We use two unique Iraq data sets to show how fear and uncertainty served to motivate the self-fulfilling, neighborhood-specific forces that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Sectarian criminal violence by armed Shia and Sunni organizations created a situation of ethnic/religious cleansing that reconfigured much of Baghdad. The article focuses on the case of how one particularly violent group, the Mahdi Army, mobilized through the coercive entrepreneurship of Muqtada al-Sadr, used organized crime tactics of killing, torture, rape, kidnapping, harassment, threats, and forced displacement in a widespread and systematic attack against civilians that forced Sunni residents from their Baghdad neighborhoods. Ordinary Iraqis were victims of an amplified "self-fulfilling prophecy of fear" that created the momentum for massive sectarian displacement in the battle for Baghdad. We demonstrate that there is a neighborhood specific effect of early postinvasion neighborhood fear net of intervening violence on displacement three years later, following the Al-Qaeda Samara Shrine attack, confirming an effect of a self-fulfilling prophecy of fear in the neighborhoods of Baghdad that compounded in a self-reinforcing way. The changed demography of Baghdad was effectively consolidated by the later surge of U.S. forces that left in place the territorial gains made by the Shia-led Mahdi Army at the expense of former Sunni residents. We conclude that this continues to matter because the resulting grievances have contributed to renewed violence.
- Human rights
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science