Iraq is situated in West Asia and has a population of approximately 38 million. It shares its borders with Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. Much of the landscape is desert, however the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers contribute to a significant amount of fertile land. The region between these two rivers has often been considered as the cradle of civilisation.
Iraq was recognised as an independent nation in 1932. Today the country’s economy is dominated by demand for oil and is responsible for producing 95 percent of foreign earnings. However, it generates very few employment opportunities for locals. Corruption is believed to be widespread in all areas of public life.
In recent years there has been chaos within the country enabling terrorist groups such as ISIS and Da’esh to flourish. The insurgent Islamic groups have targeted Christians with kidnapping, killing and destroying churches and communities. As a result, many people have fled the country and appealed for refugee status throughout the world.
There is a sizeable Iraqi community in Australia and it is extremely diverse. The resettlement of Iraqis who have fled their home country remains a priority within Australia’s offshore Humanitarian Programme. There is a strong representation of minority groups and many would identify as Christian. Some people prefer to be recognised by their ethnicity rather than their country of birth. Iraqis are mainly employed in either a skilled managerial, professional or trade occupation. The perception of honour regulates culture.
As with most other Middle Eastern countries Iraq is a collectivist society. A family is defined by their reputation, status and honour. The interests of the family supersede the individual and elders are deeply respected. Wealthy individuals are expected to assist less fortunate family members by sharing assets and providing job opportunities. Misbehaviour by women is deemed to be more dishonourable than men. Parents may quickly change between doting praise of young children and strong reprimands and punishment for misbehaviour.
The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish. Smaller proportions of people speak Assyrian, Chaldean, SabeanMandaean Turkmen (Turkish dialect), Yazidi, Armenian and others.
Islam became the dominant religion of Iraq in 634 AD. At the beginning of the twentieth century there was believed to be up to 1.4 million Christians living in Iraq. This number has now been reduced to 250,000.
Modern day Iraq has a diverse number of ethnic groups with 99 percent of the current population identifying as Muslim.
If you are a woman greeting another woman make eye contact and smile, even if you can only see their eyes. There is no physical contact between members of the opposite gender. Verbal recognition is given, and a nod of the head may also be used to acknowledge and greet members of the opposite sex. If an individual wants to express sincerity, they may do this by placing their hand on their heart whilst making eye contact.
People are very hospitable and generous. It is considered more honouring for them to invite someone to their home than to be invited. When visiting an Iraqi in their home, it is likely that you will be offered tea and food to eat. It is polite to lightly protest this gesture. Once your host insists that you accept their offer, it is then considered appropriate to accept. If you are serving food to an Iraqi make it clear that the food is halal.
Don’t offer too much admiration towards a portable item in a person’s home as they may feel obliged to offer it to you. Be careful about being too complimentary with your Iraqi neighbour. Iraqis believe that flattery and praise can put them in danger from the ‘evil eye’. This is especially important when there is a new baby. Give praise to the mother rather than the baby.