The Capital (Baghdad)
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq. Located along the Tigris River, the city was founded in the 8th century and became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Within a short time of its inception, Baghdad evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual center for the Islamic world. This, in addition to housing several key academic institutions (e.g., House of Wisdom), as well as hosting multiethnic and multireligious environment, garnered the city a worldwide reputation as the “Centre of Learning”.
Baghdad was the largest city of the Middle Ages for much of the Abbasid era, peaking at a population of more than a million. The city was largely destroyed at the hands of the Mongol Empire in 1258, resulting in a decline that would linger through many centuries due to frequent plagues and multiple successive empires. With the recognition of Iraq as an independent state (formerly the British Mandate of Mesopotamia) in 1938, Baghdad gradually regained some of its former prominence as a significant center of Arab culture. With a population variously estimated at over 6 or over 7 million Baghdad is the largest city in Iraq.
In contemporary times, the city has often faced severe infrastructural damage, most recently due to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent Iraq War that lasted until December 2011. In recent years, the city has been frequently subjected to insurgency attacks. The war had resulted in a substantial loss of cultural heritage and historical artifacts as well. As of 2018, Baghdad was listed as one of the least hospitable places in the world to live, ranked by Mercer as the worst of 231 major cities as measured by quality-of-life.
Al-Shaheed, (Martyr’s Monument), Zawra Park, Baghdad.
Administratively, Baghdad Governorate is divided into districts which are further divided into sub-districts. Municipally, the governorate is divided into 9 municipalities, which have responsibility for local issues. Regional services, however, are coordinated and carried out by a mayor who oversees the municipalities. There is no single city council that singularly governs Baghdad at a municipal level. The governorate council is responsible for the governorate-wide policy.
These official subdivisions of the city served as administrative centres for the delivery of municipal services but until 2003 had no political function. Beginning in April 2003, the U.S. controlled Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) began the process of creating new functions for these. The process initially focused on the election of neighbourhood councils in the official neighbourhoods, elected by neighbourhood caucuses.
The CPA convened a series of meetings in each neighbourhood to explain local government, to describe the caucus election process and to encourage participants to spread the word and bring friends, relatives and neighbours to subsequent meetings. Each neighbourhood process ultimately ended with a final meeting where candidates for the new neighbourhood councils identified themselves and asked their neighbours to vote for them.
Once all 88 (later increased to 89) neighbourhood councils were in place, each neighbourhood council elected representatives from among their members to serve on one of the city’s nine district councils. The number of neighbourhood representatives on a district council is based upon the neighbourhood’s population. The next step was to have each of the nine district councils elect representatives from their membership to serve on the 37 member Baghdad City Council. This three tier system of local government connected the people of Baghdad to the central government through their representatives from the neighbourhood, through the district, and up to the city council.
The same process was used to provide representative councils for the other communities in Baghdad Province outside of the city itself. There, local councils were elected from 20 neighbourhoods (Nahia) and these councils elected representatives from their members to serve on six district councils (Qada). As within the city, the district councils then elected representatives from among their members to serve on the 35 member Baghdad Regional Council.
The first step in the establishment of the system of local government for Baghdad Province was the election of the Baghdad Provincial Council. As before, the representatives to the Provincial Council were elected by their peers from the lower councils in numbers proportional to the population of the districts they represent. The 41 member Provincial Council took office in February 2004 and served until national elections held in January 2005, when a new Provincial Council was elected.
This system of 127 separate councils may seem overly cumbersome; however, Baghdad Province is home to approximately seven million people. At the lowest level, the neighbourhood councils, each council represents an average of 75,000 people.
The nine District Advisory Councils (DAC) are as follows:
- Karkh (Green Zone)
- Sadr City (Thawra)
- Al Rashid
- New Baghdad (Tisaa Nissan) (9 April)
The nine districts are subdivided into 89 smaller neighborhoods which may make up sectors of any of the districts above. The following is a selection (rather than a complete list) of these neighborhoods:
- Bab Al-Moatham
- Hayy Ur
- Hayy Al-Jami’a
- Al Khadhraa
- Hayy Al-Jihad
- Hayy Al-A’amel
- Hayy Aoor
- Hayy Al-Shurtta
- Jesr Diyala
- Abu Disher
- Raghiba Khatoun
- Arab Jibor
The city is located on a vast plain bisected by the Tigris river. The Tigris splits Baghdad in half, with the eastern half being called “Risafa” and the Western half known as “Karkh“. The land on which the city is built is almost entirely flat and low-lying, being of alluvial origin due to the periodic large floods which have occurred on the river.
Baghdad has a hot desert climate, featuring extremely hot, dry summers and mild winters.
In the summer, from June through August, the average maximum temperature is as high as 44 °C (111 °F), accompanied by blazing sunshine. Rainfall has, in fact, been recorded on fewer than half a dozen occasions at this time of year and has never exceeded 1 millimetre (0.04 in). Even at night temperatures in summer are seldom below 24 °C (75 °F). Baghdad’s record highest temperature of 51 degrees Celsius (124 degrees Fahrenheit) was reached in July 2015. The humidity is typically under 50% in summer due to Baghdad’s distance from the marshy southern Iraq and the coasts of Persian Gulf, and dust storms from the deserts to the west are a normal occurrence during the summer.
Winters boast temperatures typical of subtropical climates. From December through February, Baghdad has maximum temperatures averaging 15.5 to 18.5 °C (59.9 to 65.3 °F), though highs above 21 °C (70 °F) are not unheard of. Lows below freezing occur a couple of times per year on average.
Annual rainfall, almost entirely confined to the period from November through March, averages approximately 150 mm (5.91 in), but has been as high as 338 mm (13.31 in) and as low as 37 mm (1.46 in). On 11 January 2008, light snow fell across Baghdad for the first time in 100 years.