Iraq, as we know it today, is situated on the historically significant Mesopotamia, where the first known human civilization, the Sumerians, lived and farmed the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It is a region famed for the creation of writing and the wheel, as well as a land of diverse cultures and ethnicities as a result of its central location between three continents.
Under the control of the Ottoman Turks until 1920, Iraq was assigned to the British after World War I under the name Mandate of Mesopotamia. It gained independence in 1932 under the revived Hashemite monarchy, which was overthrown in a military coup in 1958 by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. The party remained in power until 2003, with General Saddam Hussein as President from 1979 onwards.
Following the US-led invasion of 2003, General Saddam Hussein was displaced as leader of Iraq, due to US concerns over the potential manufacturing and stockpiling of illegal chemical weapons, as well as the alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction. Elections were held in December 2005, when the majority of the population voted along ethnic lines, sparking fears of the new government furthering ethnic division. The Parliament then nominated Nouri al-Maliki as Prime Minister (the head of government). After the alliance of parties he led in the 2010 elections lost the poll by two votes, he nevertheless formed a government of national unity after protracted negotiations. Parliamentary elections are due to be held again in spring 2014 using the country’s proportional representation system. Provincial elections in 2013 showed a significant fall in al-Maliki’s popularity prompted especially by his government’s failure to deliver promised public services and security.
Iraq’s economy is dependent on its large oil reserves, from which it earns over 90% of its annual Gross National Product. There is currently relatively little foreign investment in industry or resources due to the unstable security situation, as well as difficulties in obtaining land as the government attempts to rebuild and regain momentum.
There is currently a 15.4% unemployment rate in Iraq, with a quarter of the population living below the poverty line.
Iraq currently has a population of 29 million people, of which 75% are ethnically Arab, 20% Kurdish, and the remainder a mixture of Iraqi Turkmen or foreigners. Due to the isolated pockets of population, resulting from the geographical characteristics of Iraq, there is much regionalism and ethnic division. During the reign of Saddam Hussein, the Kurdish ethnic minority in northern Iraq were persecuted in the Al-Anfal genocide from 1986-1989, with estimated fatalities of 1,700,000. Amnesty International claims that there remain around three million Kurdish Iraqis internally displaced to this day. Ethnic racism and the legacy of tragic historical events, such as the Al-Anfal genocide, continue to divide the population of Iraq.
There also exist three autonomous northern provinces in Iraq, which further complicate the realisation of a unified state.
Following the US-led invasion of 2003, the country has been unstable security-wise, as well as in the ability to provide its people with basic healthcare and public services. Until 2005, the police force had been all but disbanded, and had to be completely retrained by foreign security forces to reach an acceptable level of efficiency. Al-Qaeda attacks and local militias undermine the authority of such services. Although the numbers of these were decreasing and UN peacekeeping forces predicted that Iraq would reach a level of sustainable security by 2015 , in 2013 Iraq saw a dramatic return to the levels of bombings and militia clashes not experienced since 2008.
SAT-7 viewer statistics estimate that around 3% of the Iraqi population watch SAT-7, which is remarkable considering the turbulence and violence that has displaced so many in the past years.
Iraq is 55% Shiite Muslim, 20% Sunni Muslim, 20% Kurdish and 5% Christian, of which the largest denominations are the Assyrian and Chaldean Churches. Although all groups have faced some form of discrimination or unrest throughout the history of modern Iraq, the rapid emigration rate of Iraqi Christians, an estimated 3,000 per year, indicates that the Christian minority has come under much persecution in recent years.
A joint research expedition to Iraq in April 2011, looking into the shrinking Assyrian Christian community, by the ACE (Assyrian Council of Europe), the UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and People Organization) and the Finland-Assyria Association, determined that, should the number of emigrants remain the same, there would, by 2015, remain only an ageing generation of Assyrians to comprise the Assyrian Church of Iraq. It could be potentially wiped out by 2030.
There have been numerous incidences of violent attacks, kidnappings and murders against Christians in recent years. In October 2010 at least 58 Christians died and many were injured in a bomb attack on a church in Baghdad. Al-Qaeda has declared that Christians are legitimate targets.
- Continue to pray for greater stability and security for the people of Iraq.
- Pray that our Christian brothers and sisters find the courage to turn to one another in this time of trouble, rather than fleeing.
- Pray that the Lord watches over the families and friends of those lost to the turmoil and violence in recent years.
 BBC Middle East Guide
 CIA World Factbook
 Amnesty International
 Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
 SAT-7 2008 Viewer Statistics
 Amnesty International
 Persecution – International Christian Concern