IRAK, a province of Persia, situated W. of Kum and Kashan and E. of Burujird, and paying a yearly revenue of about £r6, o0o. The province has many flourishing villages which produce much grain, but its greatest income is derived from the carpets made in many of its villages and mostly exported to Europe, the value of which is estimated at about £100,000 per annum. An important British firm is established at Sultanabad, the capital of the province, solely for this trade. Sultanabad is situated 77 m. S.W. of Kum in 34° 6' N. and 49° 42/ E. at an elevation of 5925 ft. It has a population of about 8000 and post and telegraph offices. It was founded in 1808 and made a recruiting centre for some battalions of infantry which were to form part of the reorganized Persian army as recommended by the chief of the French mission, General Gardane. In consequence of its recent foundation it is still occasionally spoken of as Shahr-i-no, the “ new city.”
IRAK-ARABI ('Iraq-Arabi, “ Arab Irak ”), the name employed since the Arab conquest to designate that portion of the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates known in older literature as Babylonia. Irak is approximately the region below the Median Wall, from Opis on the Tigris, at the mouth of Shatt-el-Adhem, to the neighbourhood of Ramadieh (Ramadiya) on the Euphrates; that is, from nearly latitude 34° to the Persian Gulf, and from the Syrian desert to the Persian mountains. It consists of two unequal portions, an extensive dry steppe with a healthy desert climate, and an unhealthy region of swamps. There is a good deal more agriculture along the Euphrates than along the Tigris, but swamps are at the same time much more extensive along the former. The borders of both streams wherever there is habitation are lined with date-palms. This is especially true of the lower part of Irak in the Basra vilayet, where the date-palm forms dense groves bordering the banks for a distance of many days' journey. A luxuriant vegetation of water plants is to be found in the swamps, which are the haunt of numerous wild beasts—pigs, lions, different kinds of aquatic animals and birds. These swamps are inhabited by a wild race of men, dark of hue, with many negroes among them, who cultivate rice and weave straw mats. Their chiefs, with their wives and a very few retainers or members of their immediate families, live in mud castles; the tribesmen live in rude huts of reeds and mats about these castles. In the main these swamp dwellers, who designate themselves Ma'-dan, keep pretty free both of the Turkish government and of the semi-Bedouins of Irak. Some of them are very lawless, especially the inhabitants of the region below the Shatt-el-Haï, between the two rivers. Here the Turkish government exercises no authority, and the tribesmen of the swamps play pirate on the merchandise passing up and down the Euphrates above Korna, where for some 80 m. the river has been allowed to form an immense swamp. Some of the Bedouin tribes also engage in marauding expeditions and terrorize certain portions of the country. Especially troublesome are the edh-Dhafir, westward of the Euphrates, opposite the mouth of the Shatt-el-Hai, and the Beni Lam (7500 tents strong) who occupy the country east of the Tigris to the south of Bagdad. Still more difficult of control is the great tribe of Shammar, who descend every year from the north, pitching their tents in the Jezireh (i.e. the region between the two rivers) southward of Bagdad, and terrifying the whole country during their stay. The Turkish government is, however, gradually extending its authority over all Irak partly by force, partly by treachery. The Affech nation, Ma'-dan Arabs, occupying the swamps behind Diwanieh between the Tigris and Euphrates, and the great Montefich tribes, Bedouins who claimed the whole country southward of the Atfech to the Shatt-el-Haï and beyond, have since 1880 been deprived gradually of their power and a considerable part of their independence. In 1903 the Turkish government transferred the capital of the sanjak of Hillah to Diwanieh opposite the Affech swamps, and there is now a line of towns, centres of Turkish power and Turkish force, extending southward from Ana to Nasrieh, at the mouth of the Shatt-el-Haï canal, while similar stations are being established or strengthened along the Tigris. Some important steps have also been taken by the Turkish government to control the Euphrates floods, and to drain the swamps in some sections of the country, especially westward of the Euphrates. A dam was built at the mouth of the Hindieh canal to prevent the waters of the Euphrates from losing themselves as heretofore in the swamps westward, and to assure a continual supply of water in the main bed of the Euphrates. It is, however, frequently carried away. The ancient Assyrium Stagnum, or Bahr Nejef near the town of that name, with other swamps formed by the overfiow of the Hindieh, have been drained and turned into rice plantations. At the same time large sections of Irak have been converted into imperial domain, to the diminution of the revenues of the country but to the increase of the prosperity of the population which inhabits that domain. Something, though not very much, has thus been done to restore the land to its ancient fertility.
Ethnographically Irak is subject to a double influence. On the one hand the connexion with Nejd, the centre plateau of Arabia, continues uninterrupted, even the 'Agel Bedouins from central Arabia having a quarter of their own in Bagdad. Many of these Arabs come to Irak merely for a temporary residence, returning later to their homes with the earnings a cquired in that comparatively rich country; but a considerable number remain permanently. Even stronger than the influence of Arabia is that of Persia. In general the inhabitants of Irak are Shi'ites not Sunnites, and their religious connexion and allegiance is therefore toward Persia, not Turkey. Persian customs are in fashion, Persian coinage is used equally with the Turkish, and in some parts, more especially in Bagdad, there is an important Persian quarter, while Kerbela and Meshed 'Ali to the west of the Euphrates are really Persian enclaves in Turkish territory. No traces remain of that rich intellectual development which was produced in the time of the caliphs through the reciprocal action of Persian and Arabic elements. Still, the quick-withedness of the inhabitants of Irak makes a decided impression on the traveller passing through Asiatic Turkey. Throughout Irak also Indian influence is visible in not a few particulars. In the hot summer months, for instance, when the natives live in those underground apartments called serdab, the Indian punkah is used in the houses of the rich. There are also small Indian colonies at most of the large towns and a considerable trade with India is carried on, especially in horses.
The trade of Irak is even now not unimportant. The principal exports from Basra are dates, various grains, millet seed, rice and wool, while the imports consist chiefly of Manchester goods, lumber, petroleum, coal and household necessities. Besides this there is a considerable land commerce by caravan, of which Bagdad is the centre. The total value of the exports of Irak according to the official figures of the Turkish government amounts to nearly £2,000,000, while the imports of every kind reach the value of about £1,800,000. If the ancient system of irrigation were restored and the land restored to cultivation, the country could support five hundred times as many inhabitants as it usually contains. Steamboats navigate the Tigris only as far as Bagdad, and that with great difficulty. In general, communication by water is carried on by means of the most primitive craft. Goods are transported in the so-called turradas, moderately big high-built vessels, which also venture out into the Persian Gulf as far as Kuwet. Passengers are conveyed, especially on the Euphrates, in the meshhuf, a very long narrow boat, mostly pushed along the river bank with poles or towed by ropes. The Mesopotamian kelleks, rafts laid-on goat-skin bladders, come down the Tigris as far as Bagdad. At Bagdad round boats made of plaited reeds pitched with asphalt, the so-called kufas (qufas), are used. At Basra the bcllems are in use, boats of large size, having the appearance of being hollowed out of tree trunks and partly in fact so constructed. There are no roads, and the extensive swamps and periodic inundations which lay large sections under water render land traffic by caravan somewhat uncertain. Irak in general is an alluvial plain, formed by the deposits of the
rivers Tigris and Euphrates, with a few scattered reaches of sand