Conflict Transformations and Strategic Peace Building in Iraqi Society: A Sociological Field Study in the Anbar Province

This research talks about the period before and after ISIS. It focuses on how we can change the conflict between tribes and between people in Anbar to attain peace.

Research informing summary:
PhD paper: Conflict Transformations and Strategic Peace Building in Iraqi Society: A Sociological Field Study in the Anbar Province (2021)

About:

This research used a mixed methods approach and household survey method.

Conducted a random sample survey with 800 people and interviews with 30 people that represented local officials, the heads of tribes, youth volunteer teams and clergymen across Anbar. From the survey results, I used SPSS to make a statistical analysis. This allowed patterns and trends to emerge.

Now I am working on applying the results in Anbar.

Funding:

This research was independently conducted and did not receive funding from outside of the university.

Key points

  • From my research, I found four strategies for delivering peace in Anbar: 1. Social and cultural strategy; 2. Law and political strategy; 3. Financial strategy and 4.Security strategy.

It is very important to focus on this because I know the Iraq and Anbar society. The Anbar society is different to the rest of Iraq. There have been many problems in Anbar which are contextual to Anbar and fuelling a hidden conflict.

I wanted to find out:
1. What are the causes of conflict in the Iraqi society in general, and in Anbar province in particular?
2. What do conflict transformation and peace building mean, and who is responsible of their implementation?
3. What are the mechanisms that can be used to analyze conflict in Anbar province?
4. How can we build a strategy of a sustainable peace in Anbar province which can promote stability and peaceful coexistence?

We made a questionnaire with nine questions, so that we can understand more deeply the context and then we can work on these reasons to build peace in the region.

This questionnaire was different to the other questionnaires as I am understanding what the young people think. It is not like the other questionnaires, as we look at the statistical differences according to variables like gender, age, martial background, location and jobs etc) . I then measure the responses of this question to understand what the young people need.

I found that in society, the conflict is caused by Anbar tribes struggling to get the highest positions in government, so that they have control over the other tribes in the region. Each tribe trying to be the biggest and most powerful and it’s this is causing a big conflict between the tribes.

Findings

  • Citizens of Anbar province had a high tolerance tendencies which were important factors in peace building there, and this can be attributed to the fact that they have lived a bitter experience during the ISIS control of their areas where the conflicts were serious, and showed that the solution is coexistence and stability and violence leads to nowhere but loss.
  • Tribe elders and some clergymen had a prominent role in operations calling for domestic peace and national reconciliation and they were part of the committees formed in the administrative units that were responsible for peace building and peaceful coexistence.
  • Most of the respondents agreed that peace cannot be achieved without giving women broader participation opportunities and giving them their real role as participating members in building society considering them half of the society, they must have a prominent role in institutions as employees and in organisations and voluntary teams as activists in the process of consolidating peace in the local community and that what have been noticed in the citizens' desire to do so.
  • Organisations and voluntary teams had a fundamental role in promoting a culture of peace in the society, and that what have been noticed in the post-ISIS phase, as the organisations and voluntary teams held activities and programs consolidating peace such as seminars, discussion sessions, and workshops targeting the youth in order to create a generation who is loving peace and coexistence and renouncing extremisms and violence that tear the society.
  • The citizens considered the Islamic movements and parties sponsors of violence and terrorism in the society.
  • The citizens still choose people from their tribes or sects as their representatives in the elections and even the process of selecting the candidates by the civil political parties was on a tribal and regional basis.
  • The financial and administrative corruption and terrorism were the main threats to peace in Anbar province.

What it means

Examples of the questions and responses are:
– “Do you agree that the Friday speech should be one speech for all mosques, or do you agree that there should be separate speech for each tribe” – The results said there should be one Friday speech for all cities.

– “Do you agree that the militia should an independent part of religion (as opposed to from a certain religion or tribe)?” – Most of them said yes. And this is one of the peacebuilding points.

– “Do you feel happy when you go to the local government offices and do you get any response?” – Most of them feel satisfied and get some response.

– “Is the political speech fair or not fair, and do you think that to achieve the peace then the political speech must be fair to all” – The answer was yes, it should be fair to all.

– “Do you think that we are missing the women on the political side and do you think that women can participate on the political side to help achieve the peace” – All of the people said yes. And all of them saw a difference since Daesh left, as there are now some women active on social media and participating on the political side, and women can now vote.

Additionally, we have discovered a very big problem in Anbar. The communities in some cities here are not accepting the adults who were IDPs because their families might have been part of Daesh. But they were not Daesh.

After tribe discussions between them and some people, they have said that some women can be accepted. But not the men. And so, this is a problem until now. And so, there are a lot of men who can’t return and are stuck in IDP camps.

After the men have been checked by the security and after psychological sessions, we are now trying to work with some organisations to get the men back to their cities.

How to use

  • Social and cultural strategy – we did a lot about this: After Isis left, we have a lot of financial and mental change. But we cannot focus on the economy, without first changing attitudes and working on the culture. And tribes in Anbar need to be made to accept the recent changes. This is both the mental and financial change that has come following Isis. Especially the mayors in Anbar, they need to start to actively start building peace in Anbar and to start work on countering violence.
  • Law and political strategy – these political men need to accept that they need to make changes too: They need to avoid the hate speech, and play a role in reducing the hate speech. They also have to listen to the younger people in general.
  • Financial strategy – There was a lot of damage in Anbar: And so, there is a need for buildings and new job opportunities. But not just to one tribe, but should be available to everyone, and all jobs should be accessible to all - Not just one tribe.
  • Security strategy – support and invest in the military and the police to make the society more secure: The military and police should represent all tribes - not just favouring one tribe. And then with the help of the police, the area can be disarmed, and the weapons can be given to the government. The al-Hashd al-Shaabi side need to also be included, and given the same responsibilities as the other military side. So, all people, no matter their tribe, feel protected and have representation within the security forces.
  • But I need financial support from governments and embassies to help work on these projects and restore peace to Anbar: We have to make a lot of meetings, discussions and sessions between the heads of the tribes. And we have to also coordinate with the government, to get the secure men from IDP camps to return to their city of origin. Because currently these people feel like second-class citizens.
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Ahmed Salman Al-Muhammedi, Marwan. 'Conflict Transformations and Strategic Peace Building in Iraqi Society: A Sociological Field Study in the Anbar Province'. Acume. https://www.acume.org/r/conflict-transformations-and-strategic-peace-building-in-the-anbar-province/