Due to the absence of a proper population census, the exact population of Iraqi Kurdistan as well as the rest of Iraq is unknown, but the Kurdish government has recently started to publish better population figures. Iraqi Kurdistan has a young population with an estimated 36% of the population being under the age of 15.As of 2014, the population of Kurdistan has reached 5.2 million people.
The Kurdistan Region’s official languages are Kurdish and Arabic but Kurdish is the most widely spoken language. The two main dialects of Kurdish are Soraniand Kurmanji in its Bahdini variant, but a part of the population also speaks Hawrami, especially in the Halabja region.
Iraqi Kurdistan has a diverse religious population. The dominant religion is Islam, adhered to by the majority of its inhabitants. These include Kurds, Iraqi Turkmen, and Arabs, belonging mostly to the Shafi’i school of Sunni Islam. There are also Shia Kurds. Christianity is adhered to by most Assyrians, and Yezidis make up a significant minority. Yarsan, Mandean, and Shabaki religions are also followed.
Since the overthrow of the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraqi Kurdistan has witnessed massive immigration from the rest of Iraq (particularly from Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians, Mandeans, Shabaks and Roma), as well as from South Asia. Because of the stability and security, Kurdistan has witnessed non-Kurdish or non-Iraqi immigrants.
Widespread economic activity between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey has given the opportunity for Turks to seek jobs in Iraqi Kurdistan. A Kurdish newspaper based in the Kurdish capital estimates that around 50,000 Turks are now living in Kurdistan. Reports about immigrants from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan have been published as well.
As of December 2014 there were approximately 2 million refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan from surrounding areas. There were about 335,000 in the area prior to 2014 with the rest arriving in 2014 as a result of unrest in Syria and attacks by the Islamic State.
Kurdish culture is a group of distinctive cultural traits practiced by Kurdish people. The Kurdish culture is a legacy from the various ancient peoples who shaped modern Kurds and their society, but primarily Iranian. Among their neighbours, the Kurdish culture is closest to Persian culture. For example they celebrate Newrozas the new year day, which is celebrated on March 21. It is the first day of the month of Xakelêwe in Kurdish calendar and the first day of spring. Other peoples such as Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, Shabaks and Mandeans have their own distinctive cultures.
Traditionally, there are three types of Kurdish classical performers – storytellers (çîrokbêj), minstrels (stranbêj) and bards (dengbêj). There was no specific music related to the Kurdish princely courts, and instead, music performed in night gatherings (şevbihêrk) is considered classical. Several musical forms are found in this genre. Many songs are epic in nature, such as the popular lawiks which are heroic ballads recounting the tales of Kurdish heroes of the past like Saladin. Heyrans are love ballads usually expressing the melancholy of separation and unfulfilled love. Lawje is a form of religious music and Payizoks are songs performed specifically in autumn. Love songs, dance music, wedding and other celebratory songs (dîlok/narînk), erotic poetry and work songs are also popular.
Football is the most popular sport in Iraqi Kurdistan, overseen by the Iraqi Kurdistan Football Association. KFA submit an application for membership in FIFA. The Kurdistan Premier League is a Kurdish professional league for men’s association football clubs. At the top of the Kurdish football league system, it is the country’s primary football competition. Contested by 14 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation. October 2012, Kurdistan Kickboxing Association (KKA) was officially announced as the new member of World Kickboxing and Karate Association (WKA). Also member of World Kickboxing and Karate Union (WKU). In 2012 Kurdistan won the Viva World Cup as the host of the tournament.
Before the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government, primary and secondary education was almost entirely taught in Arabic. Higher education was always taught in Arabic. This however changed with the establishment of the Kurdistan autonomous region. The first international school, the International School of Choueifat opened its branch in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2006. Other international schools have opened and British International Schools in Kurdistan is the latest with a planned opening in Suleimaniah in September 2011.
Iraqi Kurdistan’s official universities are listed below, followed by their English acronym (if commonly used), internet domain, establishment date and latest data about the number of students.
Petroleum and mineral resources
KRG-controlled parts of Iraqi Kurdistan contain 4 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. However, the KRG has estimated that the region contains around 45 billion barrels (7.2×109 m3) of unproven oil resource. Extraction of these reserves began in 2007.
In November 2011, Exxon challenged the Iraqi central government’s authority with the signing of oil and gas contracts for exploration rights to six parcels of land in Kurdistan, including one contract in the disputed territories, just east of the Kirkuk mega-field. This act caused Baghdad to threaten to revoke Exxon’s contract in its southern fields, most notably the West-Qurna Phase 1 project. Exxon responded by announcing its intention to leave the West-Qurna project.
As of July 2007, the Kurdish government solicited foreign companies to invest in 40 new oil sites, with the hope of increasing regional oil production over the following 5 years by a factor of five, to about 1 million barrels per day (160,000 m3/d). Gas and associated gas reserves are in excess of 100×1012 cu ft (2,800 km3). Notable companies active in Kurdistan include Exxon, Total, Chevron, Talisman Energy, MOL Group, Genel Energy, Hunt Oil, Gulf Keystone Petroleum, and Marathon Oil.
Other mineral resources that exist in significant quantities in the region include coal, copper, gold, iron, limestone (which is used to produce cement), marble, andzinc. The world’s largest deposit of rock sulfur is located just southwest of Arbil (Hewlêr).
In July 2012, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government signed an agreement by which Turkey will supply the KRG with refined petroleum products in exchange for crude oil. Crude deliveries are expected to occur on a regular basis.