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Religious minorities’ perceptions of reconciliation: A new MERI Project funded by the USIP

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is as ethnically diverse as it is religiously diverse. That diversity is threatened with the rise of ISIS on the KRI’s borders and it’s targeting of some of the minorities there, and displacing them from their homes and communities. In support of protecting these minorities from further conflict, and enabling a stable post-ISIS reconciliation process, MERI will conduct an assessment of perceptions of reconciliation and conflict among Iraqi minority groups for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).

The nature of the current conflict, combined with the history of political and ethnic relations in the region, has the potential to further exacerbate existing social tensions and incite new ones. As such, peace building actors will need more updated, in-depth, and nuanced understanding of the long-standing and new conflicts that exist between and among groups, particularly minorities, and what reconciliation means to them within this time and place in order to ensure a rights-based and sustainable stabilization process. As USIP MENA Program Officer, Osama Garizi, put it, “The ultimate aim of this project is to assist USIP in undertaking better informed reconciliation efforts at the local level.”

MERI has been awarded a grant by the USIP to conduct a qualitative assessment of perceptions of reconciliation and conflict among Iraqi minority groups. The project focuses primarily on minorities in Ninewa, Dohuk, Erbil and Kirkuk provinces. The ultimate objective of the research is to better understand the challenges to reconciliation and highlight potential triggers of conflict in liberated areas, which in turn helps to inform and guide future reconciliation efforts by the USIP.

The ultimate objective of the research is to better understand the challenges to reconciliation and highlight potential triggers of conflict in liberated areas.

The five minority groups included in the study are Christians, Yazidis, Shabaks, Turkmen and Sabean-Mandaeans. Many of whom have been displaced as a result of the conflict with ISIS. Through interviews and focus groups, MERI will engage with these communities to better understand commonalities and differences between and within communities with respect to their views on reconciliation; how differences can be overcome; and what obstacles and opportunities exist in bringing groups together at community and political levels.

“We are excited about this new project that will allow MERI and USIP to collaborate closely and bridge our knowledge gap in this major issue that relates to post-ISIS stabilisation and conflict resolution”, said Mr Khogir Wirya, a researcher at MERI. MERI will utilise its research and subject matter expertise, coupled with deep contextual and local knowledge, and networks across the political and ethnic-religious spectrum in both Iraq and Kurdistan. Partnership with USIP will allow us to contribute to uncovering perspectives that are key not only in gaining further insight into drivers of conflict, but possible ways to reconcile them in an effort to bring just, equitable, and lasting peace to all communities in this diverse nation and region.

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