General remarks

AuthorEuropean Asylum Support Office (EU body or agency)
Common analysis | Iraq
January 2021
General remarks
According to the UN, the population of Iraq, including the Kur distan Region of Iraq (KRI), was
estimated to be 40 150 200 people in 2020 [Key socio-economic indicators 2020, 1.1].
Iraq is a federal republic and is administratively divided into 18 governorates, with the KRI governed
as an autonomous region by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) [Actors of protection, 1].
The three largest demographic groups in Iraq are Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds. Numerous
religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic minorities live in Iraq, in particular in the North of the
country. It is estimated that 75 - 80 % of the inhabitants are Arab and 15 - 20 % are Kurdish. Ethnic
minorities make up to 5 % of the population. Islam is the country’s official religion. According to
official statistics from 2020, 95-98 % of the population is Muslim (approximately 64-69 % Shia and
29-34 % Sunni) [Key socio-economic indicators 2020, 1.1]. Shia communities are mainly
concentrated in the south and eas t of Iraq. Shia are also the majority in Baghdad and have
communities in most parts of the country. Sunnis are mostly locate d in the west, north, and central
parts of the country. The majority of the population of the KRI identifies ethnically as Kurdish and is
of Sunni Muslim religion [Targeting, 3.4].
Kurdish is the most widely spoken language in the KRI, while the most widely spoken language in the
rest of the country is Arabic [Key socio-economic indicators 2019, 1.1; Actors of protection, 1].
Iraq’s recent history has been characterised by a series of conflicts with political, ethnic and
sectarian dimensions. In 2013, Sunni insurgent groups, together with al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQ-I) and
affiliates, formed together under the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI), the precursor group to the Islamic
State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Islamic
State, or Daesh. This conflict culminated in 2014, when the Salafi jihadist group ISIL transformed
from its predecessor groups, and conquered one third of Iraq’s territory, forcing the sudden collapse
of Iraq’s state security forces. According to the UN Human Rights Co uncil, between June 2014 and
December 2017, in the territories it attacked and controlled, ISIL applied a ‘sustained and deliberate
policy of executing civilians’ as a means of exerting control and instilling fear. The group committed
mass killings, targeted civilians, imposed strict codes of social behaviour, killing those not in
conformity with their Islamic Takfiri doctrines. ISIL’s control in conquered territories was particularly
harsh towards the Shia, and towards religious and ethnic minorities [Security situation 2019, 1.1.1,
In the end of 2017, the Iraqi security forces succeeded in taking back control of the territories which
had been seized by ISIL in 2014. After three years of military campaigns against ISIL in different areas
of Iraq, in December 2017, the Prime Minister al-Abadi declared that ISIL was militarily defeated. The
level of violence in Iraq has decreased significantly since, and the country is rebuilding its institutions
and all forms of civil life. However, ISIL remains active in parts of the country [Security situation
2019, 1.1.2].
The individual assessment of international protection nee ds should take into account the presence
and activity of different actors in the applicant’s home area and the situation in the areas the
applicant would need to travel through in order to reach their home area. This country guidance is
based on an assessment of the general situation in the country of origin. Where not specified
otherwise, the analysis and guidance refer to Iraq in general, including the Kurdish Region in Iraq
(KRI). In some sections, the analysis specifies that it refers to:

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