; also formerly rendered as Rumadiyah
) is a city
in central Iraq
, about 110 kilometers (68 mi) west of Baghdad
and 50 kilometers (31 mi) west of Fallujah
. It is the capital of Al Anbar Governorate
. The city extends along the Euphrates
and is the largest city in Al-Anbar. Founded by the Ottoman Empire
in 1879, by 2018 it had a population of about 223,500 people, near the entirety of whom are Sunni
Arabs from the Dulaim
tribal confederation. It lies within the Sunni Triangle
of western Iraq.
Ramadi occupies a highly strategic location on the Euphrates and the road west into Syria
. This has made it a hub for trade and traffic, from which the city gained significant prosperity. Its position has meant that it has been fought over several times, during the two World Wars and again during the Iraq War
and Iraqi insurgency
. It was heavily damaged during the Iraq War, when it was a major focus for the insurgency against occupying United States forces. Following the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in 2011, the city was contested by the Iraqi government and the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
(ISIL) and fell to ISIL in May 2015. On 28 December 2015, the Iraqi government declared that it had re-taken Ramadi from ISIL, that government's first major military victory since the loss of Ramadi some seven months earlier.
Population and demography
Ramadi's population was reported by the World Food Programme
to number 375,000 people in 2011,
though the number is likely to have decreased since then given the impact of the Iraq war and insurgency.
Its population grew rapidly during the last half of the 20th century, from 12,020 people in 1956
to 192,556 in 1987.
The population is very homogeneous, over 90 per cent Sunni Arab
The vast majority of its population come from the Dulaim
tribal confederation, which inhabits Syria and Jordan as well as Iraq and has over a thousand individual clans, each headed by a sheik selected by tribal elders.
Ramadi is located in a fertile, irrigated, alluvial plain, within Iraq's Sunni Triangle
. A settlement already existed in the area when the British explorer Francis Rawdon Chesney
passed through in 1836 on a steam-powered boat during an expedition to test the navigability of the Euphrates. He described it as a "pretty little town" and noted that the black tents of the Bedouin could be seen along the both banks of the river all the way from Ramadi to Falujah.
The modern city was founded in 1869 by Midhat Pasha
, the Ottoman
Wali (Governor) of Baghdad. The Ottomans sought to control the previously nomadic Dulaim tribe in the region as part of a programme of settling the Bedouin
tribes of Iraq through the use of land grants, in the belief that this would bind them more closely to the state and make them easier to control.
Ramadi was described in 1892 as "the most wide awake town in the whole Euphrates valley. It has a telegraph office and large government barracks. The bazaars are very large and well filled."
Sir John Bagot Glubb
("Glubb Pasha") was posted there in 1922 "to maintain a rickety floating bridge over the river [Euphrates], carried on boats made of reeds daubed with bitumen
", as he put it.
By this time the Dulaim were mostly settled, though they had not yet fully adopted an urbanised lifestyle. Glubb described them as "cultivators along the banks of the Euphrates, watering their wheat, barley and date palms by kerids
, or water lifts worked by horses. Yet they had but recently settled, and still lived in black goat-hair tents."
A British military handbook published during World War I noted that "some European travellers have found the inhabitants of Rumadiyah [Ramadi] inclined to fanaticism".
World Wars I and II
Ramadi was twice fought over during the Mesopotamian Campaign
of World War I
. It was held initially by the forces of the Ottoman Empire
, which garrisoned it in March 1917 after losing control of Fallujah
to the east. The British Army
's Lieutenant General Frederick Stanley Maude
sought to drive out the garrison in July 1917 but faced severe difficulties due to exceptional heat during both day and night. A force of around 600 British soldiers plus cavalry units faced 1,000 Turks with six artillery pieces. The attack was a costly failure and a combination of exhaustion, disorganisation, Turkish artillery fire and an unexpected sandstorm forced Maude to call off the attack with heavy losses. More than half of the 566 British casualties were caused by the heat.
Maude tried again during a cooler period in September 1917. This time the attacking force, led by Major General H.T. Brookings, was better organised and the British force was able to cope with the temperatures. The British mounted their attack from a direction that the Turks had not expected and managed to cut off their enemy's line of retreat. Many members of the Turkish garrison were killed or forced to surrender and the British were able to take control of Ramadi.
Ramadi was contested again during World War II
following the 1941 Iraqi coup d'état
. The coup leader, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani
, initiated a siege of the British base at RAF Habbaniya
near Ramadi. This prompted a British counter-attack to break the siege, sparking the brief Anglo-Iraqi War
. An Iraqi brigade occupied Ramadi under the auspices of a training exercise. The British assembled an ad hoc
relief force dubbed Habforce
which advanced from the British Mandate of Palestine
The force succeeded in relieving RAF Habbaniya and Iraqi resistance rapidly crumbled as their counter-attacks were defeated,
allowing a British column to seize control of Ramadi.
The Ramadi Barrage
was built near the city in 1955 to feed water into Lake Habbaniyah
to the southeast.
The University of Anbar
was founded there in 1987 and, together with Ramadi's trade and transport links, gave the city a more cosmopolitan, liberal and secular culture than others in the Sunni Triangle.
Many high-ranking officials of the ruling Ba'ath Party
came from Ramadi. Its local elites were also closely tied to the regime. The Anbar tribes in and around the city were largely co-opted to support the regime and Ramadi was the home base of the Iraqi Army
's combat engineers, special forces and many active and retired senior officers.
Ramadi was the scene of large-scale demonstrations against Saddam Hussein
in 1995. This made it virtually unique in Sunni Iraq, where support for Saddam was strongest.
The demonstrations were prompted by Saddam's execution of a prominent member of the Dulaim tribe from Ramadi, Iraqi Air Force
General Muhammad Madhlum al-Dulaimi, and three other Dulaimi officers. The four had criticized the regime and Saddam's notoriously violent and dissolute son Uday
. After their execution, the bodies were sent back to Ramadi. The regime's security forces put down the demonstrations which ensued and Saddam subsequently viewed the Dulaimis with suspicion, though he was unable to purge them without risking a full-scale tribal revolt.
Iraq War and Iraqi insurgency
review in front of the government headquarters in Ramadi, 2007
The policy of de-Ba'athification
and the disbandment of the Iraqi Army, implemented by the United States following the 2003 invasion of Iraq
, hit Ramadi particularly hard because of its links to the party and the army. Many senior officials and military figures in the city suddenly found themselves excluded from public life. This gave them both the motivation and the means, given their connections and technical expertise, to mount a campaign of violence against coalition forces. As a result, Ramadi became a hotbed of insurgency between 2003 and 2006 and was badly affected by the Iraq War
ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham)
Following the withdrawal of US and Coalition forces in 2011, Ramadi was contested by Iraq and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) during the ongoing Iraqi insurgency
. On 15 May 2015 Ramadi was captured by ISIS after an assault that included suicide car bombs, mortars, and rocket launchers. CNN reported that ISIS took over 50 high-level security personnel prisoners during the assault. The ISIS flag was also raised at the Ramadi government headquarters.
By 17 May 2015 Ramadi had been completely captured by ISIS forces.
Since the ISIS occupation of Ramadi, efforts have been made to re-take the city. In November 2015, Iraqi government forces completed an encirclement of Ramadi.
On 28 December, Iraqi forces advanced into the centre of the city of Ramadi and liberated it.
Iraq's recapture of the city
On 28 December 2015, Iraq's government claimed that it retook the city from the Islamic insurgency group ISIS. The operation started in early November. The city's recapture is seen as a major reversal for ISIS. ISIS occupied the city beginning in May 2015. The ISIS occupation of the city was a major defeat for the Iraqi government forces. The recapture of Ramadi was backed by US
-led coalition air strikes, but made slow progress, mainly because the government chose not to use the powerful Shia-dominated paramilitary force that had previously helped it regain the mainly Sunni northern city of Tikrit
, to avoid increasing sectarian tensions. The military said remaining ISIS militants have headed out to the north-east of Ramadi. The PM of Iraq declared that 30 December as celebrations of the recapture of Ramadi. However, Ramadi was highly damaged afterwards, with some estimates as high as 90%.
Ramadi dam, known as Al Jazeera bridge
Ramadi stands on an important trade route leading across the desert to Jordan
and the Mediterranean Sea
The main Amman
–Baghdad road passes through the city. A railway line also runs through the southern outskirts of Ramadi, heading east to Baghdad and west to Haditha and the Syrian border.
Map of Ramadi in 2003
At the start of the 21st century, Ramadi stretched over an area of about 15 km (9.3 mi) east to west by 12 km (7.5 mi) north to south. The center of the city is densely built up, with numerous more spread-out residential suburbs surrounding it. The city center is bounded to the north by the Euphrates, to the east by suburbs, to the south by the railway line between Baghdad and Haditha
, and to the west by the Habbaniyah Canal. More suburbs exist to the west and northwest of the canal and north of the Euphrates.
The city center is connected to the suburbs by two major bridges, one across the Euphrates and the other across the canal, while the western and northern suburbs are connected by a major highway that crosses the Euphrates north of the city. Various tribal groups live in separate districts within the suburbs,
with dozens of sheikhs being responsible for maintaining the security and well-being of their particular grouping.
The suburbs are extensively criss-crossed with canals that are used to irrigate the farmland around the city.
Ramadi's recent origins mean that it is dominated by modern concrete buildings, mostly flat-roofed two- or three-story structures but with a number of taller buildings in the city center. Its modern origins mean that it lacks features typical of older Iraqi cities, such as a kasbah
. The Japanese-built city hospital, with seven stories, is the tallest building in Ramadi. The city was badly damaged during the Iraq war and insurgency. Many buildings were destroyed and many more were rendered uninhabitable.
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