“The cradle of civilization” – what does that mean?
Iraq as a state structure has not existed that long, only since the 1920s. But on the territory of Iraq there was a very important region for cultural history: Mesopotamia. The first advanced civilizations of mankind developed in this area, so that one sometimes speaks of the “cradle of civilization”.
If you want to learn more about these cultures, you can find out more here on the kinderzeitmaschine. Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians and more developed the first states and societies here. They invented writing, developed irrigation systems and built important cultural monuments.
From the Persians to the Romans
An important turning point for the region was the year 539 BC. In that year the Persians subjugated Babylonia. They ruled the region for three centuries. It was not until the Seleucids, succeeding Alexander the Great, that the Persians succeeded and formed an empire that largely brought peace for two centuries. This empire was very big.
This was followed by the Parthians and then the Romans. But in 363 AD the Romans had to give up their rule in Mesopotamia and transfer it to the Sassanids. This Sassanid Empire was also known as the New Persian Empire.
Islam is spreading
The next upheaval in the region began with the conquest of Mesopotamia by the Arabs, who brought a new religion with them: Islam. The Battle of Karbala took place in 680 AD. This was decisive for the division of Muslims into Sunnis and Shiites. In 762 AD, today’s capital of Iraq – Baghdad – was founded.
The region continued to develop under the Abbasid rule, especially the Arabic language. Trade also strengthened and important cultural monuments and buildings were built. One also speaks of the “heyday of Islam”, since especially science and art were already well developed, much further than in Europe. Afterwards, different rulers alternated again.
The Mongol storm
The conquest of the Mongols, which began around 1258, was decisive for the entire region. Much was devastated during this time. In particular, the irrigation systems, which are so important for agriculture and which were already very modern, were destroyed and most of the knowledge about them was lost. Afterwards, different peoples took turns and took control of the region.
From 1534 the Ottomans began to conquer the areas of Mesopotamia. For them, however, the region was not very important. For a long time, sultans ruled individual regions.
The colonial powers and Iraq
A crucial date for the region was 1908. Why? That year, oil was discovered here. This aroused the interest of the colonial powers of the time, such as Great Britain. Great Britain bought shares in Turkish oil companies. However, there were problems in World War I, when Turkey was on the side of the German Empire and Great Britain on the other. Equally crucial was 1916, the year Great Britain and France divided up their powers in the Middle East.
In 1920 Great Britain received Iraq as a mandate. The British also appointed a non-Iraqi king, Faisal ibn Hussein, who was not recognized by many Iraqis. The Kingdom of Iraq now formed three former Ottoman provinces.
The Kurds were the losers because they had been promised their independence over and over again. However, the Lausanne Agreement of 1923 simply omits the issue of an autonomous Kurdish state. The Kurds themselves were of course not satisfied with this and continued to strive for independence. But all protests by the Kurds were suppressed by force.
An independence in dependence
Although Iraq officially became independent in 1932, British influence remained for the time being. But in 1958 there was a revolution in Iraq. The then king named Feisal II, who the British supported, was murdered and the military took over the government. The Iraqi general Abd al-Karim Qasim played an important role in this. Iraq became a republic and the monarchy was abolished. The first signs of democratic development were visible. But this shouldn’t take long. The West and especially the USA viewed the Republic of Iraq with great suspicion.
Rise of the Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussein
From 1961 one party, the Ba’ath Party, gained more and more power. These existed not only in Iraq, but also in Syria, a country located in Middle East according to petsinclude.
In 1968 Hassan al-Bakr became president and a man named Saddam Hussein became his deputy. It quickly became clear that all efforts by the Kurds to become independent should be nipped in the bud again. A Kurdish uprising was brutally suppressed.
As of 1979, Saddam Hussein was the most powerful man in Iraq. He took action primarily against his opponents from the left, including communists. His regime eliminated all opposition and suppressed its citizens.