Cultural geography in iraq

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Introduction

The history of present Iraq dates back to the times of the early civilization. It is found in the region where the ancient Mesopotamia which was at the centre of the rivers Euphrates and Tigris. It has majority of the Arab population with some few ethnic minorities like the Kurds and the Turkmen. Iraq has a rich history from the invasion of the ottomans to the colonization by the British and eventually their independence in 1931 after helping the British defeat the Turks. The economy of Iraq was previously agrarian but after they began the exploration of oil, they shifted from depending on agriculture to dependence on petroleum and natural gas. They still produce agricultural produce with partly small areas of land which are arable since part of her is a desert. Iraq has had both economic and political challenges from 1980 when they fought with Iran, to the Persian Gulf War and the UN sanctions and recently the US invasion. This has affected the socio-economic and political developments in Iraq.

Topography, relative location, natural resources and climatic regions of Iraq

Topography and relative location

Iraq is found in the western part of Asia or the Middle East and bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, Iran to the west, Syria to the east and Turkey to the south. Its size is approximately 432,162 kilometers squared (CCI, 2010, para. 2).In the time zone, Iraq is ahead of Greenwich Mean Time with three hours. There are four main topographical features in Iraq. In the western part is the desert zone; in the southwestern part of the country is the desert of Syria. Iraqi has ever had any border dispute with its neighbors except in 1993 when they invaded Kuwait on border issues. This was however solved by the UN. Iraqi is also along the coast of Persian Gulf with its coastline measuring about 58 kilometers. The topography of Iraq is divided into four regions. The desert is found in the western part and the Southwestern part which is part of the desert of Syria. This region is huge, plane and has sandy expanses. The second region is the uplands which are found in the northern part. Thirdly we found the highlands in the north which captures the northeastern part of Iraq with mountains which are as high as approximately 4000meters. These are between the borders with Turkey. The alluvial plain is the fourth region. It is found between the northern part of Baghdad and runs down to the south of Persian Gulf. The region also has River Euphrates and River Tigris. Iraq has two main rivers, these are, River Euphrates and River Tigris both flowing from Turkey (CPI 4).

Climatic conditions of Iraq

The different climatic conditions of Iraq have influenced the various types of economic activities in different areas and among different ethnic groups (CCI para. 2). Most parts of Iraq are in the desert which experiences very low levels of winter and summer conditions that are hot. The region of northeastern uplands which is largely mountainous experiences cold winters with sometimes having snowfalls. The other region which is the western desert and the northeastern foothills experiences fairly winter temperatures having temperatures ranging from roughly a low of 0oC degrees and a high of 15oC. On summer conditions she experiences average summer temperatures ranging from a low of 22o to a high of 38oC .In the region of alluvial plain, the winter season ranges from a low of 4oC to a high of 17oC and during the season of summer, the temperature ranges from a low of 29oC to a high of 49oC. Mostly the rainfall in Iraq occurs during the period of the moths of November and April (CPI 5)

Natural resource in Iraq

Iraq has an arable land which is very fertile and productive, especially in the region of alluvial plain. The region of the northwestern uplands can be irrigated using the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Iraq also has the largest water reserves in the Middle East region because of the river Euphrates and river Tigris.  Iraq also has the hydrocarbons which is its most essential natural resource. It is the third largest country which has the huge number of oil deposits in the world. It also has large deposits of natural gas. Iraq is also endowed with other mineral resources such as the deposits of phosphate and the sulfur deposits found near the city of Mosul (CPI 6).

The usage of land in Iraq

Iraqi land that can be categorized as arable is approximately 13% of which about 1% is covered with forest. Most of the farming methods in Iraq are irrigated (CPI, 2006, p.5) A huge part of the arable land is used for grazing livestock mostly sheep and goats. In recent times poultry production has dramatically increased and is mostly found near the urbane centers. In Kurdistan, there is enough precipitation to support farming but was underutilized due to the bad politics in the reign of Saddam Hussein. The western part and the southwestern regions of Iraq are deserts. However drip irrigation has been practiced in these regions (Schnepf 10)

Population

The population in Iraq is approximately 27 million with an estimated rate of growth of 2.7% per annum. In the year 2006, the population density was estimated to be 61.9 persons per kilometer square. The population is densely along the alluvial plain and the northeast regions, while the western and the southern desert regions are sparsely populated. Baghdad which is in the alluvial plains is the most densely populated province followed by the city of Ninawa which is in the western part of the uplands region. The rate of urbanization in Iraq is also on a steady increase between the periods of 1985 and 2005 with the proportion of the population in the urban area increasing from 69% to 79%. There was a steady rise in migration out of Iraq between the early 1990s and the beginning of 2000 because of the fear of persecution by the Saddam Hussein's government. This trend was evidenced by the Shia Muslims fleeing to the neighboring Iran. However, things became even worse in 2005 after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's government with more Iraqis fleeing to neighboring countries such as Iran, Syria and Jordan. The number internally displaced persons in Iraq have also risen since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's government (CPI 5).

Demography

In the 2006 population survey, about 39.7% of the population were 14 years and below with the population of the adults of 65 years and above being only 3%. The female population was slightly more than 49%. The birth rates fall to 32 births per 1000 population. The death rate also increased to 5.4 pr 2000 population. There was a rise in the infant mortality rate to 48.6 per 1000 population. Life expectancy of men was 67.8 years and for women was 70.3 years. The fertility rate per woman was 4.2 births (CPI 6).

Population Pyramid 2009

(HG, 2010)

Ethnic Groups in Iraq

In the 2006 study, the Arab population was approximately 75 to 80% with the 15 to 20% of the population being the Kurds. The other small minority groups who constituted the population were approximately 5% of the population (CPI 6).

Languages

In the constitution passed in 2006, were two official languages in Iraq that is, Kurdish which is the official language in the areas where the Kurdish were the majority and the Arabic. In the areas where the minority groups where the majority, like the Turkmen, they were the official language. The Arabic spoken has two types of dialects, that is, the Mesopotamian which consists of the majority and the North Mesopotamian. There are other languages spoken in Iraq such as the Armenian spoken by the descendants from Armenia, the Chaldean neo-Aramaic and the Azeri (CPI 7).

Religion

The 2005 constitution gives everyone a freedom of religion but restricts that no law which is against the beliefs, teachings and practices of Islam should be enacted since Islam is the state religion. Majority of the population that is, about 97% of the population are Muslims with the remaining 3% being Christians. Of the Muslim population, about 60 to 65% of those populations are Shia Muslims with the remaining 32 to 37% being Sunni. Even though the Shia Muslims constitute the majority of the population, they have been excluded from political power with majority of them being suppressed by previous regimes particularly to Saddam Hussein's government. The Shia Muslims tried to revolt in 1991, but this revolution was met by executions resulting to further alienation from the government by the Saddam Hussein's regime. Even after the Hussein era, the rivalry between the Sunni Muslims and the Shia is till an important factor in the reconstruction of Iraq. The Kurds are predominantly Sunni Muslims but are quite different from the Sunni Arabs. There is also a small Christian population in Iraq. Majority of them belongs to the small minority group of the Chaldeans who are Catholics. However, recently, the many Christians have fled out of Iraq in the recent times after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. This has been prompted by the recent targets by the terrorist activities (CPI, 2006, p.7).

Economy of Iraq

During the war with Iran from 1980 to 1988, the economy of Iraq suffered major setbacks. This was as a result of the damages caused by the war and the resources used.  The economic sanctions given to Iraq by the international community were another major reason for this setback. These sanctions were as a result of the Persian gulf war of 1991.  After the era of Saddam Hussein, the reconstruction of Iraqi economy found a much damaged system of governance. During the reign of Saddam Hussein, the economy was in the hands of a small group of powerful individuals of the ruling class. During these times, there was no preparation of the national budget and the private sectors of the economy were involved in the illegal activities. Since the economy if Iraq greatly depends on the oil industry, the development of this economy highly depends on how the rate of returns from this industry can be reconstructed from the low rate of returns to a world oil market to generate high returns. The security condition in Iraq has greatly hindered the economic growth since the post-Saddam Hussein's era. Major businesses are state corporations since the permanent government took from the transitional government in 2006.The strategic goals of the government have been to reduce the budget deficit, to privatize the major state corporations and to reduce the unemployment rate. To achieve these goals, the government heavily depends on international grants and investments. Another goal is privatize the setae corporations gradually. This had earlier met some resistance in the first years of pos-Saddam Hussein's era. Corruption in the government has hindered the economic growth rate since it revolves around the management of the oil industry. In 2004, the application of Iraq to join the WTO was thrashed by 2006 (CPI 6).

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

In the year 2003 after the war, the GDP of Iraq fell drastically to about 38% lower than the previous years. However, the GDP increased in the year 2004 by approximately over 100%. In 2005 the economy experienced a setback with the rate of production falling by 3%. In 2006, prediction of the future growth of GDP was uncertain due to the slow pace of the reconstruction of the oil industry which Iraqi heavily depends on. The oil industry generated about 70% of the GDP in 2004 followed by the services sector with about 25% and the agricultural sector coming third with approximately 7%.(CPI 6).

Government budget

In 2003, the economy was in a huge deficit as the governed revenue was far less than the government expenditure. 2004 was better as the interim government managed to reduce the budget deficit. In 2005, transitional government further reduced the budget deficit showing good prospects of economic growth (CPI 7)

Inflation

Immediately after the war in 2003 and part of 2004, the inflation rate rose to a high of approximately 27%. In the late 2004, the rate of inflation slightly reduced but suddenly rose further to over 40 %( CPI 7)

Agricultural sector

This is the second highest contributor to the national economy with about 26%. Despite over half of Iraqi's arable land is being cultivated, it is under utilized. This has been because of the politics of tribalism where the fertile Kurdish land was not in the national economy. Saddam Hussein's regime really discouraged the production for the home market.  The policies introduced by the UN during the era of Saddam Hussein also reduced the domestic production of agricultural produce by introducing cheap foods products in the Iraqi market. Despite the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the agricultural sector was not affected very much in fact there was some significant growth in production. Although there some growth prospects, agricultural analysts predicts that the future production will decline (CPI 7). Agriculture in Iraq has in determined by the military actions like the war with Iran and partly by the international sanctions. There have been attempts by the government to control agricultural activities. The increased population growth rate coupled with limited arable lands has led to the rise in dependence on food imports. Therefore the present agricultural activities have been greatly influenced by the UN sanctions and the governments' reaction to the sanctions. The role of agriculture in the economy has been greatly influenced by the population growth and the pressure it exerts on the demand of food. One of the potential problems in farming in Iraq is the salinity of the arable land in the alluvial plains of the river Tigris and river Euphrates (Schnepf 9).

Forests in Iraq

Like in most countries, forests in Iraq have been under threat because of the human activities and also from the forest fires. Population growth has also put pressure on the demand of land for agriculture and for human settlements. Also, the cuttings of trees have been as a result of the high demand of fuel (CPI 9).

Fishing

Despite having river Euphrates and river Tigris, the fishing industry has had a significant growth, concentrating on marine fishing along the coast of Persian Gulf (CPI, 2006, p.9).

Iraqi minerals and mining activities

Apart from having oil and gas deposits, Iraq has small amounts of phosphates and sulfur compounds. She also has small deposits of salt. The mining industry was thriving before the war with Iran in 1982s with destroyed the mining industry. The sanctions by the international community and the collapse of the economy immediately after the Saddam Hussein's regime were the major setbacks of the industry (CPI 10). These minerals help in the agricultural production. Natural gas is used in the manufacture of nitrogenous fertilizers which are important in the growth of plants. Phosphates are also used in the manufacture of phosphate fertilizers (Schnepf 10).

Manufacturing and industries in Iraq

Manufacturing activities in Iraq are often associated with the oil exploration. Most Iraqi industries are associated with then refinery of petroleum and the production of fertilizers and chemical products. The growth of the manufacturing industry has been hindered by the sanctions by the international community on Iraq and the bad policies by the Saddam Hussein's governments. In post-Hussein's era, the problems of insecurity especially from terrorists' activities have greatly hampered potential growth of this industry. The only industry which has faced tremendous growth is the building and construction industry as Iraq tries to rebuild itself after the wars. This industry has offered employment opportunities either directly or indirectly (CPI 10).  In oil industry, the revenue from oil was used in constructing fertilizer companies which help in the agricultural growth. However, the fertilizer industry suffered a major setback after the UN sanctions since the industry largely depended on imported raw materials (Schnepf 10).

Energy sector

Iraq has the third largest oil reserves in the world. She also has natural gas reserves. The production cost of oil is very low as compared to other countries. Conversely the industry was mismanaged by the Hussein's regimes living it in a very bad condition. Despite the ending of the sanctions, the industry has experienced a dramatic decline due to the frequent attacks and targets by terrorists. The frequent attacks and sabotage of the Iraqi pipelines forced her to import the petroleum products from neighboring countries. These frequent attacks reduced the distribution of oil in the country and exports. This led to the fuel shortages and also the frequent blackouts. In 2004, they tried to encourage the substitution of oil with natural gas to solve the crisis; however it did not provide an effective solution as both the natural gas and oil are extracted together. In 2006, the government tried to increase the export of petroleum products by trying to repair the damaged pipelines and oil plants (CPI 11).

Iraqi power generating plants were destroyed in the Persian Gulf War and since then the electricity generation has not been restored fully. This has also led to the frequent blackouts. In an attempt to solve this problem, there is need to build new electricity generating plants and the rebuilding of the existing plants (CPI 11).

The services sector of the Economy

From the post- Hussein's era, the financial services industry has gone under major reformation. There were seventeen private commercial banks which were very few for the size of the Economy of Iraq. These banks together with the state owned banks were seriously hurt by the international sanctions imposed on Iraq by the international community. In an attempt to expand this sector and encourage privatization, the central Bank of Iraq (CBI) was unincorporated from the control of the government. Foreign banks have also been allowed to operate in Iraq. The security industry has grown of recent due to the frequent attacks by the insurgents and the terrorist. The security firms are mainly run by the former or retired us military personnel. In tourism sector, the once thriving sector has dramatically declined since 2003 due to the security reasons (CPI 12).

Iraqi's unique architecture

Traditionally, Iraq had an agrarian economy with the majority of the population living in the rural area. The oil production and the boom in oil revenues in the 1970s, the economic shifted from agricultural to oil production. Majority of Iraqi population migrated to towns. There was an increase in the construction of modern building in the urban centers. There was a development of better health care and education system. With the increase in wealth due to oil resources and the modernization, the Iraqis never abandoned their cultural practices but instead preserved their cultural identities particularly in architecture. Construction of the building was done according to the historic and cultural styles. This was done in the construction of mosques, buildings of the government and the historical sites. The traditional feature of this architecture is in a unique style (CCI para.14).

Country Profile: Iraq (CPI). Library of Congress- Federal Research Division, 2006. Retrieved on 15th March 2010 from http://memory.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/Iraq.pdf

Schnepf, Richards. Iraq Agriculture and Food Supply: Background and Issues: CSR Report for Congress, Order Code RL32093, 2004.  Retrieved on 15th March 16, 2010 from http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/assets/crs/RL32093.pdf

Countries and Their Cultures: IRAQ (CCI), 2010. Retrieved on 15thMarch 2010 from http://www.everyculture.com/Ge-It/Iraq.html

Human Geography (HG). (2010). Retrieved from Adam's Blog on 15th March 16, 2010 from http://adamisenn.blogspot.com/2009/09/population-pyramid-iraq-2009.html

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