Iraq is surrounded by Saudi-Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran and Kuwait, and has been at the centre and conflux of events not just in the region but worldwide for decades. Iraq is a member of the League of Arab States (LAS), as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Rating: Grave Violations
This country is found to be declining. A devastating series of progessive incursions by terror group ISIS has caused major human rights violations and loss of territorial integrity in the past few years. Targeting religious minorities, as well as Muslims and alleged ‘apostates’ or ‘blasphemers’, ISIS has degraded security across large parts of the country.

Constitution and government Education and children’s rights Family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals Freedom of expression advocacy of humanist values
Grave Violations
Severe Discrimination

Constitution and government

The constitution establishes God’s “right” over the people and government, and Article 2 emphasizes Islam as a “foundation source of legislation”.

The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of opinion and expression.  However, these rights are frequently violated in practice by the government and also as a result of sectarian violence.

Religious persecutions

Followers of the Baha’i faith has been persecuted since many years. Since 1970, Baha’is have been denied citizenship or other travel documents, such that it has not been possible for them to leave the country.

The almost complete emigration of the Jewish minority has brought to an end 2600 years of Jewish history in Iraq. Since 2003 only 10 Jews live in Baghdad and few families in Kurdistan.

Under the Saddam Hussein regime some religious minorities were favoured in different ways. Christians and Yazidis were allowed to trade in alcohol, also the Sunni minority faced a flavoured treatment under Saddam Hussein, such that all these minorities became a target in the violent or strict developing Islamic society. Many of them have fled as exiles to Western Europe or United States, because they don’t see a future for themselves in Iraq anymore.


In June 2014, Sunni Jihadists declared the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS). The forerunner group arose in 1999 and was the predecessor of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and participated in military fights against US-led forces. The militants have carved out significant territory in Iraq, and in 2015 have drawn increasing numbers of followers internationally, however they are known for violent executions, sexual slavery, and the persecution of religious minorities, as well as “apostates” and “blasphemers”, those they accuse of homosexuality, and anyone who offers any opposition to their hegemony.

Education and children’s rights

The government requires Islamic religious instruction in public schools, but it doesn’t demand the participation from non-Muslim students. However there are continued reports of educational discrimination from religious minorities (Christians, Yezidi).

The Ministry of Education includes an office for Kurdish and other language education. In Mosul, ISIS-occupied second-largest city in Iraq, ISIS terrorists discarded arts, music, history and courses about Christianity from curriculum of public schools. Many parents decided to take children’s education in their own hands and to teach their children in homeschooling. The ISIS-made changes in Mosul were announced in posters and all those who don’t follow them have been warned to face punishment.
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Family, community and society

2015 religious conversion law

In November 2015, a new law was enacted which directly discriminates against non-Muslim religion or belief minorities by obliging children to be registered as belonging to the religion of converting parents, but only if the parent converted to Islam, and also under marital laws which are already sexually and religiously discriminatory. The National Card Law law, Article 26, paragraph 2, says “children shall follow the religion of the converted parent to Islam”, which would in effect force non-Muslim children to become Muslims if the male parent converts to Islam or if the children’s non-Muslim mother marries a Muslim man. Non-Muslim step-children of a Muslim father would be forced to become Muslims. The law was protested vehemently by religious minorities in and out of parliament.

“Even if parents basically ignore the law and raise their child in their faith, upon turning 18 these young adults will have to deal with the fact that their religion is officially listed as Islam. If they attempt to change that listing, they will be accused of apostasy and be subject to persecution or worse.”

However, it was reported in December 2015 that the new law may repealed, with some parliamentarians citing the need to restore “unity”. Kadhim al-Shammari, MP from the National Coalition, struck a positive note, saying, “We hope it culminates with the amending the article once and for all, including giving full freedom for all groups in the selection of the religion that suits them according to the principle of no compulsion in religion.”

Everyday discrimination

Non-Muslims report systematic discrimination, which are especially related to employment opportunities.  Iraqi women are often objects of sexual and social discrimination in workplaces. It took a long time for women in Iraq to obtain the rights to work, but a 2013 report made by the Central Bureau of Statistics indicated that a high number of high educated women didn’t enter the labor market:

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedom of media is guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution but it is restricted in practice by the threat of violence. Many journalists received threats and a number of them were killed in 2013 and after proclamation of Islamic State.

Being atheist

Being openly atheist is risky and rare, making estimates of irreligiosity extremely hard to make. The now defunct Kurdish news agency, AKnews, released a poll in 2011 on Iraqi belief in God. The answers surprised many Iraqis, with 67% professing belief, 21% probably believing, 4% saying they probably didn’t believe in God, and 7% who didn’t.

There are some websites or blogs for nonbelievers but the lists of members is kept secret for fear being persecuted or even murdered by terrorist religious groups.

In areas controlled by the terrorist militia ISIS the crime of “apostasy” is punishable by death.

Highlighted cases

A 15-year old atheist Ahmad Sherwan was imprisoned in solitary confinement, tortured by electric shock, and threatened with murder, after a discussion in which he told his father that he no longer believed in God, after undertaking “extracurricular” reading. His father then reported him to the police who held and tortured him. He was released after 13 days.

ISIS terrorists publicly executed a leading female lawyer and human rights activist in September, 2014. Samira Salih al-Nuaimi lived in Mosul. She criticized ISIS online in Facebook posts and shortly afterwards she was seized from her home and tried by an ad hoc Sharia court for apostasy. She was finally sentenced to public execution.