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Info4Migrants
IRAQ
Country profile
Project number: UK/13/LLP-LdV/TOI-615
437,072 km2
36,004 mln
POPULATION
GDPper capita
CURRENCY
$6,900
Languages ARABIC, KURDISH
Iraqi dinar (IQD)
Official name: Republic of Iraq (Al-Jumhuriya al-Iraqiya).
Location: Iraq is located in the Middle East at the northern-
m...
IRAQ FACTS
Language
According to the constitution of 2005, the two official lan-
guages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish, wh...
Capital
The population of Baghdad, as of 2011, is approximate-
ly 7,216,040, making it the largest city in Iraq, the secon...
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein (1937 – 2006) was the fifth President of
Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 un...
1 January: New Year’s Day
Iraq takes part in the interna-
tional celebration of the first
day of the Gregorian calendar.
M...
HISTORY IN BRIEF
• Formerly a part of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was occupied by Britain during World War I.
• In 1920, it w...
INTERESTING FACTS
9
• Approximately half of Iraq is covered by
inhospitable desert Traditionally, marriag-
es in Iraq are ...
Hospitality is considered a highly admired asset to the Iraqis. Iraqis are known for being
very generous and polite, espec...
The main ingredient of Tepsi Baytinijan, an Iraqi casserole, is aubergine, which are sliced
and fried before placing in a ...
Meeting and Greeting
• Men do not touch women unless they
are first-degree relatives (wives, mothers,
daughters, or sister...
IMPORTANT TIPS
Dress
The dress in Iraq is varied as many people
today wear western-styled clothing. Howev-
er, the majorit...
IMPORTANT TIPS
Dining Etiquette
When eating in Iraq, there are a few eti-
quette rules you must know and follow. If
you ge...
ETIQUETTE AND CUSTOMS
Humor
Irony, sarcasm and self-depreciation are all
styles of humor that can easily cause mis-
unders...
General Rules
Do be prepared for people to smoke in dif-
ferent venues.
Do give women the opportunity to avoid
physical co...
Don’t engage in religious discussions.
Don’t make the “OK” or “Thumbs Up”
sign; they are considered obscene.
Don’t praise ...
BUSINESS ETIQUETTE
Meeting and Greeting
• Iraqi businesspeople are relatively formal
in their business dealings.
• The com...
The family is the most important social unit in Iraq, and family loyalty is one of the
most important values. Honor, both ...
Cultural heritage
Iraq has one of the world’s oldest cultural
histories. Iraq is where the Ancient Meso-
potamian civiliza...
Women in Iraq
During the Iran-Iraq War, with so many men fighting in the military, women were required
to study in fields ...
Veronica Gelfgren
Yulia Bazyukina
Marja-Liisa Helenius
Research
Research, layout
Proofreading
www.thelanguagemenu.com
Lear...
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I4M Country profile iraq (in english)

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The document was created for the Project Info4migrants. Project number: UK/13/LLP-LdV/TOI-615

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I4M Country profile iraq (in english)

  1. 1. Info4Migrants IRAQ Country profile Project number: UK/13/LLP-LdV/TOI-615
  2. 2. 437,072 km2 36,004 mln POPULATION GDPper capita CURRENCY $6,900 Languages ARABIC, KURDISH Iraqi dinar (IQD)
  3. 3. Official name: Republic of Iraq (Al-Jumhuriya al-Iraqiya). Location: Iraq is located in the Middle East at the northern- most extent of the Persian Gulf, north of Saudi Arabia, west of Iran, east of Syria, and south of Turkey. Capital: Baghdad Climate: mostly desert; mild to cool winters with dry, hot, cloudless summers; northern mountainous regions along Ira- nian and Turkish borders experience cold winters with occa- sionally heavy snows Ethnic Make-up: Arab 75%-80%, Kurdish 15%-20%, Turkoman, Assyrian, or other 5% Religions: Muslim 97%, Christian or other 3% (Christian 0.8%, Hindu <1%, Buddhist <1%, Jewish <1%) Government: parliamentary democracy National Flag Coat of Arms COUNTRY BACKGROUND IRAQ SAUDI ARABIA SYRIA IRAN Baghdad 3 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  4. 4. IRAQ FACTS Language According to the constitution of 2005, the two official lan- guages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish, which is official in regions with a Kurdish majority. Turkmen and Assyrian neo- Aramaic also are official languages in regions where they are spoken. The two main regional dialects of Arabic spoken in Iraq are Mesopotamian (spoken by about 11.5 million) and North Mesopotamian (spoken by about 5.4 million). Other languages in Iraq are Armenian, Azeri, and Chaldean Neo-Ar- amaic. Religion The constitution of 2005 guarantees freedom of religion but specifies that no law may be enacted that is contrary to the teachings of Islam, the state religion. Some 97 per- cent of Iraq’s population is Muslim. Of that number, 60 to 65 percent is Shia and 32 to 37 percent Sunni. Although the Shias have constituted more than half of Iraq’s pop- ulation throughout the twentieth century, until 2005 all governments excluded them from proportional political power. The Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein systematical- ly repressed the Shias. In 1991, a Shia revolt in southern Iraq brought mass executions and further alienation, and in the post-Hussein era, the Shia–Sunni split remains a key political factor. The Kurds are predominantly Sunni but ethnically different from the Arab Sunnis and of a less militant religious orientation. Flag The flag of Iraq consists of three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black with three green, five-point- ed stars centered in the white band. The phrase “Allahu Akbar” (“God Is Great”) also appears in Arabic script in the white band with the word Allahu to the left of the center star and the word Akbar to the right of that star. 4 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  5. 5. Capital The population of Baghdad, as of 2011, is approximate- ly 7,216,040, making it the largest city in Iraq, the second largest city in the Arab world (after Cairo, Egypt), and the second largest city in Western Asia (after Tehran, Iran). Located along the Tigris River, the city was founded in the 8th century and became the capital of the Abbasid Caliph- ate. Baghdad evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual center for the Islamic world. This, in addi- tion to housing several key academic institutions (e.g. House of Wisdom), garnered the city a worldwide reputation as the “Center of Learning”. Throughout the High Middle Ages, Baghdad was considered to be the largest city in the world with an estimated population of 1,200,000 people. The city was largely destroyed at the hands of the Mon- gol Empire in 1258, resulting in a decline that would linger through many centuries due to frequent plagues and mul- tiple successive empires. With the recognition of Iraq as an independent state in 1938, Baghdad gradually regained some of its former prominence as a significant center of Arab culture. IRAQ FACTS 5 Family and Honour Iraqis consider family and honour to be of paramount im- portance. The extended family or tribe is both a political and social force. Families hold their members responsible for their conduct, since any wrongdoing brings shame to the entire family. Loyalty to the family comes before other social relationships, even business. Nepotism is not viewed negatively; in Iraqi culture, it naturally makes more sense to offer jobs to family as they are trusted. It is common for large extended families to live in the same house, compound, or village. In urban areas, families do not necessarily live in the same house, although they generally live on the same street or suburb. 5 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  6. 6. Saddam Hussein Saddam Hussein (1937 – 2006) was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003. A leading member of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, and later, the Baghdad-based Ba’ath Party – which espoused ba’athism, a mix of Arab nationalism and Arab socialism — Saddam played a key role in the 1968 coup (later referred to as the 17 July Revolution) that brought the party to power in Iraq. Saddam formally rose to power in 1979, although he had been the de facto head of Iraq for several years prior. He suppressed several movements, par- ticularly Shi’a and Kurdish movements, seeking to overthrow the government or gain independence, and maintained power during the Iran–Iraq War and the Gulf War. In 2003, a coalition led by the US and UK invaded Iraq to depose Saddam, who was accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction and having ties to al-Qaeda. The trial of Saddam took place under the Iraqi interim government and he was sentenced to death and executed on 30 December 2006. IRAQ FACTS Hospitality Hospitality is an Arab and Muslim tradition deeply en- grained in the culture. Visitors are treated as kings and must always be fed and looked after. A tradition within Islam actually stipulates someone is allowed to stay in your home for 3 days before you can question why they are staying and when they will leave. Invitations to a home must be seen as a great honour and never turned down. 6 Cuneiform The oldest known writing system developed in Iraq around 3200 B.C. Known as cuneiform, it used about 600 signs in- stead of an alphabet. Each sign stood for a word or a sylla- ble. 6 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  7. 7. 1 January: New Year’s Day Iraq takes part in the interna- tional celebration of the first day of the Gregorian calendar. Moveable date in winter: Milad Un Nabi It is the observance of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad 6 January: Armed Forces Day This day marks the anniversa- ry of the activation of the Iraqi Army on 6 January, 1921. 21 March: Nowruz (Iraqi Kurdistan only) Nowruz marks the first day of spring or Equinox and the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar. 9 April: Liberation Day On this day the country was freed from the Saddam Hus- sein regime. 17 April: FAO Day Food and Agriculture Organi- zation Day (FAO) is celebrated in Iraq to mark the organiza- tion’s goal of assuring food security. 1 May: Labour Day May 1 is considered as the Labour Day by almost all the nations of the world, and Iraq is not an exception. 14 July: Republic Day 14 July 1958 is the day the Hashemite monarchy was overthrown in Iraq by popular forces led by Abdul Karim Kas- sem, who became the nation’s new leader. Moveable date in summer: Eid al-Fitr (3 days) The holiday celebrates the conclusion of the 29 or 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the entire month of Ramadan. 27 July: 1991 Shiite Rebellion This day commemorated the Shiite upraisal against the Hussein regime in 1991. 8 August: Ceasefire Day This day marks the end of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) also known as the Imposed War and Holy Defense in Iran and the first Gulf War in the Arab World. Moveable date in autumn: Eid al-Adha (4 days) It honors the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his prom- ised son, Ismail, as an act of submission to God’s com- mand. 3 October: National Iraqi Day In 1932, in accordance with a treaty between Great Britain and Iraq, Iraq gained indepen- dence and joined the League of Nations. Moveable date in autumn or winter: Hijri New Year The first Islamic year begin- ning in 622 AD during which the emigration of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina took place is known as the Hijra. Moveable date in autumn: Ashaura For Shi’a Muslims the Ashura is a day to make pilgrimages, wear mourning clothes and avoid any entertainments. For Sunni Muslims it is a day of joy and celebration with family and friends of the victories of Allah. PUBLIC HOLIDAYS 7 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  8. 8. HISTORY IN BRIEF • Formerly a part of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was occupied by Britain during World War I. • In 1920, it was declared a League of Nations mandate under UK administration. In stag¬es over the next dozen years, Iraq attained its independence as a kingdom in 1932. • A “republic” was proclaimed in 1958, but in reality a series of strong political leaders ruled the country until 2003. The last was Saddam Hussein. • Territorial disputes with Iran led to an inconclusive and costly eight-year war (1980- 1988). • In August 1990, Iraq seized Kuwait, but was expelled by US-led, UN coalition forces during the Gulf War of January-February 1991. Following Kuwait’s liberation, the UN Se- curity Council (UNSC) required Iraq to scrap all weapons of mass destruction and long- range missiles and to allow UN verification inspections. Continued Iraqi noncompliance with UNSC resolutions over a period of 12 years led to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the falling of the Saddam Husain regime. US forces remained in Iraq under a UNSC mandate through 2009 and under a bilateral security agreement thereafter, helping to provide security and to train and mentor Iraqi security forces. • In October 2005, Iraqis approved a constitution in a national referendum and, pursuant to this document, elected a 275-member Council of Representatives (COR) in December 2005. The COR approved most cabinet ministers in May 2006, marking the transition to Iraq’s first constitutional government in nearly half a century. • In January 2009, Iraq held elections for provincial councils in all governorates except for the three governorates comprising the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kirkuk Gover- norate. Iraq held a national legislative election in March 2010 – selecting 325 legislators in an expanded COR – and, after nine months of deadlock, the COR approved the new government in December 2010. Nearly nine years after the start of the Second Gulf War in Iraq, US military operations there ended in mid-December 2011. 8 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  9. 9. INTERESTING FACTS 9 • Approximately half of Iraq is covered by inhospitable desert Traditionally, marriag- es in Iraq are arranged, though more and more Iraqis are choosing their own spous- es, especially in larger cities. • The famous children’s story Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves was written in Iraq about 1,000 years ago • In Iraq, as in many predominately Muslim countries, it is offensive to use one’s left hand while eating because the left hand is considered to be unclean. • Women in Iraq traditionally had more freedom than in other countries in the region. However, since the Gulf War, their situation has become increasingly worse. Religious groups try to force women to cov- er up and threaten women wearing West- ern-style clothes. • According to the UNHCR’s 2010 report, Iraqis were the second largest refugee group in the world, with 1.8 million Iraqis seeking refuge in neighboring countries. The largest group was from Afghanistan, with 2.9 million refugees. • According to the Bible, Abraham was from Ur, which is in Southern Iraq. Isaac’s wife, Rebekah was from Nahor, which is also in Iraq. Additionally, according to legend, Iraq is the site of the Biblical Garden of Eden. • Mountains make up about 20% of Iraq. The two main mountain chains are the Taurus, on the border with Turkey, and the Zagros, on the border with Iran. The moun- tains are the only parts of Iraq that still have forests. • One of Iraq’s distinctive plants is licorice, which has been used for thousands of years for its health effects. • Iraqis have been keeping bees for 5,000 years. Honey is an important source of food and income for many Iraq families. • Sand and dust storms rage for 20 to 50 days each year in Iraq, mostly during the summer. Sandstorms can reach heights of 15 meters. • Iraq once had one of the highest quali- ty schools and colleges in the Arab world. However, after the 1991 Gulf War and the United Nations sanctions, today only around 40% of Iraqis can read and write. • Iraq has been home to some of the great- est urban centers in the world, including Ur, Babylon, Nineveh, Ctesiphon, and Baghdad. • The Iraqi desert is home to the dangerous saw-scale viper. Many scientists consider it the most dangerous snake in the world. •Ancient Iraq was the birthplace of some of the world’s most important inventions, such as the 60-second minute and the 60-min- ute hour, the wheel, writing, the first accu- rate calendar, the first maps, and the first schools. 9 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  10. 10. Hospitality is considered a highly admired asset to the Iraqis. Iraqis are known for being very generous and polite, especially when it comes to mealtime. Meals are more often a festive, casual experience than a formal one. Many Iraqis were raised to feed their guests before themselves, and to feed them well. Most Iraqis hosts feel that they are failing in their role as hosts if their guests have not tried all of their dishes. In fact, prop- er appreciation is shown by overeating. The cuisine of Iraq reflects this rich inheritance as well as strong influences from the cu- linary traditions of neighbouring Persia, Turkey and the Syria region area. Like the Turks, Iraqis like to stuff vegetables and eat a lot of lamb, rice, and yogurt. Like Iranians, they enjoy cooking fruits with beef and poultry. Contemporary Iraq reflects the same natural division as ancient Mesopotamia, which con- sisted of Assyria in the arid northern uplands and Babylonia in the southern alluvial plain. Al-Jazira (the ancient Assyria) grows wheat and crops requiring winter chill such as apples and stone fruits. Al-Irāq (Iraq proper, the ancient Babylonia) grows rice and barley, citrus fruits, and is responsible for Iraq’s position as the world’s largest producer of dates. Kubbat mousel is a flat disc of two layers of burghul (a cereal food made from the groat of several different wheat species, most often from durum wheat) with a thin layer of minced meat mixture in the middle. It originated in the city of Mousel, 240km north of Baghdad. Kubbat Mousel is sold frozen in the Arab world and in most Arab shops in west¬ern countries. This allows for more frequent consumption of this delicious dish than in the days when it was made at home from scratch. Fesenjān (Chicken in pomegranate and walnut sauce) is most likely Iranian in origin. It has come to Baghdad from the cities of Najaf and Karbala, where a number of Iranians visit the holy shrines and often stay for a period of time. Also, there are nu¬merous mar- riages between Iraqis and Iranians, which is another way for some of the Iranian dishes to reach Iraqi kitchens. Masgouf is a traditional Mesopotamian dish made with fish from the Tigris. It is an open cut freshwater fish roasted for hours after being marinated with olive oil, salt, curcuma and tamarind while keeping the skin on. Traditional garnishes for the masgouf include lime, chopped onions and tomatoes, as well as the clay-oven flatbreads common to Iraq and much of the Middle East. IRAQI CUISINE 10 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  11. 11. The main ingredient of Tepsi Baytinijan, an Iraqi casserole, is aubergine, which are sliced and fried before placing in a baking dish, accompanied with chunks of either lamb/beef/ veal or meatballs, tomatoes, onions and garlic. Potato slices are placed on top of the mixture, and the dish is baked. Like many other Iraqi dishes, it is usually served with rice, along with salad and pickles. Dolma is a family of stuffed vegetable dishes. The grape-leaf dolma is common, and zuc- chini, aubergine, tomato and pepper are commonly used as fillings. The stuffing may or may not include meat. Kofta is a family of meatball or meatloaf dishes in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Balkan cuisines. In the simplest form, koftas consist of balls of minced or ground meat — usually beef or lamb — mixed with spices and/or onions. Vegetarian varieties include lauki kofta, shahi aloo kofta, and malai kofta. Kleicha, a national cookie of Iraq, comes in sev- eral traditional shapes and fillings, the most pop- ular being the molded ones filled with dates. The sweet discs are also favorites, along with the half moons filled with nuts and sugar. Qatayef dessert is reserved for the Muslim holi- day of Ramadan, a sort of sweet crepe filled with cheese or nuts. It was traditionally prepared by street vendors as well as households in the Le- vant, and more recently it has spread to Egypt. Drinks • Arak, a clear, colorless, unsweetened aniseed-flavored distilled alcoholic drink. Arak is usually not drunk straight, but mixed with approximately 1/3 arak to 2/3 water, and ice added. • Sharbat, a chilled, sweet drink prepared from fruit juice or flower petals. • Shinēna, a cold beverage of yogurt mixed with cold water, sometimes with a pinch of salt or dried mint added. IRAQI CUISINE 11 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  12. 12. Meeting and Greeting • Men do not touch women unless they are first-degree relatives (wives, mothers, daughters, or sisters), in which case they greet with a handshake. A failure to shake someone’s hand when meeting them or bidding them goodbye may be seen as of- fensive. • These rules apply only to people of the same sex; it is considered disrespectful for a man to offer his hand to a woman unless she extends it first – and obviously women should never be kissed. Touching the right hand to the heart as a form of greeting indicates respect or sincerity. In rural areas, greetings between men include handshak- ing and kissing on the cheeks. • A son may kiss his mother’s head as a sign of respect. Children show respect by kissing the hand of an elder. • A typical greeting is Al-salamu ‘alaykum (May peace be upon you). Young Iraqis greet with a less-formal wave and the word Marhaba (Hi). Titles • It is considered impolite to address a per- son by first name unless the individual is a close friend and from the same generation and social class. • A man is commonly addressed as Abu (Father of), followed by his oldest son’s first name. A woman likewise might be ad- dressed by her oldest son’s name, as in Um Abbas (Mother of Abbas). Even a husband and wife refer to each other in this way, both in public and in private. • An individual with no sons is addressed by his or her oldest daughter’s first name, and an individual with no children is called Abu ghayib or Um ghayib (Awaiting father or Awaiting mother). Body Language Body language is a highly developed form of communication in Iraq, and a multitude of gestures are commonly used in everyday interaction. Men tend to use gestures more than women, and the following list applies largely to men. • When engaged in conversation, Iraqis tend to stand a short distance from one another and use a good deal of physical contact. Body language is an im- portant method of expression. • To express respect, especially to an elder, a person will avoid eye contact during con- versation. Likewise,men and women will not maintain eye contact with each other. • Eyebrows raised and head tilted back means “No”. • Extending both open palms towards someone signifies enthusiasm or “excel- lent”. • Touching the outer edges of the eyes with the fingertips indicates assent. • It is often considered impolite to wave with the left hand. Pointing with the index finder can also be seen as offensive - one should use the whole hand. IMPORTANT TIPS 12 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  13. 13. IMPORTANT TIPS Dress The dress in Iraq is varied as many people today wear western-styled clothing. Howev- er, the majority of people continue to wear more traditional clothing. For men, this traditional dress is called a dishdasha, which is a loose-fitting garment that completely covers a person from the neck down. In Iraq, this piece of clothing can come in nearly any color, but tends to be in black or browns. Women often wear a dish- dasha or an abaya; however, the decoration and detail of a woman’s dress tends to be much more significant than a man’s and the women in Iraq tend to have very colorful clothing, often highlighted in golds. Both men and women in traditional dress cover their hair; women wear a cloth called a hijab, which is wrapped around their neck so only their faces can be seen, while men may wear a keffiyeh, another head covering, or leave their heads uncovered. Today, some Iraqis have turned to west- ern-styled clothing with the traditional headwear or a simple scarf. These clothes are similar to what can be seen in much of the world, but both men and women tend to cover up with long-sleeved shirts and pants. Foreigners in Iraq should dress conservative- ly with both arms and legs covered. Some women many feel more comfortable cov- ering their hair in public, but even amongst the locals this is a slowing dying practice. More importantly, due to the violence, it is recommended that you wear nothing that makes you stand out as a foreigner. Most visitors to Iraq today go there with a larger organization, whether that is the military or a non-governmental organization, or anoth- er group, and this organization is best suited to assist in what and how to dress. 13 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  14. 14. IMPORTANT TIPS Dining Etiquette When eating in Iraq, there are a few eti- quette rules you must know and follow. If you get invited to dine with the locals, the first two rules you must follow are to dress conservatively. Second, in conservative homes and towns, it is not acceptable to eat with a person of the opposite sex un- less it is your child, sibling, or spouse. While this is somewhat uncommon today, to some conservative Muslims this is im- portant, so you should observe the situa- tion at the local restaurant and follow their lead. Due to this, don’t bring a guest of the opposite sex to any meal unless you are specifically invited to do so. In many restau- rants there is a “Men Only” section and a “Family Section,” in which women and men can dine together (there is no “Women Only” section), so before any woman goes out to eat, be sure the restaurant or host is willing to allow women to eat with men. Try to arrive on time for a meal, and if eat- ing in a local’s home remove your shoes at the door if others have done so. Greet the elders first, but be sure to greet every per- son individually and shake their hands (al- though some conservative Muslims don’t believe men and women should touch, so wait for locals to extend their hand first if they are of the opposite sex). Let your host seat you and when sitting be sure to keep your feet flat on the floor or pointed be- hind you as pointing the soles of your feet at another can be seen as offensive. Once the food is served, follow your host’s lead as he or she may invite everyone to begin eating at the same time, or may request that either you or the elders be served first. Try a bit of everything offered as turning down food is rude. Eat as the locals eat; in most settings this means eating in the continental style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left); on some occasions and with some dishes, you may eat with your hand, but only touch your food with your right hand. Be sure to only take a small amount of food at first if served family style, as you will certainly be offered a second helping. Turn down the first offer of a second helping, but on their insistence accept the offer. As you finish your food, leave a bit on your plate to show there was more than enough and place your fork and knife together in the 5:00 position. Drinks As a primarily Muslim country, Iraq has little alcohol available, although technically it is legal. Obtaining alcohol is difficult and religious radicals have been known to tar- get alcohol vendors and consumers. The tap water in Iraq should not be con- sumed. Be sure to also avoid anything with ice as it may have been made from the tap water. Salads and fruits may also have been washed with tap water, so you should be careful with them as well. 14 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  15. 15. ETIQUETTE AND CUSTOMS Humor Irony, sarcasm and self-depreciation are all styles of humor that can easily cause mis- understandings in Iraq. It is not unusual for people who are communicating in a lan- guage that is not their mother tongue to take words literally, at least until they know the language – and you – very well. Telling a joke at one’s own expense can be confusing in cultures that are concerned about status and saving face. The best poli- cy is to be very careful about cracking jokes or making sarcastic comments until you know your audience very well. Gift Giving Etiquette • If you are invited to an Iraqi’s home, bring a box of cookies, pas- tries or a box of chocolates. A fruit basket is also appreciated. • Flowers are being given more and more but only to a hostess. • If a man must give a gift to a wom- an, he should say that it is from his wife, mother, sister, or some other female relation. • A small gift for the children is al- ways appreciated. • Gifts are handed over with two hands. • Gifts are generally not opened when received. Table manners If you are invited to someone’s home: • Check to see if you should remove shoes. • Dress conservatively and smartly. • Do not discuss business. • Iraqi table manners are relatively formal. • If the meal is on the floor, sit cross- legged or kneel on one knee. Never let your feet touch the food mat. • Use the right hand for eating and drink- ing. • It is considered polite to leave some food on your plate when you have finished eat- ing. 15 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  16. 16. General Rules Do be prepared for people to smoke in dif- ferent venues. Do give women the opportunity to avoid physical contact with men. Handshakes between the sexes may be allowed; a two-handed handshake is especially wel- coming. Don’t shake a woman’s hand (if you are male) unless she first offers it to you. Do be respectful and express gratitude for hospitality and generosity. Do repeat your offer of a gift two or three times until your host accepts. It is considered rude for a host to not offer a guest something to eat and drink. This custom applies to unexpected visitors as well. It is polite to accept your host’s offer. Don’t offend your host by refusing to enter a room first. There is a rank system where the oldest or highest-ranking person social- ly enters a room first; women are usually among the last to enter. Don’t use your left hand for contact with others, eating or gestures. It is considered unclean. Don’t expose the soles of your feet or shoes. Don’t point with your fingers. It is a sign of contempt. Instead, point with your whole hand. Don’t slouch, lean, or appear disinterested when conversing with an Iraqi man. Don’t back away from an Iraqi during con- versation. Close personal interaction is cus- tomary and distance is considered rude. Don’t offer a Muslim food or drink or con- sume either publicly during Ramadan. Nev- er offer a Muslim alcohol or pork. DOS AND DON’TS 16 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  17. 17. Don’t engage in religious discussions. Don’t make the “OK” or “Thumbs Up” sign; they are considered obscene. Don’t praise an Iraqi’s possessions too much, he may give them to you and expect something of equal value in return. Everyday taboos Most everyday taboos stem from Islamic values. They apply throughout Kurdish and Arab Iraq and to Muslims in other coun- tries. • No pork unless none of your dining com- panions are Muslim. • No alcohol if you are with anyone who may take offence. In general, it is best to mirror the choice of your host. • Do not use the left hand for giving and taking “clean” items, especially at meals, when handling business cards or accepting tokens of hospitality. • Do not show the soles of your feet to others, including crossing your legs. • Do not wear shoes inside houses. • Never touch Iraqi women, especially in public. • Never enquire after an Iraqi’s man wife, daughters or any other female family member, Enquire generally about the well-being of his family instead. •Avoid talking about your pet dog as dogs are considered dirty. Recommended topics for conversation You will always be safe if you compliment your destination. Your hosts are very likely to ask you how you like Erbil or Baghdad; always answer positively, even if you are in the midst of a sandstorm. Try to find common ground in sport. Showing interest in Islam and Islamic culture is appreciated, but be natural and sincere in your conver- sation. Topics of conversation to avoid: • Questioning Islam • Asking your Iraqi colleague if they are Sunni or Shi’a • Directly declaring your atheism or agnos- ticism • Making enquiries about local women • Discussing Saddam Hussein • Openly criticizing political leaders, even if Iraqis do • Discussing any Israel/Palestine issues • Making uninformed comments about Iraqi politics or negative aspects of Iraqi history • Showing enthusiastic patriotism for your own country, especially combined with an attitude that your way is the only way to do things • Indicating support for the American-led “War on Terror” • General references to Iraq as though it is somehow responsible for the world’s problems. DOS AND DON’TS 17 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  18. 18. BUSINESS ETIQUETTE Meeting and Greeting • Iraqi businesspeople are relatively formal in their business dealings. • The common Arabic greeting is “asalaamu alaikum” (peace be with you), to which you should respond “wa alaikum salaam” (and peace be with you). • The most common business greeting is the handshake with direct eye contact. • Handshakes can be rather prolonged; try not to be the first person to remove your hand. • Men should wait to see if a woman ex- tends her hand. • Business cards are given out. • It is a nice touch to have one side of your card translated into Arabic. Communication Styles The need to save face and protect honor means that showing emotions is seen nega- tively. Displays of anger are a serious no-no. If you must show disapproval, it is always best to do so one-to-one, quietly and with tact. Always keep your word. Do not make a promise or guarantee unless you can keep it. Iraqi business people are not afraid of asking blunt and probing questions. These may be about you, your company or its intentions. Business Meetings Due to the hierarchical nature of orga- nizations or businesses, the leader of an Iraqi team does most of the talking for his company or department. Subordinates are there to corroborate information or to provide technical advice and counsel to the most senior Iraqi. Decisions are generally made at the top of the company, but this will be based on recommendations from pertinent stakeholders and technical ex- perts who sit in on meetings. Expect interruptions during meetings when phone calls may be taken or people enter the room on other matters. This should not be seen negatively; one should simply re- main patient and wait for matters to return to them. Iraqis often have several discussions tak- ing place on the side during a meeting. They may interrupt the speaker if they have something to add. They can be loud and forceful in getting their point of view across. 18 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  19. 19. The family is the most important social unit in Iraq, and family loyalty is one of the most important values. Honor, both personal and the family’s honor, is also very important. It is considered a disgrace to speak badly about a family member, or tell non-family members about bad things that have happened in the family. PEOPLE IN IRAQ A family consists of all related kin, and can include hundreds of people. Rural families live with or near each other, while urban families stay closely connected through other means. The structure of Arab society is such that financial power is in the hands of the hus- band, although the wife is not completely without influence. Roles of the sexes are very clearly defined in Iraq. In rural areas, this strict division often causes the sexes to be segregated, except when eating and sleeping. Most marriages are arranged by families, but a couple must approve a match. Di- vorce is very rare, even though it is fairly easy under Islamic Shari’a (law). Young children are adored and indulged, though they are strictly punished for misbe- havior. They are expected to obey their par- ents and grandparents. Iraqis believe that wisdom increases with age, so the elderly are deeply revered. In the Iraqi culture, respect is a key com- ponent, because everyone is so close that they want things to remain peaceful in the family and from a social perspective. Chil- dren respect their elders, men and women respect one another, and respect is expect- ed in all social situations. 19 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  20. 20. Cultural heritage Iraq has one of the world’s oldest cultural histories. Iraq is where the Ancient Meso- potamian civilizations were, whose legacy went on to influence and shape the civiliza- tions of the Old World. The country is known for its poets, and its painters and sculptors are among the best in the Arab world, some of them being world-class. Iraq is known for producing fine handicrafts, including rugs and carpets. The architecture of Iraq is seen in the sprawling metropolis of Baghdad, where the con- struction is mostly new, with some islands of exquisite old buildings and compounds, and elsewhere in thousands of ancient and modern sites across Iraq. Unlike many Arab countries, Iraq embraces and celebrates the achievements of its past in pre-Islamic times. What is now Iraq was once the Cradle of Civilization in Ancient Mesopotamia and the culture of Sumer. National Identity Arab rule during the medieval period had the greatest cultural impact on modern Iraq. The dominating culture within Iraq is Arabic culture, and most Arabs are Muslim. Iraqi Muslims are split into two groups, the Sunnis and the Shias (Shiites). The Sunnis, a majority in Islam, are a minority in Iraq, and the Shias, a minority in the Arab world, are the majority in Iraq. Between the Shia and Sunni Muslims, loyalty to Iraq has come to be a common factor. Though they have differing views, both Sunnis and Shias hold high leadership positions in the government (including the Sunni Saddam Hussein), as do some Christians. The Arab culture, influenced by the con- querors in the 7th century, withstood many changes of power throughout the centuries, and managed to remain influential. In the 19th century, while the Ottoman Empire was focusing on the “Turkification” of its people, rebels in Mesopotamia were build- ing their Arab nationalist movement. They were granted an opportunity to act during World War I, when the British agreed to rec- ognize Arab independence in Mesopotamia if they helped fight against the Turks. Though Iraq was subject to British mandate rule following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, Arab nationalism stood strong. For the next few decades, even after indepen- dence from Britain, the government’s at- titude wavered between being pro-British and Arab nationalist. Today Iraq stands firm in its belief in pro-Arab nationalism. Tribes Tribalism is an important aspect of Iraqi so- ciety. It has been estimated that up to 75% of the population identifies themselves as belonging to a specific tribe. CULTURE AND SOCIETY 20 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  21. 21. Women in Iraq During the Iran-Iraq War, with so many men fighting in the military, women were required to study in fields and to work in positions normally filled by men. Female professionals, such as doctors, are normally pediatricians or obstetricians, so that they work with only women or children. The General Federation for Iraqi Women (GFIW) is a government organization for women with eighteen branches, one in each province. Its stated goal is to officially organize wom- en, promote literacy and higher education, and encourage women in the labor force. The federation supported big legislative steps, such as a 1977 law that said a woman may be appointed an officer in the military if she has a university degree in medicine, dentistry, or pharmacy. However, it has had little impact on issues that affect women as individuals, such as polygamy, divorce, and inheritance. Family life In the past, arranged marriages were common. However, this practice is becoming rar- er, and a law was passed that gave authority to a state-appointed judge to overrule the wishes of the father in the event of an early marriage. The Muslim majority traditionally views marriage as a contract between two families, as the family’s needs are considered most important. In urban settings, women and men have more options in choosing their spouses, though the proposed spouse must receive parental approval. Partners often come from the same kin group, and though marriage between different ethnic groups is accepted, it is not too common. The ruling Baath regime considers marriage to be a na- tional duty that should be guided and encouraged. Couples can live in either of two ways: with the husband’s extended family, or as a nucle- ar family. At present, with economic hardships, families tend to live in extended house- holds. The extended family unit consists of the older couple, sons, their wives and fami- lies, and unmarried daughters. Other dependent relatives may also make up a part of this group, and the oldest male is the head of the group. In this living arrangement, house- hold and child-rearing tasks are shared among all female members of the larger families. If the couple can afford to live in a nuclear household, women, even though they work outside the home, retain all domestic and child-care responsibilities. Children normally imitate older siblings, and obedience and loyalty to elders are of vital importance. The boy is thought to be more valuable to a family, given his potential to work, while the girl is considered more of a dependent. SOCIAL LIFE 21 Country profile IRAQLearnmera Oy www.thelanguagemenu.com
  22. 22. Veronica Gelfgren Yulia Bazyukina Marja-Liisa Helenius Research Research, layout Proofreading www.thelanguagemenu.com Learnmera Oy

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