Sectarianism refers to discrimination and hatred between subgroups of a larger group that result from differences in political, religious, and social ideologies. Sectarianism is an obstacle to the democratization of Iraq because it has created rifts between different ethnic and religious groups.
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The aftermath of the 2003 war that initiated by the United States was formation of different social and political factions that opposed each other. Iraq might be gradually gaining political stability. However, rifts between ethnic and sectarian groups might derail its democratization. The Sunni insurgents, Shia Islamists, Sadrists, and the central government oppose each other thus compromising democratization efforts.
Sectarianism began when the U.S military failed to establish a government after toppling Saddam Hussein (Al-Sheikh and Sky 119). Iraqi people took revenge against their government by revolting. Resistance against the state was worsened by the violent actions of more than 35,000 prisoners released by Saddam before his downfall. In addition, dissolution of the military increased disorder, looting, and violence.
Due to dissolution of security forces, many communities formed militia units to defend themselves (Al-Sheikh and Sky 120). A coalition established in 2003 to handle the situation promoted sectarian and ethnical precepts. The coalition’s composition comprised more Shi’ites than Sunnis.
Kadrists were excluded from the coalition. Rifts intensified when Shia and Kurdish leaders proposed the proposal that government positions be divided according to the size of each group. Sunnis and Sadrists disagreed because they were aware that it was a move to divide them in order to rule easily (Al-Sheikh and Sky 120). De-Ba’athfication further separated the groups because Sunni leaders claimed that the initiative targeted its people. On the other hand, Sadrists were unsatisfied with the new regime that promoted sectarian precepts.
Sunni leaders advocated for election boycott by its members. As a result, Shia parties took control of the government. In forming a new security force, Shi’ites declined to join due to intimidation and discrimination from Sunnis (Al-Sheikh and Sky 123). As a result, other groups waged violent attacks against them. For example, Sadrists murdered them in great numbers. Attacks betweenShia and Sunni groups worsened after the 2006 bombing of the Samara mosque.
The civil war led to the demise of more than 10,000 people. Communities became divided into sectarian groups whose main was to protect their people. Sectarian tensions worsened after the execution of Saddam Hussein. After losing to Shi’ites, Sunnis decided to join forces with U.S. military to fight the Shia militias and al-Qaeda groups (Al-Sheikh and Sky 124). This heightened tension and violence among the three groups.
Efforts by the Iraqi government to unite warring groups failed because Shia and Sunni leaders were disinterested in unity. Shi’ites maintained that Sunni militias were supposed to be tried for the crimes they had committed. They also considered reconciliation as a means of abolishing the political system established in 2003.
The government’s effort to implement the law led to more violence and murders among different groups. This worsened the rifts and intensified hatred among them. Every group fought to survive and protect its people (135). The situation improved during the 2010 elections. However, sectarian accusations from some groups compromised the newly found unity.
The rifts between different groups in Iraq are so deep that they are an impediment to its democratization. Each group feels discriminated and left out of the government. The goal of the groups is survival and self-preservation. They do not work towards a common goal that could unite them.
In addition, the decision of Iran and the U.S to take sides worsened the rift between the groups. The only avenue of democratization of Iraq is establishment of peace among the different sectarian groups. Since the invasion, different groups have instigated violence against each other thus causing more divisions and compromising democratization efforts.
Al-Sheikh, Safa, and Sky, Emma. Iraq since 2003: Perspectives on a Divided Society. Survival 53.4 (2011): 119-142. Print.