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Iraq - Cradle of Civilisation

Iraq - The Birthplace of Writing

Iraq is an Arabic country in African south-west Asia, the capital of which is Baghdad. It borders on Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan and Syria and has 58 km of coastline on the Persian Gulf.

The two rivers running through it, the Tigris and the Euphrates keep the land fairly fertile for its 36,000,000 inhabitants. approximately 7,20,000 of whom live in the capital, Baghdad, which lies roughly in the centre of the country, on the banks of the Tigris river.

This area around and between the two rivers, called Mesopotamia by the Ancient Greeks, is often called the 'Cradle of Civilisation' and the 'Birthplace of Writing'.

The modern Republic of Iraq was formed after the First World War from the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, of which it was a part. The League of Nations mandated Britain to set up some form of self-governing body, so a monarchy was established in 1921.

Iraq gained independence from Britain in 1932 and overthrew the monarchy 26 years later. The Ba'ath Party ruled the country from 1968 until the invasion in 2003, when it was removed from power.

The name Iraq has been in use for at least 1,500 years, but it may have been derived from the ancient Sumerian city name Uruk, meaning 'fertile'. The Sumerian word for city is 'ur'.

Civilisation grew in the fertile plains between the rivers, the first of which was the Sumerian. It thrived for 3,000 years starting in 4,000 BC and produced the first known examples of writing. The Sumerian civilisation was followed by the Akkadian from about 2400 BC.

The Abbasid Caliphate build Baghdad to be the capital of Iraq in the Eighth Century and it became the most important city in the Arab and Muslim world, which lasted for 500 years. In the Middle Ages the population of Baghdad peeked at an incredible 1,000,000 inhabitants and it was a centre of learning until the Mongols sacked it in the Thirteenth Century.

Baghdad never recovered from the ravages of the Mongol siege and its consequent destruction in which at least 200,000 people died, some say it was a million. Much of the surrounding irrigation system which had kept farmers supplied with plenty of good water for thousands of years was also destroyed and this has never been fully replaced either, which led to a massive decline in agricultural output.

Then the Black Death wiped out a third of the population in the middle of the Fourteenth Century. In 1401, a further 20,000 citizens of Baghdad were massacred by Tamerlane's soldiers. The citizens of Baghdad have long suffered at the hands of invading armies. The population of Iraq in 800 AD was 30 million but it had fallen to just 5,000,000 by the early Twentieth Century.

Most of the landmass of current-day Iraq was established during the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries and solidified under Ottoman rule from 1533-1918.

Iraq's economy is heavily dominated by the oil industry which accounts for 95% of foreign earnings, although the biggest employer is the government sector, which provides work for 60% of all employed Iraqis. Women account for about 22% of the workforce.