Iraq: The Search for National Identity

Iraq: The Search for National Identity

Iraq: The Search for National Identity

Iraq: The Search for National Identity


The 1990-1991 crisis in the Middle East and the disturbances that followed, threw the deep-seated divisions within the Iraqi population into focus. This book examines the complexities of the internal cultural, political and religious conflict within the modern state of Iraq.


The 1991-92 events in the Gulf focused the world's attention on Iraq, raising many questions about the attitudes of the country's leadership in particular and the dynamics of Iraqi politics in general.

The debate that followed the post-war events in the northern and southern provinces centred on the question whether the rebellion of the Kurds and the Shi'is was just a reaction to the policies of Iraq's current regime or a variant of structural problems preventing the integration of Iraq's population.

The very framing of the problems as structural provoked a reaction from those who believed in a steady and progressive integration of all sectors in Iraq's population in spite of the constant upheavals characterizing its political life since its inception as a modern state in the early 1920s. To them the presentation of the problems as structural indicated an inclination to reify them and to prevent their solution. Any emphasis on the roots of the problems was seen as anti-progressive and hence inconsistent with the general idea of nation-building pervading the current historiography on Iraq.

Although I was aware of these problems when I started this research as a PhD student, I could not have imagined years ago that the story of Iraq's formation-as viewed by the population of the provinces-would arouse so much interest and bring about so many emotion-laden reactions.

The sensitivity surrounding the near-dismemberment of Iraq in the aftermath of the war was so profound that a book focusing on the population of the provinces was seen not just as an attempt to shed light on some obscure aspects of a well-known story but as a political statement. An account of the divisions in Iraq's population was seen as reflecting a personal position, and not as echoing historical evidence and realities on the ground. I hope that at this juncture emotions have already calmed down a little, making the presentation of the different aspects of the problem possible.

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