About Iraq and the Refugee Crisis

Today we are highlighting our Iraqi population, a significant refugee population in Broome County. What we know today as Iraq consists of the former Ottoman Empire provinces of Baghdad, Basra, and Mogul, created after the end of World War I. Iraq is situated in southwestern Asia, in the area that was originally called Mesopotamia. Due to its relationship with the Tigris-Euphrates river system, Iraq has dams, canals, and irrigation systems to allow for irrigation and help prevent flooding.

Photo by Aram Sabah on Unsplash

Iraq had a population of over 38,000,000 in 2019, and there is much ethnic and religious diversity within the country. Around two thirds of Iraqis are Arabs, about a quarter are Kurds, and the remainder are other ethnic minority groups. Due to this diversity, different dialects of Arabic are used across the country, making communication between groups more difficult. In addition, Kurdish is the other major language spoken in Iraq, which has two main dialects. The other minority ethnic groups have their own languages as well, including Turkish and Syriac. For commerce, English is prevalent.

Islam is the majority religion of Iraq, with the two sects of Sunni and Shi’i being split fairly equally. Roughly three fifths are Shi’i, and two fifths are Sunni. Around two percent of the population is affiliated with another religion such as Christianity or Judaism.

Iraq is home to some of the world’s largest petroleum reserves, making it Iraq’s most valuable mineral. During the late 20th century, the Ba’ath regime used the revenues from oil production to fund roads, electric grids, and water-purification systems. Despite the progress made on projects such as irrigation, dams, and attempts to increase agricultural and industrial production, Saddam Hussein’s rise to power would bring decades of violence and instability to the region. The Persian Gulf War led to the destruction of infrastructure as well as encouraged the minority Shi’i and Kurdish groups to rebel. The Iraqi government forces killed many in response, causing over one million Kurds to flee to Turkey and Iran.

In 2003, disputes by Western countries over Iraq’s perceived uncooperation on Weapons of Mass Destruction inspections led to the United States and Britain’s invasions and air strikes. On December 13th Hussein was captured by U.S. troops, creating an unstable political situation that is still unresolved to this day. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has contributed to the violence, instability, and conflict in the region as well. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates 3.3 million Iraqis are displaced, with 250,000 seeking refuge in other countries since 2014 alone. To read more about Iraq’s refugee crisis and lend your support, click here.

We want to highlight that this is a very simplified version of the history and conflicts of the Iraqi community, and we encourage you to do more research to learn about the conflicts.

“Iraq Refugee Crisis: Aid, Statistics and News: USA for UNHCR.” How to Help Refugees - Aid, Relief and Donations, https://www.unrefugees.org/emergencies/iraq/.

Woods, John E., et al. “Iraq.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 9 May 2020, www.britannica.com/place/Iraq.

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