Roma Parhad

International Studies,
Political Science

Roma Parhad was interested in researching Iraq and the increasing levels of inter-ethnic and inter-religious violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Studying and writing about this topic was especially appealing to her because her family is Assyrian—part of an ethnic and religious minority—from Iraq. Roma’s paper tries to explain the obstacles to a stable and peaceful future for Iraq as the U.S. continued its withdrawal. After graduating from UCI in 2011, Roma hopes to begin graduate school a year later in the field of conflict resolution. In the interim she plans to work with the 2012 presidential campaigns and learn Arabic. Eventually, she would like to work with U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic affairs.triangle.gif (504 bytes)




Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, there has been a significant increase in inter-ethnic and inter-religious violence among Iraqis. This paper seeks to provide an understanding of why this violence is taking place in a country with a relatively strong history of tolerance for its religious and ethnic diversity. The acceptance of ethnic and religious pluralism—the existence of a variety of religious and ethnic groups—is critical for stabilizing Iraq. An overview of the history of Iraq, from Mesopotamia to the post-Saddam era, illustrates a pattern of tolerance turned to violence as a result of both external actors and internal processes following the U.S. Invasion. The literature on pluralism is discussed to demonstrate the role of predominantly Christian faith-based aid organizations as unregulated external actors that were given disproportionate access in Iraq and consequently contributed to the current levels of violence against Iraq’s Christian minority. Internal barriers to upholding pluralism include the ambiguity of the current Iraqi constitution. The mistakes made in Iraq could have been avoided and further illustrate the importance of upholding pluralism at a time when Iraq will no longer be under the supervision of outside forces.triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Faculty Mentor                                                                                                                

Cecelia M. Lynch

School of Social Sciences

Roma Parhad's excellent contribution avoids the pitfall of reducing a complex situation to simplistic religious categorizations, arguing that the Iraqi tradition of religious and ethnic tolerance must be re-established and protected. Roma focused on two factors in particular that exacerbate violence in Iraq. First, the role of external actors in supporting sectarian aid groups has worsened the situation for religious minorities in the country. Second, the ongoing debates about a revised constitution indicate the pitfalls for overcoming the fairly rigid religious and ethnic constructions of Iraqi identities. These “partisan pitfalls” need to be resolved for religious and ethnic pluralism in Iraq to be re-established. Roma was a pleasure to advise, since she was more than willing to probe available primary and secondary sources that made her final paper so well-argued.triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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