Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Professor Saladdin Ahmed


iraq, illegitimacy, government, in the grip of the law, legal system, constitution


Ever since the U.S.’ 2003 invasion, Iraq’s legal system has been mired by corruption, sectarianism, and deceit. In an effort to allay the negative effects of these things, each iteration of the Iraqi government since 2003 has doubled down on efforts to appear legitimate within the eyes of the public. Government-funded propaganda, secret police, intense censorship, and even campaigns of torture and kidnapping by security forces are just some of the ways in which the government has sought to gain legitimacy. Perhaps understandably, these same efforts have often wound up alienating and upsetting the citizenry further. This thesis analyzes the myriad of ways in which the government’s quest for acceptance by its citizens has shaped the country into what it is today—and has informed the ongoing public protests.

In order to accurately assess the present state of the government, a close examination of quantitative and qualitative data available is needed. Using data sets provided by the REACH Initiative (2018) and the UN (2016), it becomes clear that a very pressing disparity exists between what Iraqi citizens believe will rectify their country and what the government believes it must do. A significant proportion of the Iraqis who have survived the ongoing violence feel strongly about the lack of public services. Rebuilding the country should involve allocating significant funding towards reconstructing basic public infrastructure and working to end the IDP crisis. Nevertheless, the government in post-Daesh Iraq rarely operates this way. Informed by previous iterations of quasi-authoritarian regimes, the government has instead focused its efforts on performative security measures. Trials for suspected Daesh members rarely last longer than a matter of minutes, often with little to no evidence presented (i.e. an anonymous allegation made by someone with ulterior motives, or a forced confession beaten out of a suspect by the Iraqi Security Forces), and all who come before a judge are sentenced to death. Many of those who are on death row must appear on "In the Grip of the Law," a state-sponsored television program which further dehumanizes them. This disparity in funding—and the abusive treatment of both detainees and anti-corruption protestors alike—has become one of the most prominent causes which citizens today have taken to rallying against. In my thesis, I bring forward questions of corruption and sectarianism in relation to the rule of law and sovereignty.



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