Iraq — January 2008

Sociopolitical situation

Violent attacks have caused a huge exodus of people, jeopardizing the existence of Iraq’s ancient communities of Christians, Mandaeans and Yazidis, who thrived in the Mesopotamia for centuries. Sectarian violence has forced Iraqis already displaced from their homes in Basra, Baghdad and Mosul to areas where their community is strong. Shiites tend to move from the center of the country to the south; Sunnis move from the south to the center; Christians head for the northern province of Nineveh. According to UNHCR and the International Organization of Migration, it is estimated that more than 2.4 million Iraqis are displaced inside Iraq.

Iraq basic services are at their worst level; more than four years of war has crippled infrastructure and unrelenting violence has hobbled reconstruction efforts. Some residents of Baghdad and the provinces report they get electricity for around two hours a day; water supplies are often cut for days at a time; and people have to queue for many hours to get fuel.

Education is minimal, healthcare is inadequate, and many die without even being accounted for. Between 25 percent to 40 percent of Iraqis require food assistance at any given time. This figure is much higher for displaced people, owing to poor access to the public distribution system.

A new phenomenon in Iraq is to see people, particularly women and children, looking in the rubbish every day for something to eat. In such conditions, many young people feel they have little choice but to join violent groups, if only to provide some income and a level of protection.

Female-headed households face great difficulties in protecting and supporting their families. There are increasing reports of Iraqi women resorting to prostitution and of trafficking in women and children to neighboring countries.

Religious situation

Pope Benedict XVI elevated the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Emmanuel III, to the rank of cardinal, expressing his spiritual closeness and affection for Iraqis. Cardinal Delly said that the title is not for him but for all Iraqis in the world, and it is a sign of reconciliation between Christians and Muslims, Sunni or Shiite. It was refreshing to find Iraq’s official media highlighting the event and describing the Chaldean patriarch as a national symbol.

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