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Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 39.7 million (mid-year 2021).  According to 2010 government statistics – the most recent available – 97 percent of the population is Muslim.  Shia Muslims, predominantly Arabs but also including Turkoman, Faili Kurds, and others, constitute 55 to 60 percent of the population.  Sunni Muslims are approximately 40 percent of the Muslim population, of which Arabs constitute 24 percent, Kurds 15 percent, and Turkomans the remaining 1 percent.  Shia, although predominantly located in the south and east, are the majority in Baghdad and have communities in most parts of the country.  Sunnis form the majority in the west, center, and north of the country.

According to Christian leaders as well as NGO and media reports, fewer than 250,000 Christians remain in the country, down from a pre-2003 population estimate of between 800,000 and 1.4 million persons.  Approximately 67 percent of Christians are Chaldean Catholics (an eastern rite of the Roman Catholic Church), and nearly 20 percent are members of the Assyrian Church of the East.  The remainder are Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, and Anglican and other Protestants.  There are approximately 2,000 members of evangelical Christian churches in the IKR, while an unknown number, mostly converts from Islam, practice secretly.

According to Yezidi leaders, most of the 400,000 to 500,000 Yezidis in the country are located in the north, with approximately 150,000 remaining internally displaced as of August, compared with 200,000 to 230,000 remaining displaced as of October 2020.  The Shabak number between 350,000 and 400,000, three-fourths of whom are Shia.  Most Sunni Shabak and some Shia Shabak reside in Ninewa.  According to Kaka’i (also known as Yarsani) activists, their community has approximately 120,000 to 150,000 members located in the Ninewa Plain and in villages southeast of Kirkuk as well as in Diyala and Erbil; the KRG estimates there are 225,000 to 250,000 Kaka’i in the IKR.

Estimates of the size of the Sabean-Mandean community vary, but according to Sabean-Mandean leaders, 10,000 to 15,000 members remain in the country, mainly in the south, with between 450 and 1,000 living in the IKR and Baghdad.  Armenian leaders report a population of approximately 12,000 Armenian Christians, both Armenian Apostolic Church (Armenian Orthodox) and Armenian Catholic in the country, including in the IKR.  Baha’i leaders report fewer than 2,000 members, spread throughout the country in small groups, including approximately 100 families in the IKR.  Leaders of the Kavkaz (the unified name for the Circassians, Chechnya, and Dagestan) community report a population of approximately 50,000 members, located in Baghdad, Ninewa, Sulaymaniyah, Erbil, Kirkuk, and Diyala Provinces.  Most identify as Sunni Muslims who migrated from the Caucasus to Iraq during the wars between the Ottoman and Russian empires following forced displacement.

According to media organizations, following the death by stroke of a Jewish doctor, Dhafer Eliyahu, in March, only four Jewish citizens remain in federal Iraq.  According to unofficial statistics from the KRG Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs (MERA), there are possibly as few as 100 to as many as 250 Jewish families in the IKR; Jewish leaders report that most do not openly acknowledge their religion for fear of persecution or violence by extremist actors.  According to the KRG MERA, there are approximately 15,000 to 20,000 Zoroastrians in the IKR.  A Zoroastrian religious leader said there are approximately 30,000 Zoroastrians throughout the country.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), approximately 1.2 million persons remain displaced within the country, predominantly in Ninewa, Dohuk, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Kirkuk Provinces, compared with 1.5 million persons at the end of 2020.  According to the KRG’s Joint Crisis Coordination Center (JCC), there are approximately 664,909 IDPs in the IKR as of December 2021, compared with 700,000 in 2020.  According to the JCC, there are 247,422 Syrian, 8,746 Turkish, 9,700 Iranian, and 752 Palestinian refugees, and 507 individuals of other nationalities in the IKR.  Forty percent of the IDPs throughout the IKR are Sunni Arabs, 30 percent Yezidis, 13 percent Kurds (of several religious affiliations), and 7 percent Christians.  Other minority religious groups comprise the remaining 10 percent.


Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 5.3 million (midyear 2021).  The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other organizations estimate the total population includes 4.5 million citizens and an estimated 1.5 million refugees fleeing the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the vast majority of whom are Syrian, as well as a Palestinian refugee population present in the country for more than 70 years.  The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East estimates there are more than 180,000 Palestinian refugees in the country.

Lebanon has not conducted an official census of its population since 1932.  However, Statistics Lebanon, an independent firm, estimates 64.9 percent of the citizen population is Muslim (32 percent Sunni, 31.3 percent Shia, and 1.6 percent Alawites and Ismailis combined).  Statistics Lebanon further estimates 32 percent of the population is Christian.  Maronite Catholics are the largest Christian group (with 52.5 percent of the Christian population), followed by Greek Orthodox (25 percent of the Christian population).  Other Christian groups include Greek Catholics (Melkites), Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholics, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholics, Assyrians, Chaldean Catholics, Copts, Protestants (including Presbyterians, Baptists, and Seventh-day Adventists), Roman (Latin) Catholics, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ).  According to Statistics Lebanon, 3.1 percent of the population is Druze, concentrated in the rural, mountainous areas east and south of Beirut.  There are also small numbers of Jews, Baha’is, Buddhists, and Hindus.  The Jewish Community Council, which represents the country’s Jewish community, estimates 70 Jews reside in the country.

UNHCR reports that the Syrian refugees in the country are mainly Sunni Muslims, but also Shia Muslims, Christians, and Druze.  Palestinians live in the country as UN-registered refugees in 12 camps and surrounding areas.  They are mostly the descendants of refugees who entered the country in the 1940s and 1950s.  Most are Sunni Muslims, but some are Christians.

UNHCR states there are approximately 10,300 UNHCR-registered Iraqi refugees in the country.  Refugees and foreign migrants from Iraq include mostly Sunni Kurds, Sunni and Shia Muslims, and Chaldean Catholics.  There are also Coptic Christians from Egypt and Sudan.  According to the secretary-general of the Syriac League, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that advocates for Syriac Christians in the country, approximately 4,000 Iraqi Christians of all denominations and 3,000 to 4,000 Coptic Christians reside in the country.  According to the Syriac League, the majority of Iraqi Christian refugees are not registered with UNHCR and so are not included in its count.  The Syriac League said that the population of Iraqi Christians had decreased by 70 percent since 2019, largely because of emigration driven by the country’s economic crisis.

Persons from all religious groups continued to emigrate from the country during the year, in large part due to the country’s deteriorating economic situation.  There is anecdotal evidence that Christians constituted a significant portion of those who left the country, especially following the August 2020 Beirut Port explosion, with some citing fears for their security and potential treatment in an unpredictable political environment as a reason for their departure.

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