Figure 1.-- Photographs taken in the early-20th century show a society little changed for a millenium. Even today there is little meaningful ecomonomic activiy outside the oil sector which generates more than 90 percent of government revenue and 80 percent of foreign exchange earnings. Iraqis produce very little that is of interest to other countries. The country is depedent of foreign technolgy for virtually all of its modern life and like other Arab countries makes no meaningful conribution to the world economy other than exporting oil. Here we see an Iraqi boy or girl with a camel in 1932. This photograph could easily have been taken a century earlier during the Caliphate showing how Iraqi society has been so static. Source: American Colony (Jerusalem).

At the present time our thoughts are with the brave American and British military personnel that set about to liberate the Iraqi people. Our thoughts are also with the children of Iraq which have long suffered under Saddam's brutal rule. The accounts of creuely, including the killing and torture of children defy belief, but so did the accounts of NAZI cruelty coming out of Europe during World War II. Saddam in his various wars and efforts to build Weapons of Mass Destruction has spent an estimated $500 billion. He ingerited pergaps the most advanced country in the Arab world when he seized absolute power in 1979. Think what Iraq would be like today if he had used that money to benefit the Iraqi people. Iraq is perhaps the most westernized Arab country. Until Saddam seized power it was making considerable progress in building the infrastructure of a modern country. This was reflected somewhat in fashion trends. HBC has not acquired information about Iraqi boys' clothing. This is part because of Saddam's horific regime, few Iraqis have had access to the internet. We note almost note Iraqi visitors to HBC. Hopefully that is about to change. While we have received relatively little information from Arab and other Islamic countries, we have noted a good bit of internet traffic from those countries, including Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Pakistani garment countries in particular are actively seeking business opportunities. From Iraq, however, we note virtually no activity on the internet.


Iraq has basically the same geography as ancient Mesopotamia. The reason is the same that modern Egypt has the same geography as ancient Egypt. They were based on he river valleys that spawned agriculture and civilization. In Egypt it was the Nile. In Mesopotamia it was the Tygris and Euphraties Rivers. These two rivers rise in Anatolia fed by melting snows and flow south east into the desert, creating a narrow ribon of life. Agriculture except in the north was largely based on irrigation. This was the eastern wing of the Fertile Crescent. Most of country s a series of broad, sandy largely arid plains. The Syrian Desert dominates the extreme west. Modern Iraq is bordered to the north by Turkey, to the east by Iran, to the west by Syria and Jordan, and to the south by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It has only a narrow access to the sea, a strip of only 36 miles. Basra is its only port which privides access to the Persian Gulf. It sits between the 28-38 parallel, roughly equivalent to the American South. It is at the northeastern fringe of the Arab world with a land border with Turkey and Iran. The country has four geographical regions. There is the Tigris-Euphrates alluvial plains in central and southeastern Iraq. Al-Jazeerah is an upland region in the north between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and bordering deserts in the west and south. This is two-fifths of the country. Highlands rise in the north and northeast. The mountains, hills and plains of northern and northeastern Iraq occupy constitute about one-fifth of the country. The Zagros Mountains are shared with Turkey and Iran and cobstitute a natural boundary. This is the area largely inhabited by Kurds. The most productive agricultural region is the Tigris-Euphrates river system. Much of the rest of the country is arid scrubland near desert. In the extreme southeast near the Persian Gulf, the land is low, marshy, and often flooded. The people there became known as the Marsh Arabs.


The history of Iraq begins with the very dawn of civilization. Here in the valley of the Tigris and Euophrates, agricuklture developed for the first time. The early city states gradualy were the foundatiin for the great civilization of Babylonia. Babylon's Neberkanezer was one of the great law givers of history. Eventually Babylon became a province of many grat empires, including Assyria, Persia, Alexander and others. Bagdad was the center of the famed Arab Caliphate. The modern history of Iraq begins with the Ottomnan Conquest (1533). The British after World War I helped set up Emir Fisel as king of Iraq. He was the leader of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the War. He was a member of the Sunni Hashimite family from Mecca. He was the first king of the new state of Iraq. This was the first independent state in what is now Iraq since the Islamic Caliphate. Feisal manage to obtained the Iraqi throne in part because of his close association T. E. Lawrence, the famed British officer who helped organize the Arab Revolt. The British drive the Ottomans out of Iraq at the end of the War and were granted a mandate by the League of Nations. The Iraqi monarchy was legitimized by a plebiscite (1921). The British Mandate ended (1932). The Iraqi Army moved toward the NAZIs during World War II and the British reoccupied the country (1941). It was the major source of oil for the British Royal Navy and 8th Army in the Werstern Desert Fisel proved to be a moderate, moderizing ruler. Faisal II was overthrown and brutally murdered in a military coup, the first step in Saddam Husein's rise to power.


What is now modern Iraq has at times been an important economic center. Iraq encompses ancient Mesopotmia. It was here along the Tygrus and Euraptes Rivers that civilization first began. It ws based on the development of agricukture. Expanded agricultural harvests financed handicrafts and artisanal activities in the cities. Severl different civillizatiins develoopment in esopotamia (Summer, Babylon, and Assyria were the most important). Agriculture was the base of theseeconomies, bolstered by trade and cmmerce. Military conquest also generated great wealth. The Caliphate centered at Baghdad was an even larger empire. The economy continued to be based on agriculture, but the huge expanse of the Caliphate opened up a vast trading empire from Spain east to Persia. An important part of the economy in the early years was the dhimma system. Christians were taxed at high levels with the jizya which helped finance the state. This was an important factor in promoting conversion. Since the collapse of the Caliphate, Iraq has been an economic backwater. During the extended period of Ottoman rule, it was one of the poorer [arts of the Empire. Photographs taken in the early-20th century show a society little changed for a millenium. The country is, however, blessed with enormous oil reserves which the British began to develop after driving out the Ottomans during World War I. Indepedent Iraq with the oil income began to develop modern infrastructure. The Bath Party built alarge state sector. Sadam Hussein after seizing power (1979) allowed the country's developing infrastructure to deteriorate as he squandered the country's oil ernings on military equipment and ruionous foreign adventures. Improving security and exopanding oil production is now helping Iraq to repairthe dme left in Sadam's wake. Economic activity is concentrated in the energy, construction, and retail sectors. The Broader economic development remains in doubt. While oil revenue is increasing, the country still has a large, inefficent state sector. There is little meaningful ecomonomic activiy outside the oil sector which generates more than 90 percent of government revenue and 80 percent of foreign exchange earnings. Iraqis produce very little that is of interest to other countries. The country is depedent of foreign technolgy for virtually all of its modern life and like other Arab countries makes no meaningful cotribution to the worldeconomy other than exporting oil.


School and religion seem the most important boyhood activities in Iraq. Oil mony enabled Iraq to begin to build a modern education system, but as with much else, Sadam allowed the country's developing infrastructure to deteriorate as he squandered the country's oil ernings on military equipment and ruionous foreign adventures. Since the Arab conquest (7th century), the country has been largely Muslim with an important Christian minority. Christians since the fall of Sadam have come under increasing pressure from fanatical Muslims. Many have had to flee to other countries for safety. As in most Muslim Middle Eastern countriSport is very important in most modern countries. Sport is becoming more important, but still not a major activity in most modern Arab countrie. Sport is not as important for children as is the case for other areas. This is even true for boys and is basically a minor activity for girls. While sport is just beginning to be established, children have played a variety of games. One sources tells us that 'kids in Iraq play kick the can and soccor in the middle of the street.' By kids here they means boys, but this a modern view. Tin cans were not invented until the early-19th century mand not common until after mid-century. And much later in Iraq. A for soccer, we doubt that many kids (again boys) played soccer until after World War II and the oil boom began. The children must have played a variety of trditional games such as tag, ring games, and board games. We have not yet been able to find details. Girls surely participated in some of these. Of course Iraq despite it historical importance became very poor area after the deline of the Calioagte (9th century AD). As a resilt most childe worked from a very early age and had very little time for play.


Religion is a very important part of Iraqi life. Iraq is a largely Muslim country. Islam as specified is the country's new democratic constitution is Iraq's official religion. Most sources suggest that over 95 percent of Iraqis identify as being Muslim, although as with any religion commitment varies. And there are a range of adverse consequences for any one who does not identify himself as Muslim. There are significant division among Iraqi Muslims. The principal division is between the majority Shiia and minority Sunni Muslims. This division is further complicated by the fact that that the Sunni are divided between Arabs and Kurds. The Shi'ia dominate the south and the Sunnis the west and north. Islam was brought to the region with Arab warriors under the Caliph Umar defeated the Sassanians at the battle of Al Qadisiyah (637 AD). The population which was largely Christian was over time Islamicized, rgis included the the Kurds in the north. What is modern Iraq became the center of the Muslim world. The capital of the Caliphate becane Bagdad, not Mecca. This was because Mesopotamia was a much richer area thn the Arabian peninsula. The major event in Islamic history also occurred in Iraq--the Sunni/Shi'ia schism which began over the rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad. Like many Middle-Eastern countries, the secularization process seen in the West has not developed significantly in Iraq. This is surprising given the fact that the Bath Party with a secular agenda dominated Iraq for more than three decades (1968-2003). This is not surprising given that unlike the situation in the West, Islam from the beginning involved a fusion of the political and religious order. Muslim political rulers (caliphs, sultans, and others) were both political and religious figures. And Islamuc religious leaders have sought to play political roles as can be seen in Iraq today as well as neighboring Iran. Under Saddam Hussein's oppresive rule, the mosques were the only avenue for any opposition to the regime. Saddam and the Bath Party did not build secular institutions beyond a feared police state. The instruments of state power were used to supress any popular resistance which largely meant supressing the Shi'ia majority. The result was largely an intensification of religious fervor and inter-communal hostility. This meant Shi'ia resentment toward Sadam and the Bath as well as the Sunni minority favored by Saddam. There is a small Druze community. The Druze are a Muslim offshoot. They are primarily found primarily in the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan) and first (11th century). The other important religion in Itaq's religious history is Christianity. Today there is a small Christian minority, estimated at about 3 percent of the population. There are several Christian groups, includung Catholics, Chaldean, Assyrian, Syrian, Armenian, Jacobite, and other smaller churches. One small Christian group is the Yezidis. They are sometimes accused of being Satan worshipers. There are also Sabaeans or Mandeans who follow the teachings of John the Baptist. Tragically, over 1 million Iraqi Christians have been displaced under the new democratic Iraq. The persecution of Christians has been much worse than the situation under dictator Saddam Hussein. The situation is similar to that of minorities in the national states that replaced the Austro-Hungarian Empire, only worse because of fanatical Muslims prone to use violence against people who are relgiously or ethnically different. No Islamic religious authorities of any importance has spoken out against the violence. There was a small Jewish minority which still existed in Iraq at the time of World War II. The Jews had ancient roots. The expanding Assyrians Empire began the assault on the early Jewish states, conquering the northern kingdom--Israel. The Babylonians subsequently conquered Judah leading to the Babalonian captivity. Since ghst time, a Jewish community has existed in what is modern Iraq. As a result of first the rise of first a pro-NAZI regime in Iraq and then the Israel-Palestinian condlict, Iraqi Jews fled the country.


The principal ethnic minority in Iraq are the Kurds who are ethnically destinct from the Arabs. There are also important religious minorities. Iraq is a largely Muslim country, but split between Sunni and Shi'ia. There is also a small Christian minority. Most of the Christians are ethnic Arabs. There is also a small Turkman minority. The historic Jewish community since World War II have been forced to flee the country.


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Created: March 20, 2003
Last updated: 11:16 PM 4/17/2019