You are here:   Features > Iraq’s Christians pray for help that never comes
Iraqi Muslims have begun helping to clear churches destroyed or damaged by IS, suggesting that the jihadists have not poisoned attitudes among the population as the Christians had feared. But such efforts must not destroy evidence of their crimes, which is being collated by a jumble of NGOs. Investigations of mass graves should be properly funded, co-ordinated at UN level, and should not be held up by politicking, or prioritise one community’s victims over another’s.

Youth unemployment in Iraq stands at 36 per cent, according to the World Bank, and thousands of young people have been drawn into militias. A mass employment drive in, for example, building could provide alternative livelihoods, accelerate reconstruction, and unite different communities. In addition. young atheists, secularists and political protesters should be free to challenge the Shia-led status quo. 

Initiatives such as the British Museum’s heritage management training scheme are to be commended — not only because Iraq’s rich archaeology should again be a source of identity and revenue for the country, but also because it trains Iraqis of all faiths to do the work. Britain’s training of Iraqi psychiatrists acknowledges the prevalence of traumatisation. As for IS, the failure of the international community to bring charges of genocide against the group for its treatment of Christians and Yezidis is regrettable. However, Iraqi judges are understood to be open to the UK-led suggestion of internationally supported special courts in Iraq. The international community can also aid Baghdad by prosecuting returning jihadists. Iraq’s special body to investigate IS’s crimes against Yezidis is welcome but needs to be accessible to all the group’s victims. In addition, the West must consistently challenge its Gulf allies over the funding of extremism, although in Britain our ever-increasing dependence on Arab investment makes this harder. Are we selling ourselves for 30 barrels of oil?

In the longer term, the Iraqi government must allow space for one national narrative to develop, supported by a free press, civil society and the arts. The goal should be an Iraqi identity that can withstand the tug of war between Islam’s two Vaticans, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Existing reconciliation initiatives should be encouraged, along with leaders with sufficient moral authority and distance from the government. Education should be reorganised to include pre-Islamic history to prevent the early denigration of non-Muslims and non-Arabs. One promising initiative is a training centre in Najaf run by the Al-Khoei Foundation that aims to “make defending minorities fashionable” by inviting community representatives to teach Shia imams about their creed. 

After the 2010 Haitian earthquake, NGOs pledged to “build back better”. The same is needed in Iraq — foundations of equal citizenship, and individuals and communities having no need to crowd each other for basic rights. The destruction of Iraq was achieved by a long dictatorship, a Western coalition with a sketchy vision and a global jihadist alliance with a destructive one. We should not be surprised if as many countries, and more ideas, are needed to rebuild it.  
View Full Article

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.