One little-reported consequence of the war in Iraq has been the displacement of an estimated 2 million former citizens who have fled to neighboring nations or even further. Their story is the subject of Eclipse of the Sunnis, a new book by NPR Mideast correspondent Deborah Amos.
Amos began covering the Middle East for NPR more than 20 years ago, and renewed her interest in the region following the 9/11 attacks. Even though she sees the Iraqi Sunnis as complicit in their own downfall, as instigators of the sectarian insurgency, she also believes their situation as an enormous population of displaced professional and middle class families is an important story, one she felt could best be told by presenting the human faces of some of those involved.
The split between Sunni and Shiite Muslims may appear to be the result of religious differences between two factions within Islam, but Deborah Amos cautions that this interpretation is a simplistic misreading of the complex geopolitics of the Middle East.
It’s a convenient shorthand to speak of the displaced Iraqis as “refugees,” but that, too, is an over implication, in Amos’s view. Because these are mostly middle class households, they are able to monitor events and their situation in ways that are completely unknown to most poverty-stricken refugees. But their circumstances leave them vulnerable to an eroding standard of living that may take generations to recover.
Amos writes about the significance of the Iraqi general election here.