Inclusion of Marginalized Groups

Dimension 10 of 17


We wanted to learn about how the inclusion of marginalized groups in Syria. We listened to a wide range of local, regional, and international actors influential in the life of Syria. The statements we heard told the same basic story: 

“The political minority is being exterminated by the regime.” (233911)

“Half of the country is homeless as IDPs or refugees. There is no empathy for them from the regime.” (234281)
“It's mass killing of all residents.” (235931)
“It depends on which marginalized group. It varies. Even in the rump state the mix of factions have varying degrees of control or freedom. Outside of that it can be worse. It's been that way ever since the French took over. They grouped the minorities together against the Sunni. That's the state that Hafez Al Assad inherited.” (239311)
“The minority groups are in power. Sunni are treated as an enemy. Rebels often kill groups when they win. Officers sometimes act, perhaps independently of orders. The Islamic State is another problem altogether.” (239312)

“Abuse against most of the population, done against the dominant groups, not the marginalized. 10 million are now homeless. 1 million are dead. The marginalized (Alawi) control everything. They are only 1 million.” (233081)

“There was formal discrimination against the Kurds. It changed after 2011 because the context shifted. There may be many informal discriminations we are not aware of.” (235781)

“It's not possible to know how many people are marginalized or what is happening specifically to them.” (238631)

What does Syria's inclusion of marginalized group matter in your choice of partners, the design of initiatives, and the implementation of those initiatives? Read more to find out. Scroll to the bottom of the page for more statements. 


INCA DIMENSION #10: INCLUSION OF MARGINALIZED GROUPS IN SYRIA


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The Inclusion of Marginalized Groups in Syria is the 10th of 17 dimensions of Syrian society that influential local, regional, and international actors assessed and discussed through 3 rounds of interviews and feedback, beginning in January, 2016. Taken together, the 17 dimensions of the x-axis offer a comprehensive, holistic view of Syria and its people. Interview participants assessed the capacity of each dimension, represented by the y-axis; higher levels indicate greater capacity within that dimension for Syrians to respond effectively to existential global threats.

Inclusion of Marginalized Groups in Syria is important because it reveals how much of the Syrian population has opportunities, to help themselves and the country as a whole. Based on the 8-level hierarchy described in the question below, participants from 27 influential organizations assessed the inclusion of marginalized groups in Syria at different levels at this time in history, ranging from 1 to 6. (At the bottom of this page, you can read statements interview participants gave to support their assessments.)


The Question

Marginalized groups are those excluded from mainstream social, economic, cultural, or political life, for example: particular ethnic, religious, geographic, or socio-economic groups, those without housing, the mentally ill or physically disabled, or prisoners. Which of these levels of development is the dominant mode of this country? (If two seem equal, name the lower level.) The country tolerates—which is to say, for the most part, has not put an end to—the following practices, by the government or other citizens toward marginalized subgroups:

1.     Killing of women, or female children, by the state, strangers, or family.

2.     Abandonment, but not killing , of women by the government and their families (e.g., the treatment of widows).

3.     Women are provided for, but are subject to violence or rape by the state, by their families or husbands, or by other citizens.

4.     Violence against women is prohibited, but there are consistent, legally enforced, rigid social rules and expectations of women’s behavior, in the home, or in society.

5.     Women have a legal right to education, property rights, and inheritance, but these rights are not necessarily available in practice (i.e. informal discrimination in hiring practices or salary).

6.     The rights of women who are citizens are legally and practically equivalent to those of men—but the rights of guest worker, immigrant or foreign women are not.

7.     The rights of women who are citizens, and some who are guest workers, immigrants, or foreign, are legally and practically equivalent to those of men.

8.     The rights of all resident women are legally and practically equivalent to those of men.


READ CLOSELY, IMAGINE, LEARN

Read each statement below closely. Assume the person who wrote this is sincere; they believe every word. Imagine what life experience or background might lead a person to have this belief. Whether true or false, this person’s perception is a fact. 



DEVELOPMENT IN SYRIA


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WORK WITHIN THE INCLUSION OF MARGINALIZED GROUPS IN SYRIA

The thick brown line represents the mass killing of members of one or more marginalized groups

The thick brown line represents the most conservative assessment of the inclusion of marginalized groups in Syria, in which there is mass killing of members of one or more marginalized groups. Any organization operating in Syria would do well to consider the danger of casually including members of marginalized into groups dominated by members of the mainstream population. 


STRENGTHENING THE THE INCLUSION OF MARGINALIZED GROUPS IN SYRIA ONE STEP AT A TIME

Aim just right: stop the killing

The green area of the chart, from levels 1 to 2, indicates where projects to strengthen the Syria's inclusion of marginalized groups will be most likely to succeed, by protecting them from being killed. An example is Russia, Turkey, and Iran's proposed de-escalation zones.

If you aim too high: destructive overreach

Projects and agreements in the red area of the chart are overly ambitious and, at best, will be a waste of time. More likely, they will drive confusion and corruption into the country. An example (see chart) is of initiatives intended to provide basic social services to members of marginalized groups so that they don’t die due to neglect (level 3). If implemented in Syria, this attempted leap from a society that actively kills members marginalized groups (level 1) to one that provides them with basic social services (level 3) would be too much to do at once! Without having first put an end to mass killings (level 2), efforts to prevent deaths caused by neglect would be a misallocation of resources, as those rescued from passive neglect risk being actively murdered. 

Inclusion of marginalized groups in post-invasion Iraqi society was at a similarly low level in the spring of 2003. The United States, however, failed to recognize the true extent of discrimination against marginalized groups and instead enacted many programs based on the faulty assumption that discrimination in Iraqi society was mainly driven by informal biases in government hiring practices (level 5).  As a result, inappropriate practices and projects drove confusion and corruption into Iraqi society with disastrous results.

The most blatant underestimation of discrimination in Iraq was evidenced by the policy of Muhasasa, a set of ethnic and sectarian quotas which the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) ingrained into the newly reconstructed executive branch of the Iraqi government. Assuming that most discrimination occurred informally during the hiring of government officials (level 5), Muhasasa was instituted in the hope of providing members of all groups with equal opportunity to serve in government (level 6). As our INCA platform reveals, however, this assumption was misguided and led to programmatic overreach. The actual outcome of this policy was the entrenchment of sectarian divides across ministries, as the heads of each ministry interpreted the policy to mean that their particular ministry was reserved for members of their ethnic or religious group. The ministry of health, for example, came to be dominated exclusively by the Sadrist subgroup of Shi’a Islam, allegedly causing a spike in hospital deaths among Sunnis. Rather than eliminating informal discrimination, which was the intention behind the project, the guarantee of set numbers of government jobs to different marginal groups, Muhasasa instead ended up formalizing discrimination by effectively establishing ethnic and religious prerequisites for each ministry.

Background Reading

For further descriptions of the sectarian divides within Iraqi government ministries, see: Sky, Emma. 2015. "The Unraveling." (New York: Perseus Books Group): P. 153 - 166

For more information on INCA for Iraq, read our retroactive case study here: http://sovereigntyfirst.com/iraq/report


Round 3 Statements (Nov 2016 - Jul 2017)

Note: These statements were given by participants as rationale for their decision to gauge Syrian capacity at their stated level. 

The Range

Lowest Score:1

Highest Score: 6

1. Mass killing of members of the marginalized group

“The political minority is being exterminated by the regime.” (233911)
“For example, the Islamic State parts. The Arab population governed by PYD and PKK were kicked out of villages with accusations they collaborated with the government.” (231642)
“Half of the country is homeless as IDPs or refugees. There is no empathy for them from the regime.” (234281)
“It's mass killing of all residents.” (235931)
“It depends on which marginalized group. It varies. Even in the rump state the mix of factions have varying degrees of control or freedom. Outside of that it can be worse. It's been that way ever since the French took over. They grouped the minorities together against the Sunni. That's the state that Hafez Al Assad inherited.” (239311)
“The minority groups are in power. Sunni are treated as an enemy. Rebels often kill groups when they win. Officers sometimes act, perhaps independently of orders. The Islamic State is another problem altogether.” (239312)

2. Neglect, while large numbers of the population die needlessly.

No Statements

3. Violent abuse of much of the marginalized groups

“When Hafez Al Assad came to power, the Baath Party leading the country was put into the constitution. It has not changed. This was why people demanded freedom and rights in the revolution. The groups united against the regime. The Kurds were double marginalized.” (231641)
“It depends on which part of Syria.” (232272)
“Abuse against most of the population, done against the dominant groups, not the marginalized. 10 million are now homeless. 1 million are dead. The marginalized (Alawi) control everything. They are only 1 million.” (233081)

4. Formal discrimination against the marginalized group

“The Alawite minority controls Syria and marginalizes the majority. At this point if you pass a checkpoint with ID from a town with a history of rebellion you will automatically be arrested.” (236592)

5. Informal discrimination against the marginalized group

“Before the revolution there were marginalized groups, economically, politically, by health. Whole regions were marginalized. They didn't get education, health.” (233881)
“There was formal discrimination against the Kurds. It changed after 2011 because the context shifted. There may be many informal discriminations we are not aware of.” (235781)

6. All of these subgroups are treated as well as most other citizens.

“It's not possible to know how many people are marginalized or what is happening specifically to them.” (238631)


Round 2 Statements (Aug 2016 - Oct 2016)

Note: These statements were given by participants as rationale for their decision to gauge Syrian capacity at their stated level. 

The Range 

Lowest Score: 1

Highest Score: 6

1. Mass killing of members of a marginalized group.

"In Syria it is not against a certain economic group. It's against the political side. Even before the uprising there was a huge issue with the Kurds who were denied citizenship. It dealt the same way with the mentally ill, locked into asylums without proper treatment, or using outdated treatments." (223911)

2. Neglect, while large numbers of the marginalized group die needlessly.

No Statements

3. Violent abuse of much of the marginalized group.

"There is violence toward the majority of the population from the regime, before the war, during, and now. Nationalism exists everywhere in Syria." (223881)
"Assad is mass murdering, but he is only able to reach parts of the country." (222272)
"It's looking only at what the Syrian government (Assad) is capable of doing. It doesn't factor in the opposition groups or Kurds." (222272)

4. Formal discrimination against the marginalized group.

No Statements

5. Informal discrimination against the marginalized group.

No Statements

6. None of the above (all of these subgroups are treated as well as most other citizens).

"The regime marginalized everyone in the country. The mentally ill, the handicapped, raped have become the majority. The war in Syria is worse than WWII. Even the millions of refugees are voiceless now." (221641)


Round 1 Statements (Jan 2016 - May 2016)

Note: These statements were given by participants as rationale for their decision to gauge Syrian capacity at the level they did for this dimension. 

The Range

Lowest Score: 1

Highest Score: 3

1. Mass killing of members of a marginalized group.

No Statements

2. Neglect, while large numbers of the marginalized group die needlessly.

No Statements

3. Violent abuse of much of the marginalized group.

No Statements