My dissertation, “Sectarian Discrimination in Post-2003 Iraq: An Empirical Study on Iraqi Arab Sunnis and Iraqi Arab Shiites,” examines the extent to which sectarianism impacts Iraqi Arab Sunnis’ and Iraqi Arab Shiites’ attitudes and behaviors. I use an explanatory sequential mixed methods design, which consists of conducting a quantitative analysis followed by a qualitative one.

In the first phase of my dissertation, I conduct secondary data analysis of the Arab Barometer in Iraq to examine the association between sectarian discrimination and factors such as following local political news or a person’s degree of religiosity. Using logistic regression and ordered logistic regression, I found that the association between following local political news from sect-affiliated media and the three sectarian attitudes (doubting patriotism of those of a different sect, intermarrying with them, and being their neighbors) was statistically not significant.

Then, in the second phase of the study, I analyze 21 semi-structured face-to-face interviews I conducted with Arab Sunnis and Arab Shiites in Iraqi Kurdistan Region in 2020 to explore how certain views have changed since 2012. The findings reveal that as of 2020, Arab Sunnis and Arab Shiites sectarian attitudes have ameliorated since 2012. In addition to the positive shift in attitudes, these interviews reveal that as of 2020, Arab Sunnis and Arab Shiites are less likely to self-identify with a sect. One way to explain these changes is the fact that the country is now significantly more stable in terms of civil wars, counterterrorism, and sectarian tensions as compared to 2012. More importantly, over the past decade, Iraqis have developed what I call sectarian awareness that has potentially moderated sectarian attitudes. In my work, I also cross-examine peoples’ responses to close-ended and open-ended questions, finding contradictions. While the close-ended questions on sectarian attitudes reveal glimmers of hope, probes and follow-up questions show that the reality on the ground is much more complex. Overall, the findings of my research contribute to the growing body of literature that conceptualizes sectarianism as a top-down and a bottom-up phenomenon.

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