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OVERVIEW of Iraq | Humanitarian situation | Persecuted populations | Country of a sylum | Essential sources | Cultural profiles | Iraqis in Canada – settlement experiences

Overview of Iraq

Capital: Baghdad
Area: 437,072 km²
Population: 26,783,383 (2006 estimate)
Language(s): Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian
Religion(s): Muslim (Shi’a 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%) – 97%, Christian and others – 3%
Ethnic Group(s): Arab – 75-80%, Kurdish – 15-20%, Turkoman, Assyrian and others – 5%

See [accessed March 16, 2018].

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Humanitarian situation

“Millions of Iraqis have been forced to abandon their homes after decades of conflict and violence. Terrified, many fled with just the clothes on their backs. Now, their limited financial resources exhausted by basic accommodation and food, they are desperately in need of emergency aid”. See, UNHCR Iraq Emergency, [accessed March 2018].

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Persecuted populations

  • Iraqis affiliated with political parties engaged in power struggles
  • Government officials and other persons associated with the current Iraqi Government, Administration or Institutions
  • Iraqis (perceived to be) opposing armed groups or political factions
  • Iraqis affiliated with the MNF-I or foreign companies
  • Tribal leaders and members of the Awakening Councils/SoI
  • Members and associates of the Ba’ath Party and the former regime
  • Members of religious and ethnic minorities
  • Certain professionals
  • Journalists and media workers
  • UN and NGO workers, human rights activists
  • Persons accused of “un-Islamic” behaviour
  • Persons of particular sexual orientations
  • Women and children with specific profiles

See International Protection Considerations with Regard to People Fleeing the Republic of Iraq, available at:,UNHCR,COUNTRYPOS,,5cc9b20c4,0.html [accessed August, 2020].

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Country of asylum


According to the data provided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Syria is a host country to a million Iraqi refugees. In other sources this number increases up to 1,200,000 and sometimes even higher. It is difficult to provide an exact number of Iraqis who have to seek asylum on Syrian territory because of the urbanized nature of their settlement and the fact that not all Iraqi refugees register with the Syrian authorities or with UNHCR.

In anticipation of a refugee influx due to the war in Iraq, Syria was the only country that implemented the Temporary Protection Regime (TP) that was meant to prevent deportation of Iraqis. Iraqis who crossed the border to Syria enjoyed unrestricted acceptance and full access to healthcare and education. As a result, a large number of Iraqis settled in Syria, making it difficult for this country to accommodate and support these refugees. Consequently, the TP regime was replaced by national immigration rules that were increasingly restrictive towards refugees that wanted to cross the Syrian border.

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Essential sources

UNHCR Canada Resettlement Levels 2018 and Global Resettlement Needs, available at [accessed March 19, 2018].

Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Iraq: Inter-sect marriage between Sunni and Shia Muslims, including prevalence; treatment of inter-sect spouses and their children by society and authorities, including in Baghdad; state protection available (2016-January 2018), 29 January 2018, IRQ106049.E, available at: [accessed 15 March 2018]

Human Rights Watch, Kurdistan Regional Government: Allegations of Mass Executions, 8 February 2018, available at: [accessed 16 March 2018]

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Cultural profiles

UNESCO – The Centre for World Heritage

World Heritage is the designation for places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value to humanity and as such, have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. The Centre for World Heritage is part of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Al-Islam is created and maintained by the Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project (DILP), a registered Non-Profit Organization that operates through the collaborative effort of volunteers based in many countries around the world. The objective of the site is to digitize and present on the Internet quality Islamic resources, related to the history, law, practice, and society of the Islamic religion and the Muslim peoples, with particular emphasis on Twelver Shia Islamic school of thought.

The Shi’a Homepage

This Web page provides a well-presented look at the traditions and beliefs of the Shi’a Muslim faith.
Shi’a Homepage

See, Culture – Iraq, Global Affairs Canada, [accessed March 16, 2018]

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Iraqis in Canada – settlement experiences

Iraqi refugees build new home in Canada, by Nicholas Keung,, November 28, 2010

Iraqi refugees find peace and security in Canada, by Nicholas Keung,, November 28, 2010

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