Introduction / History Both Jordanian and Iraqi Arabs descended from a people group cluster called the Levant Arabs. The Levant Arabs originally settled all over the Arabian Peninsula and later migrated to North Africa. They are spread from Israel to Kuwait and as far east as Iran. "Levant" is a broad term that includes several groups of Arabs: the Iraqi, Jordanian, Palestinian, Arabic Jewish, Chaldean, and Syrian Arabs.
Iraq was occupied by Britain during World War I. In 1932, Iraq gained its independence. The British also controlled neighboring Jordan, and they gained their independence in 1946.
There have been two major waves of Iraqi Arabs fleeing to Jordan in recent decades. In 1991, Gulf War 1 caused many Iraqis to flee west to Jordan. There was a second invasion of Iraq in 2003, and more came to Jordan during that time.
In both cases the people who fled to Jordan had money. There were doctors, businessmen, and others with marketable skills. Commonly these people sold homes and whatever property they had, took the money, and fled to Jordan during times of danger.
Jordan is a country that has had many refugees in the past, so the Jordanians were reluctant to take in more. The Iraqis were given the status of "guests" rather than "refugees," which meant that they could not legally work. Some did informal work, but even trained medical doctors from Iraq were often not paid for their service. Most stayed and lived off the money they brought to Iraq, though most had enough money to purchase appliances like refrigerators and ovens. After a couple of years Iraqi children were allowed to attend Jordanian schools.
Where are they located? Iraqis who have fled to Jordan tend to stay in large cities like Amman. Estimates of how many Iraqi Arabs live in Jordan vary greatly.
What are their lives like? Iraqi Arabs in Jordan are in a long time of transition. Unless they are allowed to work legally, they can only live off the money they took with them. In Jordan they face high unemployment, even though they have much to offer in terms of job skills. But allowing them to work could possibly take jobs away from Jordanian citizens.
Social life is extremely important to Arabs. They like to share a daily coffee time by sitting on the floor and drinking coffee from cups without handles. Their diet basically consists of wheat bread and porridge made with boiled meat or chicken. Lunch often centers around flat pita bread and hummus, a dip made from garbanzo beans and tahini (sesame).
To preserve their people, Iraqi Arabs are only allowed to marry those inside their own group. In the past, all marriages were arranged by the parents; however, it is becoming more acceptable for young people to choose their own mates.
Inheritances are passed down through the males. In this system, men inherit more than women. Since children are considered a family's greatest asset, females are valued mostly for their ability to bear children.
What are their beliefs? Islam has greatly influenced the lives of the Iraqi Arabs. Most are Sunni Muslim, though there is a sizable Shi'ite minority in Jordan. There are some traditional Christians among the Iraqi Arabs in Jordan.
What are their needs? Iraqi Arabs in Jordan need the chance to get settled into jobs, schools, and so forth. They need a chance to use their skills to earn an honest living and contribute to the local economy.
God loves the Iraqi Arabs! Most of them only know the God of Islam, but Jesus, the only possible Savior, wants them to hear and know of His great love. Iraqi Arab Muslims believe Jesus is a prophet, teacher, and a good man, but they do not know He is the King of kings.
Prayer Points * Pray that Iraqi Arab Muslims will have the chance to hear a clear presentation of the gospel, and that the Holy Spirit will stir in their hearts a desire for holiness.
* Ask God to use believers to begin Bible studies and church planting among Iraqi Muslims in Jordan.
* Pray that Arab Christians in Iraq and Jordan will be protected from harm and persecution.