Iraqi Shi'ites and Identity Conflict: A Study in the Developments of their Religious-Political Identities From 1920-2003

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Virginia Tech

The Iraqi Shi'ites' revival post-2003 and the rise of communal identity make an increasing need to study the roots of their political identities. This study surveys literature written about the political behavior of Shi'ites at different historical eras in the 20th century (to be specific, from the 1920s to 2003). In this study, my aim is to evaluate, based on the collected evidence, the Shi'ites' sense of identity during these historical eras, how they viewed themselves, and with whom they affiliated? Particularly, I delve into these research questions: Did the Shi'ites behave as a homogenous group? Did they have a single dominant identity that defines them as Shi'ite political identity? Did the political behavior of different Shi'ite Islamic groups originate from their religious and communal identities, or did it come from their national aspiration as Iraqis? I apply a history of political thought/ ideology approach, implementing critical historical hermeneutics. The analysis of the evidence indicates that Shi'ites show different senses of belonging at different historical eras and political events. The findings suggest that the communal and political identity was developed at a later stage of Iraq's 20th-century history. It also shows the diverse identities Shi'ites have and how their political behavior differs according to these diverse identities.

Shi'ite, Iraq, Identity, Nationalism, Religion