Iraqi people

Iraqi people
Iraqi people
الشعب العراقي
Gilgamesh Sargon the Great Gudea Hammurabi
Esarhaddon Ashurbanipal Nebuchadnezzar II Haydar Ali
Abo of Tiflis Al-Kindi Alhazen Saladin
Rashid Ali al-Gaylani Abd al-Karim Qasim Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly
Ammo Baba Naeim Giladi Kathem Al-Saher Munir Bashir
Gilgamesh · Sargon the Great · Gudea · Hammurabi
Esarhaddon · Ashurbanipal · Nebuchadnezzar II
Haydar Ali · Abo of Tiflis · Al-Kindi · Alhazen
Saladin · Rashid Ali al-Gaylani · Abd al-Karim Qasim
Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr · Emmanuel III Delly
Ammo Baba · Naeim Giladi · Kathem Al-Saher
Munir Bashir
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Iraq 31,234,000 [1]
 Syria 2 million+ [2]
 Jordan 1-2 million
 Iran 500,000+ [3]
 Turkey 500,000+ [4]
 United Kingdom 450,000+ [5]
 Egypt 150,000+ [6]
 Germany 150,000+ [7]
 United States 140,000+ [8]
 Sweden 120,000+ [9]
 Kuwait 100,000+ [10]
 Lebanon 100,000+ [11]
 UAE 100,000+ [12]
 Yemen 100,000+ [13]
 Australia 80,000+ [14]
 Netherlands 60,000+
 Greece 5,000–40,000+ [15]
. more countries

Arabic (79%), Kurdish (17%)
Aramaic (3%), Turkmen (1%)
Ancient languages
Sumerian, Akkadian, Aramaic


Islam (97%)
Christianity, Mandaeism, and others

Related ethnic groups

Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Azeris, Bahranis, Caucasians, Egyptians, Georgians, Iranians, Kurds, Lebanese, Palestinians, Persians, Syrians, Turks
Y-DNA Haplogroup J2 originated in northern Iraq [16]

The Iraqi people (Arabic: الشعب العراقي al-shaab al-ʿIrāqī, Kurdish: گه‌لی عیراق gelê Îraqê, Aramaic: ܥܡܐ ܥܝܪܩܝܐʿamma ʿIrāqāyā) or Mesopotamian people (Arabic: شعب بلاد ما بين النهرين) are natives or inhabitants of the country of Iraq,[17] known since antiquity as Mesopotamia (Arabic: بلاد الرافدين), with a large diaspora throughout the Arab World, Europe, the Americas, and Australasia. From late Assyrian and Babylonian times until the early Islamic era, the Iraqi people spoke Aramaic but also witnessed a minority Arab presence, like Bani Assad, Taghlib, Banu Tamim and Lakhmid tribes among others.[18][19]

Arabic had been a minority language in Iraq since the 8th century BC,[18][20] it was spoken in Hatra in the 1st and 2nd centuries,[19] and by Iraqi Christians in Al-Hirah from the 3rd century,[21] and from the 8th century following the Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia it became the common language of Iraqi Muslims, due to Arabic being the language of the Qur'an and the Caliphate.[22][23] This change was facilitated by the fact that Arabic being a Semitic language, shared a close resemblance to Iraq's traditional languages of Akkadian and Aramaic. Some of Iraq's Christians and Mandaeans retained dialects of Aramaic, since it remained the liturgical language of their faiths. Kurdish-speaking Iraqis live in the mountainous Zagros region of northeast Iraq to the east of the upper Tigris. The Kurds and Arabs of Mesopotamia have interacted and intermarried for well over a millennium. Modern genetic studies indicate that Iraqi Arabs and Kurds are very closely related.[24][25] Arabic and Kurdish are Iraq's national languages.


Cultural history

The Iraqi people have an ancient cultural history and civilization. In ancient and medieval times Mesopotamia was the political and cultural centre of many great empires. The ancient Iraqi civilization of Sumer is the oldest known civilization in the world, and thus Iraq is widely known as the cradle of civilization. Iraq remained an important centre of civilization for millennia, up until the Abbasid Caliphate (of which Baghdad was the capital), which was the most advanced empire of the medieval world (see Islamic Golden Age).

Further information on Iraq's civilization and cultural history can be found in the following chronology of Iraqi history:

  • Jarmo (7000 – 5000 BC)
  • Sumer (6500 – 1940 BC)

Historical names

  • Iraqis, from Arabic: عراقيين ʻIrāqīyīn; from العراق al-ʿIrāq, from Aramaic: Erech. The contemporary name comes from the Aramaic name of Uruk (Erech), which became the designation for Babylonia some time after the decline of Babylon under the Seleucid and Parthian occupations. This name rendered as العراق al-ʿIrāq in Arabic, became established during the Islamic period as the designation for Babylonia.[26] Over the last millennium its usage by governors and geographers increasingly came to comprehend upper Mesopotamia (ancient Assyria / contemporary northern Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan).[27]
  • Mesopotamians, from Greek: Μεσοποτάμιοι Mesopotάmioi; from Μεσοποταμία Mesopotamίa ("Land between [the] rivers"). This was the classical name used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans after the 4th century BC.[28] It is derived from the Aramaic: Beth Nahrain (Neo-Aramaic: ܒܝܬ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ) ("House of [the] rivers") which is attested since the 10th century BC as a designation for upper Mesopotamia.[28] The name was used briefly after World War I during the British Mandate of Mesopotamia, as it was the common name in Europe by which the region was known.[26] It would probably be in use today however the name became tarnished by colonialism during the British occupation, and the Iraqi state therefore decided to use the endonym Iraq (العراق al-ʻIrāq) as the official name.
  • Babylonians, from Akkadian: Babilaya; via Greek: Βαβυλωνιοι Βabylōnioi. This name was used in Late Babylonian cuneiform texts during the Achaemenid, Seleucid and Parthian periods as a self-designation for the people of central-southern Iraq (Babylonia).[29] During the Sassanian period (224–638), following the decline of the city of Babylon under the preceding Parthians and Seleucids, the country began to be called after Erech; a major city in southern Babylonia, and this name became established in the Islamic era as Iraq (العراق al-ʻIrāq).[26] The name Babil as a reference to the country remained in use throughout the Islamic era by Arabic and Persian geographers;[26] who used the name interchangeably with Iraq.[26] In the early modern era, the region was known as Irak Arabi or Irak Babeli ("Arabic Iraq" or "Babylonian Iraq").[30][31]
  • Anbāṭ, In the early Islamic period, the Arabian Arabs referred to the people of Iraq as al-Anbāṭ (sg. Nabaṭ) (Nabataean).[32] They also referred to the people of Syria by the same name.[33] Analogous to how the Egyptians were referred to as Copts (قبط qubṭ) by the Arabs.


The Iraqi population is without doubt much the same today as it was in Sumerian and Babylonian times.

—Professor of Anthropology Carleton S. Coon, The Races of Europe.[34]

The Iraqi people are a light skinned Caucasian people. It has been found that Y-DNA Haplogroup J2 originated in northern Iraq.[16] In spite of the importance of this region, genetic studies on the Iraqi people are limited and generally restricted to analysis of classical markers due to Iraq's modern political instability,[16] although there have been several published studies displaying the genealogical connection between all Iraqi people and the neighbouring countries, across religious and linguistic barriers. One such study reveals a close genetic relationship between Iraqis, Kurds, Caspian Iranians and Svani Georgians.[24]

Iraqi mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup distribution is similar to that of Iran, Syria, Palestine, Georgia, and Armenia, whereas it substantially differs from that observed in Arabia.[16] Iraqi Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) haplogroup distribution is similar to that of Lebanon, Turkey, and Syria.[16] No significant differences in Y-DNA variation were observed among Iraqi Arabs, Assyrians, or Kurds.[16]

For both mtDNA and Y-DNA variation, the large majority of the haplogroups observed in the Iraqi population (H, J, T, and U for the mtDNA, J2 and J1 for the Y-DNA) are those considered to have originated in Western Asia and to have later spread mainly in Western Eurasia.[16] The Eurasian haplogroups R1b and R1a represent the second most frequent component of the Iraqi Y-chromosome gene pool, the latter suggests that the population movements from Central Asia/Eastern Europe into modern Iran also influenced Iraq.[16]

Many historians and anthropologists provide strong circumstantial evidence to posit that Iraq's Maʻdān people share very strong links to the ancient Sumerians - the most ancient inhabitants of southern Iraq, and that Iraq's Mandaeans share the strongest links to the Babylonians.[35] The Beni Delphi (sons of Delphi) tribe of Iraq is believed to have Greek origins, from the Macedonian soldiers of Alexander the Great and the colonists of the Seleucid Empire.

The Assyrian Christian population are closely related to other Iraqis,[25] and also to Jordanians, yet due to religious endogamy have a distinct genetic profile that distinguishes their population.[36] "The Assyrians are a fairly homogeneous group of people, believed to originate from the land of old Assyria in northern Iraq", and "they are Christians and are bona fide descendants of their namesakes."[37]

Studies have reported that most Irish and Britons are descendants of farmers who left modern day Iraq and Syria 10,000 years ago.[38] Genetic researchers say they have found compelling evidence that four out of five (80% of) white Europeans can trace their roots to the Near East.[38] In another study, scientists analysed DNA from the 8,000 year-old remains of early farmers found at an ancient graveyard in Germany. They compared the genetic signatures to those of modern populations and found similarities with the DNA of people living in today's Turkey and Iraq.[39]


Iraqis have historically been a multilingual people, conversant in several languages but having a Semitic lingua franca. Iraqi identity transcends language boundaries and is more associated with geography; the TigrisEuphrates alluvial plain and its environs.

What defines somebody as being Iraqi are factors including speaking Mesopotamian Arabic, Aramaic or Kurdish, being of Iraqi ancestry, identifying with Iraqi culture and Iraqi history; both ancient and contemporary, and having Iraqi nationality. Many Iraqis of Christian and Kurdish backgrounds wholeheartedly identify as Iraqi and feel themselves part of the Iraqi people, with shared Mesopotamian origins and cultural bonds.

The single identity and heritage of the Iraqi people is most commonly seen in the Iraqi cuisine. Iraqi cuisine has changed and evolved since the time of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Abbasids; however several traditional Iraqi dishes have already been traced back to antiquity [40] such as Iraq's national dish Masgouf and Iraq's national cookie Kleicha, which can be traced back to Sumerian times.[41]

Nowadays, the demonym "Iraqi" includes all minorities in the country, such as the Kurds and Turkmen (although these groups often specify their ethnicity by adding a suffix such as "Iraqi Kurdish" or "Iraqi Turkmen"). It is common for Iraqi Arabs to have relatives of Iraqi Kurdish background, and vice versa.

Swiss-Iraqi author Salim Matar writes that Iraqi people claim that:

We are Iraqis. We go back to the ancient Mesopotamians.



Iraq's national languages are Arabic and Kurdish. Arabic is spoken as a first language by around 79 percent of Iraqi people, and Kurdish by around 17 percent. The two main regional dialects of Arabic spoken by the Iraqi people are Mesopotamian Arabic (spoken by approximately 18.1 million Iraqis) and North Mesopotamian Arabic (spoken by approximately 7.8 million Iraqis in Iraq's north around the city of Mosul).[42] The two main dialects of Kurdish spoken by Kurdish Iraqis are Soranî (spoken in the cities of Arbil and Sulaymaniyah)[43] and Kurmanji (spoken in Duhok).[43] In addition to Arabic, most Christian Iraqis (Assyrians/Chaldeans) and some Mandaean Iraqis speak Neo-Aramaic dialects, and around 1 percent of Iraqi people speak Persian and Turkmen respectively.

The vast majority of Kurdish and Aramaic–speaking Iraqis also speak Iraqi Arabic.[43]

Linguistic history

A 6th century BC Babylonian Akkadian inscription. The Akkadian language was in written use in Iraq until the 1st century AD

At the time of the Islamic conquest in the 7th century, the majority of Iraqis spoke Aramaic,[32] having adopted this language in the early to mid 1st millennium BC during the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. Prior to this adoption of Aramaic, Iraqis had spoken Akkadian since the late 3rd millennium BC, and Sumerian for millennia prior to that. The Sumerian and Akkadian languages remained in written use in Iraq until the late 1st century AD.[44][45]

Akkadian and Aramaic are both Semitic languages closely related to the Arabic language,[46] while Sumerian is a language isolate.

Small numbers of Arabic-speakers had been settling in Iraq since the early 1st millennium BC,[32] however they usually became Aramaicized after a few generations in the country.[32] Though there were a few Arabic-speaking cities during the Parthian and Sassanian eras, such as Hatra and Al-Hirah respectively.[19][21]

Shortly following the Rashidun Islamic conquest, the Umayyad Caliphate was established in 661 AD. At the end of the 7th century, the fifth Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (r. 685–705) established Arabic as the official language of the state.[47] Over the next couple of centuries, most people in the empire including most Iraqis, became Arabicized. By the end of the 8th or 9th century, Arabic had largely replaced Aramaic in Iraq. An Aramaic vernacular was retained only by small minorities who didn't convert to the popular Islamic faith. There were also small numbers of Arabians who settled in Iraq during this time, and many Iraqis became affiliated with Arab tribes, as was customary.

The point at which Aramaicization (whereby Arabs settling in Iraq became Aramaicized) gave way to Arabicization seems to have been around the mid eighth century,[32] around the time of the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad, and shortly after Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan had made Arabic the official language of the state.

Notwithstanding their historical adoption of Arabic during the Caliphate, the majority of Iraqis are distinctly aware of their Babylonian and Assyrian descent, and are highly proud of their ancient and ancestral pre-Islamic heritage, as they are of their medieval Islamic heritage. Analogous to the modern Egyptians who were also Arabicized during the Caliphate.

In addition, since the Achaemenid era in the mid 1st millennium BC, through the Sassanian era in the mid 1st millennium AD, and to the present time, there has been a small Persian minority and a bilingual Persian-speaking minority in Iraq.[48] During the Sassanian era (224–638), Iraq was the core of the empire,[48] and many urban Iraqis were conversant in Persian as a second language.[48]

Linguistic chronology of the Iraqi people:

Isolate Semitic Semitic Semitic
Sumerian Akkadian Aramaic Arabic
3500 BC1 2200 BC → 700 BC → 800 AD →

1First attestation.


Iraq has many devout followers of its religions. In 1968 the Iraqi constitution established Islam as the official religion of the state as the majority of Iraqis (97%) are Muslim (both Shīʻah and Sunni).

In addition to Islam, many Iraqi people are Christians belonging to various Christian denominations, some of which are the Chaldean Catholic Church (Chaldean Christians), the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the Assyrian Church of the East. Their numbers inside Iraq have dwindled considerably and range between 500,000 and 800,000; around 2% of the population.

Other religious groups include Mandaeans, Shabaks, Yazidis and followers of other minority religions. Furthermore, Jews had also been present in Iraq in significant numbers historically, but their population dwindled, after virtually all of them fled to Israel between 1949 to 1952.[49][50]


The Iraqi diaspora is not a sudden exodus but one that has grown exponentially through the 20th century as each generation faced some form of radical transition or political conflict. From 1950 to 1952 Iraq saw a great exodus of roughly 120,000 - 130,000 of its Jewish population under the Israel-led "Operation Ezra and Nehemiah". There were at least two large waves of expatriation of both Christians and Muslims alike. A great number of Iraqis left the country during the regime of Saddam Hussein and large numbers have left during the Second Gulf War and its aftermath. The United Nations estimates that roughly 40% of Iraq's remaining and formerly strong middle-class have fled the country following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

As a consequence of eight years of U.S.-led military occupation and massive terrorism introduced by the occupation, Iraqis currently form the second largest refugee group in the world numbering over 1.8 million.[51] The UNHCR estimates that over 4.7 million Iraqis have been displaced during the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.[52]

See also

External links


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  3. ^ "500,000 Iraqis in Iran". Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  4. ^ "Ethnic groups of Turkey". Joshua Project. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  5. ^ "The Iraqi Embassy estimates that the Iraqi population is around 350,000-450,000". International Organization for Migration. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  6. ^ "Iraqis In Egypt". HRW. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  7. ^ "Population pressures". ECRE. Archived from the original on 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2007-08-19. 
  8. ^ "Arab American Demographics". Arab American Institute. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  9. ^ "Statistics Sweden". Statistics Sweden. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
  10. ^ "Ethnic groups of Kuwait". Joshua Project. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  11. ^ "Iraqis in Lebanon". Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  12. ^ "More than 100,000 Iraqis living in the UAE". Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  13. ^ "Iraqis In Yemen". HRW. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  14. ^ "Australian Iraqi population estimated to be as high as 80,000". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2005-01-22. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  15. ^ "Iraqi community in Greece". UNHCR. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h "N. Al-Zahery et al. "Y-chromosome and mtDNA polymorphisms in Iraq, a crossroad of the early human dispersal and of post-Neolithic migrations" (2003)". Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  17. ^ "Iraqi – a native or inhabitant of Iraq". Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  18. ^ a b Ramirez-Faria, Carlos (2007). Concise Encyclopaedia of World History. Atlantic Publishers. p. 33. ISBN 8126907754. 
  19. ^ a b c "Araba (ancient state, Iraq)". Britannica. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  20. ^ Blázquez Martínez, José María (2006). "Arabia, the Arabs and the Persian Gulf. A Dissertation of Ancient Sources". Gerión (Complutense University of Madrid) 24 (2): 7–20. ISSN 0213-0181. Retrieved 2011-03-15. 
  21. ^ a b "Lakhmid Dynasty (Arabian dynasty)". Britannica. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  22. ^ Roberts, John Morris (1993). History of the World. Oxford University Press. p. 265. 
  23. ^ Rodinson, Maxime (1981). The Arabs. Routledge. p. 56. ISBN 0709903774. 
  24. ^ a b Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi, Alberto Piazza, The History and Geography of Human Genes, p. 242
  25. ^ a b "Cavalli-Sforza et al. Genetic tree of West Asia". Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
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  27. ^ Visser, Reidar (Nov. 2009). "Proto-political conceptions of ‘Iraq’ in late Ottoman times". International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies 3 (2): 143–154. 
  28. ^ a b Finkelstein, J. J. (Apr. 1962). "Mesopotamia". Journal of Near Eastern Studies 21 (2): 73–92. 
  29. ^ Andrade, Nathanael John (2009). Imitation Greeks: Being Syrian in the Greco-Roman world (175 BCE–275 CE). ProQuest. pp. 38–39. ISBN 1109110758. 
  30. ^ Sale, George; Psalmanazar, George; Bower, Archibald (1759). An Universal History: From the Earliest Accounts to the Present Time, Volume 5. C. Bathurst. pp. 167–168. 
  31. ^ Anthon, Charles (1869). A Classical Dictionary: Containing The Principle Proper Names Mentioned In Ancient Authors. Harper & Brothers. p. 248. 
  32. ^ a b c d e Morony, Michael G. (2005). Iraq after the Muslim conquest. Gorgias Press LLC. pp. a169–170; b169–170; c176; d176–180; e176–180. ISBN 1593333153. 
  33. ^ Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (1976). The Mediaeval Islamic Underworld. Brill Publishers. p. 255. ISBN 9004045023. 
  34. ^ Coon, Carleton S. (1972). The Races of Europe. Greenwood Press. p. 413. ISBN 9780837163284. 
  35. ^ "Iraq's Marsh Arabs". Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  36. ^ Dr. Joel J. Elias, Emeritus, University of California, The Genetics of Modern Assyrians and their Relationship to Other People of the Middle East
  37. ^ Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi, Alberto Piazza, The History and Geography of Human Genes, p. 243
  38. ^ a b Derbyshire, David (2010-01-20). "Most Britons descended from male farmers who left Iraq and Syria 10,000 years ago". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  39. ^ "Migrants from the Near East 'brought farming to Europe'". BBC. 2010-11-10. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  40. ^ Nasrallah, Nawal (2003). Delights from the Garden of Eden: A Cookbook and History of the Iraqi Cuisine. 1stBooks. ISBN 140334793X. 
  41. ^ Marks, Gil (2010). Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. John Wiley & Sons. p. 317. ISBN 0470391308. 
  42. ^ "Country Profile: Iraq". Mongabay. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  43. ^ a b c "The Kurdish language". KRG. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  44. ^ Kipfer, Barbara Ann (2000). Encyclopedic Dictionary of Archaeology. Springer. p. 542. ISBN 9780306461583. 
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  46. ^ De Laet, Sigfried J.; Dani, Ahmad Hasan (1996). History of Humanity: From the Third Millennium to the Seventh Century B.C.. UNESCO. p. 230. ISBN 9789231028113. 
  47. ^ Phillips, Douglas A. (2010). Syria (Modern World Nations). Infobase Publishing. p. 34. ISBN 9781604136173. 
  48. ^ a b c Morony, Michael G. "IRAQ i. IN THE LATE SASANID AND EARLY ISLAMIC ERAS". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  49. ^ Farrell, Stephen (2008-06-01). "Baghdad Jews Have Become a Fearful Few". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  50. ^ Van Biema, David (2007-07-27). "The Last Jews of Baghdad". Time.,8599,1647740,00.html. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
  51. ^ "Iraqis are the second largest refugee group in the world, with an estimated 1.8 million seeking refuge primarily in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey". UNHCR. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  52. ^ "UNHCR – Iraq". UNHCR. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 

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