Research in Social and Economic Change in Iraq

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During ancient times, lands that now constitute Iraq were known as Mesopotamia (“Land Between the Rivers”), a region whose extensive alluvial plains gave rise to some of the world’s earliest civilizations, including those of Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, and Assyria. This wealthy region, comprising much of what is called the Fertile Crescent, later became a valuable part of larger imperial polities, including sundry Persian, Greek, and Roman dynasties, and after the 7th century it became a central and integral part of the Islamic world. Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, became the capital of the ʿAbbāsid caliphate in the 8th century. The modern nation-state of Iraq was created following World War I (1914–18) from the Ottoman provinces of Baghdad, Al-Baṣrah, and Mosul and derives its name from the Arabic term used in the premodern period to describe a region that roughly corresponded to Mesopotamia (ʿIrāq ʿArabī, “Arabian Iraq”) and modern northwestern Iran (ʿIrāq ʿajamī, “foreign [i.e., Persian] Iraq”).

Iraq gained formal independence in 1932 but remained subject to British imperial influence during the next quarter century of turbulent monarchical rule. Political instability on an even greater scale followed the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958, but the installation of an Arab nationalist and socialist regime—the Baʿth Party—in a bloodless coup 10 years later brought new stability. With proven oil reserves second in the world only to those of Saudi Arabia, the regime was able to finance ambitious projects and development plans throughout the 1970s and to build one of the largest and best-equipped armed forces in the Arab world. The party’s leadership, however, was quickly assumed by Saddam Hussein, a flamboyant and ruthless autocrat who led the country into disastrous military adventures—the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88) and the Persian Gulf War (1990–91). These conflicts left the country isolated from the international community and financially and socially drained, but—through unprecedented coercion directed at major sections of the population, particularly the country’s disfranchised Kurdish minority and the Shīʿite majority—Saddam himself was able to maintain a firm hold on power into the 21st century. He and his regime were toppled in 2003 during the Iraq War.

In order to understand the change in Iraq, we need to talk about the Baath Party, which has been in power for 35 years. Under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, the Baathist Party was the main actor in this change. The idea of ​​Ba'ath in neighboring Syria seized power in Syria in 1963 and in Iraq in 1968. The seizure of the Iraqi Ba'ath Party in power has not been easy and it has many difficulties. Since the Iraqi Ba'ath Party took power in 1968, it has carried out many policies and deeply influenced Iraqi politics. Although the Baath regime ended in Iraq in 2003 with the US invasion, its influence has been felt in Iraq until today.

The ideology of the Baath Party is a secular, nationalist, pragmatic and inclusive ideology rather than Muslim Arabism. The slogan of the party is Muslim Unity, freedom and socialism. If we look at the basic movements of the Baath Movement, creating a single Arab nation has the main headings such as securing the Arab world from the foreign yoke by making socialism, opposing imperialism and colonialism with the policy of non-connection. Saddam Hussein was born in Tikrit on April 28, 1937, and became a member of the Baath Party in 1957. After taking part in the assassination team against General Kasım in 1959, he lived in exile in Damascus and Cairo. After the 1963 coup, he returned to Iraq but after the liquidation of the Baathists he was imprisoned and fled. Saddam Hussein, who played an important role in the underground organization until 1968, was able to rise to important positions of the Baath Party with his relationship and his work. This experience will later carry him to the Iraqi leadership. In summary, Iraq gained its independence in 1932. For 40 years in Iraq, the Ba'ath Party dominated. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, which has led the country since 1968, is opening a new era in the history of the country.

Social Structure of Iraq

Iraq has an estimated population of 39.34 million, which ranks 38th in the world. The capital and largest city, Baghdad, has a population of just over 6 million. Modern Iraq, created by combining three separate Ottoman provinces in the aftermath of World War I, is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse societies in the Middle East. Although Iraq’s communities generally coexisted peacefully, fault lines between communities deepened in the 20th century as a succession of authoritarian regimes ruled by exploiting tribal, sectarian, and ethnic divisions. Almost 75% of Iraq's population is made up of the dominant ethnic group -- the Iraqi or Mesopotamian Arabs. Other major ethnic groups include the Jurds (17%), Turkmen (3%), Assyrians (2%), and Persians (2%). The official language in Iraq is Arabic, which is understood almost universally, although 10-15% of the population also speaks Kurdish (also used in official work). Islam is by far the most common religion at 95% of the population. Non-Muslims, mostly Assyrian Christians, make up 5% of the population.

In Iraqi society, there are effectively three classes: the higher class, composed of well-known, influential families; the middle class, composed of government employees, prosperous merchants, the military, and so on; and the lower class, comprising the peasants and laborers. Marriage is expected of everyone. Children belong to their father’s family, and he is automatically awarded custody in divorce cases. Iraq is one of the more progressive Muslim countries, women have been able to pursue careers and maintain a family. Public dress is less restricting. Education has always been available to women of the upper classes. Financial power is in the hands of the men, although women exercise great power over the home and the children. Most educated Iraqis will have at least a limited ability to speak English, although it might turn out that they read much more than they can say or understand.

In the previous period, characterized by political conflicts and rigid security measures, there were a series of attacks and attacks. This situation also affected social life. The new ruling party that ruled the country after the coup, made many reforms in social life. There has been a great increase in the quality of social services offered to the Iraqi people in the 1970s, which can be considered as the country's development years. Free education was provided in Iraq, the first phase of education was made compulsory and literacy campaign was started. In addition, many new universities and scientific institutes were established and Iraq was almost transformed into a development base.

In the same period, with the opening of a large number of hospitals and expanding health insurance to all Iraqis, Iraq also experienced a great improvement in the field of health. Due to this, health problems, especially infant deaths, have declined considerably, and the rates of beds and doctors in hospitals have increased. There were rapid progress and progress in the social services offered to poor families, the disabled and the elderly.

A period of stagnation and tension has begun in Iraq, which has allocated its entire budget to war with the war it has waged against Iran. Thus, by the 1990s, especially after the 1991 Gulf War, the quality of the services provided to the citizens and the humanitarian situation in the country worsened considerably. After eight years of Iran-Iraq War, nearly one million women widows and two million children were orphans. In the years following the embargo between 1990-2003, the humanitarian losses suffered by Iraq increased.

The embargo affected social and economic life negatively. Infant mortality rates have increased and fatal diseases have increased. While the prevalence of schooling and education was 90% in the country prior to the embargo, this rate declined to 10% due to impossibilities, immigration or killing of education cadres. Again, health infrastructure was widespread in the country by 80%, and after the embargo and the subsequent 2003 invasion, the health infrastructure became unable to meet even 15% of the total need.

Iraqi civilians were the most affected by the negative impacts of this negativity in the country, where the living conditions decreased, the poverty and crime rates increased, the economic opportunities decreased, the health and education level decreased and the death incidents were increased due to the shortage of food and medicine. Iraq, which has reached the highest levels of growth and development in the past, has experienced a decline in all areas since 1991. After the American occupation in 2003, the humanitarian situation in Iraq has become worse. During this period, the country started to have hunger problems, it was impossible to claim widows and orphans and 5 million people had to migrate to different regions and countries. In Iraq, which has started to re-use its assets in the recent period, the increase in oil prices and the re-operation of state-owned institutions have enabled a small recovery in the country's economy. However, since the beginning of 2015, the decline in oil prices and the new conflict that DAESH has created has sabotaged this revival. This invasion of the organization has displaced nearly 4 million Iraqis without homeless, and there have been asylum-seekers in northern Iraq or other provinces.

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Since 2014, ISIS forces have committed various human rights violations and committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN mandatory International Independent Investigation Commission (COI) blames ISIS forces for genocide actions. ISIS trained many suicide bombers and child soldiers in order to come to power. After that, he made a lot of massacres. The Code of Ethics was subjected to violent restraints and penalties, including the execution of homosexual men in the areas under control, stoning of adulterers, the prohibition of the use of mobile phones and cigarettes. It brought serious restrictions on women's and girls' clothes and freedom of movement. They aimed to isolate women from social life and succeeded. ISIS taxed families living under their control, confiscating people's assets. ISIS has destroyed mosques, temples, churches, statues, tombs and other religious and archaeological sites in all areas under its control, and valuable cultural monuments have been looted and sold to finance its activities.

The Economic Structure of Iraq

Iraq's economy is based on oil. Crude oil exports accounted for 60 percent of national income and 90 percent of public revenues. Iraq is a member of OPEC. Iraq is the fourth largest oil conglomerate in the world. Iraq's most important export item is oil. Iraq's GDP is $ 192.7 billion. Real GDP growth rate is 1.1. The unemployment rate is 16 percent. Iraq experienced economic growth in 2016. The reason for this is the increase in oil prices and financial stability. The stability experienced in the period between 1975 and 1980 enabled the state to implement giant economic projects for development. With this development plan, the living standards of Iraqi society increased; factories were established, and the economic infrastructure of Iraq was strengthened with road and dam construction. Specialized hospitals were established and the insurance system was designed to enable all citizens to receive free health care. In addition, the rise in oil prices after the Arab-Israeli War in 1973 was in favor of the Iraqi state. But this did not take much time. The fact that the Tehran administration supported the Iraqi Shiite parties and created security weakness in Iraq after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 changed Iran's priorities. The war that broke out between the two countries in 1980 and continued for eight years, leading to the death of more than one million people from both sides, led to the collapse of the Iraqi economy and a large amount of debt to Iraq's Gulf states.

The Iran-Iraq War represents the beginning of the economic and social collapse of the Iraqi people. With the war, most of the major projects carried out in the country have stopped and the budget and reserves of Iraq have started to melt. As a result, the high cost of war has led to a significant decline in the country's overall economic situation. The cost of the war with Iran brought Iraq almost to the brink of bankruptcy. Saddam Hussein's administration called on Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to demand the cancellation of debts. When this demand was rejected, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, citing Kuwait as part of Iraq in the Ottoman period. The invasion of oil-rich Kuwait, not only the international system but also the other oil countries in the region, panicked and created a large international alliance to remove the Iraqi army from Kuwait.

The Iraqi embargo is the sum of economic and commercial sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council on the Iraqi nation. The sanctions, which were put into force on August 6, 1990, four days after Iraq invaded Kuwait, continued after the Gulf War. On 22 May 2003, after the Iraq War, the country was occupied and repealed by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein regime. The main purpose of the embargo was the withdrawal of the Iraqi Armed Forces, which invaded Kuwait, although it was used as a threat for the payment of the war compensation and the liquidation of the alleged mass destruction weapons in accordance with the Kuwaiti government's request. The following years were the beginning of the most difficult times in the history of the country for the Iraqi regime and its people. Practices such as economic embargo, air strikes to bring the regime, military pressures, and Iraq under the Security Council, have turned into a complete demolition project. This decision stipulated the sale of Iraqi oil by the Security Council and the funding of the Iraqi people's food and health needs with the funds generated from their revenues. However, the practice was to prevent the Baghdad government from gaining strength and gaining any source of income that would help it overcome the crisis. This was followed by Iraq's process of paying huge amounts of compensation and compensating for material damage. After the redrawing of the borders with Kuwait, a part of the Baghdad government's oil regions were given to Kuwait before 1990

A period of stagnation and tension has begun in Iraq, which has allocated its entire budget to war with the war it has waged against Iran. Thus, by the 1990s, especially after the 1991 Gulf War, the quality of the services provided to the citizens and the humanitarian situation in the country worsened considerably. After eight years of Iran-Iraq War, nearly one million women widows and two million children were orphans. In the years following the embargo between 1990-2003, the humanitarian losses suffered by Iraq increased. With the economic embargo of Western countries and the war that started in the aftermath, the devastation of the infrastructure of the Iraqi economy, high inflation and the shortage in foodstuffs, the decrease in the value of Iraqi dinar and so on. all factors were the major factors in the decline of the social and human situation in Iraq. The average annual income of Iraq was $ 90 billion before the war and embargoes, and this figure fell to 25 billion with embargos. This indicated three-quarters poverty in the wealth of all people and the state.

While the poverty rate in the country before the embargo did not exceed 10%, this ratio reached 60% in the late 1990s. This means an almost sixfold increase. Before the embargo, the unemployment rate in Iraq, which is one of the most vibrant economies in the Middle East, did not exceed 7%. While the rate of access to clean drinking water was 85%, it decreased to 40% after the embargoes. After the American occupation in 2003, the humanitarian situation in Iraq has become worse. In the country where the infrastructure is almost completely collapsed, only 33 of the 177 treatment facilities were operating, and millions of homes could not be supplied with electricity. In this period, the country started a hunger problem, it was impossible to claim widows and orphans and 5 million people had to migrate to different regions and countries.

In the early years of the American occupation, there were even more major demolitions in the health sector, social space and economic life due to the ongoing security problems in the cities that were resisting the occupation - especially in the Sunni areas of Iraq. In Iraq, which has started to re-use its assets in the recent period, the increase in oil prices and the re-operation of state-owned institutions have enabled a small recovery in the country's economy. However, since the beginning of 2015, the decline in oil prices and the new conflict which DAESH created has sabotaged this revival. The Iraqi government spent more than $ 100 billion on the fight against ISIS, which lasted for about 3.5 years. This figure almost corresponds to the annual budget of Iraq. In 2014, which was the end of Nuri al-Maliki's prime ministerial term, before the ISIS intervention, a deficit of approximately $ 64 billion was revealed in the Iraqi budget. With this in mind, there is a serious economic burden for the Iraqi government, given the $ 100 billion figure to fight ISIS. This economic burden is growing even more when restructuring efforts are taken into account because of the damage caused by the war. Estimated figures suggest that more than $ 100 billion is needed to restructure Iraq. 96% of Iraq's income is generated by energy sources, particularly oil. However, due to the war with ISIS in Iraq, the oil infrastructure has been severely damaged. By the end of 2017, it was possible to return to the ISIS before the end of the struggle period. However, in order to increase the energy-based incomes, there is a need for investments and infrastructure works on energy. Therefore, it would not be wrong to say that Iraq has entered a serious economic downturn. Although the Iraqi government has implemented a number of public expenditures (such as the use of vehicles, reduction in the number of protections) and salaries in order to eliminate economic problems, these measures are not capable of solving the economic problems of Iraq. However, it does not seem possible for Iraq to overcome these problems by itself. As a matter of fact, the 8 Iraqi Donors Conference ’will be held in Kuwait on 8-12 February 2018 under the leadership of the United Nations and the World Bank. Thus, international support will be provided in the process of the reconstruction of Iraq.

The fact that this humanitarian crisis was in tune with the ongoing crisis in Syria and other political and security problems experienced by the region has led to the limited support of foreign aid and only a part of the needs of these people. The statistic shows the growth in real GDP in Iraq between 2012 to 2017, with projections up until 2022. In 2017, Iraq’s real gross domestic product decreased by around 2.06 percent compared to the previous year. GDP is a reliable tool used to indicate the shape of a national economy. It is one of the most well-known and well-understood measurements of the state of a country. Gross domestic product, or GDP, is the total market value of all final services and goods that have been produced in a country within a given period of time, usually a year. This statistic shows the average inflation rate in Iraq from 2012 to 2017, with projections up until 2022. In 2017, the average inflation rate in Iraq amounted to about 0.1 percent compared to the previous year.


Iraq has faced many problems since its establishment. The multinational and multi-sectarian structure is one of them. The power struggle between nations and sects is present in every period of Iraq. This struggle deeply influenced and directed Iraq's social, economic and political structure. Iraq increased its importance after the 1st World War. This is due to the oil deposits in and around the environment. Therefore, it attracted the attention of the colonialist states. The British invaded Iraq. This situation led to the uprising of nationalist groups. In 1945, Iraq won its independence. Although Iraq gained its independence, it was ruled by a pro-British power group. In 1958 the kingdom regime was destroyed and the republic was declared. In 1963, the Baath Party seized power by a group.

The Ba'ath Party implemented iron fist politics against all political rivals operating in the political arena. The party initially liquidated itself and liquidated its associates and led a wave of arrests and execution involving all political opponents, including the left represented by the Islamists and the left represented by the communist parties. In these years, many politicians were forced to leave the country to save their lives.

1975-1980 was a period of improvement in terms of economic and social life. The increase in oil prices at that time contributed greatly to Iraq's economy. But the bilateral struggle between Iraq and Iran has changed Iraq's priorities. During this period, the economy weakened. Social life began to turn slowly into its old days. But the real strike came with the Gulf war that started in 1990. Iraq was embargoed and Iraq entered into a period of collapse after the pause. Iraq was a country of complete chaos. In 2003, Iraq entered a different period with the occupation of America. The US occupied Iraq without the United Nations decision. Saddam Hussein, who was captured under operation on 14 December 2003 after the 2003 invasion of the United States, was tried and sentenced to death. This decision was made in an American camp on 30 December 2006 in Kazımiye. Thus, a period in the Arab world has ended.

This occupation brought together sectarian conflicts along with chaos. A new problem arose in Iraq and the surrounding region, which began to eradicate the effects of the occupation in 2015. ISIS terrorist organization has violently swept the region. Iraq is one of the largest countries in the region. Iraq gained momentum in 2016 with the increase in oil prices but entered into a struggle again. ISIS, which has changed its social life as well as its economic loss, still maintains its existence.

In summary, Iraq has never seen a stable power throughout its history. It is a constant struggle because of the problems of the region and the groups within Iraq. Therefore, it has developed from time to time in terms of economic and social life. However, the country in some way returned to the old days.


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