Many observers, especially those outside of Iraq, reflect upon the state of division and conflict within Iraqi society. Perhaps many of them are unaware of what the country has been experiencing over the past ten years. The greatest plight of Iraq is not that of individuals, leaders or parties but rather that of a society that has endured an environment of overt violence and hatred, created by a despotic regime that consequently established a unique authoritarian model.
The virtues of tolerance and negotiation have largely been absent from Iraqi society which made prisons, torture, exclusion and exile all too familiar to its people. During the long reign of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds were expelled from their hometowns under the pretense of the Arabisation program. Furthermore, thousands of Iraqis had their citizenships revoked and were sent to Iran claiming that their origins were Persian.
Such a violent environment caused the extermination of the Kurdish village, Halabja with chemical weapons. Had it not been for a German journalist who happened to be in the region, the crime would have remained concealed to this day. In the south of the country, genocide was carried out during the "Southern Uprising", and mass killing took place across the region. Jails were also filled with thousands of prisoners of opinion who endured torture and eventually lost their lives without a trial. The same violent environment was that which caused thousands to lose their lives in pointless wars.
Such was the climate of the single-ruler, the single-party, mass killing and extensive violence. This was the nation that never saw a ballot box. Here, a generation of children had lost their childhood and innocence. This was the country where fax machines were illegal for fear of national security. This was a nation in which millions carried ration cards for food rather than credit cards. This country had a single political party, a single opinion and newspapers that featured nothing but praise for the master leader and the news of his ruling party. Such was an atmosphere in which a mother declared on state television that she had given security forces information concerning the whereabouts of her son who was a traitor to Iraq”s people and its leader. Many later realized however, that the mother was compelled to make the statement as the rest of her family were at risk if she did not comply.
The atmosphere of violence and hatred could never be transformed into one of tolerance and democracy overnight. Unfortunately, instead of taking heed of history”s lessons and opting for widespread political participation, Iraqi leadership has exploited the fragility of such an environment to support their factional positions at the expense of the country”s future.