Religious, Ethnic Conflict in Iraq

By Nizamani, Rauf | Economic Review, March 2003 | Go to article overview

Religious, Ethnic Conflict in Iraq


Nizamani, Rauf, Economic Review


The situation in Iraq, among other things, has also given rise to the discussion about the ethnic/religious conflict in the country. Most of the analysts have identified this problem as three-fold, i.e Kurds, Shias and Sunnis. However, they have simply misrepresented the nature of the problem by intermingling the one identity of the population with the other.

The first of these groups is ethnically different from the other two but not in the religious sense. because the same division of Sunnis and Shias is also present among the Kurds. Therefore, this triangle does not seem proper. The Shia identity has been derived by dividing the Arab population of Iraq on a religious basis. To understand the issue, one should be clear about the contradiction in Iraqi society.

The Kurd problem is well-known, involving also Turkey and Iran. It is about political autonomy/ independence on the basis of ethnic identity. The major difference with the rest of the Iraqi population is the Kurds' non-Arab Origin, whereas this does not apply to the Shias, the perception of whose separate identity was derived from the differences of Saddam, who belonged to the Sunni sect, with the Shia regime of Iran.

The Iran-Iraq conflict was not religious, and had other political and historical reasons, but was not only given a religious shape but also imposed similarly on Iraqi society. However, the majority of the Iraqi Shias and their religious leaders did not take it as such.

It is important to see what identity the Shias of Iraq have preferred for themselves, i. …

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