The group PAX released a survey on security in Iraq in July 2019. It interviewed 1,429 people in Basra, Kirkuk and Salahaddin. The last two were post-war zones, while Basra provided the perspective of Iraqis not directly involved in the conflict. It found that people generally thought the country was better off, although there was some trepidation about the future.
In general, respondents felt better about their safety. When asked how would you rate your personal security 60% said they were safer versus 40% who said the opposite. When asked why, 92% said they felt less exposed to attacks, 76% said they saw fewer weapons, 53% said they could travel more, and 48% said they could leave their home feeling safe. 65% told the survey teams this situation was unchanged from 2018, with only 14% saying things had gotten worse. Two years after the war against the Islamic State ended, and with attacks at the lowest level in the country since 2003 these responses should not be surprising. Even in Kirkuk and Salahaddin where the militants were still active, they are limited mostly to rural areas, and do not affect most of the population.
How would you rate your personal security situation?
Generally feel safe 33%
I almost always feel safe 27%
I generally feel unsafe 26%
I almost always feel unsafe 14%
Safe Total 60%
Unsafe total 40%
Why did your security situation improve?
I feel less exposed to violence 92%
I see fewer weapons 76%
I can move easily/travel 53%
I leave my home more 48%
I am asked less often for papers 22%
I feel fewer worries 19%
I have better access to? 16?
None of the above 15?
How did your security situation change compared to 2018?
It has not changed 65%
It improved 21%
It got worse 14%
When talking about their futures there were some mixed views. When asked in the next year did they think they would be a victim of violence 62% said somewhat likely, 19% said very likely, 16% said somewhat unlikely, and 3% said very unlikely. However, 59% said they thought their security situation would stay the same in the next year, 23% said there was a chance for improvement with only 16% saying it could get worse. When asked who might be possible victims, 56% said that some people were more likely to be exposed to violent than others versus 39% who said all people were possible targets. When questioned about why they might be exposed to violence, 488 people said they could get caught in a random incident, 56 people said because of their gender, 51% said because their families had been threatened and targeted, 34% said ethnosectarian identity, 32% said they didn’t know and 21% said because of their relationship with the security forces. This showed while people were generally happy with the current situation in their province, they believed that things could change. 81% believed there was a chance they could be affected by violence, most likely in a random event. On the other hand, 82% said their situation would either stay the same or even get better. With Iraq having faced years of war it’s understandable that people would believe instability could return. Most didn’t seem to think that would happen in the immediate future.
In the next year do you think it is likely you will become a victim of violence?
Somewhat likely 62%
Very likely 19%
Somewhat unlikely 16%
Very unlikely 3%
What do you think will happen with your security situation in the next year?
59% remain the same
23% improve a little
9% will become a little worse
7% will become much worse
Which statement do you agree with most?
Some people are more like than others to be exposed to violence 56%
All people are equally likely to be exposed to violence 39%
I don’t know 4%
Why do you expect to become a victim of violence?
I could get caught up in a random act 448
Because of my gender 56
Family members have been threatened/targeted 51
Because of my ethnoreligious identity 34
I don’t know 32
Because of my relationship to security forces 21
When asked about future conflicts, most appeared to believe that the economic and political situations were the most troublesome. When asked which issue would most likely lead to conflicts in the future 22% said economics, 13% said politics, 12% said social issues, and 51% said all of the above. When asked what topics in their community could lead to problems in the next year there were similar results with 412 people picking lack of services, 394 saying poverty and lack of opportunities, 366 said poor national governance, 272 said fighting between tribes, 230 said competition over resources, 226 said poor local governance, 200 said ethnosectarian fighting, 46 said displacement and 26 said involvement of foreign forces. Finally, when asked what changes could be made to bring about lasting peace economics again dominated with 473 picking economic development, 408 said political reform, 407 said disarmament, 231 had improved justice, 196 said better security forces, 131 selected reconciliation, 114 had military suppression of the insurgency. With the war over Iraqis are becoming more focused upon the government, and are not happy. Services are notoriously poor, the government is largely ineffective and corrupt, and unemployment amongst the young is high. The state has a bad record in dealing with all of these meaning change is unlikely and frustration with it will grow.
In general, which of the following do you believe is most likely to cause conflict in future?
All of these 51%
What factors are most likely to cause further conflict in your community in the next year?
Lack of services 412
Poverty/lack of opportunities 394
Poor governance at national level 366
Fighting between tribes 272
Competition over resources 230
Poor governance at provincial, district, local level 226
Fighting between ethnosectarian groups 200
Involvement of international forces 26
What are the most significant changes that need to happen to bring lasting peace to Iraq?
Economic development 473
Political reform 408
Improved justice 231
Better ISF 196
Improved community relations through reconciliation 131
Military suppression of insurgency 114
Involvement of women in peacebuilding 53
More U.N. 27
I don’t know 24
Independent or autonomy for certain regions 23
More involvement of international forces 20
Finally, when the security forces were brought up the police and army were held in higher regard than the Hashd al-Shaabi. When asked who would you first contact if a family member was killed 574 said the police, 447 said a local leader, 339 said family and friends, 178 said the army, 44 said the Hashd, 33 said a lawyer, while 23 would handle it themselves. The police (696 people) had a larger presence than any other force like the army (510 people), the Hashd (354 people) or armed political parties (193 people) in people’s areas. Finally, the police were trusted the most (586 people) followed by the army (426 people), and the Hashd (240 people). Police are drawn from the local population, and should be in charge of local security, which accounts for their high standing in the poll. The responses are also interesting because there was a lot of derision of the army and police in 2014 after their collapsed in the face of the Islamic State. The Hashd al-Shaabi were seen as citizen fighters taking up arms to protect their country. That was mostly from southern Iraq, but local forces were eventually organized in the war zones as well. At least in Basra, Kirkuk, and Salahaddin the Hashd were only around half as popular as the regular Iraqi forces.
Who would you first contact in the case of a family member being killed?
Local leader 447
Resolve it myself 23
Are the following actors present in your area?
Armed political parties 193
International forces 9
Which of these actors do you generally trust the most?
I don’t know 68
Refused to answer 14
Armed political parties 7
International forces 7
PAX, “Human Security Survey: Iraq,” July 2019