Iraq Fast Facts

CNN —  

Here’s a look at the country of Iraq which borders Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran and the Persian Gulf.

About Iraq

(from the CIA World Factbook)
Area: 438,317 sq km

Population: 39,650,145 (2021 est.)

Median age: 21.2 years (2020 est.)

Capital: Baghdad

Ethnic Groups: Arab 75%-80%, Kurdish 15%-20% or other 5% (1987 est.)

Religion: Muslim (official) 95%-98% (Shia 64%-69%, Sunni 29%-34%), Christian 1%, other 1-4% (2015 est.)

Unemployment: 16% (2012 est.)

Other Facts

In ancient times, the area comprising Iraq was known as Mesopotamia and gave rise to some of the world’s first civilizations.

One of the religious minorities in Iraq is the Yazidi. Their beliefs draw from aspects of Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. Per the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2019, between 400,000 to 500,000 live in Iraq, mostly in the north. About 360,000 Yazidis are displaced.


1921 - After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Great Britain gains control of the area. It sets up a government in Mesopotamia and renames the country Iraq.

1924 - The new Constitutional Assembly of Iraq meets to consider the Anglo-Iraq treaty. The treaty would compel Iraq to honor all agreements made by Great Britain previously, including oil concessions. In order to compel Iraq to accept the treaty, Great Britain threatens to withdraw and leave Iraq vulnerable to Saudi Arabia or Turkey. The treaty is ratified.

October 3, 1932 - Iraq becomes an independent nation with Baghdad as its capital and is admitted to the League of Nations.

1943-1945 - Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani leads an uprising, gaining control of areas of Erbil and Badinan. When the uprising is defeated, Barzani and his forces retreat to Kurdish areas in Iran and align with nationalist fighters under the leadership of Qazi Muhammad.

March 22, 1945 - Iraq becomes a founding member of the Arab League.

December 21, 1945 - Iraq becomes a member of the United Nations.

July 14, 1958 - King Faisal is killed in a coup led by Abdul Karim Kassem.

October 1959 - A group, including Saddam Hussein, attacks the motorcade of Kassem. The assassination attempt fails and most of the attackers are killed. Hussein escapes and flees to Syria and later to Egypt.