Iraqi Kurdistan, officially called the Kurdistan Region (Central Kurdish: ههرێمی کوردستان, translit. Herêmî Kurdistan, Arabic: إقليم كردستان, translit. Iqlīm Kurdistān) by the Iraqi constitution, is located in the north of Iraq and constitutes the country’s only autonomous region. It is frequently referred to as Southern Kurdistan (Central Kurdish: باشووری کوردستان; Northern Kurdish: Başûrê Kurdistanê), as Kurds generally consider it to be one of the four parts of Kurdistan, which also includes parts of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), northern Syria (Rojava or Western Kurdistan), and northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan).The region is officially governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), with the capital being Erbil. Kurdistan is a parliamentary democracy with its own regional Parliament that consists of 111 seats.
Erbil, also spelt Arbil or Irbil, and also known as Hewler (Kurdish: Hewlêr, Central Kurdish: ھەولێر, Syriac: ܐܪܒܝܠ Arbel, Arabic: أربيل Arbīl), is the capital city of Erbil Governorate and of Iraqi Kurdistan. It is located approximately 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Baghdad. Its governorate has a permanent population of approximately 1.61 million as of 2011. It has an ethnically diverse population of Kurds, Assyrians, Arabs, Armenians, Turcomans, Yezidis, Shabakis and Mandeans. It is equally religiously diverse, with believers of Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, Christianity, Sufism, Yezidism, Yarsan, Shabakism and Mandeanism extant in and around Erbil.
Human settlement at Erbil can be dated back to possibly 5000 BC, and it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the worldAt the heart of the city is the ancient Citadel of Arbil. The earliest historical reference to the region dates to the Ur III dynasty of Sumer, when king Shulgi mentioned the city of Urbilum – the ancient Assyrian name of modern-day ArbilErbil became an integral part of Assyria by at least the 21st century BC where it was known variously as Urbilim, Arbela and Arba-ilu, and a part of the Geo-Political province of Assyria under several regional powers in turn, including the Median Empire, the Achaemenid Empire (Achaemenid Assyria), Macedonian Empire, Seleucid Syria, Parthian Empire (Athura), Assyria (Roman province) and Sassanid Empire (Assuristan). During the Parthian era to early Sassanid era (C.150 BC – C.250 AD) Erbil became the capital of the Assyrian state of Adiabene. Following the Arab Muslim conquest of Persia, the Arabs dissolved Assyria (then known as Assuristan/Athura) as a geo-political entity in the mid-7th century AD, and during medieval times the city came to be ruled by the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks.
Erbil’s archaeological museum houses a large collection of pre-Islamic artifacts, and is a center for archaeological projects in the area.
The city was designated as Arab Tourism Capital 2014 by the Arab Council of Tourism. In July 2014, Erbil Citadel was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.