The Ramadi Mosque in June 2004
|Governorate||Al Anbar Governorate|
|Occupation||Islamic State of Iraq and Levant|
Ramadi (Arabic: الرمادي; BGN: Ar-Ramādī; also formerly rendered as Rumadiyah or Rumadiya) is a city in central Iraq, about 110 kilometers (68 mi) west of Baghdad and 50 kilometers (31 mi) west of Fallujah. It is the capital of Al Anbar Governorate. The city extends along the Euphrates and is the largest city in Al-Anbar. Founded by the Ottoman Empire in 1879, by 2004 it had a population of about 450,000 people, the vast majority of whom are Sunni Arabs from the Dulaim tribal confederation. It lies within the Sunni Triangle of western Iraq.
Ramadi occupies a highly strategic location on the Euphrates and the road west into Syria and Jordan. This has made it a hub for trade and traffic, from which the city gained significant prosperity. Its position has meant that it has been fought over several times, during the two World Wars and again during the Iraq War and Iraqi insurgency. It was heavily damaged during the Iraq War, when it was a major focus for the insurgency against occupying United States forces. Following the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in 2011, the city was contested by the Iraqi government and the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and fell to ISIL in May 2015.
Population and demography
Ramadi's population was reported by the World Food Programme to number 456,853 people in 2004, though the number is likely to have decreased since then given the impact of the Iraq war and insurgency. Its population grew rapidly during the last half of the 20th century, from 12,020 people in 1956 to 192,556 in 1987. The population is very homogeneous, over 90 per cent Sunni Arab. The vast majority of its population come from the Dulaim tribal confederation, which inhabits Syria and Jordan as well as Iraq and has over a thousand individual clans, each headed by a sheik selected by tribal elders.
Ramadi is located in a fertile, irrigated, alluvial plain, within Iraq's Sunni Triangle. A settlement already existed in the area when the British explorer Francis Rawdon Chesney passed through in 1836 on a steam-powered boat during an expedition to test the navigability of the Euphrates. He described it as a "pretty little town" and noted that the black tents of the Bedouin could be seen along the both banks of the river all the way from Ramadi to Falujah. The modern city was founded in 1869 by Midhat Pasha, the Ottoman Wali (Governor) of Baghdad. The Ottomans sought to control the previously nomadic Dulaim tribe in the region as part of a programme of settling the Bedouin tribes of Iraq through the use of land grants, in the belief that this would bind them more closely to the state and make them easier to control.
Ramadi was described in 1892 as "the most wide awake town in the whole Euphrates valley. It has a telegraph office and large government barracks. The bazaars are very large and well filled." Sir John Bagot Glubb ("Glubb Pasha") was posted there in 1922 "to maintain a rickety floating bridge over the river [Euphrates], carried on boats made of reeds daubed with bitumen", as he put it. By this time the Dulaim were mostly settled, though they had not yet fully adopted an urbanised lifestyle. Glubb described them as "cultivators along the banks of the Euphrates, watering their wheat, barley and date palms by kerids, or water lifts worked by horses. Yet they had but recently settled, and still lived in black goat-hair tents." A British military handbook published during World War I noted that "some European travellers have found the inhabitants of Rumadiyah [Ramadi] inclined to fanaticism".
World Wars I and II
Ramadi was twice fought over during the Mesopotamian Campaign of World War I. It was held initially by the forces of the Ottoman Empire, which garrisoned it in March 1917 after losing control of Fallujah to the east. The British Army's Lieutenant General Frederick Stanley Maude sought to drive out the garrison in July 1917 but faced severe difficulties due to exceptional heat during both day and night. A force of around 600 British soldiers plus cavalry units faced 1,000 Turks with six artillery pieces. The attack was a costly failure and a combination of exhaustion, disorganisation, Turkish artillery fire and an unexpected sandstorm forced Maude to call off the attack with heavy losses. More than half of the 566 British casualties were caused by the heat.
Maude tried again during a cooler period in September 1917. This time the attacking force, led by Major General H.T. Brookings, was better organised and the British force was able to cope with the temperatures. The British mounted their attack from a direction that the Turks had not expected and were able to cut off their enemy's line of retreat. Many members of the Turkish garrison were killed or forced to surrender and the British were able to take control of Ramadi.
Ramadi was contested again during World War II following the 1941 Iraqi coup d'état. The coup leader, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, initiated a siege of the British base at RAF Habbaniya near Ramadi. This prompted a British counter-attack to break the siege, sparking the brief Anglo-Iraqi War. An Iraqi brigade occupied Ramadi under the auspices of a training exercise. The British assembled an ad hoc relief force dubbed Habforce which advanced from the British Mandate of Palestine into Iraq. The force succeeded in relieving RAF Habbaniya and Iraqi resistance rapidly crumbled as their counter-attacks were defeated, allowing a British column to seize control of Ramadi.
The Ramadi Barrage was built near the city in 1955 to feed water into Lake Habbaniyah to the southeast. The University of Anbar was founded there in 1987 and, together with Ramadi's trade and transport links, gave the city a more cosmopolitan, liberal and secular culture than others in the Sunni Triangle. Many high-ranking officials of the ruling Ba'ath Party came from Ramadi. Its local elites were also closely tied to the regime. The Anbar tribes in and around the city were largely co-opted to support the regime and Ramadi was the home base of the Iraqi Army's combat engineers, special forces and many active and retired senior officers.
Ramadi was the scene of large-scale demonstrations against Saddam Hussein in 1995. This made it virtually unique in Sunni Iraq, where support for Saddam was strongest. The demonstrations were prompted by Saddam's execution of a prominent member of the Dulaim tribe from Ramadi, Iraqi Air Force General Muhammad Madhlum al-Dulaimi, and three other Dulaimi officers. The four had criticised the regime and Saddam's notoriously violent and dissolute son Uday. After their execution, the bodies were sent back to Ramadi. The regime's security forces put down the demonstrations which ensued and Saddam subsequently viewed the Dulaimis with suspicion, though he was unable to purge them without risking a full-scale tribal revolt.
Iraq War and Iraqi insurgency
The policy of de-Ba'athification and the disbandment of the Iraqi Army, implemented by the United States following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, hit Ramadi particularly hard because of its links to the party and the army. Many senior officials and military figures in the city suddenly found themselves excluded from public life. This gave them both the motivation and the means, given their connections and technical expertise, to mount a campaign of violent resistance to the occupying forces. As a result, Ramadi became a hotbed of insurgency between 2003 and 2006 and was badly affected by the Iraq War.
Following the withdrawal of US and Coalition forces in 2011, Ramadi was contested by Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) during the ongoing Iraqi insurgency. On 15 May 2015 Ramadi was captured by ISIS after an assault that included suicide car bombs, mortars, and rocket launchers. CNN reported that ISIS took over 50 high-level security personnel prisoners during the assault. The ISIS flag was also raised at the Ramadi government headquarters. By 17 May 2015 Ramadi had been completely captured by ISIS forces.
Ramadi stands on an important trade route leading across the desert to Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. The main Amman–Baghdad road passes through the city. A railway line also runs through the southern outskirts of Ramadi, heading east to Baghdad and west to Haditha and the Syrian border.
At the start of the 21st century, Ramadi stretched over an area of about 15 km (9.3 mi) east to west by 12 km (7.5 mi) north to south. The centre of the city is densely built up, with numerous more spread-out residential suburbs surrounding it. The city centre is bounded to the north by the Euphrates, to the east by suburbs, to the south by the railway line between Baghdad and Haditha, and to the west by the Habbaniyah Canal. More suburbs exist to the west and northwest of the canal and north of the Euphrates.
The city centre is connected to the suburbs by two major bridges, one across the Euphrates and the other across the canal, while the western and northern suburbs are connected by a major highway that crosses the Euphrates north of the city. Various tribal groups live in separate districts within the suburbs, with dozens of sheikhs being responsible for maintaining the security and well-being of their particular grouping. The suburbs are extensively criss-crossed with canals that are used to irrigate the farmland around the city.
Ramadi's recent origins mean that it is dominated by modern concrete buildings, mostly flat-roofed two- or three-storey structures but with a number of taller buildings in the city centre. Its modern origins mean that it lacks features typical of older Iraqi cities, such as a kasbah. The Japanese-built city hospital, with seven storeys, is the tallest building in Ramadi. The city was badly damaged during the Iraq war and insurgency. Many buildings were destroyed and many more were rendered uninhabitable.
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- Hamdi Alkhshali, Yousuf Basil and Greg Botelho, CNN (15 May 2015). "ISIS on offensive in Iraq's Ramadi, governor says". CNN.
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