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Iraq - Major World Religions2

Iraq - Largest Religious Groups2

  Preferred Religion (2015)1: Muslim

  Majority Religion (2015)2: Shia Muslim (60.5%)

Religious Adherents, (2015)2

Iraq Western Asia World
Muslim 98.06% 88.84% 22.98%
  • Shiite
  • 60.47% 25.04% 3.44%
  • Sunni
  • 36.79% 61.96% 19.28%
    Christian 1.08% 5.79% 29.88%
  • Catholic
  • 0.73% 2.16% 14.95%
  • Orthodox
  • 0.2% 3.42% 3.05%
  • Protestant
  • 0.13% 0.18% 9.58%
    Not Religious 0.67% 1.4% 12.1%
  • Unspecified Not Religious
  • 0.49% 1.26% 10.11%
  • Atheist
  • 0.18% 0.14% 1.97%
    Mandaean 0.15% 0.02% %
    Sikh 0.02% 0.09% 0.36%
    Hindu 0.01% 0.78% 14.55%
    Bahai 0.01% 0.06% 0.11%

    Religious Demography3

    Due to increased violence, internal population migration, and lack of governmental capacity, religious demography statistics varied. Numbers are often estimates from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) rather than census data or other official sources.

    The country has an area of 437,072 square miles and a population of 28.2 million. Ninety-five percent of the population is Muslim. Shi'a Muslims – predominantly Arabs, but also including Turkmen, Faili (Shi'a) Kurds, and other groups – constitute a 60 to 65 percent majority. Sunni Muslims make up 32 to 37 percent of the population, where 18 to 20 percent of the population are Sunni Kurds, 12 to 16 percent are Sunni Arabs, and the remaining 1 to 2 percent are Sunni Turkmen. The remaining five percent of the population is comprised of Christians, Yezidis, Sabean-Mandaeans, Baha'is, Shabaks, Kaka'is (sometimes referred to as Ahl-e Haqq), and a very small number Jews. Shi'a, although predominantly located in the south and east, are also a majority in Baghdad and have communities in most parts of the country. Sunnis form the majority in the west, center, and the north of the country.

    Reported estimates of the Christian population in 2003 range from 800,000 to 1.2 million. Current population estimates range from 550,000 to 800,000. Approximately two-thirds of Christians in the country are Chaldeans (an eastern rite of the Catholic Church), nearly one-third are Assyrians (Church of the East), and the remainder are Syriacs (Eastern Orthodox), Armenians (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox), Anglicans, and other Protestants. Most Assyrian Christians are found in the north, and most Syriac Christians are split between Baghdad, Kirkuk, and the Ninewa province. It is estimated that as much as 50 percent of the country's Christian population live in Baghdad, and between 30 and 40 percent live in the north, with the largest Christian communities there located in and around Mosul, Erbil, Dohuk, and Kirkuk. The Archbishop of the Armenian Diocese reported that 15,000 to 16,000 Armenian Christians remained in the country, primarily in the cities of Baghdad, Basrah, Kirkuk, and Mosul. It was reported that evangelical Christians number between 5,000 and 6,000. They can be found in the northern part of the country, as well as in Baghdad. A very small number reside in Basrah.

    Yezidi leaders reported that most of the country's 500,000 to 600,000 Yezidis resided in the north, near Dohuk and Mosul. Shabak leaders stated there are 200,000 to 500,000 Shabaks, who reside mainly in the north near Mosul. The Sabean-Mandaean community continued to decline; according to Sabean-Mandaean leaders, 3,500 to 5,000 remained in the country, down from an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 in the previous reporting period. The Baha'i leadership reported their members number less than 2,000 and are spread throughout the country in small groups. Fewer than 10 Jews remain in Baghdad; a sizable portion of this community, which once had a significant presence in the country, left in the years immediately following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

    In June 2008 the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that 2.3 to 2.5 million citizens have fled the country since the spring of 2003. In April 2008 the Office of the U.N High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that in Syria 55.7 percent of registered Iraqi refugees were Sunni, 20.2 percent were Shi'a, 16 percent were Christian, 4.3 percent were Sabean-Mandaean, and 0.8 percent were Yezidi. For Jordan the UNHCR's figures for registered Iraqi refugees were 47 percent Sunni, 28 percent Shi'a, 16 percent Christian, and 6 percent Sabean-Mandaean. There were no figures provided on the number of Iraqi Yezidis in Jordan. In August 2008 the IOM reported that there are an estimated 2.8 million internally displaced persons in the country, 1.6 million of whom were displaced after the al-Askariya mosque bombing in February 2006. An esti


    1.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Government Religious Preference (GRP) measures government-level favoritism toward, and disfavor against, 30 religious denominations. A series of ordered categorical variables index the state's institutional favoritism in 28 different ways. The variables are combined to form five composite indices for five broad components of state-religion: official status, religious education, financial support, regulatory burdens, and freedom of practice. The five components' composites in turn are further combined into a single composite score, the GRP score. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson, the principal investigator of the World Christian Database, the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database, and co-author of the World Christian Encyclopedia series.

    2.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Demographics reports annual estimates of religious demographics, both country by country and region by region. It estimates populations and percentages of adherents of 100 religious denominations including second level subdivisions within Christianity and Islam. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson, the principal investigator of the World Christian Database, the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database, and co-author of the World Christian Encyclopedia series.

    3.  The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report is submitted to Congress annually by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. This report supplements the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom. It includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. These State Department reports are open source.

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