.78
75–79 81,742 90,630 172,373 0.50
80+ 89,436 78,087 167,523 0.48
Age group Male Female Total Percent
0–14 8,005,327 7,674,802 15,680,129 39.01
15–24 3,976,085 3,829,086 7,805,171 19.24
25–54 6,900,984 6,752,797 13,653,781 33.97
55–64 788,602 839,291 1,627,893 4.05
65+ 632,753 794,489 1,427,242 3.55

Ethnic and religious groups[edit]

Ethnic and religious groups in Iraq

Iraq's dominant ethnic group are the Mesopotamian Arabs, who account for more than three-quarters of the population.

According to the CIA World Factbook, citing a 1987 Iraqi government estimate,[45] the population of Iraq is formed of 70% Arabs followed by 25% Kurds.[45] In addition, the estimate claims that other minorities form 5% of the country's population, including the Turkmen/Turcoman, Yazidis, Shabaks, Kaka'i, Bedouins, Roma, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Circassians, Sabaean-Mandaean, and Persians.[45] However, the International Crisis Group points out that figures from the 1987 census, as well as the 1967, 1977, and 1997 censuses, "are all considered highly problematic, due to suspicions of regime manipulation" because Iraqi citizens were only allowed to indicate belonging to either the Arab or Kurdish ethnic groups;[46] consequently, this skewed the number of other ethnic minorities, such as Iraq's third largest ethnic group – the Turkmens/Turkomans.[46]

A report published by the European Parliamentary Research Service suggests that in 2015 there was 20 million Arabs (15 million Shia and 9 million Sunni); 8 million Sunni Kurds (plus 500,000 Shia Feylis and 200,000 Kaka'i); 0.5 million Iraqi Turkmen/Turkoman; 1 million Black Iraqis; 500,000 Christians[47] (including Chaldeans, Syriacs, Assyrians, Armenians and Arab Christians); 500,000 Yazidis; 250,000 Shabaks; 50,000 Roma; 3,000 Sabean-Mandaeans; 2,000 Circassians; 1,000 Baha’i; and a few dozen Jews.[48]


Arabic and Kurdish are the two official languages of Iraq. Arabic is taught across all schools in Iraq, however in the north the Kurdish language is the most spoken. Eastern Aramaic languages, such as Syriac and Mandaic are spoken, as well as the Iraqi Turkoman language, and various other indigenous languages.

Kurdish, including several dialects, is the second largest language and has regional language status in the north of the country. Aramaic, in antiquity spoken throughout the whole country, is now only spoken by the Assyrian Chaldean minority. The Iraqi Turkmen/Turkoman dialect of Turkish is spoken in pockets of northern Iraq (particularly in the so-called Turkmeneli region) and numerous languages of the Caucasus are also spoken by minorities, notably the Chechen community.


Religion in Iraq (est. 2003)

  Shia Islam (60%)
  Sunni Islam (30%)
  Christianity (5%)
  Yazidism (2%)
  Other religion (3%)

Religion in Iraq (2017)[49]

  Shia Islam (70%)
  Sunni Islam (25%)
  Christianity (3%)
  Other (2%)

97% of Iraqis follow Islam: 51% Shia and 42% Sunni. 1% of these describe themselves as "Just a Muslim".[50] According to the CIA World Factbook, Shias make up 64% of population, while Sunnis make up 31%. Christianity accounts for 3–5%, and the rest practice Yazidism, Mandaeism, and other religions.

While there has been voluntary relocation of many Christian families to northern Iraq, recent reporting indicates that the overall Christian population may have dropped by as much as 50 percent since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, with many fleeing to Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon (2010 estimate).[45] The percentage of Christians has fallen from 6% in 1991 or 1.5 million to about one third of this. Estimates say there are 500,000 Christians in Iraq.[51]

Nearly all Iraqi Kurds are Sunni Muslims. A survey in Iraq concluded that "98% of Kurds in Iraq identified themselves as Sunnis and only 2% identified as Shias".[52] The religious differences between Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds are small. While 98 percent of Shia Arabs believe that visiting the shrines of saints is acceptable, 71 percent of Sunni Arabs did and 59 percent of Sunni Kurds support this practice.[52] About 94 percent of the population in Iraqi Kurdistan is Muslim.[53]

Demographic statistics[edit]

The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.[54]

Age structure[edit]

0–14 years: 39.01% (male 8,005,327/female 7,674,802)
15-24 years: 19.42% (male 3,976,085/female 3,829,086)
25-54 years: 33.97% (male 6,900,984/female 6,752,797)
55-64 years: 4.05% (male 788,602/female 839,291)
65 years and over: 3.55% (male 632,753/female 794,489) (2018 est.)

Ethnic groups[edit]

Arab: 70%
Kurd: 15%
Turkoman: 10–13%
Chaldean, Assyrian and Other: 5%


Shia: 70%
Sunni: 25%
Christian: 2–5%, as low as 0.6% in 2017, down from 6% in 2003[55] and halved from 1.8 million to 900,000 or as high as 1.2 million in 2013
Yarsani: 2%
Yazidi: 1.4%
Shabak: 2%
Zoroastrianism: 0.6%
Mandaeism: 0.1%
Hinduism: 0.1%
Buddhism: 0.1%
Folk religion: 0.1%
Unaffiliated: 9%
Other 0.1%
Jewish 0.00001%


Arabic (official)
Kurdish (official)
Iraqi Turkmen/Turkoman dialect, a dialect of Turkish (official only in majority speaking area)
Assyrian Chaldean (Neo-Aramaic) (official only in majority speaking area)

Median age[edit]

total: 20.2 years
male: 20 years
female: 20.5 years (2019 est.)

Population growth rate[edit]

2.5% (2018 est.)

Crude birth rate[edit]

30 births/1,000 population (2018 est.)

Crude death rate[edit]

3.8 deaths/1,000 population (2018 est.)

Total fertility rate[edit]

3.94 children born/woman (2018 est.)

Net migration rate[edit]

−1.1 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2018 est.)


urban population: 70.5% of total population (2018)
rate of urbanization: 3.06% annual rate of change (2015–20 est.)

Sex ratio[edit]

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
0–14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
55–64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2017 est.)

Maternal mortality rate[edit]

50 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate[edit]

total population: 37.5 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 40.6 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 34.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)

Life expectancy at birth[edit]

total population: 74.9 years
male: 72.6 years
female: 77.2 years (2018 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate[edit]

51.5% (2011)

Health expenditures[edit]

5.5% of GDP (2011)

Physicians density[edit]

0.85 physicians/1,000 population (2014)

Hospital bed density[edit]

1.4 beds/1,000 population (2014)

Obesity – adult prevalence rate[edit]

30.4% (2016)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight[edit]

8.5% (2011)


noun: Iraqi(s)
adjective: Iraqi


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 79.7%
male: 85.7%
female: 73.7% (2015 est.)

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]