Iraq — June 2009

Sociopolitical Situation

Some observers have warned that rancor between the Shiite government and Sunni militias could provoke a return to greater violence, which dropped sharply last year but has increased in recent months. The Iraqi government has now underlined its commitment to finding jobs for members of the Sunni militias, offering 80 percent of them positions in government ministries or institutions. The remaining members will be integrated into the security forces.

Tension between Kurds and Sunni Arabs are rising in Iraq’s volatile northern city of Mosul and the surrounding province after local elections in January, which saw Sunni Arab representation jump dramatically. The Kurdish authorities in about 16 towns in Nineveh Province have vowed not to obey the provincial council and instead want to join the nearby semiautonomous Kurdish region.

A top U.N. official in Iraq stated that several challenges face nongovernmental and Iraqi governmental organizations working to rebuild the war-torn country. If oil prices remain low, by the end of the year Iraq will have limited funds for capital expenditures and the government will face real pressure from the people to deliver results with fewer resources.

The Iraqi delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross has pronounced that, despite the efforts of the Iraqi authorities to provide basic services, the humanitarian situation remains troubling. Access to essential services such as clean water and adequate health care remain limited.

Iraq’s state-run food rationing system is crumbling and corruption in high places may be responsible in part. The new survey by the Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation learned that, of the 120,000 families who receive food from the state in 15 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, 18 percent had not received the nine-item food ration for 13 months. In addition, the survey revealed concerns about the quality of food items. Despite these reports, qualified families still considered the food rationing system to be the only guarantee to ensure some food security.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi men have been listed as missing in the last few decades. Their wives and children are in a kind of limbo, unable to mourn or to move on with their lives. In the absence of any proof of death, widows cannot obtain a pension or remarry. Up to three million households in Iraq are headed by women; many are destitution. Iraq’s patriarchal culture does not make life easy for these women. Without a male relative, a woman lacks economic, physical and social protection and support.

Iraq’s Oil Minister said his country is committed to sending agreed oil shipments to Jordan, which currently amount to around 10,000 barrels a day. He added that the two sides are working together to increase this quantity.

Religious Situation

More than a million Christians lived in Iraq before the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Now, less than half remain. Many have fled to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey. And those who have remained in Iraq have fled the cities of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul and have sought refuge in towns and villages in northern Iraq, where there is almost no employment.

Iraqi Christian women live in fear and rarely venture from their homes unless accompanied by male relatives. Many are afraid even to attend church. Kidnappers see them as an unprotected minority affluent enough to afford a ransom.

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