Iraq — June 2005

Sociopolitical Situation

Drafting the constitution is the single most important job for the transitional government that took power in Baghdad and could be the key as to whether Iraq can hold together as a single nation. Following adoption of the constitution, Iraq is to hold new elections at the end of the year. The two thorniest issues are likely to be how influential will be the role of Islam and how much self-sufficiency will be granted to the Kurdish minority (20%) of the population that lives mainly in northern Iraq. Also key will be finding a way to bring the Sunni minority meaningfully into the discussions so they will buy into the final document. The drafters understand this society is diverse and cannot be ruled by either religious ideology or a secular one.

A wave of execution-style killings and dumping of bodies of Iraqi men continues. Insurgents appear to be targeting soldiers or men of military age, aiming at discouraging the expanding security forces, which have taken an increasing role in fighting the insurgency. The suicide bombing attacks which killed hundreds of innocent people increased since the new cabinet was formed; these attacks are designed to terrorize people and make them feel their government is not in control and cannot provide security.

Nearly 16,830 Kurdish families have moved to oil-rich Kirkuk since March 2004. They are living in old government buildings or are camped in the outskirts of the city, waiting to return to homes they were forcibly removed from. This sensitive issue has not yet been decided by President Jalal Talbani (of Kurdish origin) who affirmed that Kurds would be welcome to return to the city.

Iraq’s population was estimated at 27.2 million, some 40 per cent of which are children under 15. The ratio of men to women is almost equal, although the population of men aged 35 to 49-years-old has decreased significantly because of the impact of the Iraq-Iran war. Iraq’s total workforce is some 6.7 million people, 18 per cent of whom are unemployed, and the jobs that exist rarely pay enough. 85 per cent of Iraqis have an unstable power supply, 40 per cent use polluted water and almost a quarter of all children aged from six months to five years suffer from malnutrition.

According to the Infection Diseases Control Center (IDCC), there had been a 30 percent increase in hepatitis cases compared to the same period in 2004; also there had been an increase in typhoid, tuberculosis (TB) and other water-born diseases. The IDCC also fears leishmaniasis epidemic which is a disabling disease leads to disfigurement of the face and hands, and social stigma.

The problem of the sewage and water channels which often run beside each other and the lack of electricity has caused water to be pumped at low pressure, causing sewage to seep into the fresh water delivery system, while the summer season could exacerbate the spread of diseases since it creates a more suitable environment for the virus to thrive in.

Religious Situation

Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III during his visit to France said “Iraq’s constitution should not be based on the Quran as a sole source; it must also offer religious freedom to all in Iraq and personal liberties, despite the country’s overwhelming Muslim majority.” The patriarch discussed this issue with the most influential Shiite cleric in the country, Ayatollah Al Sistani, and the new Prime Minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, who assured him that they do not want a government that was only for Shiites or Muslims.

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