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Sunni–Shia Religious Conflict in Iraq Essay

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Updated: Nov 7th, 2020


Sunni and Shia religious denominations have always opposed each other due to their ideological discordances. The conflict between these two societies started in the sixteenth century when people from Iran begun to inhabit Iraq. The problems in the religious groups’ relationship are not resolved until the present moment. The following paper will discuss and cover various aspects of the Iraqi conflict between the representatives of Sunni and Shia Islam denominations.

Background of the Conflict

As it is mentioned above, the groups of Sunni and Shia are referred to as Islamic confessions. It would be proper to state that approximately sixty-five percent if Iraq inhabitants are the followers of the Shia movement, whereas the other thirty-five percent of the state’s population contributes to the Sunni group. Although the Shia Islamic denomination outnumbered their opponents from the group of Sunni, the latter community refused to admit their enemies’ advantage and supremacy (Gonzalez 23). Nevertheless, the followers of Shia were persecuted by the government (that tortured its representatives) since the year of 1932.

Saddam Hussein tried to exterminate all the representatives of Shia from Iraq. However, another political leader, Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr managed to expel almost seventy-five thousand people of Iranian ethnic background (Sunni’s) from the neighboring country’s territory in 1989. When Saddam Hussein was defeated during the battle in Kuwait, Shia rose against his policies and the leader’s followers. However, they could not confront the contemporary government’s mightiness, which led to a tremendous number of Shia members’ deaths in the 1990s.

As the Sunnis occupied the governing positions, their opponents were under repression, which caused the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003 (Gonzalez 28). It is essential to state that this war was an international problem that was influenced and intervened by such countries as the United States of America, Iran, and several other Iraq neighbors.

The Conflict’s Impact on Economic System

Despite the participation of the United States’ military forces in the Iraq War, the conflict remains unresolved till the present moment. Moreover, it hurt the lives of the local population and the country’s economic system. It is estimated that almost six trillion dollars were spent on the war between Shia and Sunni denominations in the territory of Iraq (Gonzalez 72). This negatively influenced the state’s economy as all the finances that were intended to be spent on its development before had to be invested in military equipment for the soldiers. Also, all the money Iraq received from other Commonwealths is now considered its national debt (Reese 16).

Therefore, the country’s economy might not be able to stabilize and prosper within the next fifty years. Although the war discussed above almost ruined the economic system of Iraq, its population requires additional funding as approximately seventy percent of Iraqi adolescents and children have psychological problems (mental traumas, depression, and other issues). Also, the country’s population had limited access to drinkable and pure water in the year 2007 due to the cholera diffusion in its territory.

The Conflict’s Impact on Political System

The aforementioned conflict was influenced by the policies of the Iraqi government, which consisted predominately of the Sunni Islamic denomination’s followers. The Shia members were trying to occupy governmental positions from 2003 till 2004 by suggesting contemporary politicians re-elect the entire Parliament (Gonzalez 45). They managed to take advantage of their opponents from the Sunni group and made the national police and army reformations.

However, representatives of the Sunni movement were re-elected in the year of 2010. It would be proper to state that the conflict hurt the political system of Iraq as a whole as Shia politicians were seeking their interest and authority that could have been helpful during the war, whereas Sunnis aimed at the establishment of trustworthy relationships with other countries, and wanted the country to develop its economy (Gonzalez 44). Nowadays, the state’s governing positions are allocated among the representatives of both Sunni and Shia denominations to avoid similar conflicts in the future. This strategy did not demonstrate advantageous results at first, but the situation settled by the tenth of November in 2010.

How the Groups are Affecting the Region

Although the government of Iraq is neutral nowadays, there are territories controlled by Shia or Sunni members. Therefore, the Iraqi population is deprived of its freedom of movement (Schwartz 57). This division might influence the local citizens’ lives, and holds the state’s inhabitants under pressure as the menace of war might emerge at any moment. However, members of different groups take this situation as an advantage as no one is allowed to intervene in their communities. As the representatives of Shia occupy a significant part of Iraq’s governing positions, they started opposing the faith of Sunni (Gonzalez 45).

Moreover, particular sectarian practices of Shia are widely promoted in the country today (some of them are even forced by law). Due to these regulations, regular citizens decided to confront certain directions of the local parliament by protesting in the streets in the year of 2011. It would be proper to mention that both Sunni and Shia followers are considered to be dangerous, whereas the United Nations Organization said that these religious denominations are viewed as a tremendous threat to international security and peace.


The conflict among people of such Islamic denominations as Sunni and Shia started after the residents of Iran moved to the neighboring state’s territory. The two groups mentioned above were fighting for their rights to govern Iraq for almost seventy years. The Iraq War was settled by the re-election of the local parliament. The representatives of both Shia and Sunni are now in the head of the country.

Works Cited

Gonzalez, Nathan. The Sunni-Shia Conflict: Understanding Sectarian Violence in the Middle East. Nortia Press, 2009.

Reese, Aaron. Sectarian and Regional Conflict in the Middle East. Institute for the Study of War, 2013.

Schwartz, Michael. War Without End: The Iraq War in Context. Haymarket Books, 2008.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Sunni–Shia Religious Conflict in Iraq'. 7 November.

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