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The Week in Iraq is a weekly assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi civilian casualties by IBC's news collector and Recent Events editor Lily Hamourtziadou.

The analyses and opinions presented in these commentaries are personal to the author.

Recent weeks

Healing the wounds of the past
  18 Jan 2009

Happy New Year
  11 Jan 2009

The sad numbers
  31 Dec 2008

  21 Dec 2008

The farewell kiss
  14 Dec 2008

Regrets –he’s had a few…
  7 Dec 2008


The Week in Iraq

Fluid, not frozen.

by Lily Hamourtziadou

6 Apr 2008

‘The truth is that there will be no peace within the Shia regions, no peace between Sunnis and Shias, and no resolution of the issues dividing Arabs and Kurds until the occupation is over. The occupation freezes politics,’ writes Simon Jenkins (Guardian, April 9).

Not quite, though I can see what he means. And it is easy to see why the situation in Iraq may seem ‘frozen’. After all, not much changes: the violence, the poverty, the fear… Day in and day out, for five years now, it has almost become old news, the reporting of the daily killings. It has almost become boring to report –what is new, after all? Not much. Another day, another dozen (or two dozen, or three…) killings –of civilians, of soldiers, some of ‘ours’, some of ‘theirs’- another report of the hunger suffered by millions, of the devastation inflicted on the innocent. Last week over 250 people lost their lives, 8 of them children.

The trouble with Iraq, however, is that it is fluid. The problem for the Iraqis lies primarily in identity: who are the ‘good’ and who are the ‘bad’; who are to be trusted and who are to be feared; who is on our side and who is working against us; and defining the ‘us’ is itself a problem, for Iraqis.

Take the Sunnis. The ‘Awakening’ movement has divided them into the ‘good’ pro-government/pro-American faction, and the ‘bad’ anti-government/anti-American sect. Or is it the other way round? Perhaps it is the former that are the ‘bad’, while the latter are the ‘good’ Iraqis.

The Shiites are also split into those working for the government and those working against it. Who are the good Shiites now? Who is working for the Iraqi people and who is trying to further their own influence and power? This is also unclear. This is also in flux.

Knowing who is trying to protect you and who is trying to harm you, there is where the problem lies. Who is the enemy today, who is the enemy going to be tomorrow? And who is no longer an enemy?

If there has to be an enemy within one’s borders, it is so much better to be identifiable, distinguishable and fixed. But in Iraq there is no such certainty, no such clarity.

‘The problem we want to repeatedly emphasize is that there should be no weapons in the hands of any side other than the government,’ stated the Iraqi minister of human rights (Al-Sharqiyah TV, 2 April). Which means that the US army is the government of Iraq. Or that Al-Maliki’s government is wholly sustained by the American military. Yet this is the democratically elected government of Iraq, the government of the ‘free’ after years of dictatorship. Is it not?

Who exactly is the government of Iraq? And whose interests are they protecting? Who are those citizens with guns and bombs? Who are the Iraqis? Are they the Iraqis of 5 years ago?

And, when all this ends, who will the Iraqis be then?