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Iraq - SOCIETY
IRAQI SOCIETY IS composed of sizable and distinct social groups whose differences and divisions have been only slowly and fitfully challenged by the emergence of a strong, centralized political regime and state apparatus. Moreover, there are regional and environmental differences between the scattered mountain villages whose economic base is rain-fed grain crops and the more densely populated riverine communities to the south that are dependent on intricate irrigation and drainage systems for their livelihood.
There are also linguistic and ethnic differences. The most important exception to the Arab character of Iraq is the large Kurdish minority, estimated at 19 percent of the population, or 3,092,820 in 1987. According to official government statistics, Turkomans and other Turkic-speaking peoples account for only 2 to 3 percent of the population. There was previously a large Iranian population settled around the Shia holy cities of Karbala and An Najaf, and the southern port city of Basra; this element was largely expelled by government decree in 1971-72 and 1979-80, and in 1987 only an estimated 133,000 or 0.8 percent of the Iranian population remained.
Divisions along religious lines are deeprooted. Although upward of 95 percent of Iraq's population is Muslim, the community is split between Sunnis and Shias; the latter group, a minority in the Arab world as a whole, constitutes a majority in Iraq. Numerous observers believe that the Shias make up between 60 and 65 percent of the inhabitants, although the data to support this figure are not firm (official government statistics set the number at only 55 percent). Of the non-Muslim communities, fragmented Christian sects cannot be more than 1 or 2 percent, concentrated mainly in the governorates of Nineveh and Dahuk. A formerly extensive Jewish community is to all practical purposes defunct. The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the defeat of the Arab armies in 1948-49 rendered the situation of Iraqi Jews untenable and led to a mass exodus, both to Israel and to Iran in 1950.
Just before the Iran-Iraq War, the sharp cleavage between the rural and urban communities that formerly characterized Iraqi society had begun to break down as a result of policies instituted by the government. The war has accelerated this process. Large areas of the rural south have been devastated by continuous fighting, which in turn has triggered a massive rural migration to the capital. In the late 1980s, Iraqi and foreign observers agreed that for the nation's economic health this flight from the countryside would have to be reversed, and they anticipated that the government would undertake measures to accomplish this reversal once the war ended.
Although a census occurred in late 1987, only overall population totals and some estimates were available in early 1988. The latest detailed census information was that from the 1977 census. The total population increased from 12,029,000 in 1977 to 16,278,000 in 1987, an increase of 35.3 pecent.
The population has fluctuated considerably over the region's long history. Between the eighth and the twelfth centuries A.D., Iraq--particularly Baghdad--was the flourishing center of a burgeoning Arab civilization, and at the height of the region's prosperity it may have supported a population much larger than the present society. Some estimates range as high as 15 to 29 million. Decline came swiftly in the late thirteenth century, however, when Mongol conquerors massacred the populace, destroyed the cities, and ravaged the countryside. The elaborate irrigation system that had made possible agricultural production capable of supporting a large population was left in ruins.
A pattern of alternating neglect and oppression characterized the Ottoman rule that began in the sixteenth century, and for hundreds of years the three vilayets of Baghdad, Al Basrah, and Mosul--which the British joined to form Iraq in the aftermath of World War I--remained underpopulated backward outposts of the Ottoman Empire. In the mid-1800s, the area had fewer than 1.3 million inhabitants.
Upon independence in 1932, the departing British officials estimated the population at about 3.5 million. The first census was carried out in 1947, showing a population of about 4.8 million. The 1957 census gave a population of about 6.3 million, and the 1965 census returned a count of slightly above 8 million.
The October 1977 census gave the annual rate of population growth as 3.2 percent. According to the October 1987 census, the annual population growth rate was 3.1 percent placing Iraq among the world's high population growth rate countries (2.8 to 3.5 per year). In common with many developing countries, Iraq's population was young: approximately 57 percent of the population in 1987 was under the age of twenty. The government has never sought to implement a birth control program, a policy reinforced by the war to offset losses in the fighting and mitigate the threat from Iran, whose population is roughly three times that of Iraq.
In 1977 about 64 percent of the population was listed as living in urban areas; this was a marked change from 1965, when only 44 percent resided in urban centers. In the 1987 government estimates, the urban population was given as 68 percent, resulting in large measure from the migrations to the cities since the start of the war. The partial destruction of Basra by Iranian artillery barrages has had a particularly devastating effect; by 1988, according to some well informed accounts, almost half the residents of the city--its population formerly estimated at 800,000--had fled. At the same time, approximately 95,000 persons were identified in the 1977 census as nomadic or seminomadic beduins. This figure is a 1986 estimate by nongovernmental sources and is higher than the 57,000 listed in the 1957 census; the increase probably reflects either an improved counting procedure or a change in definition or classification. Overall, the nomads and seminomads constituted less than 1 percent of the population, whereas in 1867 they had been estimated at about 500,000 or 35 percent of the population.
The population remains unevenly distributed. In 1987 Baghdad Governorate had a population density of about 950 persons per square kilometer and the Babylon Governorate 202 persons per square kilometer, whereas Al Muthanna Governorate possessed only 5.5 persons per square kilometer. In general the major cities are located on the nation's rivers, and the bulk of the rural population lives in the areas that are cultivated with water taken from the rivers.
Although the data are not absolutely reliable, the government estimates that 76 percent of the people are Arab; 19 percent are Kurds; while Turkomans, Assyrians, Armenians, and other relatively small groups make up the rest. All but a small percentage adhere to Islam. The Islamic component is split into two main sects, Sunni and Shia, with the Shias by far the majority. Officially the government sets the number of Shias at 55 percent. In the 1980s knowledgeable observers began to question this figure, regarding it as low. Because the government does not encourage birth control and the Shias, the least affluent in society, have traditionally had the highest birthrate, a more reasonable estimate of their numbers would seem to be between 60 and 65 percent. All but a few of the estimated 3,088,000 Kurds are Sunni, and thus the Sunni Arabs--who historically have been the dominant religious and ethnic group-- constitute a decided minority vis-á-vis the Shia majority.
Almost all Iraqis speak at least some Arabic, the mother tongue for the Arab majority. Arabic, one of the more widely spoken languages in the world, is the mother tongue claimed in 1988 by over 177 million people from Morocco to the Arabian Sea. One of the Semitic languages, it is related to Aramaic, Phoenician, Syriac, Hebrew, various Ethiopic languages, and the Akkadian of ancient Babylonia and Assyria.
Throughout the Arab world the language exists in three forms: the Classical Arabic of the Quran; the literary language developed from the classical and referred to as Modern Standard Arabic, which has virtually the same structure wherever used; and the spoken language, which in Iraq is Iraqi Arabic. Educated Arabs tend to be bilingual--in Modern Standard Arabic and in their own dialect of spoken Arabic. Even uneducated Arabic speakers, who in Iraq are about 60 percent of the population, can comprehend the meaning of something said in Modern Standard Arabic, although they are unable to speak it. Classical Arabic, apart from Quranic texts, is known chiefly to scholarly specialists.
Most of the words of Arabic's rich and extensive vocabulary are variations of triconsonantal roots, each of which has a basic meaning. The sounds of Arabic are also rich and varied and include some made in the throat and back of the larynx which do not occur in the major Indo-European languages. Structurally there are important differences between Modern Standard Arabic and spoken Arabic, such as the behavior of the verb: the voice and tense of the verb are indicated by different internal changes in the two forms. In general the grammar of spoken Arabic is simpler than that of the Modern Standard Arabic, having dropped many noun declensions and different forms of the relative pronoun for the different genders. Some dialects of spoken Arabic do not use special feminine forms of plural verbs.
Dialects of spoken Arabic vary greatly throughout the Arab world. Most Iraqis speak one common to Syria, Lebanon, and parts of Jordan and--as is true of people speaking other dialects--they proudly regard theirs as the best. Although they converse in Iraqi Arabic, there is general agreement that Modern Standard Arabic, the written language, is superior to the spoken form. Arabs generally believe that the speech of the beduins resembles the pure classical form most closely and that the dialects used by the settled villagers and townspeople are unfortunate corruptions.
Kurds represent by far the largest non-Arab ethnic minority, accounting in 1987 for about 19 percent of the population, or around 3.1 million. They are the overwhelming majority in As Sulaymaniyah, Irbil, and Dahuk governorates. Although the government hotly denies it, the Kurds are almost certainly also a majority in the region around Kirkuk, Iraq's richest oilproducing area. Kurds are settled as far south as Khanaqin. Ranging across northern Iraq, the Kurds are part of the larger Kurdish population (probably numbering close to 16 million) that inhabits the wide arc from eastern Turkey and the northwestern part of Syria through Soviet Azarbaijan and Iraq to the northwest of the Zagros Mountains in Iran. Although the largest numbers live in Turkey (variously estimated at between 3 and 10 million), it is in Iraq that they are most active politically.
The Kurds inhabit the highlands and mountain valleys and have traditionally been organized on a tribal basis. In the past it was correct to distinguish the various communities of Kurds according to their tribal affiliation, and to a large extent this was still true in the 1980s; tribes like the Herkki, the Sorchi, and Zibari have maintained a powerful cohesion. But increasingly groups of Kurds organized along political lines have grown up alongside the tribal units. Hence, the most northern and extreme northeastern areas of Iraq are heavily infiltrated by elements of the so-called Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). The area around Kirkuk and south to Khanaqin is the preserve of the Faili Kurds, who, unlike the majority of Kurds, are Shias. Many of the Faili Kurds belong to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The far northwestern region of Iraq around Sinjar is spotted with enclaves claimed by the Iraqi Communist Party, the bulk of whose cadres are composed of Kurds.
Once mainly nomadic or seminomadic, Kurdish society was characterized by a combination of urban centers, villages, and pastoral tribes since at least the Ottoman period. Historical sources indicate that from the eighteenth century onward Kurds in Iraq were mainly peasants engaged in agriculture and arboriculture. By the nineteenth century, about 20 percent of Iraqi Kurds lived in historic Kurdish cities such as Kirkuk, As Sulaymaniyah, and Irbil. The migration to the cities, particularly of the young intelligentsia, helped develop Kurdish nationalism.
Since the early 1960s, the urban Kurdish areas have grown rapidly. Kurdish migration--in addition to being part of the general trend of urban migration--was prompted by the escalating armed conflict with the central authorities in Baghdad, the destruction of villages and land by widespread bombing, and such natural disasters as a severe drought in the 1958-61 period. In addition to destroying traditional resources, the severe fighting has hindered the development of education, health, and other services.
The historic enmity between the Kurds and the central Arab government has contributed to the tenacious survival of Kurdish culture. The Kurds' most distinguishing characteristic and the one that binds them to one another is their language. There are several Kurdish dialects, of which Kirmanji tends to be the standard written form. Kurdish is not a mere dialect of Farsi or Persian, as many Iranian nationalists maintain. And it is certainly not a variant of the Semitic or Turkic tongues. It is a separate language, part of the Indo-European family.
The Kurds have been locked in an unremittingly violent struggle with the central government in Baghdad almost since the founding of the Iraqi republic in 1958. It appeared in the early 1970s that the dissident Kurds-- under the generalship of the legendary leader Mulla Mustafa Barzani--might actually carve out an independent Kurdish area in northern Iraq. In 1975, however, the shah of Iran--the Kurds' principal patron--withdrew his support of the Kurds as part of the Algiers Accord between Tehran and Baghdad, leading to a sharp decline in the Kurdish movement. The signing of the Algiers Accord caused a breakaway faction to emerge from the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), led by Masud Barzani, the son of Mulla Mustafa Barzani. The faction that left the KDP in opposition to the accord formed the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) under Jalal Talabani. The PUK continued to engage in low-level guerrilla activity against the central government in the period from 1975 to 1980. The war between Iraq and Iran that broke out in 1980 afforded the PUK and other Iraqi Kurdish groups the opportunity to intensify their opposition to the government.
The future of the Kurds in Iraq is uncertain because of the war. In 1983 the KDP spearheaded an Iranian thrust into northern Iraq and later its cadres fanned out across the border area adjacent to Turkey where they established a string of bases. Meanwhile, Talabani's PUK has maintained a fighting presence in the Kirkuk region, despite ruthless attempts by the central government to dislodge them. Thus, as of early 1988, most of the northern areas of Iraq--outside the major cities--were under the control of the guerrillas. On the one hand, if the present government in Iraq survives the war--which in early 1988 seemed likely--it is almost certain to punish those Kurds who collaborated with the Iranians. On the other hand, a number of large and powerful Kurdish tribes as well as many prominent Kurds from nontribal families, have continued to support the central government throughout the war, fighting against their fellow Kurds. These loyal Kurds will expect to be rewarded for their allegiance once the war ends.
The Yazidis are of Kurdish stock but are distinguished by their unique religious fusion of elements of paganism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam. They live in small and isolated groups, mostly in the Sinjar Mountains west of Mosul. They are impoverished cultivators and herdsmen who have a strictly graded religiopolitical hierarchy and tend to maintain a more closed community than other ethnic or religious groups. Historically, they have been subject to sharp persecution owing to their heretical beliefs and practices.
The Turkomans, who are believed to constitute somewhat less than 2 percent of the population, are village dwellers in the northeast living along the border between the Kurdish and Arab regions. A number of Turkomans live in the city of Irbil. The Turkomans, who speak a Turkish dialect, have preserved their language but are no longer tribally organized. Most are Sunnis who were brought in by the Ottomans to repel tribal raids. These early Turkomans were settled at the entrances of the valleys that gave access to the Kurdish areas. This historic pacification role has led to strained relations with the Kurds. By 1986 the Turkomans numbered somewhere around 222,000 and were being rapidly assimilated into the general population.
The Assyrians are considered to be the third largest ethnic minority in Iraq. Although official Iraqi statistics do not refer to them as an ethnic group, they are believed to represent about 133,000 persons or less than 1 percent of the population. Descendants of ancient Mesopotamian peoples, they speak Aramaic. The Assyrians live mainly in the major cities and in the rural areas of northeastern Iraq where they tend to be professionals and businessmen or independent farmers. They are Christians, belonging to one of four churches: the Chaldean (Uniate), Nestorian, Jacobite or Syrian Orthodox, and the Syrian Catholic.
Although members of the ruling Baath Party generally are ideologically committed to secularism, about 95 percent of Iraqis are Muslim and Islam is the officially recognized state religion. Islam came to the region with the victory of the Muslim armies under Caliph Umar over the Sassanians in A.D. 637 at the battle of Al Qadisiyah. The majority of inhabitants soon became Muslim, including the Kurds, although small communities of Christians and Jews remained intact in the area of present-day Iraq. Iraq has been the scene of many important events in the early history of Islam, including the schism over the rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad.
<>Sunni-Shia Relations in Iraq
Islam is a system of religious beliefs and an allencompassing way of life. Muslims believe that God (Allah) revealed to the Prophet Muhammad the rules governing society and the proper conduct of society's members. It is incumbent on the individual therefore to live in a manner prescribed by the revealed law and on the community to build the perfect human society on earth according to holy injunctions. Islam recognizes no distinctions between church and state. The distinction between religious and secular law is a recent development that reflects the more pronounced role of the state in society, and Western economic and cultural penetration. The impact of religion on daily life in Muslim countries is far greater than that found in the West since the Middle Ages.
The Ottoman Empire organized society around the concept of the millet, or autonomous religious community. The nonMuslim "People of the Book" (Christians and Jews) owed taxes to the government; in return they were permitted to govern themselves according to their own religious law in matters that did not concern Muslims. The religious communities were thus able to preserve a large measure of identity and autonomy.
The Iraqi Baath Party has been a proponent of secularism. This attitude has been maintained despite the fact that the mass of Iraqis are deeply religious. At the same time, the Baathists have not hesitated to exploit religion as a mobilizing agent; and from the first months of the war with Iran, prominent Baathists have made a public show of attending religious observances. Iraq's President Saddam Husayn is depicted in prayer in posters displayed throughout the country. Moreover, the Baath has provided large sums of money to refurbish important mosques; this has proved a useful tactic in encouraging support from the Shias.
Islam came to Iraq by way of the Arabian Peninsula, where in A.D.610, Muhammad--a merchant of the Hashimite branch of the ruling Quraysh tribe in the Arabian town of Mecca--began to preach the first of a series of revelations granted him by God through the angel Gabriel. A fervent monotheist, Muhammad denounced the polytheism of his fellow Meccans. Because the town's economy was based in part on a thriving pilgrimage business to the shrine called the Kaaba and numerous other pagan religious sites in the area, his censure earned him the enmity of the town's leaders. In A.D.622 he and a group of followers accepted an invitation to settle in the town of Yathrib, later known as Medina (the city), because it was the center of Muhammad's activities. The move, or hijra, known in the West as the hegira, marks the beginning of the Islamic era and of Islam as a force in history; the Muslim calendar begins in A.D.622. In Medina Muhammad continued to preach and eventually defeated his detractors in battle. He consolidated the temporal and the spiritual leadership in his person before his death in A.D.632. After Muhammad's death, his followers compiled those of his words regarded as coming directly from God into the Quran, the holy scriptures of Islam. Others of his sayings and teachings, recalled by those who had known him, became the hadith. The precedent of Muhammad's personal behavior is called the sunna. Together they form a comprehensive guide to the spiritual, ethical, and social life of the orthodox Sunni Muslim.
The duties of Muslims form the five pillars of Islam, which set forth the acts necessary to demonstrate and reinforce the faith. These are the recitation of the shahada ("There is no God but God [Allah], and Muhammad is his prophet"), daily prayer (salat), almsgiving (zakat), fasting (sawm), and pilgrimage (hajj). The believer is to pray in a prescribed manner after purification through ritual ablutions each day at dawn, midday, midafternoon, sunset, and nightfall. Prescribed genuflections and prostrations accompany the prayers, which the worshiper recites facing toward Mecca. Whenever possible men pray in congregation at the mosque with an imam, and on Fridays make a special effort to do so. The Friday noon prayers provide the occasion for weekly sermons by religious leaders. Women may also attend public worship at the mosque, where they are segregated from the men, although most frequently women pray at home. A special functionary, the muezzin, intones a call to prayer to the entire community at the appropriate hour. Those out of earshot determine the time by the sun.
The ninth month of the Muslim calendar is Ramadan, a period of obligatory fasting in commemoration of Muhammad's receipt of God's revelation. Throughout the month all but the sick and weak, pregnant or lactating women, soldiers on duty, travelers on necessary journeys, and young children are enjoined from eating, drinking, smoking, or sexual intercourse during the daylight hours. Those adults excused are obliged to endure an equivalent fast at their earliest opportunity. A festive meal breaks the daily fast and inaugurates a night of feasting and celebration. The pious well-to-do usually do little or no work during this period, and some businesses close for all or part of the day. Since the months of the lunar year revolve through the solar year, Ramadan falls at various seasons in different years. A considerable test of discipline at any time of the year, a fast that falls in summertime imposes severe hardship on those who must do physical work.
All Muslims, at least once in their lifetime, should make the hajj to Mecca to participate in special rites held there during the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. Muhammad instituted this requirement, modifying pre-Islamic custom, to emphasize sites associated with God and Abraham (Ibrahim), founder of monotheism and father of the Arabs through his son Ismail.
The lesser pillars of the faith, which all Muslims share, are jihad, or the crusade to protect Islamic lands, beliefs, and institutions; and the requirement to do good works and to avoid all evil thoughts, words, and deeds. In addition, Muslims agree on certain basic principles of faith based on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad: there is one God, who is a unitary divine being in contrast to the trinitarian belief of Christians; Muhammad, the last of a line of prophets beginning with Abraham and including Moses and Jesus, was chosen by God to present His message to humanity; and there is a general resurrection on the last or judgment day.
During his lifetime, Muhammad held both spiritual and temporal leadership of the Muslim community. Religious and secular law merged, and all Muslims have traditionally been subject to sharia, or religious law. A comprehensive legal system, sharia developed gradually through the first four centuries of Islam, primarily through the accretion of precedent and interpretation by various judges and scholars. During the tenth century, legal opinion began to harden into authoritative rulings, and the figurative bab al ijtihad (gate of interpretation) closed. Thereafter, rather than encouraging flexibility, Islamic law emphasized maintenance of the status quo.
After Muhammad's death the leaders of the Muslim community consensually chose Abu Bakr, the Prophet's father-in-law and one of his earliest followers, to succeed him. At that time some persons favored Ali, Muhammad's cousin and the husband of his daughter Fatima, but Ali and his supporters (the Shiat Ali, or Party of Ali) eventually recognized the community's choice. The next two caliphs (successors)--Umar, who succeeded in A.D.634, and Uthman, who took power in A.D.644--enjoyed the recognition of the entire community. When Ali finally succeeded to the caliphate in A.D.656, Muawiyah, governor of Syria, rebelled in the name of his murdered kinsman Uthman. After the ensuing civil war, Ali moved his capital to Iraq, where he was murdered shortly there after.
Ali's death ended the last of the so-called four orthodox caliphates and the period in which the entire community of Islam recognized a single caliph. Muawiyah proclaimed himself caliph from Damascus. The Shiat Ali refused to recognize him or his line, the Umayyad caliphs, and withdrew in the first great schism to establish the dissident sect, known as the Shias, supporting the claims of Ali's line to the caliphate based on descent from the Prophet. The larger faction, the Sunnis, adhered to the position that the caliph must be elected, and over the centuries they have represented themselves as the orthodox branch.
Originally political, the differences between Sunni and Shia interpretations rapidly took on theological and metaphysical overtones. In principle a Sunni approaches God directly; there is no clerical hierarchy. Some duly appointed religious figures, however, exert considerable social and political power. Imams usually are men of importance in their communities but they need not have any formal training; among the beduins, for example, any tribal member may lead communal prayers. Committees of socially prominent worshipers usually run the major mosque-owned land and gifts. In Iraq, as in many other Arab countries, the administration of waqfs (religious endowments) has come under the influence of the state. Qadis (judges) and imams are appointed by the government.
The Muslim year has two religious festivals--Id al Adha, a sacrificial festival on the tenth of Dhu al Hijjah, the twelfth month; and Id al Fitr, the festival of breaking the fast, which celebrates the end of Ramadan on the first of Shawwal, the tenth month. To Sunnis these are the most important festivals of the year. Each lasts three or four days, during which people put on their best clothes, visit, congratulate, and bestow gifts on each other. In addition, cemeteries are visited. Id al Fitr is celebrated more joyfully, as it marks the end of the hardships of Ramadan. Celebrations also take place, though less extensively, on the Prophet's birthday, which falls on the twelfth of Rabi al Awwal, the third month, and on the first of Muharram, the beginning of the new year.
With regard to legal matters, Sunni Islam has four orthodox schools that give different weight in legal opinions to prescriptions in the Quran, the hadith or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, the consensus of legal scholars, analogy (to similar situations at the time of the Prophet), and reason or opinion. Named for their founders, the Hanafi school of Imam Abu Hanifa, born in Kufa, Iraq about A.D.700, is the major school of Iraqi Sunni Arabs. It makes considerable use of reason or opinion in legal decisions. The dominant school for Iraqi Sunni Kurds is that of Imam Abu Abd Allah Muhammad Shafii of the Quraysh tribe of the Prophet, born in A.D.767 and brought up in Mecca. He later taught in both Baghdad and Cairo and followed a somewhat eclectic legal path, laying down the rules for analogy that were later adopted by other legal schools. The other two legal schools in Islam, the Maliki and the Hanbali, lack a significant number of adherents in Iraq.
Shia Muslims hold the fundamental beliefs of other Muslims. But, in addition to these tenets, the distinctive institution of Shia Islam is the Imamate--a much more exalted position than the Sunni imam, who is primarily a prayer leader. In contrast to Sunni Muslims, who view the caliph only as a temporal leader and who lack a hereditary view of Muslim leadership, Shia Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad designated Ali to be his successor as Imam, exercising both spiritual and temporal leadership. Such an Imam must have knowledge, both in a general and a religious sense, and spiritual guidance or walayat, the ability to interpret the inner mysteries of the Quran and the sharia. Only those who have walayat are free from error and sin and have been chosen by God through the Prophet. Each Imam in turn designated his successor--through twelve Imams--each holding the same powers.
The Imamate began with Ali, who is also accepted by Sunni Muslims as the fourth of the "rightly guided caliphs" to succeed the Prophet. Shias revere Ali as the First Imam, and his descendants, beginning with his sons Hasan and Husayn, continue the line of the Imams until the twelfth, who is believed to have ascended into a supernatural state to return to earth on Judgment Day. Shias point to the close lifetime association of the Prophet with Ali. When Ali was six years old, he was invited by the Prophet to live with him, and Shias believe Ali was the first person to make the declaration of faith in Islam. Ali also slept in the Prophet's bed on the night of the hijra or migration from Mecca to Medina when it was feared that the house would be attacked by unbelievers and the Prophet stabbed to death. He fought in all the battles the Prophet did except one, and the Prophet chose him to be the husband of his favorite daughter, Fatima.
Among Shias the term imam traditionally has been used only for Ali and his eleven descendants. None of the twelve Imams, with the exception of Ali, ever ruled an Islamic government. During their lifetimes, their followers hoped that they would assume the rulership of the Islamic community, a rule that was believed to have been wrongfully usurped. Because the Sunni caliphs were cognizant of this hope, the Imams generally were persecuted during the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. Therefore, the Imams tried to be as unobtrusive as possible and to live as far as was reasonable from the successive capitals of the Islamic empire.
During the eighth century the Caliph Mamun, son and successor to Harun ar Rashid, was favorably disposed toward the descendants of Ali and their followers. He invited the Eighth Imam, Reza (A.D. 765-816), to come from Medina (in the Arabian Peninsula) to his court at Marv (Mary in the present-day Soviet Union). While Reza was residing at Marv, Mamun designated him as his successor in an apparent effort to avoid conflict among Muslims. Reza's sister Fatima journeyed from Medina to be with her brother, but took ill and died at Qom, in present-day Iran. A major shrine developed around her tomb and over the centuries Qom has become a major Shia pilgrimage and theological center.
Mamun took Reza on his military campaign to retake Baghdad from political rivals. On this trip Reza died unexpectedly in Khorasan. Reza was the only Imam to reside or die in what in now Iran. A major shrine, and eventually the city of Mashhad, grew up around his tomb, which has become the most important pilgrimage center in Iran. Several important theological schools are located in Mashhad, associated with the shrine to the Eighth Imam.
Reza's sudden death was a shock to his followers, many of whom believed that Mamun, out of jealousy for Reza's increasing popularity, had the Imam poisoned. Mamun's suspected treachery against Imam Reza and his family tended to reinforce a feeling already prevalent among his followers that the Sunni rulers were untrustworthy.
The Twelfth Imam is believed to have been only five years old when the Imamate descended upon him in A.D.874 at the death of his father. Because his followers feared he might be assassinated, the Twelfth Imam was hidden from public view and was seen only by a few of his closest deputies. Sunnis claim that he never existed or that he died while still a child. Shias believe that the Twelfth Imam never died, but disappeared from earth in about A.D. 939. Since that time, the greater occultation of the Twelfth Imam has been in force and will last until God commands the Twelfth Imam to manifest himself on earth again as the Mahdi or Messiah. Shias believe that during the occultation of the Twelfth Imam, he is spiritually present--some believe that he is materially present as well--and he is besought to reappear in various invocations and prayers. His name is mentioned in wedding invitations, and his birthday is one of the most jubilant of all Shia religious observances.
The Shia doctrine of the Imamate was not fully elaborated until the tenth century. Other dogmas were developed still later. A characteristic of Shia Islam is the continual exposition and reinterpretation of doctrine.
A further belief of Shia Muslims concerns divine justice and the individual's responsibility for his acts, which are judged by a just God. This contrasts with the Sunni view that God's creation of man allows minimal possibility for the exercise of free will.
A significant practice of Shia Islam is that of visiting the shrines of Imams both in Iraq and in Iran. These include the tomb of Imam Ali in An Najaf and that of his son Imam Husayn in Karbala since both are considered major Shia martyrs. Before the 1980 Iran-Iraq War, tens of thousands went each year. The Iranians have made it a central aim of their war effort to wrest these holy cities from the Iraqis. Other principal pilgrimage sites in Iraq are the tombs of the Seventh and Ninth Imams at Kazimayn, near Baghdad, and in Iran, the tomb of the Eighth Imam in Mashhad and that of his sister in Qom. Such pilgrimages originated in part from the difficulty and expense in the early days of making the hajj to Mecca.
Commemorating the martyrdom of Husayn, killed near Karbala in A.D. 680 during a battle with troops supporting the Ummayad caliph, there are processions in the Shia towns and villages of southern Iraq on the tenth of Muharram (Ashura), the anniversary of his death. Ritual mourning (taaziya) is performed by groups of men of five to twenty each. Contributions are solicited in the community to pay transportation for a local group to go to Karbala for taaziya celebrations forty days after Ashura. There is a great rivalry among groups from different places for the best performance of the passion plays.
In the villages, religious readings occur throughout Ramadan and Muharram. The men may gather in the mudhif (tribal guesthouse), the suq (market), or a private house. Women meet in homes. The readings are led either by a mumin (a man trained in a religious school in An Najaf) or by a mullah who has apprenticed with an older specialist. It is considered the duty of shaykhs, elders, prosperous merchants, and the like to sponsor these readings, or qirayas. Under the monarchy these public manifestations were discouraged, as they emphasized grievances against the Sunnis.
Two distinctive and frequently misunderstood Shia practices are mutah, temporary marriage, and taqiyah, religious dissimulation. Mutah is a fixed-term contract that is subject to renewal. It was practiced by the first community of Muslims at Medina but was banned by the second caliph. Mutah differs from permanent marriage in that it does not require divorce to terminate it. It can be for a period as short as an evening or as long as a lifetime. The offspring of such an arrangement are the legitimate heirs of the man.
Taqiyah, condemned by the Sunnis as cowardly and irreligious, is the hiding or disavowal of one's religion or its practices to escape the danger of death from those opposed to the faith. Persecution of Shia Imams during the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates reinforced the need for taqiyah.
Shia practice differs from that of the Sunnis concerning both divorce and inheritance in that it is more favorable to women. The reason for this reputedly is the high esteem in which Fatima, the wife of Ali and the daughter of the Prophet, was held.
Like Sunni Islam, Shia Islam has developed several sects. The most important of these is the Twelver or Ithna-Ashari sect, which predominates not only in Iraq but in the Shia world generally. Broadly speaking, the Twelvers are considered political quietists as opposed to the Zaydis who favor political activism, and the Ismailis who are identified with esoteric and gnostic religious doctrines. Within Twelver Shia Islam there are two major legal schools, the Usuli and the Akhbari. Akhbaris constitute a very small group and are found primarily around Basra and in southern Iraq as well as around Khorramshahr in Iran. The dominant Usuli school is more liberal in its legal outlook and allows greater use of interpretation (ijtihad) in reaching legal decisions, and considers that one must obey a mujtahid (learned interpreter of the law) as well as an Imam.
Until the 1980s, the dominant view of contemporary political analysts held that Iraq was badly split along sectarian lines. The claim was that the Sunnis--although a minority--ran Iraq and subjected the majority Shias to systematic discrimination. According to the prevailing belief, the Shias would drive the Sunnis from power, if once afforded an opportunity to do so.
There was some basis to this notion. For many years Iraq was ruled by-and-large by Arab Sunnis who tended to come from a restricted area around Baghdad, Mosul, and Ar Rutbah--the socalled Golden Triangle. In the 1980s, not only was President Saddam Husayn a Sunni, but he was the vice chairman of the ruling Baath Party (Arab Socialist Resurrection). One of the two deputy prime ministers and the defense minister were also Sunnis. In addition, the top posts in the security services have usually been held by Sunnis, and most of the army's corps commanders have been Sunnis. It is also true that the most depressed region of the country is the south, where the bulk of the Shias reside.
Nonetheless, the theory of sectarian strife was undercut by the behavior of Iraq's Shia community during Iran's 1982 invasion and the fighting thereafter. Although about three-quarters of the lower ranks of the army were Shias, as of early 1988, no general insurrection of Iraq; Shias had occurred.
Even in periods of major setback for the Iraqi army--such as the Al Faw debacle in 1986--the Shias have continued staunchly to defend their nation and the Baath regime. They have done so despite intense propaganda barrages mounted by the Iranians, calling on them to join the Islamic revolution.
It appears, then, that, however important sectarian affiliation may have been in the past, in the latter 1980s nationalism was the basic determiner of loyalty. In the case of Iraq's Shias, it should be noted that they are Arabs, not Persians, and that they have been the traditional enemies of the Persians for centuries. The Iraqi government has skillfully exploited this age-old enmity in its propaganda, publicizing the war as part of the ancient struggle between the Arab and Persian empires. For example, Baathist publicists regularly call the war a modern day "Qadisiyah." Qadisiyah was the battle in A.D.637 in which the Arabs defeated the pagan hosts of Persia, enabling Islam to spread to the East.
The real tension in Iraq in the latter 1980s was between the majority of the population, Sunnis as well as Shias, for whom religious belief and practice were significant values, and the secular Baathists, rather than between Sunnis and Shias. Although the Shias had been underrepresented in government posts in the period of the monarchy, they made substantial progress in the educational, business, and legal fields. Their advancement in other areas, such as the opposition parties, was such that in the years from 1952 to 1963, before the Baath Party came to power, Shias held the majority of party leadership posts. Observers believed that in the late 1980s Shias were represented at all levels of the party roughly in proportion to government estimates of their numbers in the population. For example, of the eight top Iraqi leaders who in early 1988 sat with Husayn on the Revolutionary Command Council--Iraq's highest governing body-- three were Arab Shias (of whom one had served as Minister of Interior), three were Arab Sunnis, one was an Arab Christian, and one a Kurd. On the Regional Command Council--the ruling body of the party--Shias actually predominated. During the war, a number of highly competent Shia officers have been promoted to corps commanders. The general who turned back the initial Iranian invasions of Iraq in 1982 was a Shia.
The Shias continued to make good progress in the economic field as well during the 1980s. Although the government does not publish statistics that give breakdowns by religious affiliation, qualified observers noted that many Shias migrated from rural areas, particularly in the south, to the cities, so that not only Basra but other cities including Baghdad acquired a Shia majority. Many of these Shias prospered in business and the professions as well as in industry and the service sector. Even those living in the poorer areas of the cities were generally better off than they had been in the countryside. In the rural areas as well, the educational level of Shias came to approximate that of their Sunni counterparts.
In summary, prior to the war the Baath had taken steps toward integrating the Shias. The war placed inordinate demands on the regime for manpower, demands that could only be met by levying the Shia community--and this strengthened the regime's resolve to further the integration process. In early 1988, it seemed likely that when the war ends, the Shias would emerge as full citizens-- assuming that the Baath survives the conflict.
The impact of Western penetration on the indigenous social and demographic structure in the nineteenth century was profound. Western influence took the initial form of transportation and trading links and the switch from tribal-based subsistence agriculture to cash crop production--mostly dates--for export. As this process accelerated, the nomadic population decreased both relatively and in absolute numbers and the rural sedentary population increased substantially, particularly in the southern region. This was accompanied by a pronounced transformation of tenurial relations: the tribal, communal character of subsistence production was transformed on a large scale into a landlord-tenant relationship; tribal shaykhs, urban merchants, and government officials took title under the open-ended terms of the newly promulgated Ottoman land codes. Incentives and pressures on this emerging landlord class to increase production (and thus exports and earnings) resulted in expanded cultivation, which brought more and more land under cultivation and simultaneously absorbed the "surplus" labor represented by the tribal, pastoral, and nomadic character of much of Iraqi society. This prolonged process of sedentarization was disrupted by the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire during and after World War I, but it resumed with renewed intensity in the British Mandate period, when the political structure of independent Iraq was formed.
This threefold transformation of rural society--pastoral to agricultural, subsistence to commercial, tribal-communal to landlord-peasant--was accompanied by important shifts in urban society as well. There was a general increase in the number and size of marketing towns and their populations; but the destruction of handicraft industries, especially in Baghdad, by the import of cheap manufactured goods from the West, led to an absolute decline in the population of urban centers. It also indelibly stamped the subsequent urban growth with a mercantile and bureaucratic-administrative character that is still a strong feature of Iraqi society.
Thus, the general outline and history of Iraqi population dynamics in the modern era can be divided into a period extending from the middle of the nineteenth century to World War II, characterized chiefly by urbanization, with a steady and growing movement of people from the rural (especially southern) region to the urban (especially central) region. Furthermore, the basic trends of the 1980s are rooted in the particularly exploitive character of agricultural practices regarding both the land itself and the people who work it. Declining productivity of the land, stemming from the failure to develop drainage along the irrigation facilities and the wretched condition of the producers, has resulted in a potentially harmful demographic trajectory--the depopulation of the countryside--that in the late 1980s continued to bedevil government efforts to reverse the decades-long pattern of declining productivity in the agricultural sector.
The accelerated urbanization process since World War II is starkly illustrated in the shrinking proportion of the population living in rural areas: 61 percent in 1947, fillowed by 56 percent in 1965, then 36 percent in 1977, and an estimated 32 percent in 1987; concurrently between 1977 and 1987 the urban population rose from 7,646,054 to an estimated 11,078,000 (see table _, Appendix). The rural exodus has been most severe in Al Basrah and Al Qadisiyah governorates. The proportion of rural to urban population was lowest in the governorates of Al Basrah (37 percent in 1965, and 1 percent in 1987) and Baghdad (48 percent in 1965 and 19 percent in 1987). It was highest in Dhi Qar Governorate where it averaged 50 percent in 1987, followed closely by Al Muthanna and Diyala governorates with rural populations of 48 percent. Between 1957 and 1967, the population of Baghdad and Al Basrah governorates grew by 73 percent and 41 percent respectively. During the same years the city of Baghdad grew by 87 percent and the city of Basra by 64 percent.
Because of the war, the growth of Al Basrah Governorate has been reversed while that of Baghdad Governorate has accelerated alarmingly, with the 1987 census figure for urban Baghdad being 3,845,000. Iranian forces have mounted an offensive each year of the war since 1980, except for early 1988, seeking to capture Basra and the adjoining area and subjecting the city to regular bombardment. As a result, large numbers of the population fled northward from Basra and other southern areas, with many entering Baghdad, which was already experiencing overcrowding. The government has attempted to deal with this situation by moving war refugees out of the capital and resettling them in other smaller cities in the south, out of the range of the fighting.
<>Impact of Agrarian Reform
Rural Iraq contains aspects of the largely tribal mode of social organization that prevailed over the centuries and still survived in the 1980s--particularly in the more isolated rural areas, such as the rugged tableland of the northwest and the marshes in the south. The tribal mode probably originated in the unstable social conditions that resulted from the protracted decline of the Abbasid Caliphate and the subsequent cycles of invasion and devastation.
In the absence of a strong central authority and the urban society of a great civilization, society devloped into smaller units under conditions that placed increasing stress on prowess, decisiveness, and mobility. Under these conditions, the tribal shaykhs emerged as a warrior class, and this process facilitated the ascendancy of the fighter-nomad over the cultivator.
The gradual sedentarization that began in the mid-nineteenth century brought with it an erosion of shaykhly power and a disintegration of the tribal system. Under the British Mandate, and the monarchy that was its creation, a reversal took place. Despite the continued decline of the tribe as a viable and organic social entity, the enfeebled power of the shaykhs was restored and enhanced by the British. This was done to develop a local ruling class that could maintain security in the countryside and otherwise head off political challenges to British access to Iraq's mineral and agricultural resources and Britain's paramount role in the Persian Gulf shaykhdoms. Through the specific implementation of land registration, the traditional pattern of communal cultivation and pasturage--with mutual rights and duties between shaykhs and tribesmen--was superseded in some tribal areas by the institution of private property and the expropriation by the shaykhs of tribal lands as private estates. The status of the tribesmen was in many instances drastically reduced to that of sharecroppers and laborers. The additional ascription of judicial and police powers to the shaykh and his retinue left the tribesmen-cum-peasants as virtual serfs, continuously in debt and in servitude to the shaykh turned landlord and master. The social basis for shaykhly power had been transformed from military valor and moral rectitude to an effective possession of wealth as embodied in vast landholdings and a claim to the greater share of the peasants' production.
This was the social dimension of the transformation from a subsistence, pastoral economy to an agricultural economy linked to the world market. It was, of course, an immensely complicated process, and conditions varied in different parts of the country. The main impact was in the southern half--the riverine economy-- more than in the sparsely populated, rain-fed northern area. A more elaborate analysis of this process would have to look specifically at the differences between Kurdish and Arab shaykhs, between political and religious leadership functions, between Sunni and Shia shaykhs, and between nomadic and riverine shaykhs, all within their ecological settings. In general the biggest estates developed in areas restored to cultivation through dam construction and pump irrigation after World War I. The most autocratic examples of shaykhly power were in the rice-growing region near Al Amarah, where the need for organized and supervised labor and the rigorous requirements of rice cultivation generated the most oppressive conditions.
The role of the tribe as the chief politico-military unit was already well eroded by the time the monarchy was overthrown in July 1958. The role of some tribal shaykhs had been abolished by the central government. The tribal system survived longest in the mid-Euphrates area, where many tribesmen had managed to register small plots in their names and had not become mere tenants of the shaykh. In such settings an interesting amalgam occurred of traditional tribal customs and the newer influences represented by the civil servants sent to rural regions by the central government, together with the expanded government educational system. For example, the government engineer responsible for the water distribution system, although technically not a major administrator, in practice became the leading figure in rural areas. He would set forth requirements for the cleaning and maintenance of the canals, and the tribal shaykh would see to it that the necessary manpower was provided. This service in the minds of tribesmen replaced the old customary obligation of military service that they owed the shaykh and was not unduly onerous. It could readily be combined with work on their own grazing or producing lands and benefited the tribe as a whole. The government administrators usually avoided becoming involved in legal disputes that might result from water rights, leaving the disputes to be settled by the shaykh in accordance with traditional tribal practices. Thus, despite occasional tensions in such relationships, the power of the central government gradually expanded into regions where Baghdad's influence had previously been slight or absent.
Despite the erosion of the historic purposes of tribal organization, the prolonged absence of alternative social links has helped to preserve the tribal character of individual and group relations. The complexity of these relations is impressive. Even in the southern, irrigated part of the country there are notable differences between the tribes along the Tigris, subject to Iranian influences, and those of the Euphrates, whose historic links are with the Arab beduin tribes of the desert. Since virtually no ethnographic studies on the Tigris peoples existed in the late 1980s, the following is based chiefly on research in the Euphrates region.
The tribe represents a concentric social system linked to the classical nomadic structure but modified by the sedentary environment and limited territory characteristic of the modern era. The primary unit within the tribe is the named agnatic lineage several generations deep to which each member belongs. This kinship unit shares responsibilities in feuds and war, restricts and controls marriage within itself, and jointly occupies a specified share of tribal land. The requirements of mutual assistance preclude any significant economic differentiation, and authority is shared among the older men. The primary family unit rests within the clan, composed of two or more lineage groups related by descent or adoption. Nevertheless, a clan can switch its allegiance from its ancestral tribal unit to a stronger, ascendant tribe. The clans are units of solidarity in disputes with other clans in the tribe, although there may be intense feuding among the lineage groups within the clan. The clan also represents a shared territorial interest, as the land belonging to the component lineage groups customarily is adjacent.
Several clans united under a single shaykh form a tribe (ashira). This traditionally has been the dominant politico-military unit although, because of unsettled conditions, tribes frequently band together in confederations under a paramount shaykh. The degree of hierarchy and centralization operative in a given tribe seems to correlate with the length of time it has been sedentary: the Bani Isad, for example, which has been settled for several centuries, is much more centralized than the Ash Shabana, which has been sedentary only since the end of the nineteenth century.
In the south, only the small hamlets scattered throughout the cultivated area are inhabited solely by tribesmen. The most widely spread social unit is the village, and most villages have resident tradesmen (ahl as suq--people of the market) and government employees. The lines between these village dwellers and the tribespeople, at least until just before the war, were quite distinct, although the degree varies from place to place. As the provision of education, health, and other social services to the generally impoverished rural areas increases, the number and the social influence of these nontribal people increase. Representatives of the central government take over roles previously filled by the shaykh or his representatives. A government school competes with the religious school. The role of the merchants as middlemen--buyers of the peasants' produce and providers of seeds and implements as well as of food and clothing--has not yet been superseded in most areas by the government-sponsored cooperatives and extension agencies. Increasingly in the 1980s, government employees were of local or at least rural origin, whereas in the 1950s they usually were Baghdadis who had no kinship ties in the region, wore Western clothing, and took their assignments as exile and punishment. In part the administrators provoked the mutual antagonism that flourished between them and the peasants, particularly as Sunni officials were often assigned to Shia villages. The merchants, however, were from the region--if not from the same village--and were usually the sons of merchants.
Despite some commercial developments in rural areas, in the late 1980s the economic base was still agriculture and, to a lesser but increasing extent, animal husbandry. Failure to resolve the technical problem of irrigation drainage contributed to declining rural productivity, however, and accentuated the economic as well as the political role of the central government. The growth of villages into towns and whatever signs of recent prosperity there were should be viewed, therefore, more as the result of greater government presence than as locally developed economic viability. The increased number of government representatives and employees added to the market for local produce and, more important, promoted the diffusion of state revenues into impoverished rural areas through infrastructure and service projects. Much remained to be done to supply utilities to rural inhabitants; just before the war, the government announced a campaign to provide such essentials as electricity and clean water to the villages, most of which still lacked these. The government has followed through on several of these projects--particularly in the south--despite the hardships caused by the war. The regime apparently felt the need to reward the southerners, who had suffered inordinately in the struggle.
One of the most significant achievements of the fundamentally urban-based revolutionary regime of Abd al Karim Qasim (1958-63) was the proclamation and partial implementation of a radical agrarian reform program. The scope of the program and the drastic shortage of an administrative cadre to implement it, coupled with political struggles within the Qasim regime and its successors, limited the immediate impact of the program to the expropriation stage. The largest estates were easily confiscated, but distribution lagged owing to administrative problems and the wasted, saline character of much of the land expropriated. Moreover, landlords could choose the best of the lands to keep for themselves.
The impact of the reforms on the lives of the rural masses can only be surmised on the basis of uncertain official statistics and rare observations and reports by outsiders, such as officials of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The development of cooperatives, especially in their capacity as marketing agents, was one of the most obvious failures of the program, although isolated instances of success did emerge. In some of these instances, traditional elders were mobilized to serve as cooperative directors, and former sirkals, clan leaders who functioned as foremen for the shaykhs, could bring a working knowledge of local irrigation needs and practices to the cooperative.
The continued impoverishment of the rural masses was evident, however, in the tremendous migration that continued through the 1960s, 1970s, and into the 1980s from rural to urban areas. According to the Ministry of Planning, the average rate of internal migration from the countryside increased from 19,600 a year in the mid-1950s to 40,000 a year in the 1958 to 1962 period. A study of 110 villages in the Nineveh and Babylon governorates concluded that depressed rural conditions and other variables--rather than job opportunities in the modern sector-- accounted for most of the migration.
There was little doubt that this massive migration and the land reform reduced the number of landless peasants. The most recent comprehensive tenurial statistics available before the war broke out--the Agricultural Census of 1971--put the total farmland (probably meaning cultivable land, rather than land under cultivation) at over 5.7 million hectares, of which more than 98.2 percent was held by "civil persons." About 30 percent of this had been distributed under the agrarian reform. The average size of the holdings was about 9.7 hectares; but 60 percent of the holdings were smaller than 7.5 hectares, accounting for less than 14 percent of the total area. At the other end of the scale, 0.2 percent of the holdings were 250 hectares or larger, amounting to more than 14 percent of the total. Fifty-two percent of the total was owner-operated, 41 percent was farmed under rental agreements, 4.8 percent was worked by squatters, and only 0.6 percent was sharecropped. The status of the remaining 1.6 percent was uncertain. On the basis of limited statistics released by the government in 1985, the amount of land distributed since the inception of the reform program totaled 2,271,250 hectares.
Political instability throughout the 1960s hindered the implementation of the agrarian reform program, but after seizing power in 1968 the Baath regime made a considerable effort to reactivate it. Law 117 (1970) further limited the maximum size of holdings, eliminated compensation to the landowner, and abolished payments by beneficiaries, thus acknowledging the extremity of peasant indebtedness and poverty.
The reform created a large number of small holdings. Given the experience of similar efforts in other countries, foreign observers surmised that a new stratification has emerged in the countryside, characterized by the rise of middle-level peasants who, directly or through their leadership in the cooperatives, control much of the agricultural machinery and its use. Membership in the ruling Baath Party is an additional means of securing access to and control over such resources. Prior to the war, the party seemed to have few roots in the countryside, but after the ascent of Saddam Husayn to the presidency in 1979 a determined effort was made to build bridges between the party cadre in the capital and the provinces. It is noteworthy that practically all party officials promoted to the second echelon of leadership at the 1982 party congress had distinguished themselves by mobilizing party support in the provinces.
Even before the war, migration posed a serious threat of labor shortages. In the 1980s, with the war driving whole communities to seek refuge in the capital, this shortage has been exacerbated and was particularly serious in areas intensively employing mechanized agricultural methods. The government has attempted to compensate for this shortage by importing turnkey projects with foreign professionals. But in the Kurdish areas of the north--and to a degree in the southern region infested by deserters--the safety of foreign personnel was difficult to guarantee; therefore many projects have had to be temporarily abandoned. Another government strategy for coping with the labor shortage caused by the war has been to import Egyptian workers. It has been estimated that as many as 1.5 million Egyptians have found employment in Iraq since the war began.
Iraq's society just before the outbreak of the war was undergoing profound and rapid social change that had a definite urban focus. The city has historically played an important economic and political role in the life of Middle Eastern societies, and this was certainly true in the territory that is present-day Iraq. Trade and commerce, handicrafts and small manufactures, and administrative and cultural activities have traditionally been central to the economy and the society, notwithstanding the overwhelming rural character of most of the population. In the modern era, as the country witnessed a growing involvement with the world market and particularly the commercial and administrative sectors, the growth of a few urban centers, notably Baghdad and Basra, has been astounding. The war, however, has altered this pattern of growth remarkably--in the case of Baghdad accelerating it; in the case of Basra shrinking it considerably.
Demographic estimates based on the 1987 census reflected an increase in the urban population from 5,452,000 in 1970 to 7,646,054 in 1977, and to 11,078,000 in 1987 or 68 percent of the population. Census data show the remarkable growth of Baghdad in particular, from just over 500,000 in 1947 to 1,745,000 in 1965; and from 3,226,000 in 1977 to 3,845,000 in 1987.
The population of other major cities according to the 1977 census was 1,540,000 for Basra, 1,220,000 for Mosul, and 535,000 for Kirkuk (detailed information from the October 1987 census was lacking in early 1988). The port of Basra presents a more complex picture: accelerated growth up to the time the war erupted, then a sharp deceleration once the war started when the effects of the fighting around the city began to be felt. Between 1957 and 1965, Basra actually had a higher growth rate than Baghdad--90 percent in Basra as compared with Baghdad's 65 percent. But once the Iranians managed to sink several tankers in the Shatt al Arab, this effectively blocked the waterway and the economy of the port city began to deteriorate. By 1988 repeated attempts by Iran to capture Basra had further eroded the strength of the city's commercial sector, and the heavy bombardment had rendered some quarters of Basra virtually uninhabitable. Because of the war reliable statistics were unavailable, but the city's population in early 1988 was probably less than half that in 1977.
In the extreme north, the picture was somewhat different. There, a number of middle-sized towns have experienced very rapid growth--triggered by the unsettled conditions in the region. Early in the war the government determined to fight Kurdish- guerrilla activity by targeting the communities that allegedly sustained the rebels. It therefore cleared whole tracts of the mountainous region of local inhabitants. The residents of the cleared areas fled to regional urban centers like Irbil, As Sulaymaniyah, and Dahuk; by and large they did not transfer to the major urban centers such as Mosul and Kirkuk.
Statistical details of the impact of these population shifts on the physical and spatial character of the cities were generally lacking in the 1980s. According to accounts by on-the- spot observers, in Baghdad--and presumably in the other cities as well--there appeared to have been no systematic planning to cope with the growth of slum areas. Expansion in the capital until the mid-1970s had been quite haphazard. As a result, there were many open spaces between buildings and quarters. Thus, the squatter settlements that mushroomed in those years were not confined to the city's fringes. By the late 1950s, the sarifahs (reed and mud huts) in Baghdad were estimated to number 44,000, or almost 45 percent of the total number of houses in the capital.
These slums became a special target of Qasim's government. Efforts were directed at improving the housing and living conditions of the sarifah dwellers. Between 1961 and 1963, many of these settlements were eliminated and their inhabitants moved to two large housing projects on the edge of the city-- Madinat ath Thawra and An Nur. Schools and markets were also built, and sanitary services were provided. In time, however, Ath Thawra and An Nur, too, became dilapidated, and just before the war Saddam Husayn ordered Ath Thawra rebuilt as Saddam City. This new area of low houses and wide streets has radically improved the lifestyles of the residents, the overwhelming majority of whom were Shias who had migrated from the south.
Another striking feature of the initial waves of migration to Baghdad and other urban centers is that the migrants have tended to stay, bringing with them whole families. The majority of migrants were peasant cultivators, but shopkeepers, petty traders, and small craftsmen came as well. Contact with the point of rural origin was not totally severed, and return visits were fairly common, but reverse migration was extremely rare. At least initially, there was a pronounced tendency for migrants from the same village to relocate in clusters to ease the difficulties of transition and maintain traditional patterns of mutual assistance. Whether this pattern has continued into the war years was not known, but it seems likely. A number of observers have reported neighborhoods in the capital formed on the basis of rural or even tribal origin.
The urban social structure has evolved gradually over the years. In pre-revolutionary Iraq it was dominated by a well- defined ruling class, concentrated in Baghdad. This was an internally cohesive group, distinguished from the rest of the population by its considerable wealth and political power. The economic base of this class was landed wealth, but during the decades of the British Mandate and the monarchy, as landlords acquired commercial interests and merchants and government officials acquired real estate, a considerable intertwining of families and interests occurred. The result was that the Iraqi ruling class could not be easily separated into constituent parts: the largest commercial trading houses were controlled by families owning vast estates; the landowners were mostly tribal shaykhs but included many urban notables, government ministers, and civil servants. Moreover, the landowning class controlled the parliament, which tended to function in the most narrowly conceived interest of these landlords.
There was a small but growing middle class in the 1950s and 1960s that included a traditional core of merchants, shopkeepers, craftsmen, professionals, and government officials, their numbers augmented increasingly by graduates from the school system. The Ministry of Education had been the one area during the monarchy that was relatively independent of British advisers, and thus it was expanded as a conspicuous manifestation of government response to popular demand. It was completely oriented toward white-collar, middle-class occupations. Within this middle class, and closely connected to the commercial sector, was a small industrial bourgeoisie whose interests were not completely identical with those of the more traditional sector.
Iraq's class structure at mid-century was characterized by great instability. In addition to the profound changes occurring in the countryside, there was the economic and social disruption of shortages and spiraling inflation brought on by World War II. Fortunes were made by a few, but for most there was deprivation and, as a consequence, great social unrest. Longtime Western observers compared the situation of the urban masses unfavorably with conditions in the last years of Ottoman rule. An instance of the abrupt population shifts was the Iraqi Jews. The establishment of the state of Israel led to the mass exodus of this community in 1950, to be replaced by Shia merchants and traders, many of whom were descendants of Iranian immigrants from the heavily Shia populated areas of the south.
The trend of urban growth, which had commenced in the days immediately preceding the revolution, took off in the mid-1970s, when the effects of the sharp increases in the world price of oil began to be felt. Oil revenues poured into the cities where they were invested in construction and real estate speculation. The dissatisfied peasantry then found even more cause to move to the cities because jobs--mainly in construction--were available, and even part-time, unskilled labor was an improvement over conditions in the countryside.
As for the elite, the oil boom of the 1970s brought greater diversification of wealth, with some going to those attached to the land, and some to those involved in the regime, commerce, and, increasingly, manufacturing. The working class grew but was largely fragmented. A relatively small number were employed in businesses of ten or more workers, whereas a much larger number were classified as wage workers, including those in the services sector. Between the elite and the working masses was the lower middle class of petty bourgeoisie. This traditional component consisted of the thousands of small handicraft shops, which made up a huge part of the so-called manufacturing sector, and the even more numerous one-man stores. The newer and more rapidly expanding part of this class consisted of professionals and semiprofessionals employed in services and the public sector, including the officer corps, and the thousands of students looking for jobs. This class became particularly significant in the 1980s because former members of it have become the nation's elite. Perhaps the most important aspect of the growth of the public sector was the expansion of educational facilities, with consequent pressures to find white-collar jobs for graduates in the noncommodity sectors.
The pre-revolutionary political system, with its parliament of landlords and hand-picked government supporters, was increasingly incompatible with the changing social reality marked by the quickening pace of urban-based economic activity fueled by the oil revenues. The faction of the elite investing in manufacturing, the petty bourgeoisie, and the working classes pressured the state to represent their interests. As the armed forces came to reflect this shifting balance of social forces, a radical political change became inevitable. The social origins and political inclinations of the Free Officers who carried out the 1958 overthrow of the monarchy and the various ideological parties that supported and succeeded them clearly reflect the middle-class character of the Iraqi Revolution. Both the agrarian reform program and the protracted campaign against the foreign oil monopoly were aimed at restructuring political and eonomic power in favor of the urbanbased middle and lower classes. The political struggle between the self-styled radicals and moderates in the 1960s mainly concerned the role of the state and the public sector in the economy: the radicals promoted a larger role for the state, and the moderates wanted to restrict it to the provision of basic services and physical infrastructure.
There was a shift in the distribution of income after 1958 at the expense of the large landowners and businessmen and in favor of the salaried middle class and, to a lesser degree, the wage earners and small farmers. The Baath Party, in power since July 1968, represented the lower stratum of the middle class: sons of small shopkeepers, petty officials, and graduates of training schools, law schools, and military academies. In the 1980s, the ruling class tended to be composed of high and middle echelon bureaucrats who either had risen through the ranks of the party or had been coopted into the party because of their technical competence, i.e., technocrats. The elite also consisted of army officers, whose wartime loyalty the government has striven to retain by dispensing material rewards and gifts.
The government's practice of lavishing rewards on the military has also affected the lower classes. Martyrs' benefits under the Baath have been extremely generous. Thus, the families of youths killed in battle could expect to receive at least an automobile and more likely a generous pension for life.
Kinship groups are the fundamental social units, regulating many activities that in Westernized societies are the functions of political, economic, religious, or neighborhood groups. Rights and obligations center on the extended family and the lineage. The family remains the primary focus of loyalty; and it is in this context, rather than the broader one of corporate loyalties defined by sectarian, ethnic, or economic considerations, that the majority of Iraqis find the common denominators of their everyday lives. A mutually protective attitude among relatives is taken as a matter of course. Relatives tend to be preferred as business partners since they are believed to be more reliable than persons over whom one does not have the hold of kinship ties. On higher levels, deeply ingrained family loyalty manifests itself in business and public life.
The characteristic form of family organization involves a large group of kinsmen related to one another through descent and marriage, that is, an extended family usually consisting of three generations. Such an extended family may all live together, which is the more traditional pattern, or may reside separately like a nuclear family, but still share the values and functions of an extended family, such as depending upon one another and deferring to the older generation. As Iraqi society has become increasingly urbanized, however, the tendency toward nuclear family social organization, as opposed merely to residence, has become more prevalent. The status of an individual is traditionally determined by the position of his or her family in society and the individual's position within that group. The family transmits values and standards of behavior of the society to its members and holds them responsible for each other's conduct. It traditionally determines occupations and selects marriage partners. Kinsmen also cooperate in economic endeavors, such as farming or trade, and ownership in land and other assets frequently is vested in the group as a whole. The sharpest degree of divergence from these patterns occurs among educated urban Iraqis, an ever-increasing proportion of the society.
Until 1959 family life was subject to regulation only according to religious law and tradition. All Muslims were brought under a single body of family law for the first time in 1959 with the enactment of a secular law on personal status, based on sharia, statutes from other Islamic countries, and legal precedents established in Iraqi courts; a brief amendment was enacted in 1963. The law spells out provisions governing the right to contract marriage, the nature of the contract, economic rights of the partners, divorce and child custody, as well as bequests and inheritance.
The basic structural unit of the family consists of a senior couple, their sons, the sons' wives and children, and unmarried daughters. Other dependent relatives may also be attached to the group. The senior male is the head of the family; he manages its properties and has the final voice in decisions. Kinsmen are organized into still larger groups. The next level of organization is the lineage, composed of all persons, male and female, who trace their descent from a common ancestor. The number of generations by which this ancestor is removed from the oldest living one varies; a depth of four to six generations is usual.
Individuals or whole families of other descent sometimes attach themselves to a particular lineage in an arrangement of mutual advantage, becoming recognized after several generations as full members of the lineage on equal terms with those born into it. In small villages everyone is likely to belong to the same lineage; in larger ones there may be two or more lineages in common but tempered by economic cooperation, intermarriage, and the authority of the village leadership or elders. Also among nontribal Iraqis, kinship organization and traditions of common descent do not go beyond the lineage. Awareness of distant ties is keen among recent migrants to the cities and among the rural population.
In rural areas, new households are not usually set up until many years after the initial recognition of a marriage. In general, the wife moves in with her husband's parents, where the young couple remain for some time. Often this arrangement is maintained until the death of the father. Even when the father dies, the brothers sometimes stay together, forming joint family households that include themselves, their wives, and their children.
The actual number of persons who make up the household is determined by the family's economic circumstances, pattern of living, and mode of habitation. In an agricultural setting, as long as ownership of land and other possessions is vested in the family as a whole, the possibilities for a young man to set up an independent household are limited. In urban centers, on the other hand, young men can avail themselves of wage-earning employment.
Authority within the family is determined by seniority and sex. The father, in theory, has absolute authority over the activities of the members of the household, both within the confines of the house and outside. He decides what education his children will receive, what occupations his sons will enter, and, usually in consultation with his wife, whom his children will marry. These authority patterns also have been greatly weakened in the urban environment and by the shift of more and more responsibilities from the family to larger social institutions, such as the schools.
An even greater change in the traditional pattern of male dominance has been brought about by the war. Because Iraq is numerically a much smaller nation than Iran, it has experienced considerable difficulty maintaining an adequate defense on the battlefront. To field a sufficient force it has had to draw down the available labor pool on the home front, and to compensate has mobilized women. In the mid-1980s, observers reported that in many ministries the overwhelming proportion of employees were women. Foreign contractors have encountered women supervisors on huge construction projects, women doctors in the hospitals, and even women performing law enforcement roles. This emancipation-- extraordinary for an Arab country--was sanctioned by the government, which expended a significant amount of propaganda publicizing the role of women in helping to win the war. The government further maintained that after the war women would be encouraged to retain their newfound work roles; this was doubtful, however, because in the same breath the government declared its determination to increase the birthrate.
The Muslim majority has traditionally regarded marriage as primarily a civil contract between two families, arranged by parents after negotiations, which may be prolonged and conducted by an intermediary. The arrangement of a marriage is a family matter in which the needs and position of the corporate kin group are primary considerations. Prospective partners are often known to each other, and they frequently come from the same village and the same kin group. Among educated urban dwellers, the traditional pattern of contracting marriage is giving way to a pattern in which the young persons make their own choices, but parents must still approve.
With regard to marriage and divorce, the 1959 Law of Personal Status, amended in 1963, liberalized various provisions that affected the status of women; in practice, however, the Iraqi judiciary up to the Revolution tended to be conservative in applying the provisions of the law. Specifically, Iraqi law required that divorce proceedings be initiated in a court of law, but the husband still had the controlling role in dissolving the marriage. Moreover, a man who wanted to marry a second wife was required first to get approval from the court. Provision was also made for the custody of children to be based on consideration of the welfare of the child.
Economic motivation and considerations of prestige and family strength all contribute to the high value placed on large families. The greater the number of children, especially sons, the greater the prestige of the father, and through him that of the family as a whole. Boys are especially welcome because they are the carriers of the family tradition, and because their economic contribution in an agricultural society is greater than that of girls.
Between the ages of three and six, children are given freedom to learn by imitating older siblings. Strong emphasis is then placed on conformity with elders' patterns and on loyalty and obedience. Family solidarity is stressed. The passage from adolescence to maturity is swift. Upon reaching puberty, there traditionally is a separation of sexes, and girls are excluded from male society except that of their close kin. Great emphasis is placed on premarital chastity, and this is one reason for early marriages. Boys have greater freedom during adolescence than girls and begin to be drawn into the company of their fathers and the world of men.
The impact of government policies on the class structure and stratification patterns can be imputed from available statistics on education and training as well as employment and wage structures. Owing to the historic emphasis on the expansion of educational facilities, the leaders of the Baath Party and indeed much of Iraq's urban middle class were able to move from rural or urban lower-class origins to middle and even top positions in the state apparatus, the public sector, and the society at large.
This social history is confirmed in the efforts of the government to generalize opportunities for basic education throughout the country. Between 1976 and 1986, the number of primary-school students increased 30 percent; female students increased 45 percent, from 35 to 44 percent of the total. The number of primary-school teachers increased 40 percent over this period. At the secondary level, the number of students increased by 46 percent, and the number of female students increased by 55 percent, from 29 to 36 percent of the total. Baghdad, which had about 29 percent of the population, had 26 percent of the primary students, 27 percent of the female primary students, and 32 percent of the secondary students.
Education was provided by the government through a centrally organized school system. In the early 1980s, the system included a six-year primary (or elementary) level known as the first level. The second level, also of six years, consisted of an intermediate-secondary and an intermediate-preparatory, each of three years. Graduates of these schools could enroll in a vocational school, one of the teacher training schools or institutes, or one of the various colleges, universities, or technical institutes.
The number of students enrolled in primary and secondary schools was highest in the central region and lowest in the north, although the enrollment of the northern schools was only slightly lower than that of the south. Before the war, the government had made considerable gains in lessening the extreme concentration of primary and secondary educational facilities in the main cities, notably Baghdad. Vocational education, which had been notoriously inadequate in Iraq, received considerable official attention in the 1980s. The number of students in technical fields has increased threefold since 1977, to over 120,090 in 1986.
The Baath regime also seemed to have made progress since the late 1960s in reducing regional disparities, although they were far from eliminated and no doubt were more severe than statistics would suggest. Baghdad, for example, was the home of most educational facilities above the secondary level, since it was the site not only of Baghdad University, which in the academic year 1983-84 (the most recent year for which statistics were available in early 1988) had 34,555 students, but also of the Foundation of Technical Institutes with 34,277 students, Mustansiriya University with 11,686 students, and the University of Technology with 7,384 students. The universities in Basra, Mosul, and Irbil, taken together, enrolled 26 percent of all students in higher education in the academic year 1983-84.
The number of students seeking to pursue higher education in the 1980s increased dramatically. Accordingly, in the mid-1980s the government made plans to expand Salah ad Din University in Irbil in the north and to establish Ar Rashid University outside Baghdad. The latter was not yet in existence in early 1988 but both were designed ultimately to accommodate 50,000 students. In addition, at the end of December 1987, the government announced plans to create four more universities: one in Tikrit in the central area, one each at Al Kufah and Al Qadisiyah in the south, and one at Al Anbar in the west. Details of these universities were not known.
With the outbreak of the war, the government faced a difficult dilemma regarding education. Despite the shortage of wartime manpower, the regime was unwilling to tap the pool of available university students, arguing that these young people were Iraq's hope for the future. As of early 1988, therefore, the government routinely exempted students from military service until graduation, a policy it has adhered to rigorously. This policy, however, has likely caused resentment among the poorer classes and those forced to serve multiple tours at the front because of continuing manpower shortages.
In the 1980s, almost all medical facilities continued to be controlled by the government, and most physicians were Ministry of Health officials. Curative and preventive services in the government-controlled hospitals and dispensaries and the services of government physicians were free of charge. The ministry included the directorates of health, preventive medicine, medical supplies, rural health services, and medical services. The inspector general of health, under the ministry, was charged with the enforcement of health laws and regulations. Private medical practice and private hospitals and clinics were subject to government supervision. In each province Ministry of Health functions were carried out by a chief medical officer who, before the war, frequently had a private practice to supplement his government salary. Provincial medical officers were occupied mainly with administrative duties in hospitals, clinics, and dispensaries. The work of medical officers in the rural areas before the war was seriously curtailed by lack of transportation.
One of the most serious problems facing the Ministry of Health in the prewar period was its shortage of trained personnel. The shortage was accentuated by the fact that most medical personnel tended to be concentrated in the major cities, such as Baghdad and Basra. Physicians trained at government expense were required to spend four years in the public health service, but they strongly resisted appointments to posts outside the cities and made every effort to return to Baghdad.
In 1983, the latest year for which statistics were available in early 1988, Baghdad Governorate, which had about 29 percent of the population, had nearly 37 percent of the country's hospital beds, 42 percent of the government clinics, and 38 percent of the paramedical personnel. The increasing number of clinics in the provinces, however, brought some rudimentary health care within reach of the rural population. At the same time, given the unsettled conditions in the Kurdish areas, it was likely that health care in the northern provinces had deteriorated since the start of the war.
Published information concerning sanitation and endemic diseases was scanty. Reportedly in the mid-1980s Iraq had a high incidence of trachoma, influenza, measles, whooping cough, and tuberculosis. Prior to the war, poor sanitation and polluted water sources were principal factors in the spread of disease. A large percentage of the population lived in villages and towns that have been along irrigation canals and rivers polluted with human and animal wastes. These waterways, along with the stagnant pools of water that sometimes constitute the village reservoir, were the major sources of drinking water and of water for bathing, laundering, and washing food. The periodic flooding of rivers contaminated water supplies and spread waterborne diseases.
The Tigris and Euphrates rivers and their tributaries serve as water sources for Baghdad and some of the major provincial towns. Irbil and As Sulaymaniyah, located in the northern mountains, have adequate supplies of spring water. In Basra, Mosul, and Kirkuk the water is stored in elevated tanks and chemically treated before distribution. In Baghdad the water is filtered, chlorinated, and piped into homes or to communal fountains located throughout the city. In the smaller towns, however, the water supply is unprotected and is only rarely tested for potability.
Iraq, with its socialist economy, pays considerable attention to welfare. This regard for social benefits has been increased by the war. No statistics were available in early 1988 by which to judge the scope of benefits paid by the government to its servicemen and their families. Nonetheless, journalistic reports indicated that martyrs' benefits--for the families of war dead-- and subsidies for young men who volunteer for service tended to be extremely generous. A family that had lost a son in the fighting could expect to be subsidized for life; in addition, it was likely to receive loans from the state bank on easy terms and gifts of real estate.
Minimal information was available in early 1988 concerning social welfare coverage. The most recent published data was that for 1983, when the government listed 824,560 workers covered by social security. In addition, pensions were paid to retirees and disabled persons as well as compensation to workers for maternity and sick leaves.
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Although a number of first rate military analyses of Iraq and the war have appeared since 1980, there has been little useful research on the social changes that were occurring. Much of the information that would make up such studies has been withheld by the government because of wartime censorship, and in some cases material that has been made available appears to be untrustworthy. A number of classics therefore continue to be required reading for those interested in the society of Iraq. Wilfred Thesiger's Marsh Arabs graphically depicts life among the southern Shias in the mid- and late 1950s. Robert Fernea's Shaikh and Effendi describes social conditions in the central Euphrates valley and Elizabeth Fernea's Guests of the Sheik deals with the role of women particularly. Classic historical treatments of the Kurdish question are found in Edmond Ghareeb's The Kurdish Question in Iraq and W. Jwaideh's The Kurdish National Movement. The latest work on the subject is The Kurds: An Unstable Element in the Gulf by Stephen Pelletiere. For an excellent treatment of the Baathist elite see The Old Social and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq by Hanna Batatu. Also on the same topic is Iraq: Eaastern Flank of the Arab World by Christine Helm. For the best all around treatment of Iraq in the recent period, see Phebe Marr's The Modern History of Iraq.
FOLLOWING THE 1968 Baath (Arab Socialist Resurrection) Party revolution, Iraq's government pursued a socialist economic policy. For more than a decade, the economy prospered, primarily because of massive infusions of cash from oil exports. Despite a quadrupling of imports between 1978 and 1980, Iraq continued to accrue current account surpluses in excess of US$10 billion per year. In 1980 on the eve of the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq held reserves estimated at US$35 billion. When Iraq launched the war against Iran in 1980, the Iraqis incorrectly calculated that they could force a quick Iranian capitulation and could annex Iranian territory at little cost in either men or money. Using a number of means, Iraq opted to keep the human costs of the war as low as possible, both on the battlefield and on the home front. In battle, Iraq attempted to keep casualties low by expending and by losing vast amounts of materiel. Behind the lines, Iraq attempted to insulate citizens from the effects of the war and to head off public protest in two ways. First, the government provided a benefits package worth tens of thousands of dollars to the surviving relatives of each soldier killed in action. The government also compensated property owners for the full value of property destroyed in the war. Second, the government adopted a "guns and butter" strategy. Along with the war, the government launched an economic development campaign of national scope, employing immigrant laborers to replace Iraqi fighting men.
In 1981, foreign expenditures not directly related to the war effort peaked at an all-time high of US$23.6 billion, as Iraq continued to import goods and services for the development effort, and construction continued unabated. Additionally, Iraq was paying an estimated US$25 million per day to wage the war. Although the Persian Gulf states contributed US$5 billion toward the war effort from 1980 to 1981, Iraq raised most of the money needed for war purposes by drawing down its reserves over several years. Iraq could not replenish its reserves because most of its oil terminals were destroyed by Iran in the opening days of the war. Iraqi exports dropped by 60 percent in 1981, and they were cut further in 1982 when Syria, acting in accord with Iran, closed the vital Iraqi oil export pipeline running through Syrian territory.
The total cost of the war to Iraq's economy was difficult to measure. A 1987 study by the Japanese Institute of Middle Eastern Economies estimated total Iraqi war losses from 1980 to 1985 at US$226 billion. This figure was disaggregated into US$120.8 billion in gross domestic product lost in the oil sector, US$64 billion GDP lost in the nonoil sector, US$33 billion lost in destroyed materiel, and US$8.2 billion lost in damage to non-oil sector fixed capital investment. Included in the lost GDP was US$65.5 in lost oil revenues and US$43.4 billion in unrealized fixed capital investment.
As the 1980s progressed, the Iran-Iraq conflict evolved into a protracted war of attrition, in which Iran threatened to overwhelm Iraq by sheer economic weight and manpower. Although Iraq implemented some cost-cutting measures, the government feared that an austerity plan would threaten its stability, so it turned to outside sources to finance the war. Iraq's Persian Gulf neighbors assumed a larger share of the economic burden of the war, but as the price of oil skidded in the mid-1980s, this regional support of Iraq diminished. For the first time, Iraq turned to Western creditors to finance its deficit spending. Iraq's leadership calculated correctly that foreign lenders, both government and private, would be willing to provide loans and trade credit to preserve their access to the Iraqi economy, which would emerge as a major market and an oil supplier after the war. But the sustained slump in oil prices made foreign creditors more skeptical of Iraq's long-term economic prospects, and some lenders apparently concluded that providing more loans to Iraq amounted to throwing good money after bad. Some creditors were also wary of Iraq's postwar prospects because of Iranian demands for tens of billions of dollars in reparations as the price for any peace settlement. Although Iraq would probably pay only a fraction of the reparations demanded (and that, most likely, with the help of other Persian Gulf countries), a large settlement would nonetheless delay Iraq's postwar economic recovery.
In 1988, as the war entered its eighth year and Iraq's debt topped US$50 billion, the government was implementing comprehensive economic reforms it had announced in 1987. Iraq's new economic policy was designed to reverse twenty years of socialism by relinquishing considerable state control over the economy to the private sector. It was not immediately clear if this move would result in a fundamental and enduring restructuring of Iraq's economy, or if it was merely a stopgap measure to boost productivity, to cut costs, to tap private sector savings, and to reassure Western creditors.
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