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Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya. Around 95% of the country's 37 million citizens are Muslims, with Christianity, Yarsan, Yezidism and Mandeanism also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.
The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, historically known as Mesopotamia, is often referred to as the cradle of civilisation. It was here that mankind first began to read, write, create laws and live in cities under an organised government—notably Uruk, from which "Iraq" is derived.
The country today known as Iraq was a region of the Ottoman Empire until the partition of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century. It was made up of three provinces, called vilayets in the Ottoman language: Mosul Vilayet, Baghdad Vilayet, and Basra Vilayet. In April 1920 the British Mandate of Mesopotamia was created under the authority of the League of Nations. A British-backed monarchy joining these vilayets into one Kingdom was established in 1921.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from the UK in 1932 and in 1958, the monarchy was overthrown and the Iraqi Republic created. Iraq was controlled by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party from 1968 until 2003. After an invasion by the United States and its allies in 2003, Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party was removed from power, and multi-party parliamentary elections were held in 2005. The US presence in Iraq ended in 2011, but the Iraqi insurgency continued and intensified as fighters from the Syrian Civil War spilled into the country.
Out of the insurgency came a highly destructive group calling itself ISIL, which took large parts of the north and west. It has since been largely defeated. Disputes over the sovereignty of Iraqi Kurdistan continue. A referendum about the full sovereignty of Iraqi Kurdistan was held on 25 September 2017. On 9 December 2017, the Iraqi Prime Minister declared victory over ISIL after the group lost its territory in Iraq.
1257 - Hulagu Khan amassed an unusually large army, and besieged Baghdad, sacked the city and massacred many of the inhabitants estimates of the number of dead range from 200,000 to a million
1508 - Owing to the century long Turco-Iranian rivalry between the Safavids and the neighbouring Ottoman Turks, Iraq would be contested between the two for more than a hundred years during the frequent Ottoman-Persian Wars
1533 - 1918 Throughout most of the period of Ottoman rule, the territory of present-day Iraq was a battle zone between the rival regional empires and tribal alliances
1917 - British forces captured Baghdad, and defeated the Ottomans
1920 - The institution of slavery was not abolished until then
1932 - Britain granted independence to the Kingdom of Iraq
1979 - The Iranian Revolution took place. Following months of cross-border raids between the two countries, Saddam declared war on Iran in September 1980. In the final stages of the Iran–Iraq War,there was a genocidal campaign that targeted Iraqi Kurds and led to the killing of 50,000–100,000 civilians
2014–2017 Iraqi Civil War and tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in Iraq in ISIL-linked violence
2018 - Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's political coalition won Iraq's parliamentary election