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According to Countryaah, Iraq had an average population density of 88 residents per km 2 in 2019, but the geographical variations were large. The river plains around the Euphrates and Tigris were the most densely populated areas, with up to 500 residents per km2, while the desert areas in the west and south were in the immediate public. Urbanization has increased strongly, and today 71 per cent is estimated to live in cities. The capital Baghdad is the clearly dominant city with 8.8 million residents (2015). The population statistics for the country are very uncertain as a result of war and extensive domestic struggles.

Religion and Languages of Iraq

Iraq's population is mainly Arabs (75-80 percent) and Kurds (18 percent). The rest consists of Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, Armenians, Mandans, Jesuits and Iranians, as well as minor ethnic groups. The Kurds live in the northern and northeastern parts of the country, while the Iranians are concentrated in areas near the border with Iran. Other groups are spread throughout the country. As a result of the humanitarian crisis following the US march into the country in 2003, an increasing number of people have fled Iraq. In Jordan and Syria alone, in 2009, there were millions of refugees; in Sweden, the Iraqis make up the largest individual refugee group. Representatives of the country's minorities are also moving. Of the mandates, perhaps 7,000 people remain (2009); yet in the 1990s there were 70,000 residents in the country. Armenians and Chaldeans are also declining rapidly.

About 97 percent of the population is Muslim, about 3 percent Christian. More than half of the Muslims are Shiites and the rest Sunnis, making Iraq the only Arab country where the Shiites are in the majority. Yet, both economics and politics have long been dominated by Sunnis.


The official language is Arabic. About 80% of the residents speak Arabic dialects which fall into two groups: one northern and one southern. The other languages are Kurdish (16%), Persian (1%), Turkish (1%) and New Aramaic (Chaldean, Urmic) around Mosul.


Most of Iraq's population belongs to Islam; just over half are Shiites. Shiite Islam is more dominant in the south, Sunni in the north. The Kurds are mostly Sunnis. Iraqis of Persian descent are almost always Shiites. As a rule, Sunni Islam has been more closely tied to political power and to the leading strata of society. However, the political leadership has had to take into account the significant role of Shiite Islam in the country; this is not least because of some of the most significant pilgrimage sites of the Shiites in Iraq: Najaf, where the first Imam Ali has his grave, Karbala, where the third Imam Husayn was killed and where his tomb mosque is, and Samarra with the tomb of the eleventh Imam and where the twelfth "went into secrecy"; Karbala has special significance, see Ashura, and both there and in Najaf there are significant theological institutions. A fourth pilgrimage is the Kazimiyam Mosque in Baghdad, where the tombs of the Seventh and Ninth Imams are located.

There are significant religious minorities. Baghdad is then an old center of Oriental Christianity. Several churches are represented: the Chaldean (unified with the Roman Catholic), the Syrian Orthodox (monophysite) and the Nestorian or Eastern Assyrian church. During the first half of the 20th century, the Jewish population was 2%, but after the advent of Israel and the subsequent conflicts, most Jews left Iraq. The Mandans constitute their own ethnic-religious ethnic group of some tens of thousands, mainly settled in the swamp areas of southern Iraq. Their situation after the 1980s and 1990s wars is unknown. The same goes for the small group of Kurdish Yazidis. So-called Ahl-e Haqq also occurs. They are followers of a dervish order-like popular form of religion with belief in several deity manifestations and of self-transformation.

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