Provinces of Iraq

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The ISO maintenance committee has circulated a document N849, dated 2015-10-02. It proposes defining a region called Kurdistan, with the ISO code IQ-KU, comprising the governorates Arbil, As-Sulaymaniyah, and Dahuk. Halabja province is not yet listed by ISO. Note that Kurdistan would not be a province equivalent. It would be a "parent subdivision" for its provinces.

On 2014-10-30, ISO issued an update, changing the code for Kirkuk province from IQ-TS to IQ-KI.

It transpires that there is currently no provision in Iraqi law for forming new provinces (source [9], among others). However, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has a degree of autonomy. It decreed the split of Halabja province from As-Sulaymaniyah on 2014-03-16, and most sources I've seen seem to accept the change. On 2014-01-22, the Iraqi cabinet approved the splitting of Fallujah, Nineveh Plains, and Tuz Khormato provinces from Al-Anbar, Ninawa, and Salah ad-Din, respectively. That change is disputed. There was also mention of splitting Talafar province from Ninawa.

Update 10 to Geopolitical Entities and Codes (formerly FIPS 10-4) is dated 2012-12-31. It adds alternate names in Kurdish for the three provinces in the Kurdish Autonomous Region.

The Real Academia Española, which is the arbiter of the Spanish language, has promulgated new spelling rules as of November 2010. In domesticated words, the letter Q is no longer to be used except before U. One consequence is that the correct spelling of this country in Spanish will be Irak, replacing Iraq. It's possible that many writers of Spanish will refuse to comply, or will only gradually catch on to the new style.

Update 1 to the U.S. standard "Geopolitical Entities and Codes" is dated 2010-08-20. It changes the name of At-Ta'mim to Kirkuk. Sources [6]-[8] suggest that the naming of the province is controversial.

Many census records were lost in the 2003 Iraq war, but the aggregate data were preserved. News sources state that the Kurdish provinces of Arbil, Dahuk, and As-Sulaymaniyah were not enumerated in that census, because of the no-fly zone. Still, source [4] reports populations for those provinces.

Erratum: In the main table for Iraq on page 185, the population data come from the 1987 census. The population given for Arbil should be 770,439 (the last two digits were transposed). The total population for Iraq should be 16,335,198.

International standard ISO 3166-2 was published on December 15, 1998. It superseded ISO/DIS 3166-2 (draft international standard). For Iraq, the draft standard showed 18 provinces. The final standard shows the same 18 provinces and the same codes, with two exceptions. The code for As-Sulaymaniyah has been altered to SU, and the code for At-Ta'mim (Kirkuk) has been altered to TS. Also, the Arabic name for the type of division is the same as before, but ISO now translates the word into English as "governorates" rather than "provinces".

Country overview: 

Short nameIRAQ
ISO codeIQ
GEC codeIZ
LanguageArabic (ar)
Time zone+3


In 1900, almost all of Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire; its southern strip of mostly desert land was in Arabia. The Ottoman Empire was aligned with Germany in World War I. British forces occupied Mesopotamia, or Iraq-Arabi, in 1917. The Treaty of Sèvres (1920) divided up the Ottoman Empire. Iraq was one of the pieces. It was created as a British mandate under the League of Nations. The mandate ended in 1932, whereupon Iraq became independent.

From ~1935 to 1991 there was a lozenge-shaped neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It was occupied only by nomads, and neither Iraq nor Saudi Arabia wanted to be put to the trouble of administering it. After the Persian Gulf War, it was divided evenly between the two countries.

Other names of country: 

  1. Arabic: al Jumhouriya al 'Iraqia (formal)
  2. Danish: Irak, Mesopotamien (formal)
  3. Dutch: Irak, Republiek Irak (formal)
  4. English: Republic of Iraq (formal)
  5. Finnish: Irak
  6. French: Irak m, Iraq m
  7. German: Irak m
  8. Icelandic: Írak
  9. Italian: Iraq m
  10. Norwegian: Irak, Republikken Irak (formal)
  11. Portuguese: Iraque, República f do Iraque m (formal)
  12. Russian: Республика Ирак (formal)
  13. Spanish: Irak, República f de Irak (formal), Iraq (obsolete)
  14. Swedish: Irak
  15. Turkish: Irak, Irak Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Origin of name: 

Arabic: well rooted, or lowland

Primary subdivisions: 

Iraq is divided into 18 muhafazat (sing. muhafazah: provinces).

Province HASC ISO GECPopulationArea(km.²)Area(mi.²)CapitalPc
Al-Anbar IQ.ANANIZ011,023,776138,50153,476Ar-Ramadi31
Al-Basrah IQ.BABAIZ021,556,44519,0707,363Al-Basrah61
Al-Muthanna IQ.MUMUIZ03436,82551,74019,977As-Samawah66
Al-Qadisiyah IQ.QAQAIZ04751,3318,1533,148Ad-Diwaniyah58
An-Najaf IQ.NANAIZ17775,04228,82411,129An-Najaf54
Arbil IQ.ARARIZ111,095,99214,4715,587Arbil44
Babil IQ.BBBBIZ061,181,7516,4682,497Al-Hillah51
Baghdad IQ.BGBGIZ075,423,964734283Baghdad10
Dahuk IQ.DADAIZ08402,9706,5532,530Dahuk42
Dhi Qar IQ.DQDQIZ091,184,79612,9004,981An-Nasiriyah64
Diyala IQ.DIDIIZ101,135,22319,0767,365Ba'qubah32
Halabja IQ.HA IZ05Halabja46
Karbala' IQ.KAKAIZ12594,2355,0341,944Karbala'56
Kirkuk IQ.TSKIIZ13753,17110,2823,970Kirkuk36
Maysan IQ.MAMAIZ14637,12616,0726,205Al-Amarah62
Ninawa IQ.NINIIZ152,042,85237,32314,410Mosul41
Salah ad-Din IQ.SDSDIZ18904,43224,7519,556Tikrit34
Wasit IQ.WAWAIZ16783,61417,1536,623Al-Kut52
18 provinces22,046,244434,128167,617

Postal codes: 

Iraq uses five-digit postal codes. The first digit indicates the geographic region; the first two digits, the province. The new system was introduced on 2004-05-25 by the Coalition Provisional Authority. Iraq had already developed postal code systems in 1991 and 2003, but they were ineffective (source [3]).

Further subdivisions:

The provinces are further subdivided into qadhas and nahiyas.

Territorial extent: 

Al-Muthanna includes the Iraqi half of the former Neutral Zone.

The Kurdish Autonomous Region consists of the provinces of Arbil, Dahuk, and As-Sulaymaniyah.

The UN LOCODE page  for Iraq lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

  1. Arbil: Akkadian, thought to be from arba: four, ilan: gods
  2. Babil: ancient Babylon, from Akkadian babu: gate, ilan: gods, i.e., gate of the gods
  3. Baghdad: possibly "the gift of God"
  4. Ninawa: ancient Nineveh, possibly from a Semitic word for habitation
  5. Salah ad-Din: after Saladin (~1138-1193), Muslim general and statesman, born in Tikrit

Change history: 

Modern Iraq comprised roughly the vilayets (governorates) of Bagdad, Bassora (or Busra), and Mosul, plus a small section of Zor, under the Ottoman Empire, as well as a northern section of Arabia. A good deal of the western and southern border lies in desert lands, and has remained indefinite until quite recently. All province boundaries, especially those in the desert, have been subject to frequent change.

  1. 1914: Under the Ottoman Empire, the vilayets of Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul corresponded approximately to modern Iraq.
  2. 1920-12-23: Boundary between British mandate (Iraq) and French mandate (Syria) agreed on
  3. ~1955: Iraq consisted of 14 liwa (provinces), as shown in the following table.
Baghdad499,410817,2051,313,01219,922BaghdadBaghdad, Salah ad-Din
Diwaniya416,831378,118520,47083,343Ad-DiwaniyahAl-Qadisiyah, Al-Muthanna, An-Najaf
Kirkuk223,634286,005388,83919,543KirkukKirkuk, As-Sulaymaniyah
Mosul453,004595,190755,44750,881MosulNinawa, Dahuk
Muntafiq231,990371,867458,84814,452An-NasiriyahDhi Qar
14 provs.3,560,4564,816,1856,298,976434,000
  • Province names as shown in the 1951 Encyclopædia Britannica World Atlas. This transliteration
    from Arabic is no longer in fashion.
  • Dates are the dates of censuses.
  • Capital: Provincial capitals, circa 1950. The names are transliterated using a more modern method.
  • Modern: Approximate present-day provinces covering the same area. Bear in mind that there have
    been a lot of minor boundary changes between provinces, especially in desert areas.
  1. ~1962: Name of Dulaim province changed to Ramadi; name of Muntafiq province changed to Nasiriyah.
  2. ~1970: Status of divisions changed from liwa to muhafazat.
  3. 1971: Name of Hilla province changed to Babil.
  4. 1976-02: Name of `Amara province changed to Maysan; name of Diwaniya province changed to Al-Qadisiyah; name of Kirkuk province changed to At-Ta'mim; name of Kut province changed to Wasit; name of Mosul province changed to Ninawa; name of Nasiriya province changed to Dhi Qar; name of Ramadi province changed to Al-Anbar; An-Najaf province split from Al-Muthanna; Salah ad-Din province split from Baghdad.
  5. ~2004: Capital of Salah ad-Din province moved from Samarra to Tikrit.
  6. ~2006-06: Name of At-Ta'mim province changed back to Kirkuk.
  7. 2014-03-16: Halabja province split from As-Sulaymaniyah (former HASC code IQ.SU).

Other names of subdivisions: 

Spelling note: the original place names are in Arabic. There are many different schemes for transliterating from the Arabic to the Roman alphabet. Many of the variant names are just alternate transliterations of the same name. The definite article "al-" is sometimes omitted or inserted. The l of "al-" is usually assimilated to the following consonant if that consonant is ch, d, n, s, sh, or t.

  1. Al-Anbar: Dulaim, Ramadi (obsolete)
  2. Al-Basrah: Basra, Bassora (variant)
  3. Al-Qadisiyah: Diwaniyah (obsolete)
  4. Arbil: Arbela (obsolete); Erbil, Irbil (variant); Hewlêr (Kurdish)
  5. As-Sulaymaniyah: Slêmanî (Kurdish)
  6. Kirkuk: At-Ta'mim (alternate); Tamin (variant)
  7. Babil: Babylon (variant); Hilla (obsolete)
  8. Baghdad: Bagdá (Portuguese); Bagdad (Dutch, French, German, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish); Bağdat (Turkish)
  9. Dahuk: D'hok (variant); Dihok (Kurdish)
  10. Dhi Qar: Muntafiq, Nasiriyah (obsolete); Thi-Qar (variant)
  11. Karbala': Kerbela (variant)
  12. Maysan: `Amara (obsolete)
  13. Ninawa: Al-Mawsil, Mosul (obsolete); Ninive (French, German); Nínive (Portuguese); Ninevah, Nineveh, Niniveh (variant)
  14. Salah ad-Din: Salaheddin (variant)
  15. Wasit: Kut, Kut-al-Imara (obsolete)

Population history:

Dhi Qar499,000622,979921,0661,184,796
Salah ad-Din363,819726,138904,432


  1. [1] 1965 census data: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1984 edition. Data are rounded to nearest 1,000.
  2. [2] 1977, 1987, 1997 census data: Statesman's Yearbook, editions of 1988-89, 1993-94, and 2006. In the 1997 data, the province populations add up to 22,046,284, which disagrees with the total given in the book.
  3. [3] Press release, issued by the Japanese embassy to the U.S., and attributed to the Coalition Provisional Authority. Retrieved from (dead link) on 2005-10-26.
  4. [4] The Statesman's Yearbook 2006, ed. Barry Turner. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hampshire 2005.
  5. [5] Library of Congress country study  (retrieved 1999).
  6. [6] Wikipedia  says that At-Ta'mim changed its name to Kirkuk in mid-2006 (retrieved 2010-10-09).
  7. [7] A statistical report from the Iraqi Central Organization for Statistics and Information Technology  lists Kirkuk as one of the provinces (retrieved 2010-10-09).
  8. [8] An article in the Christian Science Monitor  says, "...Kirkuk Province, officially still called Tamim, its previous Baath Party-era name" (dated 2008-04-24, retrieved 2010-10-09).
  9. [9] The Europe Turkmen Friendship  blog has an article titled "The Iraqi Cabinet Decides to Form Three New Governorates," by Reidar Visser (retrieved 2014-04-30).
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