News Release

Sectarianism in Iraq: Roots and Alternatives


Ditmars is the author of the just-released book Dancing in the No Fly Zone: A Woman’s Journey Through Iraq and has covered Iraq since 1997. She said today: “Pre-invasion Iraq despite the twin tyrannies of sanctions and Saddam had been a cosmopolitan, multi-cultural, multi-faith, multi-lingual society. The people self-identified as Iraqis first, not as Sunnis or Shiites or Christians. It had the most liberal family law in the Arab world. It’s now breaking down into factionalized fiefdoms with death squads and militias. Sharia law is now in the Constitution. Much of what the U.S. occupation did — the way the constitutional process was administered, the manner of the debathification process, exacerbated sectarianism. The old secular Iraq is a distant memory.”
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Jarrar lived in Iraq through the invasion and has been in the U.S. for six months. He just wrote on his blog: “Iraqis never had a civil war, and they’ll never have one unless the occupation troops stay in Iraq. The U.S. troops should leave Iraq as soon as possible so that Iraqis would have the time and space to heal their wounds and deal with their internal issues.” His most recent piece is “The Iraqi RoadMap: An Exit Plan.” Jarrar is currently doing contract work with the United Nations.
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Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Leys has been to Iraq twice. He said today: “I don’t see the U.S. military stopping worse sectarian violence. The U.S. military presence creates the opportunity for people to carry out other violence.”

Leys added: “We need to exert all possible pressure against the upcoming supplemental spending bill for the war in Iraq. Those of us in the anti-war movement need be using all the nonviolent levers — from lobbying to civil disobedience.”

An Oregon native, Foltz is executive director of the Carmelite Sisters of Charity’s Peace and Justice Commission. She is presently working at TASSC, a torture abolition and survivors support coalition.

Voices for Creative Nonviolence is organizing the “Winter of Our Discontent,” a series of vigils against the war, in Washington, D.C., and a fast which will continue until March 20, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167