Iraq Is Not Shining Example For Middle East

© Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

It’s rare to hear Iraq described as “heaven,” but that is how a Christian Iraqi described his hometown in northern Kurdistan after returning to the US from a trip to visit his family there. Electricity, food and clean water are in abundance, and Christians live in peace with their Kurdish neighbors.

In his speech last week, President Obama stressed the United States’ support for universal rights, including the freedom of religion “whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa or Tehran.”

Later in his speech, he presented Iraq as an example of how other countries in the Middle East should proceed:

“In Iraq, we see the promise of a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian democracy. There, the Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence for a democratic process, even as they have taken full responsibility for their own security. Like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress.”

Though small villages in the north have prospered in the last two years, Iraq is a peculiar example to present as a model for other Middle Eastern nations, as sectarian violence in parts of Iraq further south, such as Baghdad and Basra, has meant frequent suicide bombings, as well as attacks on mosques and churches since 2003.

Articles 2, 14 and 41 of the new Iraqi constitution, drafted in 2005, prohibit discrimination based on religion and allow for the freedom of religion for all people, including the freedom to worship. Christians, Yazidis and Sabean-Mandeans are named, but they in particular have faced aggressive persecution since the war started in the regions ruled by the Iraqi government.

Obama’s statement applies to the northern parts of Kurdistan. A family from Doore, a small Christian village in the Dahuk principality, described this region of Iraq as free and safe—so safe, in fact, that families leave their doors unlocked and churches are many.

Yet this is not the case for all Iraqis. Christians in Baghdad have fled in great numbers, having been persecuted
individually and at church. In late 2010 Our Lady of Salvation Church was attacked by Al-Qaida in Iraq members, causing the death of about sixty people.

Dr. Erica C D Hunter, Lecturer in Eastern Christianity at the Department for the Study of Religions in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, told me in a phone interview that there were 50,000 Mandeans in Iraq before the 2003 invasion. The community had lived in Iraq for about two thousand years. Now their numbers are less than 3,000. When she visited Iraq in 2002, Dr. Hunter found the synagogue in Baghdad well kept, and about 50 members still there. Now only seven or eight remain.

Though the Iraqi constitution stipulates the protection of religious minorities and their rights to practice their
religions freely, the US army and the Iraqi government have not been able to stop the violence against religious minorities, and they seem to be doing little to find a solution to sectarian violence that has effected these minorities.

Individuals and religious leaders, who before the war never asked their neighbors’ religious affiliation, continue to see their Iraqi brothers and sisters as equals. Michael Nazir-Ali of The Guardian writes about St. George’s Church, whose doors are always open to non-Christians. Its medical services are available to anyone who walks in regardless of ethnicity or faith, and Muslims often seek advice and counseling there.

Eight years after the fall of Saddam, Iraq remains a volatile country rife with sectarian violence. Many Iraqis live without electricity, medication and clean water, and they fear for their lives. But we can hope that there will come a day soon when the Christians of Baghdad will have the security and peace of mind that their brothers in the Dahuk province enjoy. Until then, one hopes the rest of the Middle East will not follow in Iraq’s footsteps.

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8 thoughts on “Iraq Is Not Shining Example For Middle East

  1. Most of us living in the world are aware what is going on in Iraq,but very sad, majority of Americans aren't,why?Their leaders including a few Generals, every now and then could come out talking to the press that the democracy brought by them in Iraq should be followed by countries in the Middle East.The US public,most of them couldn't be bothered what's happening around the world,so is the statement made by their president esp. talking about the outside world.What kind of democracy when the majority of the Palestinians voted Hamas to take charge.but the Americans would not recognised,why? Be honest to ourselves, the US govt.bowed (got no balls) towards the Jews. In other words,superpower is not the US but the Jews of Israel.

  2. Most of us living in the world are aware what is going on in Iraq,but very sad, majority of Americans aren’t,why?Their leaders including a few Generals, every now and then could come out talking to the press that the democracy brought by them in Iraq should be followed by countries in the Middle East.The US public,most of them couldn’t be bothered what’s happening around the world,so is the statement made by their president esp. talking about the outside world.What kind of democracy when the majority of the Palestinians voted Hamas to take charge.but the Americans would not recognised,why? Be honest to ourselves, the US govt.bowed (got no balls) towards the Jews. In other words,superpower is not the US but the Jews of Israel.

  3. I went in Iraq last summer and I can assure you that it's a paradise for Real Iraqis(who love their country). Not only christians were persecuted in Baghdad, Iraqis shia were persecuted too. It's not because Shia people are the majority that we shouldn't talk about their deaths. Because for me any Iraqi of any religion is a persone who has a high value. And why isn't anybody talking about the muslims who take care of Christians and try to protect them and love them as their own brothers and sisters?
    When sombody is killed, I dont say people are discriminating Shia people, I say stop the terrorism.

  4. to Omar Mohd.Noh:

    Thanks very much for taking the time to post a vile racist bigoted hate speech rant against Jews. You Arabs sure love them nutty conspiracy theories, don't ya?

    Anyways, first of all, Hamas illegally seized power from the elected recognized Palestinian Authority in a violent civil war in which human rights groups estimate over a thousand Palestinians were murdered by other Palestinians

    And then after Hamas illegally violently took power in Gaza, the US did not recognize Hamas because as you know very well, Hamas's founding charter states that the entire state of Israel not just 67 borders but the whole country of Israel inside and outside 67 borders, Tel Aviv, all of Israel must be completely and totally destroyed since Israels existence in any form at all in any border is an offense against Islam, and all the 5 million Jews in Israel must be killed in a mass genocidal slaughter as the number one religious duty of all Moslem's.

    Since President Obama believes in bringing peace and and happiness and prosperity to Palestine and Israel, obviously he will never recognize the insane warmongering homicidal maniac gangster regime of Hamas which only wants massive bloodshed and death and destruction.

  5. I went in Iraq last summer and I can assure you that it’s a paradise for Real Iraqis(who love their country). Not only christians were persecuted in Baghdad, Iraqis shia were persecuted too. It’s not because Shia people are the majority that we shouldn’t talk about their deaths. Because for me any Iraqi of any religion is a persone who has a high value. And why isn’t anybody talking about the muslims who take care of Christians and try to protect them and love them as their own brothers and sisters?
    When sombody is killed, I dont say people are discriminating Shia people, I say stop the terrorism.

  6. to Omar Mohd.Noh:

    Thanks very much for taking the time to post a vile racist bigoted hate speech rant against Jews. You Arabs sure love them nutty conspiracy theories, don’t ya?

    Anyways, first of all, Hamas illegally seized power from the elected recognized Palestinian Authority in a violent civil war in which human rights groups estimate over a thousand Palestinians were murdered by other Palestinians

    And then after Hamas illegally violently took power in Gaza, the US did not recognize Hamas because as you know very well, Hamas’s founding charter states that the entire state of Israel not just 67 borders but the whole country of Israel inside and outside 67 borders, Tel Aviv, all of Israel must be completely and totally destroyed since Israels existence in any form at all in any border is an offense against Islam, and all the 5 million Jews in Israel must be killed in a mass genocidal slaughter as the number one religious duty of all Moslem’s.

    Since President Obama believes in bringing peace and and happiness and prosperity to Palestine and Israel, obviously he will never recognize the insane warmongering homicidal maniac gangster regime of Hamas which only wants massive bloodshed and death and destruction.

  7. Thank you for highlighting the fact that the work and the ambition towards democracy is taken in Kurdistan. Noone admits to the fact that Iraq is a split country, and that in fact Kurds are held back by the rest of Iraq. It is only a matter of time until Kurdistan proclaims independence. The laws and the will towards liberal democracy gets harder for Kurds when the federal government in Baghdad hinders development and secularity.

  8. Thank you for highlighting the fact that the work and the ambition towards democracy is taken in Kurdistan. Noone admits to the fact that Iraq is a split country, and that in fact Kurds are held back by the rest of Iraq. It is only a matter of time until Kurdistan proclaims independence. The laws and the will towards liberal democracy gets harder for Kurds when the federal government in Baghdad hinders development and secularity.