I recently saw the film ‘Gandhi,’ which tells the tale of how Mohandas Gandhi was able to free India from the oppressive British empire. I immediately saw a parallel between the situation there and what’s going on in Iraq right now. After a long period of time, India was able to determine the government democratically. However, the country was nearly brought to civil war as Muslims and Hindus could not peacefully coexist in the country, each fearful that the other would ruthlessly suppress the other. As a result, the country splintered into 2, the Hindu India and the Muslim Pakistan.
A similar situation now exists in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was able to wield an iron fist over the country, uniting it under one flag, as the British once did to India. The formerly oppressed Shiites will now dominate the electorate, as they comprise 60% of the population there. However, this leaves the Sunnis in a state of fear. Now they are in the minority, and are fearful that they will have little say in the government. What makes this further evident is the fact that the 43% of the country that will not participate in the upcoming election is in Sunni dominated regions. The already minority Sunni population will be much more of a minority in the assembly and the government that is formed.
As has been evident in the past several months, a large portion of the insurgency has been in these Sunni regions, with people fearful of being suppressed. This insurgency will continue to grow after the elections, as it becomes quite evident that the government will be dominated by Shiites. As the insurgency grows and the government progresses, more and more Sunnis will identify themselves less with the government, and more with the insurgency. It seems that the only end result of this growing process lies with how it ended up in India: two countries, one Shiite and one Sunni. I can only hope that as things progress towards this end, we can avoid a painful civil war.