While the last national census in Iraq was conduced 14 years ago, another national census is planned for 2012, to be conducted by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning. The Iraqi Ministry of Planning made the decision to conduct a census in 2007, but it has not yet made the necessary preparations to hold the census.
Sirwan Mohammed, chairman of the Statistics Bureau of the Kurdistan Regional Government, said in an interview with The Kurdish Globe that due to political conditions and lack of time to prepare, the census will not be conducted this year.
Conflicts among the Iraqi political groups, have added the census issue to the other pending issues in the country's political process. Since 2007 several time lines were announced to hold a census, but all of them were canceled and postponed by the Ministry of Planning.
Mohammed says he has visited Baghdad several times for the purpose and met with his Iraqi counterpart, but has seen little progress on the census.
"There is no hope the census will be conducted this year in Iraq," Mohammed told the Globe. "However, it might possibly be done next year."
"One of the factors behind all these delays are political aspects of the process, especially in the disputed areas, and secondly technical factors make it impossible to hold it in the short time remaining this year. Unfortunately, the issue has been politicized by the political parties in the country, which has become an obstacle."
Mohammed said that the Iraqi minister of planning promised, during a visit to the Kurdistan Region, that he would take concrete steps towards the implementation of the project. KRG has said it would provide its support to the efforts.
After the 2003 Iraq war, it was decided that the national census would be conducted in 2007 and a budget of $120 million was allocated for it. Due to political instability in the country, the process was delayed to 2009 and the budget was increased to $200 million. Because the preparations for the process weren't made in time, the census was postponed once more to October 2010. The main factor behind the second delay were Arab groups who created problems in the disputed areas.
During the past century, several national censuses have been conducted in Iraq, the first being in 1927 and the last one being 1997. Others were conducted in 1937, 1947 and 1957.
According to the 1987 census, the population of Iraq was 22 million. However, the last census in 1997 only covered 15 provinces and did not include the thee Kurdistan Region provinces. It is not recognized as an accurate reliable census.
In most of countries, a national census is conducted every 10 years to estimate population growth, and some countries hold a census every five years.
Experts argue that a census is not only used to determine population, but also to track the development in economic, social and educational aspects.
If the 2007 delay was caused by the security and stability situation, the 2009 and 2010 delays are seen to be mainly associated with political stances of the Arab groups in the disputed areas, as well as an issue with the ethnicity part of the census forms, where the discussion was whether to remove the question or divide it into 11 ethnicities.
The Kurdish view on the stance of the Arab inhabitants of the disputed areas was that they are trying to counter Article 140 of the Iraqi Permanent Constitution and create obstacles in the way of its implementation. The fear is the Arabs want to avoid the discovery of the actual number of Kurds in the country. Kurds see this as a breach of the Constitution. Article 140 puts the census as a key part of the solution.
Reports suggest the draft Census Law is about to be submitted to the Iraqi Parliament, where a representative committee of political groups can work on it or they can change it to remove the ethnicity question from the census.
Dr. Mahmood Osman, member of the Iraqi Parliament from the Kurdistan alliance, told the Globe that Kurds would never agree to a census that does not take ethnicity and religion into account. "Anything that doesn't address ethnicity would not be counted as a census," said MP Osman.
Osman also reiterated Mohammed's statement that the issue is related to political agreement among the Iraqi groups and as long as the disputes remain unresolved, conducting the census would not be an easy task.