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.