As Tensions Rise, Iraqi Sunnis Flee Mixed Neighborhoods

Sectarian Cleansing Continues in Iraq

The massive campaign of sectarian cleansing during the Iraqi Civil War left much of the country either Sunni or Shi’ite, with very few mixed neighborhoods left. Even there, with tensions rising anew, Sunnis are looking to get out while the getting is good.

Exact figures are impossible to come by but the reports suggest a growing number of Sunnis living in Shi’ite neighborhoods around metro Baghdad are putting their homes up for sale, and real estate agencies in Sunni neighborhoods are booming as the fleeing residents hope for safety in religiously segregated neighborhoods.

Studies released in 2008 showed that the decline in violence during that period, which US officials attributed to a military surge, was actually a result of a large number of the mixed neighborhoods having already been violently purged of one religious group or the other. Still, some residents in some neighborhoods stuck it out.

The current rise in sectarian tension comes with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attempting to arrest the top Sunni in his government, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, on terrorist charges, and the secular Iraqiya bloc, representing most of the Sunni Arabs in Iraq, withdrawing from the government in protest.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.