Iraq: Sectarian Violence and Solutions

Roberta Cohen
Roberta Cohen Former Brookings Expert, Co-Chair Emeritus - Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

March 21, 2007

My remarks will focus on the relationship between sectarian violence in Iraq and the forced displacement of 4 million Iraqis, both inside the country and abroad. I will also examine some of the different proposals being put forward for dealing with sectarian violence and displacement.

Last fall, a report published by the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement documented how extremist groups of Sunnis and Shias were driving the expulsions of Iraqis from their homes. The information was compiled by an Iraqi team composed of both Sunni and Shia men and women who visited different provinces of Iraq where sectarian violence was rife.

Their main finding, which has become quite evident today, is that the sectarian violence has begun to change the social and demographic makeup of many Iraqi cities, helping to fragment Iraq along religious and ethnic lines. The Sunnis and Shias pushed out of their homes mostly go to areas where their group is in the majority while Christians flee to parts of Ninewah province and Kurds flee to the northern Kurdish areas. A de facto ethnic segregation has begun in Baghdad and other cities.

View full statement