26 interesting facts about Iraq

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The most interesting facts about Iraq, from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the world’s oldest form of writing.

Interesting facts about Iraq include its ancient history
Interesting facts about Iraq include its ancient history(Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Iraq
Population: 40 million
Area: 438,317 sq km
Capital city: Baghdad
Major languages: Arabic, Kurdish, Turkmen, Syriac, Armenian
Major religions: Islam
Time zone: UTC+3 (Arabia Standard Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Iraq

1. Iraq is a country in the Middle East and Asia bordering Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

2. During ancient times, Iraq was known as Mesopotamia meaning the “Land Between the Rivers” due to its location in the fertile valleys between Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
– Source: History Channel

3. Mesopotamia gave rise to some of the world’s earliest civilisations, including the Sumer (circa 4500 BC), Akkad (c. 2300 BC), Babylon (c. 1894 BC) and Assyria (c. 1363 BC).
– Source: Britannica

A map of Iraq and its bordering countries
A map of Iraq (Shutterstock)

4. For nearly 400 years from 1534 to 1918, Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire until Britain seized control during the First World War.
– Source: BBC News

5. In 1932, Iraq gained independence. However, Britain re-occupied Iraq during the Second World War.
– Source: BBC News

6. The Iraqi flag is made up of three horizontal stripes of red, white and black with a green inscription reading Allāhu akbar (God is great). The red stands for a willingness to shed blood, green for the country’s fields, black for battles and white for purity of motives and deeds.
– Source: Britannica

An Iraqi flag flies during sunset
Iraq’s flag (Shutterstock)

7. The earliest form of writing appeared in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) almost 5,500 years ago. The Cuneiform tablets are the world’s oldest existing evidence of written texts.
– Source: British Library1, British Library2

8. Iraq is part of an area known as the Fertile Crescent, also known as the “Cradle of Civilization”. The Fertile Crescent covers a roughly crescent-shaped area of fertile land that incorporates parts of present-day Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Cyprus.
– Source: History Channel

9. The ancient city of Babylon, which was the capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire between 626 and 539 BC, is located in Iraq. Babylon was home to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
– Source: UNESCO

Top-left view of the ancient ruins of the city of Babylon
The archaeological site of Babylon (Shutterstock)

10. For decades, Iraq has been rocked by conflict. A series of coups led to Saddam Hussein gaining power in 1979. In 1980, the Iran-Iraq War broke out and lasted until 1988. It’s thought that as many as 250,000 Iraqis lost their lives during the war.
– Source: BBC News1, BBC News2

11. In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait which prompted the First Gulf War. A huge US-led military campaign known as Operation Desert Storm forced Iraq to withdraw in 1991.
– Source: The Atlantic

12. Some of Iraq’s most recognisable landmarks commemorate the Iran-Iraq War. The distinctive split dome of Martyr’s Monument and the crossed swords of the Victory Arch (both in Baghdad) are two of the most famous.
– Source: New York Times, Britannica

The Martyr’s Monument in Baghdad, Iraq
The Martyr’s Monument (Shutterstock)

13. In 2003, a US-led coalition invaded Iraq in what would become a protracted and highly contentious conflict lasting until 2011. The conflict led to an estimated 250,000 Iraqi dead and years of instability in the region.
– Source: The Guardian

14. Saddam Hussein’s government was quickly toppled and then he was captured in late-2003. In 2006, he was executed for crimes against humanity.
– Source: BBC News

15. Saddam Hussein, who was Iraq’s president from 1979 to 2003, was known for his brutality and suppression. He, and his supporters, were responsible for repeated beatings and torture, as well as murdering thousands of opponents and disappearing thousands more into the regime’s prisons.
– Source: The Guardian, Britannica

16. Iraq’s largest and capital city, Baghdad probably takes its name from the Persian words, “bagh” and “dad” meaning “god” and “given”. This can be interpreted as “bestowed by God”.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

An aerial shot of Baghdad, Iraq
Baghdad can translate as “bestowed by God” (Shutterstock)

17. Years of conflict have taken their toll on Iraq. According to the latest Global Terrorism Index, Iraq is the second-most impacted by terrorism country after only Afghanistan.
– Source: Institute for Economics & Peace

18. Iraq is among the nine most dangerous countries in the world according to the 2022 International SOS Travel Risk Map. It has been assessed as carrying an ‘extreme travel security risk’.
– Source: The Independent

19. Unsurprisingly, it also ranks among the world’s least peaceful countries. In 2021, it was the fifth last in the latest Global Peace Index.
– Source: Institute for Economics & Peace

20. Nadia Murad is Iraq’s only Nobel Prize winner. She co-won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for her “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”
– Source: Nobel Prize

Nadia Murad giving a speech at the European Parliament in 2016
Nadia Murad in 2016 (European Parliament/Creative Commons, 2.0)

21. Iraq is one of the world’s largest oil producers. It has the world’s fifth-biggest oil reserves – over 148 billion barrels in 2018.
– Source: Britannica

22. The UNESCO-listed Samarra Archaeological City in Iraq is home to two of the largest mosques and the most unusual minarets, as well as the largest palaces in the Islamic world. The ancient capital of Samarra dates from 836-892 AD.
– Source: UNESCO

23. In total, Iraq has six UNESCO sites including the ancient sites of Ashur, Babylon, Hatra and Samarra Archaeological City along with Erbil Citadel and the mixed site of Ahwar of Southern Iraq.
– Source: UNESCO

The spiral-shaped Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq
The Great Mosque of Samarra (Shutterstock)

24. The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia, written between c. 2150 and 1400 BC. It is widely regarded to be the world’s oldest long poem.
– Source: The New Yorker, World History Encyclopedia

25. In the 2020 Global Gender Gap Index, Iraq was ranked the world’s second-worst country for gender equality.
– Source: Global Gender Gap Report 2020, World Economic Forum

26. The historic Silk Road, the ancient trading route that connected China with Europe and the Middle East, ran through Iraq. Baghdad was an important trading centre and crossroad on the Silk Road network thanks to its strategic geographical position.
– Source: UNESCO

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about Iraq using primary sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.