Now that ISIS is losing ground in Iraq, many fear that a day of reckoning is coming.
This is due to the fact that so much has changed since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Even before the rise of the so-called Islamic State, millions of people were forced to flee their homes. Today, the distribution of various ethnicities and religious groups bears little resemblance to Iraq before the US-led invasion.
Crisis of confidence
“The main priority now is restoring trust,” says Sam van Vliet, PAX program leader for Iraq. “ISIS is not the only problem. It was actually the result of a deeper problem, that is the lack of trust between citizens and their leaders.”
For years, leaders have not paid any attention to the needs of their citizens; recently in Bagdad, this led to mass demonstrations against politicians lining their pockets while the general public faces shortages across the board.
Involve local people
In response to this crisis of confidence, PAX wants to include the local population in coming up with initiatives and plans for reconstruction and good governance. PAX is implementing the program Anticipating The Day After for Ninewa Province in areas where ISIS has retreated. One goal of this approach is that citizens groups, in particular youth groups and women, will have a role in governance.
Break the cycle of violence
For now, PAX is working with different ethnic and religious groups separately. “The trauma van continuous conflict goes so deep that you cannot work on restoring trust yet. Restoring social cohesion between groups will take a long time,” says Van Vliet. And, although it makes some people impatient, it also takes a lot of talking. “Everyone is a victim. You have to break the circle of violence. In the long run, the various groups will need to tell each other their stories of suffering. But it’s still too soon for that.”