Monday, May 22, 2006

The melange of informal and formal associations that may provide a buffer between citizen and the raw power of the state were decimated in Iraq.

One of the reasons the quest to create a democracy in Iraq has proven so difficult is that civil society there has been largely absent. Amidst a sea of bad news it is good to know that islands of associability are emerging.
Iraqi Charities Plant Seed of Civil Society - New York Times: "Since 2003 the government has registered 5,000 private organizations, including charities, human rights groups, medical assistance agencies and literacy projects. Officials estimate that an additional 7,000 groups are working unofficially. The efforts show that even as violence and sectarian hatred tear Iraq's mixed cities apart, a growing number of Iraqis are trying to bring them together. 'Iraqis were thirsty for such experiences,' said Khadija Tuma, director of the office in the Ministry of Civil Society Affairs that now works with the private aid groups. 'It was as if they already had it inside themselves.'
The new charity groups offer bits of relief in the sea of poverty that swept Iraq during the economic embargo of the 1990's and has worsened with the pervasive lawlessness that followed the American invasion.
The burst of public-spiritedness comes after long decades of muzzled community life under Saddam Hussein, when drab Soviet-style committees for youth, women and industrialists were the only community groups permitted. "

For more on civil society in the Middle East

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