Sectarianism in the army is hazardous to Iraq

Sunday 02/10/2016
New army recruits are already predominately from one sect

Can you imagine an Iraq with streets and cities free of terror­ists and militias? Can you envisage in the near or distant future that the country will finally be safe? For that, we need laws that give priority to the dignity of citizens and not step on their rights.
It remains to be seen if normality can return to Iraq after the end of the Islamic State (ISIS), whose existence has been used as an excuse to flout all laws against humanity in the country.
There is no guarantee that the end of ISIS following the Mosul offensive would result in the disappearance of all terror across the country.
People are pessimistic because the new Iraqi state, which came about following the 2003 US-led invasion of the country, did not offer anything better than its predecessor. Many look back with a sense of yearning for what they see as better days.
Today we face another problem that will make sure we will be stuck with sectarianism for years to come: The application form distributed by the Ministry of Defence to those who wish to study at military academies asks them for their religion and branch of faith (Sunni or Shia).
New army recruits are already predominately from one sect and the new enrolment procedure appears to lay the foundation for this imbalance to continue.
Why would those who are recruited to become officers in the country’s army need to mention their religion and their sect? What has their belief got to do with their military service to their country? One’s faith is not related to military professionalism.
We need to ask ourselves why one’s faith would be considered to be more of a decisive factor than traits that matter, such as one’s education and knowledge.
Another question is the relation between one’s faith and how responsive a person would be in obeying orders. Does your faith affect your bravery in fighting foreign enemies or how you will execute military plans?
An army that predominately belongs to one sect will look at fellow citizens of a different faith as a potential enemy.
Their partners in the country would be seen as rivals, for nothing more other than belonging to a different branch of faith. This would breed feelings of more hatred and those who dominate the military would look at those who hold different beliefs as potential traitors. Loyalty would no longer be to the country or its citizens as a whole.
Selecting military members based on sectarian preferences would mean that incidents of war crimes and crimes against humanity would be more likely in a multifaith country such as Iraq.
It would be more difficult for new officers to report wrongdoing in the military. Their loyalty would be less towards the law or the country but rather towards a sectarian collective.
In the army, we should not have the sacredness of the sect above loyalty to the country.
The Ministry of Defence would also be making sure that all honourable men who want to serve and defend their country could not do so if they belong to the “wrong” branch of faith. What would happen to them?