Iraq is really conservative

Back before the Iraq War invasion there was some talk about the human and cultural capital of the nation. That it was the Germany of the Middle East. That it was in a good position to benefit from liberation. There was some theorizing that Iraq could be a linchpin of a new geopolitical axis which was friendly to the United States and Israel. Much of this was pushed by Ahmad Chalabi, but there were a host of others who made such arguments because they wanted the invasion for their own reason.
In any case, it didn’t work out. That’s obvious. But looking at the World Values Survey the past few months I am struck by how very, very, backward Iraq is even compared to many of its neighbors in social attitudes! Really. It’s rather stark. Below are some data.


Religion very important
Iraq – 96.1%
Iran – 78.5%
Jordan – 95.4%
Morocco – 90.6%
Egypt – 95.4%
Turkey 74.7%
USA – 47.5%
France – 13%
Men should have more right to a job than women (agree strongly)
Iraq – 83.9%
Iran – 69.4%
Jordan – 88.2%
Morocco – 50.8%
Egypt – 89.1%
Turkey 53.3
USA – 6.8
France – 18.1%
University is more important for a boy than for a girl (agree strongly)
Iraq – 24.8%
Iran – 13.3%
Jordan – 22.1%
Morocco – 9.2%
Egypt – 25.1%
Turkey 6.6%
USA – 1.1%
France – 1.8%
Wearing a veil in public places important for women ( (agree strongly))
Iraq – 81.8%
Iran – 69.7%
Jordan – 69.3%
Morocco – 56.3%
Egypt – 70.3%
Saudi Arabia – 79.9%
Turkey – 6.4%
Politicians who don’t believe in God unfit for office (agree strongly)
Iraq – 74.3%
Iran – 43.4%
Jordan – 61%
Morocco – 34.7%
Turkey 28%
USA – 15.4%
Italy – 2.8%
Would not want to have Jews for neighbors (mentioned without prompting a list of unwanted neighbors)
Iraq – 83.4%
Turkey – 61.8 %
Jordan – 61%
Bangladesh – 20.4%
Bosnia – 28%
Albania – 17%
Greece – 18.7%
United States – 9.1%
France – 5.9%
Strongly agree men should have more than one wife
Iraq – 21.6%
Jordan -5.5%
Morocco – 13.8%
Bangladesh – 1.6%
Iran – 5.9%
Turkey – 5%
Egypt – 2.6%
Saudi Arabia – 20.5%
I focused on women, god and Jews, because to some extent Iraq was portrayed as a relatively secular country with more gender equity than other Arab nations. When breaking down by sect there often wasn’t a difference, but when there was Shia were invariably more conservative than the Sunnis. This is relevant because during most of Iraq’s history, and under Saddam Hussein, Sunni Arab nationalists ran the country. Iraq’s relatively secular nature (e.g., Christians were allowed positions of power in the government) and the participation of women in the professions was a function of the fact that it was a dictatorship! In other words, a mirage imposed from above.
Iraq is not only a very conservative country, it is arguably much more conservative than the median Arab nation. More Saudi Arabia than Egypt or Jordan.

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