The Path ToOne IRAQ
On the 15 of October 2005, Iraq's new constitution was approved in a referendum of the people.
It declares Iraq an independent nation governed by a democratic, federal, representative, parliamentary republic. Iraq is declared a multiethnic, multi-religious and multi-sect country where Arabic and Kurdish are the official languages.
The Journey Starts WithOur People
The Iraqi people (Arabic: العراقيون, Kurdish: گهلی عیراق) are citizens of the modern country of Iraq. Mesopotamia was the political and cultural centre of many great empires, including the oldest known civilization in the world. Iraq is known as the cradle of civilization.
The People of Iraq
Iraq is a diverse country of more than 39 million people, growing at a rate of about 3% per year. Arabs, who trace their roots back to ancient Mesopotamia, make up more than 75% of the population. In the north of the country, however, Kurds have been the dominant group for thousands of years and today account for about 15% of Iraq’s population. Other major ethnic groups include Turks, Assyrians and Armenians. Differences in faith and language further compound Iraq’s diversity. Approximately 90% of Iraqis follow Islam. Of these, about 65% are Shia Muslims, and 35% are Sunni. There is also a small and ancient Christian community of more than half a million people and several other minority faiths. Arabic and Kurdish are the official languages of Iraq although Turkmen and Assyrian also have official status in several regions of the country.
At 438,317 square kilometres, Iraq is about the size of Sweden or Japan and has four distinct regions: desert in the west and southwest; highlands mostly in the Kurdish north; rolling hill country between the upper Tigris and Euphrates rivers; and the plains of Lower Mesopotamia stretching to the Persian Gulf which is home to 75% of the population (Statistics and background information provided by the CIA World Fact Book).
In 2015, nearly 70% of Iraqis lived in cities and towns. Almost one in five in the capital Baghdad, a metropolis of 8 million people. Next, with 2.8 million people is the port city of Basra on the Persian Gulf. Erbil, in the north, is the capital of the Kurdish region with nearly 1.4 million citizens. Other urban centres include Najaf, Sulaymaniyah and Mosul.
Despite their many differences, there are also common threads running through the groups and regions of Iraq. One is a love of food. Typical west Asian dishes from Kofta to flat bread are as common on a table in Erbil as in Baghdad or Basra. Another is a love of family, with four or five children being the norm in most parts of the country. More than any other factor, however, the one that puts Kurds and Arabs, Shiites and Sunnis, urban and rural dwellers into the same boat is their youth. Iraq is one of the youngest countries in the world. Half the population is under 20 years old creating both challenges and opportunities for the Iraqi people.
Over the past 35 years, Iraqis have endured unimaginable hardships. The evidence of war is everywhere – unreliable electricity, shattered water and sewage facilities, and broken roads. But the damage runs even deeper; the education system is under duress. In the pre-conflict years, Iraq invested 6% of its GNP on education and had the finest schools in the Middle East. Since then, the military has consumed large share of the budget, and education spending has fallen to just 3.3% of GDP and taken its toll on the country and its prospects. Today, nearly one in four adults has not seen a day of formal schooling, and just one in ten has finished high school.
Iraq’s young people are its greatest resource and the future depends on their energy, enthusiasm, creativity and resilience. These must be harnessed for the future of Iraq.
“We, the people of Mesopotamia, the homeland of the apostles and prophets, resting place of the virtuous imams, cradle of civilization, crafters of writing, and home of numeration. Upon our land the first law made by man was passed, and the oldest pact of just governance was inscribed, and upon our soil the saints and companions of the Prophet prayed, philosophers and scientists theorized, and writers and poets excelled...” (Iraqi Constitution).
The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, historically known as Mesopotamia, is often referred to as the cradle of civilization. The first great nation to rise out of this fertile crescent was Sumeria around 4000 B.C. Sumerians built irrigation canals and developed the first known form of writing and mathematics.
The region spawned and hosted empires over the centuries, including the Chaldeans, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, the Medes, Greeks, Romans, Parthians, Arabs, Mongols, Ottoman Turks, and the British. It is a region rich in agricultural resources and where three continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe, meet.
Iraq’s modern borders were created following the Treaty of Sevres at the end of the Ottoman Empire. Between 1921 and 1958 Iraq was ruled by a monarchy, later replaced by a republic, dominated by the Ba-ath Party. Following the end of the Saddam regime a new constitution was approved in 2005 and the first true modern elections were held. (Information taken from Wiki)
“We, the people of Iraq, who have just risen from our stumble, and who are looking with confidence to the future through a republican, federal, democratic, pluralistic system, have resolved with the determination of our men, women, elderly, and youth to respect the rule of law, to establish justice and equality, to cast aside the politics of aggression, to pay attention to women and their rights, the elderly and their concerns, and children and their affairs, to spread the culture of diversity, and to defuse terrorism.” (Iraqi Constitution)
A Nation Of Laws
The Republic of Iraq is a single federal, independent and fully sovereign state in which the system of government is republican, representative, parliamentary, and democratic, and this Constitution is a guarantor of the unity of Iraq.
The constitution lays out the powers and authorities of governments in Iraq, elections and the rights and freedoms guaranteed.
“We, the people of Iraq, of all components and across the spectrum, have taken upon ourselves to decide freely and by choice to unite our future, to take lessons from yesterday for tomorrow, and to enact this permanent Constitution, through the values and ideals of the heavenly messages and the findings of science and man’s civilization. The adherence to this Constitution preserves for Iraq its free union of people, of land, and of sovereignty.” (Iraqi Constitution)
From the constitution all laws flow. Where they are dated or inconsistent with the constitution, it is the courts that will uphold the primacy of the constitution.
The federal consists of the legislative, executive, and judicial authorities, and they exercise their competencies and tasks on the basis of the principle of separation of powers.
The executive branch is led by a Prime Minister, who selects his cabinet from outside of the legislature.
The legislative branch consists of the Council of Representatives and the Federation Council. The Council of Representatives is made up of members elected through a direct secret general ballot, at a ratio of one seat per 100,000 Iraqi persons representing the entire Iraqi people.
Each member of the Council of Representatives shall take the following constitutional oath before the Council prior to assuming his duties:
“I swear by God Almighty to carry out my legal duties and responsibilities with devotion and integrity and preserve the independence and sovereignty of Iraq, and safeguard the interests of its people, and ensure the safety of its land, sky, water, wealth, and federal democratic system, and I shall endeavor to protect public and private liberties, the independence of the judiciary, and pledge to implement legislation faithfully and neutrally. God is my witness.” — Iraqi Constitution
The federal government is funded almost exclusively from the sale of oil and up until 2017 provided the vast majority of services to Iraqis. The constitution calls for many of these services to be delivered at the governorate level, a process of devolution that is currently underway.
After decades of struggle, Iraq’s 2005 Constitution provided the country’s six million Kurds with their own autonomous region within the Iraqi federation. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), with its elected Parliament, sits in the capital city of Erbil to manage the affairs of the Kurdish people. It is the only Regional Government mentioned in the constitution (albeit a process is laid out to form new regional governments).
The KRG has exclusive authority in most matters affecting the Kurdish people and shares power with Iraq’s federal government in other important such as oil and gas development, foreign policy and national security.
It is divided into three governorates: Duhok, Hawler (Erbil) and Silemani, The Kurdistan Region is largely mountainous. The Zagros, Sinjar, Hamrin, Nisir and Qandil are some of the largest mountains found in the Kurdistan Region. There are many rivers running through the territory, which makes Kurdistan’s land fertile. While the Kurdistan Region has an increasing urban population it still has a significant rural population. The city of Erbil contains some 1.4 million inhabitants and makes up the largest urban population in the Kurdistan Region.
The federal system in the Republic of Iraq is made up of a decentralized capital, regions, and governorates, as well as local administrations. There are 18 governorates, of which 3 are in Kurdistan.
The regional powers shall have the right to exercise executive, legislative, and judicial powers in accordance with this Constitution, except for those authorities stipulated in the exclusive authorities of the federal government.
In case of a contradiction between regional and national legislation in respect to a matter outside the exclusive authorities of the federal government, the regional power shall have the right to amend the application of the national legislation within that region.
Regions and governorates shall be allocated an equitable share of the national revenues sufficient to discharge their responsibilities and duties, but having regard to their resources, needs, and the percentage of their population.
The regional government shall be responsible for all the administrative requirements of the region, particularly the establishment and organization of the internal security forces for the region such as police, security forces, and guards of the region.
Into The FutureWith Confidence
With the destruction of ISIS and the liberation of our territories, Iraq can return its attention to building a modern, democratic federation that can meet the needs of its people. The conflict has taken an enormous toll. Tens of thousands have been killed or wounded. Cities and towns are in ruins and there are schools, roads, hospitals, and vital public services to build and restore.
The future as one Iraq, where differences are accommodated and strength is drawn from diversity, can best be achieved in a federal system of government. By working together and with friends and allies, the country can learn to make federalism work and take its rightful place on the world stage as its ancestors did in ancient times.