Iraq needs stability and inclusiveness in order to make sure that the Islamic State (ISIS) and other terror groups do not resurface, observers said during a conference organised by the South Asia and Middle East (SAME) Forum in London.
“What’s important for Iraq is: Stabilisation, stabilisation, stabilisation,” said Brigadier Gareth Collett, the defence attaché of the British Embassy in Iraq. “Otherwise, another form of Daesh will come back,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Collett said people in the areas liberated from ISIS must be provided with jobs so they earn their own money to survive and do not need inducements offered to them by ISIS recruiters.
The United Kingdom should continue to “advise and assist” the Iraqi government for as long as Baghdad needs. “Iraq needs a five-year period to transit from war effect,” said Brigadier Collett.
He added that it is important for the anti-ISIS coalition is “not to walk away from Iraq” straight after defeating ISIS in the battlefield because the terror group could regroup.
Andreas Krieg, an assistant professor at King’s College London, said that Iraq needs to adopt a more inclusive policy towards all of its citizens, because the current model has failed to provide real security.
“The Iraqi state can’t provide security for all of its people,” said Krieg, blaming many of the country’s woes on divisive policies that date back to 2003, such as de-Baathification.
Krieg also accused former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the country’s previous security failures. The Iraqi army had many Maliki loyalists, that’s why its soldiers ran away in the face of ISIS in 2014, said Krieg. Pro-Iran politicians like Maliki threaten the prospect of an inclusive Iraq, he added.
“Sunni Arabs have suffered torture, rape and extra judicial killing,” at the hands of the Shia-dominated forces. “They also faced ethnic cleaning” carried out by Peshmerga fighters of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). That’s why “they feel like second class citizens,” said Krieg.
Krieg said what is needed funding to stabilise the war-affected areas. In sensitive areas, people should be policed by members of their own communities, he added.
The conference also addressed the need for the international community to focus its effort on the plight of women and minorities who have been victimised by ISIS.
“With the retreat of ISIS, there is a window of an opportunity to support women and minorities,” Nicole Piche said in a statement on behalf of Ann Clwyd, an MP for the Labour party, and chair for the All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group.
“We need to give a voice to all those who were marginalised in order to avoid the resurgence of ISIS,” read the statement, which urged the Iraqi government and the KRG to have a planning strategy that includes minorities.
There mustn’t be a lack of accountability in the aftermath of conflict, and all violations must be documented, said Piche. “There is a need to pass legislations for the protection of minorities.”
“In addition to Yazidis, many Sunni women have also suffered under ISIS…they shouldn’t face stigma after being raped,” said Piche. The notion of “shame and honour” continues to limit the freedom of women, she added. “There is an opportunity to right many wrongs after ISIS.”
Nazer Mirjan Mohammad, the Deputy Head of Mission for the Embassy of Iraq in London, said “stability requires reconstruction and reconciliation,” which the Iraqi government is working on.
There are 3.1 million internally displaced people (IDPs), but there are also more than 2 people who have returned to their provinces although not necessarily to their homes. “Many of them live in camps and informal shelters.”
Mohammad said many people who have lived under ISIS rule are in need of mental health care because of the traumas they faced but Iraq has a shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists.