Iraqi Culture

Core Concepts

Primary Author
Cultural Atlas Editors,
  • Sensitivity
  • Sincerity
  • Integrity
  • Hospitality
  • Honour
  • Conservatism
  • Education

Iraq is a middle eastern country bordering Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. The land of ancient Iraq was part of Mesopotomia and is considered to be the birthplace of advanced civilisation. The modern capital, Baghdad, was the cultural and economic epicentre of the Islamic world for centuries. However, the legacies of Iraq have been overshadowed by the international and civil conflicts that have overwhelmed the nation for the past few decades. The political turbulence has set the country back massively and is likely to continue to do so. Iraqis commiserate about this. However, despite dire situations, the Iraqi people take a lot of pride in their nation and may consider themselves special to have such a rich and prestigious history. Broadly, Iraqis show solidarity for their country at national events and celebrate their sovereignty.

Generally, Iraqis are religiously acceptant and have familiarity with diversity. However, Iraqi culture is rather intolerant of any diversion from traditional conventions and behaviours. It is a fundamentally conservative society where innovation is usually resisted and rules are expected to be followed diligently. Behaviour and public decorum are and strictly governed in accordance to Islamic values. People can expect to suffer serious consequences from divergences and, therefore, society tends to approach self-indulgences with trepidation.

The perception of honour in the eyes of others regulates much of Iraqi behaviour. The is based on the idea that people should protect their personal and family honour at all costs. This requires individuals to give a public impression of dignity and integrity by stressing their family’s achievements and positive qualities. In Iraq, the culture pressures individuals to conceal and deny anything that could tarnish their honour. Any admission of error or failure brings shame and loss of on a person (and his or her family). Therefore, to prevent such indignity in Iraq, criticism is rarely given directly and praise is expected to be generously offered. The younger Iraqi generation generally doesn’t feel the need to apply the honour code this stringently. It is more prevalent among the older, conservative population. However, one’s personal integrity and dignity is still seen as an important virtue throughout Iraq. People tend to take great pride in helping others.

In the of respect, age demands deference and obedience. There is also a major segregation of authority between genders in Iraqi society. Women are sheltered and do not have as much power as men. They may be considered to be the possession of a man instead of an individual and are expected to be submissive and quiet in the presence of men. They behave modestly and those who are Muslim may be wary of interacting with men who are not members of their family. They are expected to dress conservatively in dresses that reach at least  below the knee and preferably to the ankle, and in blouses that cover the shoulder and much of the arm.

Iraq is more than Western societies. Individuals often perceive themselves to be members of 'groups'. These groups reflect or come to define who its members are and often demand a high degree of loyalty. For example, the group’s interests usually supersede those of the individual, even if they conflict. Furthermore, group members expect to receive preferential treatment over anyone who is not part of the group. In return for this loyalty, an individual gains a sense of belonging, protection and unity.

A unified, searchable interface answering your questions on the world's cultures and religions

Sign up for free