Mesopotamia in Iraq is exposed to dust events of different intensity because of adjacent extended desert or semi-desert areas. This study investigates the spatial–temporal distributions of dust events (including suspended dust, rising dust and dust storms) in Iraq by analysing dust observations based on visibility from seven meteorological stations supplied by the Iraqi Meteorological Organization (IMO) during 1980–2015. The annual and seasonal evaluation of all dust event frequencies is examined. The findings show that Iraq has been exposed to the maximum number of dust events in spring and summer seasons over the past 35 years. The dust was more active in summer compared with other seasons for the northern region of Iraq, while the south and central parts of Iraq are exposed to the largest frequency of dust storms in spring and summer. The cities near desert areas (e.g. Nasiriya, Basra and Baghdad) suffer from the greatest frequency of dust storms compared to the northern and eastern regions. According to the annual average during 1980–2015, the frequency of major dust storm activity in Nasiriya was 7.8 days, in Baghdad 3.1 days) and in Basra 2.3 days. Suspended dust is more frequent in Iraq compared with rising dust or dust storms. There was a greater frequency of dust events associated with high temperatures and wind speeds in the central and southern areas during summer. All three types of dust events show similar time trend distributions with three periods: increased frequency of dust between 1980 and 1993, decreased frequency during 1993–2001 and increased again from 2001.