Academic journal article Arab Studies Journal

On Iraqi Nationality: Law, Citizenship, and Exclusion

Academic journal article Arab Studies Journal

On Iraqi Nationality: Law, Citizenship, and Exclusion

Article excerpt

On the eve of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980, Saddam Hussein's regime waged a wide-scale campaign of expulsion of so-called Iraqis of Iranian origin, or taba'iyya iraniyya (often referred to as taba'iyya).1 These Iraqis were Shi'i Arabs and Kurds whose family line held Persian nationality under the Ottomans.2 The government came to see them as a threat, especially with the rise of Shi'i ulema-led religious opposition in the 1970s and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. The designation of some Iraqis as taba'iyya rendered two million Iraqis, or about ^fteen percent of the population, vulnerable and suspect.3 Massive expulsion of thousands of families4 was accompanied by widespread brutality. The regime held families in prisons and prison camps for months before abandoning them on the border with Iran. It con^scated their property and documents and subjected them to rape and torture. The state also ordered the broad-scale detention of young men between eighteen and twenty-eight. The regime killed many of these young men and then buried their remains in mass graves. Those who did not manage to ^ee the country were forced to collaborate with the regime when the frenzy subsided.

The expulsions and brutality were not simply arbitrary measures of an oppressive regime. The legislation authorizing the taba'iyyas denaturalization, Resolution 666 of 1980, was in fact an adaptation of the ^rst Iraqi Nationality Law of 1924 that British o^cials dra^ed and Iraqi statesmen approved. The law of 1924 undermined the notion of equal citizenship when it categorized Iraqi citizens on the basis of the citizenship they had held under Ottoman rule, and whether they were at the time Ottoman or Persian citizens. The law and the deportation of the taba'iyya in the 1980s are also rooted in the question of "Persians" in Iraq. During the early days of the modern state of Iraq, established in 1921, the presence of "Persians" preoccupied British o^cials and Iraqi statesmen. For the British o^cials and ruling elites, these "Persians," often Shi'a of Arab descent, posed a threat to their rule and the consolidation of the nation-state. This fear was deeply imbricated in Iraqis' struggle for power in the early days of the nascent state and had a longer genealogy dating back to Ottoman rule. The "othering" of the "Persian" subject reached its climax under Saddam Hussein's regime, which perceived these Iraqis and their descendants as a ^fth column whose loyalty lay with Iran.

The first Iraqi Nationality Law was a legal conferral of citizenship and was intimately tied to both national formations and the consolidation of the Iraqi state. The law and its various amendments shed light on the politics of exclusion and inclusion and the institutionalization of diference in Iraq. Following Rogers Brubaker's thesis that the nation is a category of practice and an institutionalized form,5 I analyze how this law and its amendments, in its drafts and implementation, worked to defne in juridical terms both the "Iraqi" and the "Arab." This law considered someone like King Faysal, who hailed from Mecca, to be an Iraqi citizen, while defning inhabitants who held the Persian nationality as second-class citizens whose loyalty was suspect and whose access to state resources was unequal. Brubaker has argued that nationality laws are instruments of social closure to diferentiate between citizens and aliens.6 The Iraqi Nationality Law, however, did not merely defne the citizen and the non-citizen. It was an instrument of internal diferentiation, through which ruling elites facilitated political closures and constructed internal others within the very category of the Iraqi citizen.

Géraldine Chatelard argues that forced displacement of Iraqis "throughout the modern history of Iraq identifes some of the continuities that have existed in the exercise of power under successive regimes-monarchical, republican, military-all autocratic or authoritarian in varying degrees. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.