Friday, January 20, 2006

The historical demographics of Iraq: Why don't we know them?

As predicted, the ethnic coalition called "Shia" won the Iraqi election. The ethnic group called "Sunni" are unhappy. They are thought to now constitute about 20% of Iraqis, but western media commonly report that they think they are a majority.

Doesn't anyone find this curious? Evidently not. I tried a Google search on "demographics history Iraq Sunni population fertility" and found nothing of value. Why hasn't some bored journalist spent a day researching this with a librarian?

Iraq is a very young country, with a "slightly" older city - Baghdad. The demographics will be a bit tricky to sort out, but it could be done. My bet is that the Shia population within the rough bounds of modern-day Iraq has been increasingly very quickly over the past 100 years, while the Sunni population has been growing much more slowly due to higher Shia fertility and immigration. This is a typical pattern in which one ethnic group is wealthier and dominant; the sub-group reproduces faster. (For all I know humans are programmed this way.)

I'd further wager that the Sunni's have historically dominated this region, and that about 100 years ago they were about half the population. Lastly I'd bet that the Shia and Sunni represent slightly different genetic populations as well as religious traditions.

Of course I'm probably wrong about all of the above. I have no data. That's the point. How can we have a government so incompetent that the answers to those questions are not well known?

PS. Extra credit: explain how climate shifts and human induced deforestation contributed to the 9/11? Hint: Afghanistan was once relatively fertile.

PPS. I grew up in Quebec. Why would the above seem obvious to me?

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