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With the rise of Islamic State, Iraq is

splintering along religious and ethnic

A displaced girl from the minority Yazidi sect, who fed violence in the Iraqi town of
Sinjar, worships at their main holy temple alish in Shi!han" #Ahmed $adallah%&euters'
(y A)igail *auslohner Septem)er +, at +-+, A.
BAGHDAD For millennia, Iraq has been one of the Middle Easts most
religiously and ethnially di!erse lands" Its ities and !illages are dotted #ith the
deaying hallmar$s of anient Babylonian i!ili%ation, the mosques of the first
Muslim em&ires, the astles of foreign onquerors, and the hurhes and shrines of
early 'hristians and (e#s"
)o# that history may be oming to an end"
Iraqs demogra&his ha!e shifted o!er time for a !ariety of reasons, inluding
!iolene and &olitis" But the rise of the Islami *tate grou& may ha!e dealt the
most lethal blo# in enturies to the nations di!ersity"
+he *unni militant fighters ha!e dri!en a#ay, ensla!ed and
e,terminated*hiites and members of Iraqs ethni and religious minorities on a
sale that human-rights grou&s ha!e li$ened to ethni leansing"
+he im&at, e,&erts say, goes beyond ridding Iraqi ities of their ultural di!ersity"
+he e,tremists am&aign ould lay the foundation for &er&etual onflit by
segregating and isolating the ountrys religious and ethni grou&s"
Iraqi *hiite Muslim &ilgrims ma$e their #ay through Baghdad.s *unni Adhamiya distrit" /Ahmad
Al-0ubaye1AF21Getty Images3

Future generations of *unnis and *hiites
may $no# little of eah other, undermining the !ery idea of #hat it means to be
Iraqi, intelletuals fear"
+he identity #ill hange,4 said Ahmed *aada#i, a #ell-$no#n Iraqi no!elist" 5It
#ill be distorted and inom&lete"4
6n a reent day, *aada#i led a re&orter through a entral Baghdad neighborhood,
Bata#een, #hih &ro!ided a glim&se of #hat it means to lose the nations di!ersity"
+oday, it is home to &oor *hiites and *unnis" But in the last entury, it #as a (e#ish
+his is the old (e#ish style of house,4 said *aada#i, striding into the ourtyard of
an old stone house, its long #ooden balony slouhing to#ard a quiet, trash-
o!ered street"
Most (e#s left Iraq after the reation of Israel in 789:" +hese days, most Iraqi men
and #omen ha!e ne!er met a (e#" (e#s are mostly assoiated #ith Israel, a ountry
that Arabs are taught to hate"
In the #a$e of Islami *tates rise, small religious minorities suh as 'hristians
and ;a%idis a grou& that dra#s from !arious religious traditions ha!e sought
refuge in <urdish areas" *ome say they ho&e to flee the ountry, ne!er to return"
+he &eo&le left behind in areas a&tured by the Islami *tate #ill inreasingly be
5one olor,4 said Hamed al-Mali$i, an Iraqi #riter, meaning they #ill ha!e the same
*unni beliefs and ustoms"

*hiite ommunities, too, #ill gro# more
homogenous as they absorb dis&laed
*hiites and beome inreasingly
radiali%ed by the #ar, Mali$i said"
=hat I fear is that a raist #all #ill form,4 he said"
/he spread of sectarianism
Already the #alls ha!e formed in Baghdad"
+housands of *unnis fled *hiite-ma>ority areas and *hiites fled *unni-ma>ority
areas during setarian !iolene in ?@@A and ?@@B, after the C"*" in!asion"
Amerian military fores, and later the Iraqi go!ernment, set u& to#ering onrete
blast #alls to enirle and &rotet ertain neighborhoods" 0esidents li!ing in them
often su&&ort setarian militias"
In the &ast three months, suh Bal$ani%ation has e,tended #ell beyond Baghdad"
*ine the Islami *tate >ihadists s#e&t into Mosul, there are almost no *hiites,
'hristians or members of small minorities li$e ;a%idis or *haba$ remaining in
Iraqs seond-largest ity, former residents say"
*unni &eo&le stayed" *hiite &eo&le left,4 said Bashar Ham%a, a *hiite #aiter #ho
fled Mosul #ith his family of fi!e"
In late (uly, Islami *tate militants ble# u& a series of anient shrines and tombs in
the ity, inluding one that #as belie!ed to ha!e housed the body of (onah, the
Biblial &ro&het #ho (e#s, Muslims and 'hristians belie!e #as s#allo#ed by a
Iraqi Christians pray during a Sunday Mass at the
St. Joseph church in Irbil. (Mohamed
In the #est, the ;a%idis ha!e fled the mountains of *in>ar, #here they had $e&t their
religion and ulture intat for enturies" Many are no# see$ing to migrate abroad"
+he *hiites ha!e left +al Afar in north#estern Iraq, home to an anient hillto&
itadelone of the first landmar$s a&tured by Islami *tate as they o!erran the
to#n in (une" +el Afars residents are mostly ethni +ur$mens, many of them
In other areas of )ine!eh and *alahuddin &ro!ines, *hiite !illages lie em&ty and
Al-<hadara and al-(a%eera neighborhoods #ere all *hiite,and no# all the &eo&le,
all of the stores, all of the life its gone,4 said Ahmed Ibrahim, a go!ernment
em&loyee #ho fled +al Afar #ith his family in (une"
Ibrahim still alls his *unni neighbors to he$ on the house he left behind" +hey
tell him the *hiite homes ha!e been looted and burned, and that their shrines are
being destroyed" 6f the neighborhood he one li!ed inD 5+hey say it is a ghost
to#n,4 Ibrahim said"
Mean#hile *unnis ha!e been e,&elled from other areas"
In Amerli, a ma>ority *hiite farming hamlet in northern Iraq, there are no *unnis
left, after *unni loals sided #ith Islami *tate >ihadists #ho besieged the to#n for
t#o months, only to e!entually be dri!en a#ay"
Mean#hile, the Arabs ha!e left Ma$hmour and other to#ns in Iraqs <urdish-
ma>ority regionsE they ha!e been &ushed out in battles bet#een the Islami *tate
and <urdish fighters, $no#n as the &esh merga" +he <urds fear the Arabs may ha!e
ollaborated #ith the militants"
Its a real issue going for#ard the destrution of trust" +hat ould ha!e lasting
im&at,4 said Mihael <nights, an Iraq e,&ert at the =ashington Institute for )ear
East 2oliy"
E!en #hen the urrent onflit dies do#n, many #ho fled may not #ant to or be
able to return home, <nights said"
Bata#een offers a glim&se of a different era" In the early ?@th entury, it #as a
#ealthy (e#ish neighborhood" It then beame a 'hristian area"
+here is only one mosque in Bata#een, but there are a million hurhes and a
(e#ish tem&le,4 said *aada#i, the no!elist, as he meandered &ast &iles of rubble
and homes no# ou&ied by the itys most des&erately &oor" +he to#er of one old
#hite hurh #as !isible at the end of the street"
*aada#i based his magial realist no!el 5Fran$enstein in Baghdad4 in the
neighborhood beause of the &o!erty, the rumbled homes, and the ghosts of the
&ast" +he boo$s monster a reature om&osed of human body &arts omes to
reside in the rubble of a olla&sed house"
Iraqis ha!e little reolletion of the (e#ish ommunity that one &layed an im&ortant role in their national
life" Most Iraqis &robably dont $no# that Iraqs first finane minister #as a (e# or that some of Iraqs best
singers #ere, as #ell"
(ust as *aada#i realled the one-time (e#ish residents, it is &ossible that the
*unnis #ho remain in Mosul, +al Afar, and other to#ns aross northern Iraq #ill
someday tell !isitors of the ;a%idis and *haba$ #ho graed their alleys, or of the
'hristians #hose hurh &erformanes one ins&ired Iraqi theater"
6r &erha&s theyll sayD 5+hats #here the *hiites used to li!e"4
Mustafa *alim in Baghdad ontributed to this re&ort"
A)igail *auslohner has )een /he 0ost1s 2airo )ureau chief since
3,43" She served previously as a .iddle 5ast correspondent for /ime
magazine and has )een covering the .iddle 5ast since 3,,6"
2osted by +ha!am