Religious Minorities in Republican Iraq Between Granting Rights and Discrimination : a socio-political and historical study

Faculty/Professorship: Fakultät Geistes- und Kulturwissenschaften: Abschlussarbeiten 
Author(s): Ali, Majid Hassan
Publisher Information: Bamberg : Otto-Friedrich-Universität
Year of publication: 2019
Pages: x, v-xi, 439 ; Illustrationen, Karten
Supervisor(s): Franke, Patrick ; Herzog, Christoph
Year of first publication: 2018
Language(s): English
Dissertation, Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg, 2018
DOI: 10.20378/irbo-55706
Licence: Creative Commons - CC BY - Attribution 4.0 International 
URN: urn:nbn:de:bvb:473-opus4-557069
The religious minorities have been part of Modern Iraq since it was founded in 1921 and they can be distinguished from the majority by their customs, traditions, beliefs and histories. Moreover, historically, Iraq (and Iraqi Kurdistan) has been the cradle of most of the religious minorities in the region.
Iraqi religious minorities such as Jews, Christian, Yazidis, Sabean-Mandaean, and Kākāʾi are considered the oldest communities of Iraq history. They are considered to be, in some ways, the indigenous groups of Iraq. Republican Iraq underwent a period of immense socio-political change which impacted significantly on religious minorities in particular. Over time they, and the newer religious minorities like the Bahaʾi, began to face severe discrimination, which led to their being considered inferior to the majority. This, in turn, led to occasional extreme persecution and forced displacement campaigns often undertaken by the successive Iraqi governments and subsequently by the (Muslim) majority. This study focuses on social, political and historical factors pertaining to the lives of Iraqi religious minorities, and attempts to uncover the sequence of events that led to the current phenomenon of religious minorities fleeing their home countries in order to preserve their traditions.
This study is based on an analytical and descriptive method and should be considered a historical research of events in the light of available archival documents, legal sources and press articles. This dissertation is divided into ten chapters. In first and second chapters the methodological and theoretical framework applied is discussed, as well as an overview of the concept of “minority” as well as definitions of religious minorities in Iraq. Chapter three and four deal with the contextualization of the historical and socio-political frameworks that inform the background of this dissertation which relates religious minorities with their backgrounds in the period of Monarchical Iraq (1920-1958). Chapter five discusses the religious minorities during the first republic of Iraq 1958-1963. This era is significant in that it was a time of unprecedented change, one which formed the interim between the Monarchical Era and the era of the nationalists. Furthermore, the first republic is significant because it constitutes a kind of ‘golden age’ for all Iraqi minorities. Chapters six, seven and eight are the main focus of this dissertation. They are primarily concerned with the second republican era, which is the period of the two ʿĀrifs (1963-1968). This particular era was one of conflict which saw the emergence of subsidiary identities. Chapter six examines the rise of sectarianism and confessionalism in Iraq. Chapter seven engages with the scattered religious minorities (SRM), under the republican eras after 1963 up to the present time. This chapter introduces the situation of three scattered religious minorities throughout Iraq: the Jews, Bahaʾi, and Sabean-Mandaeans. In chapter eight, the focus shifts to the geographically-concentrated religious minorities (GCRM). This chapter deals with three religious minorities: the Kākāʾi, Christians and Yazidis, all of whom dwell in the so-called Disputed Territories, a region which is disputed by the two parties involved in the conflict in Iraq: The Central Government of Iraq (CGI) and the Kurdish Movement. Chapter nine and ten discuss the prospective dimensions of political developments in Iraq in relation to religious minorities after 1968. In chapter nine, the impact of change in the legislation pertaining to the rights of religious minorities is examined, as well as judicial rights in the Iraqi courts, with a focus on the Law of Civil Status No.65/1972 in particular. The final chapter traces socio-political developments within the religious minorities, beginning with the last Farhūd of the Jews. This period saw re-forging the case of the Iraqi Christians, the renewed controversy over Yazidi Identity among disparate Kurdish political and religious movements, and ongoing demographic change brought about by forced Islamisation in Yazidi areas. The Sabean-Mandaean minority also experienced a period of transition; their status weakened, their welfare deteriorating from that of an organized minority to one whose existence and religious identity were threatened. In the case of the Kākāʾis, this period shows their situation is in the transmission from domestic conflict to distinctive religious identity. whereas pressure on the Bahai (whose religion had been previously banned) was relaxed somewhat, allowing them a cautions sense of new-found freedom. In the conclusion, the hypotheses of this thesis are revisited to investigate what implications the research findings may have beyond the immediate historical and socio-political context of Iraqi religious minorities.
Religious minorities have endured much persecution in Monarchical Iraq and thus, it is from Monarchical Iraq that this research begins before proceeding to explore the case of the minorities in Republican Iraq. The policies of discrimination in Iraq assumed many forms such as enactments and laws or governmental or administrative acts that led to division and discrimination. Although these policies of discrimination affected all segments of Iraqi society, it was particularly detrimental to religious minorities that were already suffering at the hands of the majorities. They faced an unequalled degree of religious stigmatization and discrimination. This has created a form of shared collective memory which consists of a prevailing sense of alienation, social inequality and detrimental stereotypes that is shared by all non-Muslim minorities in Iraq.
It is noteworthy that, although there was discrimination of religious minorities in Iraq, the nature of such discrimination was highly dependent on the political situation. This is because various Iraqi governments viewed the religious minorities differently and also dealt with them as such.
Importantly, as this study illustrates, the religious minorities were not only affected by political currents but also by social and religious currents within Iraq. No radical change occurred in the thought and inclinations of the dominating powers, nor did such change occur within national movements which were in the position to influence both the ruling system and the state institutions. Besides, religious and sectarian belonging became a means upon which these powers relied to consolidate their power. No current or influential political party in Iraq to date has succeeded in establishing a nation state, nor has it succeeded in integrating the Iraqi communities to achieve equality in a manner which maintains the ethnic, religious and cultural variety within the country. Rather, policies of sectarianism have kept the religious minorities away from actual political participation in state institutions and in government. Such marginalization and political dysfunction could have been avoided if representation had been assured by virtue of population (i.e. the quota system) and not by political affiliation. However, as the historical eras show, the deep-rooted nature of such divisions and the lack of mutual trust between the different communities have led to the current long-endured conflict, which in turn has virtually fragmented all communities within Iraq.
Against this historical backdrop of division and inequality, the sectarian and confessional issue quickly emerged in post Baʿthist Iraq. Indeed, all the unprecedented developments currently taking place in Iraq are tentativeness the result of the actions or the inaction of past regimes in Iraq.
The various religious minorities in Iraq suffered systematic acts of oppression and extermination in different periods as follows. The ongoing oppression of the Jews ended with their exile from Iraq after two bouts of violent dispossession and killing referred to as the First Farhūd (1941-1952) and the Second Farhūd (1968-1973). Similarly, Christians were subjected to ongoing oppression and persecution. This began with a massacre which took place in 1933 and it continued until a second persecution after the coup of 1963. Their situation was not to improve in all of this time, 2003 when they were harshly targeted and eliminated from Iraq. The Yazidi also suffered, between 1935 and 1946 in particular and again after 1963. Their regions were divided between the province of Kurdistan and the central government of Iraq from 1991-2003. They were systematically targeted by Islamic groups, the most recent example of which is ISIS’ invasion of Sinjar and the Plain of Nineveh and the act of genocide which they carried out against the Yazidi. Other minorities such as the Sabean-Mandaean, Bahaʾi, Kākāʾi and others have suffered a similar fate and are currently fleeing Iraq.
GND Keywords: Irak; Religiöse Minderheit; Geschichte 1921-2018
DDC Classification: 290 Other religions  
320 Political Science  
950 History of Asia  
RVK Classification: NQ 8819     NQ 5750     MH 72968     BE 8690   
Type: Doctoralthesis
Release Date: 6. December 2019