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Perceptions of Humanitarianism in Iraq

1 January 2008
Middle East and North Africa

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Perceptions of Humanitarianism in Iraq

Hansen argues that humanitarian ideals are generally warmly embraced by Iraqis. The“western” humanitarian ethos resonates well with Islamic teach- ings. Perceptions among Iraqis of the humanitarian apparatus have been conditioned by the low profile of humanitarian agencies, many of which are working with low visibility to safeguard their operations. He addes that humanitarian principles are well-understood by Iraqis, partly because they are often seen in the breach and in ways which cause resentment. They see serious gaps between the humanitarian ethos and humanitarian practice. He concludes that neutrality is not an abstract notion to Iraqis. They regard it as an essential protection against targeted attack in an environment where the “wrong” affiliations can be toxic and life-threatening. There has been a serious blurring of the lines in Iraq between military, political, not-for-profit and commercial actors, on one hand, and humanitarian actors on the other hand, to the extent that many Iraqis (and some humanitarian professionals) cannot distinguish between the various sets of actors.


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