Oh, Those "Disappointing" Iraqis
Posted on: Tuesday, March 16, 2010
It may be months before we know the final tally of Iraq’s March 7 parliamentary elections. But one thing is already clear. As The New York Times editorial page put it today, “Beyond the closeness of the race, the new results—disappointingly—show Iraqis once again voted mainly along sectarian and ethnic lines.”
Oh, those disappointing Iraqis. You would never guess from the Times piece that sectarianism in Iraq, whether expressed in voting or in violence, is a direct outcome of US policy.
Remarkably, in a country with almost no history of communal violence, US actions, from the invasion of 2003 to the present, helped transform a doctrinal difference between the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam into a dangerous political divide. The US dismantled Iraq's largely secular state bureaucracy in favor of a system that allocated seats in parliament, jobs and other resources according to ethnic and religious divisions.
That system produced the so–called "Shiite list" that swept the first national elections held under US occupation in January 2005. It also produced a civil war.
In the name of defeating the anti-US insurgency, the Pentagon armed and deployed openly sectarian Shiite and Kurdish militias to fight Sunnis and police Sunni neighborhoods. The State Department acknowledged in 2005 that this policy had "greatly exacerbated tensions along purely ethnic lines." After setting the stage for civil war, the US continued to fuel violence by giving one side—the Sunni–based insurgency—its raison d'être, while giving the other side—the Shiite-controlled state security forces—money, weapons, and training. By 2007, the US was arming both sides.
In the legal arena, the same provisions of the US–brokered constitution that sanction gender discrimination (Articles 39 and 41) also lay the groundwork for sectarianism. Long before sectarianism turned to violence, MADRE warned that, "the new constitution could allow unelected clerics and Islamist politicians to determine a person's legal recourse based on sex and religious affiliation [emphasis added]. Due to varying interpretations of religious law, tensions between Islamic groups with differing rules about personal status issues would be exacerbated. The resulting civil strife will further endanger Iraqis, undermine prospects for democracy, and foment a dangerous sectarianism in an already destabilized society." The decision to apply separate laws on the basis of sex and religion has reinforced both discrimination against women and sectarian conflict; arguably the two greatest impediments to real democracy and reconciliation in Iraq.
This weekend marks seven years since the US invasion of Iraq. The elections that preceded this grim anniversary are very much a product of US policy. In effect, the US forced Iraqis to compete for scarce resources on the basis of sectarian identity and reoriented Iraqi citizenship on the basis of religion instead of nationality. So if you feel “disappointed” by the Iraqi elections, you know who to thank.
By Yifat Susskind
Archives"Press Room" Home July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 July 2006 June 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 April 2005 March 2005 November 2004 October 2004 April 2004 March 2004 January 2004 December 2003 October 2003 September 2003 June 2003 April 2003 January 2003 September 2002 June 2002 January 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 January 2001
MADRE & Our Partners Make News
Haitian woman faces death threats for speaking out about violence against women (WBEZ Worldview, July 16, 2014)
Media Spotlight Turns Away from Iraq, as Concerns Mount Over Human Rights and Political Stalemate (Uprising Radio, July 11, 2014)
Iraq: The women left behind (Aljazeera, July 3, 2014)
Under Isis, Iraqi women again face an old nightmare: violence and repression (The Guardian, July 3, 2014)
How Can We Protect Women From A Sexual Jihad? (HuffPost Live, June 26, 2014)