Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 near Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

 and Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009. Basra is also Iraq's main port, although it is does not have deep water access, which is handled at the port of Umm Qasr
Umm Qasr
Umm Qasr , is a port city in southern Iraq. It stands on the canalised Khawr az-Zubayr, part of the Khawr Abd Allah estuary which leads to the Persian Gulf. It is separated from the border of Kuwait by a small inlet...


The city is part of the historic location of Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

, the home of Sinbad the Sailor
Sinbad the Sailor
Sinbad the Sailor is a fictional sailor from Basrah, living during the Abbasid Caliphate – the hero of a story-cycle of Middle Eastern origin...

, and a proposed location of the Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden is in the Bible's Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden...

. It also played an important role in early Islamic history, being built in 636 CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

, or 14 AH. It is Iraq's second largest and most populous city after Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...



The city was called by many names throughout its history, Basrah being the most common. Although some Chaldean Christians argue that the name has Akkadian roots, other sources claim that the name is derived from the Persian word Bas-rah, which means "where many paths meet". During the pre-Islamic era, the area was known to the Arabs as al-Khariba due to the existence of an ancient city called al-Kharba. After the present city was built, it was called by many names, including "the mother of Iraq", "the reservoir of Arabs", "the prosperous city", and "al-Faiha".


The city is located along the Shatt al-Arab waterway near the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

, 55 kilometres (34.2 mi) from the Persian Gulf and 545 kilometres (338.6 mi) from Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, Iraq's capital and largest city.
The area surrounding Basra has substantial large petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 resources and many oil well
Oil well
An oil well is a general term for any boring through the earth's surface that is designed to find and acquire petroleum oil hydrocarbons. Usually some natural gas is produced along with the oil. A well that is designed to produce mainly or only gas may be termed a gas well.-History:The earliest...

s. The city also has an international airport, with service into Baghdad with Iraqi Airways
Iraqi Airways
Iraqi Airways Company, operating as Iraqi Airways , is the national carrier of Iraq, headquartered on the grounds of Baghdad International Airport in Baghdad. One of the oldest airlines in the Middle East, Iraqi Airways operates domestic and regional service...

—the nation's flag airline. Basra is in a fertile agricultural
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 region, with major products including rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

, maize corn
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

, barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

, pearl millet
Pearl millet
Pearl millet is the most widely grown type of millet. Grown in Africa and the Indian subcontinent since prehistoric times, it is generally accepted that pearl millet originated in Africa and was subsequently introduced into India. The center of diversity, and suggested area of domestication, for...

, wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

, dates, and livestock
Livestock refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term "livestock" as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning...

. Iraq has the world's 4th largest oil reserves estimated to be more 115 Goilbbl, most of it from Basra. 80% of Basra's oil bearing fields is unexplored.

In Basra the vast majority of the population are ethnic Arabs of the Adnanite or the Qahtanite
The terms Qahtanite and Qahtani refer to Semitic peoples either originating in, or claiming genealogical descent from the southern extent of the Arabian Peninsula, especially from Yemen....

 tribes. The main tribes that are located in Basra are Al-Emarah, Bani Tamim, Bani Assad, Bani Ka'ab, Bani Malik
Bani Malik (tribe)
Bani Malik or Banu Malik is one of the major Arab tribes of the Arabian Peninsula. They are descendants of Malik al-Ashtar who fought with Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin of prophet Mohammad...

, Shammar
The tribe of Shammar is one of the largest tribes of Nejd-Saudi Arabia, with an estimated 1 million in Iraq, over 2.5 million in Saudi Arabia , a Kuwaiti population of around 100,000, a Syrian population is thought to exceed 1 million and with an unknown number in Jordan...

, Bani Khalid
Bani Khalid
.'Bani Khalid'. is an Arab tribal confederation of eastern and central Arabia. The tribe dominated the eastern region of modern-day Saudi Arabia from 1670 to 1793, and again under the auspices of the Ottoman Empire for a brief period in the early 19th century...

, Bani Sa'ad
Bani Sa'ad
-References:*Gazeteer of the United Arab Emirates. Washington, D.C. : Defense Mapping Agency, 1987....

, Al-shwelat `Anizzah
`Anazzah are the largest Arab tribal confederation of the Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the Levant.-Genealogy and Origins:Currently the largest of the Arab tribes, `Anazzah's existence as an autonomous tribal group, unlike that of many prominent modern tribes, predates the rise of Islam in the 7th...

, Suwa'id, Al-bo Mohammed, Al-Jboor, Duwasir, Dhufair, Shreefat, Al-Badr
Al-Badr is an Islamic militant group operating in the Jammu Kashmir region, run by Jasniel Rihal. The group was allegedly formed by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence in June 1998. It is believed the group was encouraged by the ISI to operate independently from their previous umbrella...

, Al-Ubadi, Ruba'ah Sayyid tribes (descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammed) and hundreds of Arab tribes.
Muslim adherents about 60% Shiite and 35% Sunni, also live there, as do a small number of Chaldean Christians
Chaldean Christians
Chaldean Christians are ethnic Assyrian adherents of the Chaldean Catholic Church, most of whom entered communion with the Catholic Church from the Church of the East, which was already Catholic, but most wanted to stray away from the Catholic Church, causing the split in the 17th and 18th...

. There are also remnants of the pre-Islamic gnostic sect of Mandaeans, whose headquarters were in the area formerly called Suk esh-Sheikh and they are a small community of 3000 people or less.

A network of canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

s flowed through the city, giving it the nickname "The Venice of the Middle East" at least at high tide. The tides at Basra fall by about 2.7 metres (8.9 ft). For a long time, Basra was known for the superior quality of its dates.

First millennium

The present city was founded in 636 as an encampment and garrison for the Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 tribesmen constituting the armies of amir `Umar ibn al-Khattab, a few kilometres south of the present city, where a tell
A tell or tel, is a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and sloping sides.-Archaeology:A tell is a hill created by different civilizations living and...

 still marks its site. While defeating the Sassanid forces there, the Muslim commander Utbah ibn Ghazwan
Utbah ibn Ghazwan
Utbah ibn Ghazwan was a well known companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He was the seventh person to convert to Islam and participated in the hijra to Abyssinia, but returned to stay with Muhammad in Mecca before making the second hijrah to Medina...

 first set up camp there on the site of an old Persian settlement called Vaheštābād Ardašīr, which was destroyed by the Arabs. The name Al-Basrah, which in Arabic means "the over watching" or "the seeing everything", was given to it because of its role as a military base against the Sassanid empire. Other sources however say its name originates from the Persian word Bas-rāh or Bassorāh meaning "where many ways come together".

In 639 Umar
`Umar ibn al-Khattāb c. 2 November , was a leading companion and adviser to the Islamic prophet Muhammad who later became the second Muslim Caliph after Muhammad's death....

 established this encampment as a city with five districts, and appointed Abu-Musa al-Asha'ari
Abu-Musa al-Asha'ari
Abu-Musa Abd-Allah ibn Qays al-Ash'ari, better known as Abu Musa al-Ashari was a companion of the prophet Muhammad and important figure in early Islamic history...

 as its first governor. Abu Musa led the conquest of Khuzestan from 639 to 642. After this, `Umar ordered him to aid `Uthman ibn Abu al-`As, then fighting Iran from a new, more easterly misr at Tawwaj.

In 650, the amir `Uthman
Uthman ibn Affan was one of the companions of Islamic prophet, Muhammad. He played a major role in early Islamic history as the third Sunni Rashidun or Rightly Guided Caliph....

 reorganised the Persian frontier, installed `Abdallah ibn `Amir as Basra's governor, and put the invasion's southern wing under Basra's responsibility. Ibn `Amir led his forces to their final victory over Yazdegard III, king of Persia. in 656, Uthman was murder, Ali ibn Abu Talib was appointed Khalifa in a period that witnessed turmoils and distributions.

In 656, the Sayabiga (possibly of Indian/Indonesian origin) were ordered to guard the treasury.

Ali first installed `Uthman ibn Hanif as Basra's governor and then `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas. These men held the city for `Ali until the latter's death in 661.

The Sufyanids held Basra until Yazid I
Yazid I
Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya ibn Abī Sufyān , commonly known as Yazid I, was the second Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate . He ruled for three years from 680 CE until his death in 683 CE. Many Muslims condemn Yazid's rule as contentious and unjust...

's death in 683. Their first governor there was an Umayyad `Abd Allah, who proved to be a great general (under him, Kabul was forced to pay tribute) but a poor mayor.

In 664, Mu`awiyah replaced him with Ziyad ibn Abu Sufyan, often called "Ibn Abihi (son of his own [unknown] father)", who became famed for his Draconian methods of public order.

On Ziyad's death in 673, his son Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad
Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad
Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad was a son of Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan after whose death in 673 he became the Governor of Kufa and Basra and later Khurasan.He also minted coinage, which survives to this day...

 became governor. In 680, Yazid I
Yazid I
Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya ibn Abī Sufyān , commonly known as Yazid I, was the second Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate . He ruled for three years from 680 CE until his death in 683 CE. Many Muslims condemn Yazid's rule as contentious and unjust...

 ordered Ubayd Allah to keep order in Kufa
Kufa is a city in Iraq, about south of Baghdad, and northeast of Najaf. It is located on the banks of the Euphrates River. The estimated population in 2003 was 110,000....

 as a reaction to Imam Hussein ibn `Ali, Mohammad's grandson, popularity there; Ubayd-Allah took over the control of Kufa, Imam Hussein
Husayn ibn Ali
Hussein ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib ‎ was the son of ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib and Fātimah Zahrā...

, who wanted to restore the principles of Islam, sent his cousin as an ambassador to the people of Kufa, but Ubayd Allah executed Hussein's cousin Muslim ibn Aqeel
Muslim ibn Aqeel
Muslim ibn Aqeel, or Muslim ibn Aqil, was the cousin of Hasan ibn Ali and Husayn ibn Ali, and the son of Aqeel ibn Abu Talib. Muslim ibn Aqeel was sent ahead as an envoy to Kufa to see if the people could be trusted to be loyal to the Imam Husayn. He sent word back saying that the people of Kufa...

 amidst fears of an uprising. Then he ordered and assembled a big army of thousands from the Kufa people and other provinces and fought Iman Hussein ibn Ali's army of around 70 faithful in a land called Karbala
Karbala is a city in Iraq, located about southwest of Baghdad. Karbala is the capital of Karbala Governorate, and has an estimated population of 572,300 people ....

 near Kufa. All, including Imam Hussein, were killed and their heads were sent to Yazid as a proof.

Ibn al-Harith spent his year in office trying to put down Nafi' ibn al-Azraq's Kharijite uprising in Khuzestan. Islamic tradition condemns him as feckless abroad and corrupt at home, but praises him on matters of doctrine and prayer.

In 685, Ibn al-Zubayr required a practical man, and so appointed Umar ibn Ubayd Allah ibn Ma'mar

Finally, Ibn al-Zubayr appointed his own brother Mus`ab. In 686, the self-proclaimed prophet Al-Mukhtar
al-Mukhtār ibn Abī ‘Ubayd Allah al-Thaqafī was an early Islamic revolutionary who led an abortive rebellion against the Umayyad Caliphs after the death of Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala.-Life:...

 led an insurrection at Kufa
Kufa is a city in Iraq, about south of Baghdad, and northeast of Najaf. It is located on the banks of the Euphrates River. The estimated population in 2003 was 110,000....

, and put an end to Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad near Mosul
Mosul , is a city in northern Iraq and the capital of the Ninawa Governorate, some northwest of Baghdad. The original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has now grown to encompass substantial...

. In 687, Mus`ab defeated Mukhtar, with the help of Kufans whom Mukhtar had exiled.

`Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan reconquered Basra in 691, and Basra remained loyal to his governor al-Hajjaj during Ibn Ash`ath's mutiny 699-702. However, Basra did support the rebellion of Yazid ibn al-Muhallab against Yazid II
Yazid II
Yazid bin Abd al-Malik or Yazid II was an Umayyad caliph who ruled from 720 until his death in 724.According to the medieval Persian historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Yazid came to power on the death of Umar II on February 10, 720. His forces engaged in battle the Kharijites with whom Umar...

 during the 720s. In the 740s, Basra fell to al-Saffah of the `Abbasids.

Abbasid dynasty

During the time of the Abbasid dynasty Basra became an intellectual centre as it was the home city of the Arab universal genius
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

 Ibn al-Haytham, the Arab literary
Arabic literature
Arabic literature is the writing produced, both prose and poetry, by writers in the Arabic language. The Arabic word used for literature is adab which is derived from a meaning of etiquette, and implies politeness, culture and enrichment....

 giant al-Jahiz
Al-Jāḥiẓ was an Arabic prose writer and author of works of literature, Mu'tazili theology, and politico-religious polemics.In biology, Al-Jahiz introduced the concept of food chains and also proposed a scheme of animal evolution that entailed...

, and the Sufi mystic Rabia Basri.

Zanj Rebellion led by Ali bin Muhammad, or Sahib az-Zanji

This was a rebellion by the agricultural slaves
Zanj Rebellion
The Zanj Rebellion was the culmination of series of small revolts. It took place near the city of Basra, located in southern Iraq over a period of fifteen years . It grew to involve over 500,000 slaves who were imported from across the Muslim empire and claimed over “tens of thousands of lives in...

 of the lowlands, brought from different fringes of the empire.

In 871, the Zanj sacked Basra.

In 923, the Qarmatians
The Qarmatians were a Shi'a Ismaili group centered in eastern Arabia, where they attempted to established a utopian republic in 899 CE. They are most famed for their revolt against the Abbasid Caliphate...

, an extremist Muslim sect, invaded and devastated Basra (Encyclopædia Britannica).

In 965, Alhazen was born in Basra.

From 945 to 1055, a Buwayhid
The Buyid dynasty, also known as the Buyid Empire or the Buyids , also known as Buwaihids, Buyahids, or Buyyids, were a Shī‘ah Persian dynasty that originated from Daylaman in Gilan...

 dynasty ruled Baghdad and most of Iraq. Abu al Qasim al Baridis, who still controlled Basra and Wasit
Wasit is a place in Wasit Governorate, south east of Kut in eastern Iraq.-History:During Ottoman times, it was the head city of the sanjak of Wasit.To quote UNESCO:...

, were defeated and their lands taken by the Buyids in 947.

Daylamite period

Sanad Al-Daula (al-habashi) was the governor of Basra and built a library of 15,000 books.
Diya' al-Dawla was the Buyid ruler of Basra during the 980s. He was the son of 'Adud al-Dawla: see Samsam al-Dawla page for more details as there appears to have been a great deal of rivalry in the al-Daula group.

Seljuk period

The Great Friday Mosque was constructed in Basra.

In 1122, Zengi received Basra as a fief.

In 1126, Zengi suppressed a revolt.

In 1129, Dabis looted the Basra state treasury.

A 1200 map "on the eve of the Mongol invasions" shows the Abbasid Caliphate as ruling lower Iraq and, presumably, Basra.

In 1258, the Mongols sacked Bagdhad and end Abbasid reign. By some accounts, Basra capitulated to the Mongols to avoid a massacre.

The Mamluk Bahri Dynasty map (1250–1382) shows Basra as being under their area of control, and the Mongol Dominions map (1300–1405) shows Basra as being under their control.

In 1290 internal fight erupted at the Persian Gulf port of Basra among the Genoese (between the Guelfe and the Gibelin families).

In 1327, Ibn Battuta visited Basra, which was in decline with the great mosque being 2 miles (3.2 km) out of town. An Ilkhanid governor received him.

In 1411, Jalayrid leader was ousted from Basra by Kara Koyunlu of the Black Sheep Turkmen.

In 1523, the Portuguese
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 António Tenreiro crossed from Aleppo to Basra.

By 1546, the Turks had reached Basra.

In 1550, the Portuguese threatened Basra.

In 1624, the Portuguese assisted Basra Pasha in repelling a Persian invasion. The Portuguese were granted a share of customs and freedom from tolls.

From about 1625 until 1668, Basra and the Delta marshlands were in the hands of local chieftains independent of the Ottoman administration at Baghdad.

1668: Ottoman Empire

Basra was, for a long time, a flourishing commercial and cultural centre. It was captured by the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 in 1668. It was fought over by Turks and Persians and was the scene of repeated attempts at resistance.

1775-1779 Zands

The Zand Dynasty
Zand dynasty
The Zand dynasty ruled southern and central Iran in the 18th century.- Karim Khan Zand :The dynasty was founded by Karim Khan, chief of the Zand tribe which was Lur or Lak deportees. Modern scholarships such as Wadie Jwaideh suggested his Kurdishness. He became one of Nader Shah's generals...

 under Karim Khan Zand briefly occupies Basra after a long siege

1911: Ottoman Empire

In 1911, the Encyclopædia Britannica reported some Jews and a few Christians living in Basra, but no Turks other than Ottoman officials. The wealthiest and most influential personage in Basra was the nakib, or marshal of the nobility (i.e. descendants of the family of Muhammad, who are entitled to wear the green turban). In 1884 the Ottomans responded to local pressure from the Shi'as of the south by detaching the southern districts of the Baghdad vilayet and creating a new vilayet of Basra.

1914 : World War I

After the Battle of Basra (1914)
Battle of Basra (1914)
The Battle of Basra was a battle of World War I which took place south of the city of Basra between British and Ottoman troops from November 11th to November 21st, 1914. The battle resulted in the British capture of Basra.-Background:...

 during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, the occupying British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 modernized the port (works designed by Sir George Buchanan
George Buchanan (engineer)
Sir George Cunningham Buchanan was a British civil engineer particularly associated with harbour works in Burma, Iraq and Bombay, during the early years of the 20th century....

); these British commercial interests made it one of the most important ports in the Gulf "with shipping and trade links to the Far East."

1939 : World War II

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 it was an important port through which flowed much of the equipment and supplies sent to Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 by the other allies. At the end of the second world war the population was some 93,000 people.

1945-1990: peacetime and the Iran–Iraq War

The University of Basrah
University of Basrah
The University of Basrah is situated in the city of Basra, Iraq. For historic reasons the final -h is retained on Basrah in the name of the university....

 was founded in 1964.

By 1977, the population had risen to a peak population of some 1.5 million. The population declined during the Iran–Iraq War, being under 900,000 in the late 1980s, possibly reaching a low point of just over 400,000 during the worst of the war. The city was repeatedly shelled by Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 and was the site of many fierce battles, such as Operation Ramadan
Operation Ramadan
Operation Ramadan was an offensive in the Iran-Iraq War. It was launched by Iran in July 1982 near Basra and featured the use of human wave attacks in one of the largest land battles since World War II...

 and Operation Karbala 5.

1991: Persian Gulf War

After the first Persian Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 (See Operation Desert Storm by the US.) in 1991, Basra was the site of widespread revolt against Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

, which was violently put down with much death and destruction inflicted on the city.

1999: Second revolt

On January 25, 1999, Basra was the scene of scores of civilian casualties when a missile fired by a U.S. warplane was dropped in a civilian area. Eleven persons were killed and fifty-nine injured. General Anthony Zinni
Anthony Zinni
Anthony Charles Zinni is a retired four-star General in the United States Marine Corps and a former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command...

, then commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, acknowledged that it was possible that "a missile may have been errant". While such casualty numbers pale in comparison to later events, the bombing occurred one day after Arab foreign ministers, meeting in Egypt, refused to condemn four days of air strikes against Iraq in December 1998. This was described by Iraqi information minister Human Abdel-Khaliq as giving the United States and Britain "an Arab green card" to attack Iraq.

A second revolt in 1999 led to mass executions in and around Basra. Subsequently the Iraqi government deliberately neglected the city, and much commerce was diverted to Umm Qasr
Umm Qasr
Umm Qasr , is a port city in southern Iraq. It stands on the canalised Khawr az-Zubayr, part of the Khawr Abd Allah estuary which leads to the Persian Gulf. It is separated from the border of Kuwait by a small inlet...

. These alleged abuses are to feature amongst the charges against the former regime to be considered by the Iraq Special Tribunal set up by the Iraq Interim Government following the 2003 invasion.

Third millennium

Workers in Basra's oil industry have been involved in extensive organization and labour conflict. They held a two-day strike
Strike action
Strike action, also called labour strike, on strike, greve , or simply strike, is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became important during the industrial revolution, when mass labour became...

 in August 2003, and formed the nucleus of the independent General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE) in June 2004. The union held a one-day strike in July 2005, and publicly opposes plans for privatizing the industry.

2003: Iraq War and occupation

In March through to May 2003, the outskirts of Basra were the scene of some of the heaviest fighting in the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

. British forces, led by the 7th Armoured Brigade
British 7th Armoured Brigade
The 7th Armoured Brigade is a formation of the British Army. The brigade is also known as the 'Desert Rats', a nickname formerly held by the 7th Armoured Division.-History:The brigade was raised from garrison troops stationed in North Africa in 1938...

, took the city on April 6, 2003. This city was the first stop for the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

2004: Car bombs

On April 21, 2004, a series of bomb blasts ripped through the city, killing 74 people.

The Multi-National Division (South-East)
Multi-National Division (South-East) (Iraq)
Multi-National Division was a British commanded division responsible for security in the south east of Iraq from 2003 to 2009. It was responsible for the large city of Basra and its headquarters were located at Basra Airport. The division was initially responsible for the governorates of Al...

, under British Command, is engaged in Security and Stabilization missions in Basra Governorate and surrounding areas.


Political groups and their ideology which are strong in Basra are reported to have close links with political parties already in power in the Iraqi government, despite opposition from Iraqi Sunnis and the more secular Kurd
Kürd or Kyurd or Kyurt may refer to:*Kürd Eldarbəyli, Azerbaijan*Kürd Mahrızlı, Azerbaijan*Kürd, Goychay, Azerbaijan*Kürd, Jalilabad, Azerbaijan*Kürd, Qabala, Azerbaijan*Qurdbayram, Azerbaijan...

s. January 2005 elections saw several radical politicians gain office, supported by religious parties. American journalist Stephen Vincent, who had been researching and reporting on corruption and militia activity in the city, was kidnapped and killed on 2 August 2005.
December 16th: UK troops transfer control to Iraqi authorities

British troops transfer control of Basra province to the Iraqi authorities, four-and-a-half years after the invasion. A BBC survey of local residents finds that 86% think the presence of British troops since 2003 has had an overall negative effect on the province.
New Police Chief

Abdul Jalil Khalaf was appointed Police Chief by the central government with the task of taking on the militias. He has been outspoken against the targeting of women by the militias. Talking to the BBC, he said that his determination to tackle the militia has led to almost daily assassination attempts. This has been taken as sign that he is serious in opposing the militias.


In March 2008, the Iraqi Army launched a major offensive, code-named Saulat al-Fursan (Charge of the White Knights), aimed at forcing the Mahdi Army
Mahdi Army
The Mahdi Army, also known as the Mahdi Militia or Jaish al-Mahdi , was an Iraqi paramilitary force created by the Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in June 2003....

 out of Basra. The assault was planned by Gen Mohan Furaiji and approved by Iraqi Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Iraq
The Prime Minister of Iraq is Iraq's head of government. Prime Minister was originally an appointed office, subsidiary to the head of state, and the nominal leader of the Iraqi parliament. Under the newly adopted constitution the Prime Minister is to be the country's active executive authority...

 Nouri al-Maliki
Nouri al-Maliki
Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hasan al-Maliki , also known as Jawad al-Maliki or Abu Esraa, is the Prime Minister of Iraq and the secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party. Al-Maliki and his government succeeded the Iraqi Transitional Government. He is currently in his second term as Prime Minister...

Security commanders removed

In April 2008, following the failure to disarm militant groups, both Maj-Gen Abdul Jalil Khalaf and Gen Mohan Furaiji are removed from their positions in Basra.
Secret prison

On September 11, 2008, during a routine tour of Basra, the Iraqi Parliament’s Human Rights Commission found up to 200 malnourished and disease-stricken Iraqi detainees locked in a secret prison in Basra. The commission’s spokesman, Amer Thamer, stated that many of the detainees bore signs of torture. The prison is operated by the Defense Ministry, and none of the inmates have ever been tried or given access to legal assistance. Thamer said that the 200 prisoners only had access to one flooded and dirty latrine, and the commission has demanded the authorities shut down the prison immediately.

Geography and climate

Basra is located on the Shatt-Al-Arab waterway, downstream of which is the Persian Gulf. The Shatt-Al-Arab and Basra waterways define the eastern and western borders of Basra, respectively. The city is penetrated by a complex network of canals and streams; vital for irrigation and other agricultural use. These canals were once used to transport goods and people throughout the city, but during the last 2 decades, pollution and a continuous drop in water levels have made river navigation impossible in the canals. Basra is 110 km away from the Persian Gulf.

Basra has a hot desert climate
Desert climate
A desert climate , also known as an arid climate, is a climate that does not meet the criteria to be classified as a polar climate, and in which precipitation is too low to sustain any vegetation at all, or at most a very scanty scrub.An area that features this climate usually experiences less than...

 (Köppen climate classification
Köppen climate classification
The Köppen climate classification is one of the most widely used climate classification systems. It was first published by Crimea German climatologist Wladimir Köppen in 1884, with several later modifications by Köppen himself, notably in 1918 and 1936...

 BWh), like the rest of the surrounding region, though it receives slightly more precipitation
Precipitation (meteorology)
In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation (also known as one of the classes of hydrometeors, which are atmospheric water phenomena is any product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor that falls under gravity. The main forms of precipitation...

 than inland locations due to its location near the coast. Temperatures during the summer months, June to August, may easily exceed 45 °C (113 °F). During the winter, Basra experiences mild weather with average high temperatures around 20 °C (68 °F). High humidity is common due to the proximity to the marshy Persian Gulf.


  • The old mosque of Basra, the first mosque in Islam outside the Arabian peninsula.

  • Sinbad Island is located in the center of Shatt Al-Arab near the Miinaalmakl and extends above the bridge Khaled and is a tourist landmark.

  • Sayab's house ruins is the most famous home of the poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab
    Badr Shakir al-Sayyab
    Badr Shakir al Sayyab is an Iraqi and Arab poet, born in Jekor, a town south of Basra in Iraq. The eldest child of a date grower and shepherd. He graduated from the Higher teachers training college of Baghdad in 1948...

    . There is also a statue of Sayab, one of the statues in Basra done by the artist and sculptor nada' Kadhum located on al-Basrah Corniche, unveiled in 1972.

  • Basra sports city
    Basra sports city
    Basra Sports City is a sports complex in Basra, Southern Iraq.- Overview :Its construction was started on 15 July 2009 and expected to be completed in 2012...

     is the largest sport city in the Middle East, located on the Shatt al-Basra.

  • Palm tree forests, which are largely located on the shores of shatt-al Arab waterway especially in the nearby village of Abu Al-Khasib
    Abu Al-Khaseeb
    Abu Al-Khaseeb, sometimes spelled Abu Al-Khasib, is a town in the Basrah Governorate of Iraq south of Basra. It is a primarily Shia town.Abu Al-Khasib is considered an agricultural town. It is well known by its palm farms all over Ahat Al-Arab. There are also farms of different kinds of vegetables....


  • Corniche al-Basra is a street which runs on the shore of the Shatt al-Arab running from the Lion of Babylon square to the four palaces.

  • Basra International Hotel (formally known as Basra Sheraton Hotel), is located on the Corniche street. The only five star hotel in the city it is notable for its Shanasheel style exterior design. The hotel was heavily looted during the Iraq War, and it has been renovated recently.

  • Sayyed Ali al-Musawi Mosque or Mosque of the children of Amer, which is located in the city center on al-gazear street which was built for Shia Imami's leader sayyed Ali al-Moussawi in Iraq and neighboring countries.

  • Fun city of Basrah (now called Basra Land) is one of the oldest theme park entertainment cities in the south of the country and the largest involving a large number of games giants. It was damaged during the war, and is rebuilt now.

  • Akhora park, which is one of the city's old parks. It is located on al-Basra Street.

  • The four formal presidential palaces.

  • Latin church located on the 14th of July street.

  • Indian market (Amogaiz) which is one of the main bazaars in the city. It is called the Indian market due to Indian vendors, who were working here at the beginning of the last century.

  • Hanna-Sheikh bazaar, is an old market which was established by the powerful and famous Hanna-Sheikh family.


The city's economy is largely dependent on the oil industry. Some of Iraq's largest oil fields are located in the province, and most of Iraq's oil exports leave from Al Basrah Oil Terminal
Al Basrah Oil Terminal
Al Basrah Oil Terminal is an Iraqi oil port. It lies southeast of the Al Faw peninsula in the Persian Gulf.Al Basrah Oil Terminal is more commonly referred to as "ABOT" and it, along with its sister terminal, the Khor Al Amaya Oil Terminal or 'KAAOT", provides platforms from which a large majority...

. The south Oil company has its headquarter in the city.

Substantial economic activity in Basrah is centered around the petrochemical
Petrochemicals are chemical products derived from petroleum. Some chemical compounds made from petroleum are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, or renewable sources such as corn or sugar cane....

 industry, which includes the Southern Fertilizer Company and The State Company for Petrochemical Industries. The Southern Fertilizer Company produces ammonia solution, urea
Urea or carbamide is an organic compound with the chemical formula CO2. The molecule has two —NH2 groups joined by a carbonyl functional group....

 and nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

 gas, while the SCPI focus on such products as ethylene
Ethylene is a gaseous organic compound with the formula . It is the simplest alkene . Because it contains a carbon-carbon double bond, ethylene is classified as an unsaturated hydrocarbon. Ethylene is widely used in industry and is also a plant hormone...

, caustic/chlorine, vinyl chlorine monomer (VCM), polyvinyl chloride
Polyvinyl chloride
Polyvinyl chloride, commonly abbreviated PVC, is a thermoplastic polymer. It is a vinyl polymer constructed of repeating vinyl groups having one hydrogen replaced by chloride. Polyvinyl chloride is the third most widely produced plastic, after polyethylene and polypropylene. PVC is widely used in...

 (PVC), low-density polyethylene, and high-density polyethylene.

Shipping, logistics and transport are also major industries in Basra. Basra is home to all of Iraq’s six ports; Umm Qasr
Umm Qasr
Umm Qasr , is a port city in southern Iraq. It stands on the canalised Khawr az-Zubayr, part of the Khawr Abd Allah estuary which leads to the Persian Gulf. It is separated from the border of Kuwait by a small inlet...

 is the main deep-water port with 22 platforms, some of which are dedicated to specific goods (such as sulfur, seeds, lubricant oil, etc.) The other five ports are smaller in scale and more narrowly specialized. Fishing was an important business before the oil boom.

In religion

The city of al-Basrah is named in one of the hadith, or sayings of Muhammad:

In fiction

  • In Voltaire
    François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

    's Zadig
    Zadig ou la Destinée, is a famous novel and work of philosophical fiction written by Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire. It tells the story of Zadig, a philosopher in ancient Babylonia...

    "Bassora" is the site of an international market where the hero meets representatives of all the world religions and concludes that "the world is one large family which meets at Bassora".

  • The city of Basra has a major role in H.G. Wells's 1933 future history
    Future history
    A future history is a postulated history of the future and is used by authors in the subgenre of speculative fiction to construct a common background for fiction...

     "The Shape of Things to Come
    The Shape of Things to Come
    The Shape of Things to Come is a work of science fiction by H. G. Wells, published in 1933, which speculates on future events from 1933 until the year 2106. The book is dominated by Wells's belief in a world state as the solution to mankind's problems....

    ", where the "Modern State" is at the center of a world state emerging after a collapse of civilization, and becomes in effect the capital of the world (see

  • In the 1940 film The Thief of Bagdad
    The Thief of Bagdad (1940 film)
    The Thief of Bagdad is a 1940 British fantasy film produced by Alexander Korda, and directed by Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, and Tim Whelan, with contributions by Korda's brothers Vincent and Zoltán, and William Cameron Menzies...

    , Ahmad and Abu flee to the city from Bagdad. Ahmad falls in love with the sultan's beautiful daughter, who is also desired by his enemy, and former Grand Vizier, Jaffar.

See also

  • List of places in Iraq
  • Afro Iraqis
  • Basra International Airport
  • Dua Kumayl
  • Basra Reed Warbler
  • University of Basrah
    University of Basrah
    The University of Basrah is situated in the city of Basra, Iraq. For historic reasons the final -h is retained on Basrah in the name of the university....

  • Umm Qasr Port
    Umm Qasr Port
    Umm Qasr Port is Iraq's only deep water port, part of the city of Umm Qasr.Iraq's second port in scale of size and goods shipped to the port of Basra, it is strategically important, located on the western edge of the al-Faw peninsula, where the mouth of the Shatt al Arab waterway enters the Persian...

External links

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