Saddam Hussein was the President of Iraq for nearly a quarter of a century, from 1979 to 2003. The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and deposed Saddam Hussein after defeating his military forces in a bloody and expensive war. The former dictator is currently in captivity and facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The country is still under the occupation of the USA and its allies and is going through very difficult times, a period of violence, political turmoil and economic deprivation.
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Iraq has undergone intense political turmoil, debilitating and prolonged wars, economic deprivation and internecine strife for nearly three decades. The country has an overwhelmingly Arabic Muslim population, who belong to two religious sects, the Shias and the Sunnis. In addition to these two groups, the Kurdish people, who are Shias by faith, but not Arabs, inhabit the north of the country. The Kurds have been in constant conflict with Saddam’s Ba’athist government for many years over religious and political issues. There have been numerous allegations of violent and extensive persecution of the Kurds, including the use of chemical weapons and nerve gas, by government forces. Thousands of Kurds have supposedly been killed and buried in mass graves by the army during Saddam Hussein’s regime; the atrocities against Kurds is one of the main crimes against humanity for which he is facing trial.
The focus of the dissertation specified to the researcher, as part of academic course requirement, is to investigate and analyse the factors responsible for the treatment of the Kurdish population by the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein. It is a topic of immense social and political significance and a properly thought out and well conducted research assignment might well provide a fresh perspective on the issue and be of help to social scientists and academia.
2. Definition of Research Issues
The successful conduct of this research assignment and the preparation of the dissertation will be influenced by a proper appreciation and handling of the different issues needed for carrying out relevant and ethical social research.
The topic under investigation is evocative and contemporaneous. It is difficult for involved people and external observers to be impartial and objective about the issue, considering the enormous amount of material generated by media and other observers.
Saddam Hussein, after years of dictatorial rule, appears to be a man condemned by popular perception, his statements in court considered to be no more than the ranting of a cornered and beaten megalomaniac. A perusal of recent media reports in the western press show him in the worst possible light and very little appears on the positive sides of his character or his regime. The website “Saddam Hussein’s Philanthropy of Terror” (2004) and many similar ones refer to him as “The Butcher of Baghdad”, (Murdock, 2004) among other pejoratives. Saddam Hussein has had an extraordinarily long term as President of Iraq. The western media and the US government, especially during the term of Ronald Reagan, have supported him in his war against Iran after the deposition of the Shah. His conflict with the west commenced with his attack on Kuwait 1990 and ended with his defeat and deposition in 2003.
It is of immense importance to thus define the various issues of the research assignment. These will need to deal with the political and religious affiliation of Saddam Hussein and the Ba’athist regime, the religious, political and social differences between the Iraqi regime and the Kurds, the nature of the atrocities carried out on the Kurds and the reasons for these atrocities. The research issues, framed as questions can thus be as detailed below:
- What were the political and religious affiliations of Saddam Hussein and the Ba’athist Party?
- What were the religious, social and political differences between the Iraqi regime and the Kurds of Iraq?
- What was the nature of atrocities carried out by the Iraqi regime on the Kurds?
- What were the reasons for the carrying out of these atrocities?
A specific articulation of the issues will thus enable the researcher to focus on the core issues involved in the dissertation, conduct the investigation and gather evidence accordingly. “Social research involved the interaction between ideas and evidence. Ideas help social researchers make sense of evidence, and researchers use evidence to extend, revise and test ideas”.(Ragin, 1994)
3. Research Methodology
The research methodology to be used for particular assignments depends, to a great deal on the inclination and affinity of the researche for particular techniques available within the broad framework of rules followed for social research assignments. The importance of secondary research is essential for an assignment with such a broad canvas, encompassing, inter alia, social mores, religion and politics, dominant and inferior groups, repression and atrocities. A number of books, texts, journals and magazines on Saddam Hussein, Iraq and the Kurdish issue are available in hard and electronic format, many of which are listed in the bibliography. It will be essential to peruse these texts, in reference with the research issues to arrive at findings generated from information available in secondary sources.
The appropriate research methodology for the purpose of this assignment needs to take care of the discussed facts and be tailored accordingly. An article on “Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Social Research” by Nedra Kline Weinrich, first published in 1996 details a methodology, wherein a balanced and well thought out mix of quantitative and qualitative research techniques could well be the most appropriate methodology for conducting this assignment
An examination of the quantitative and qualitative paradigms will help to identify their strengths and weaknesses and how their divergent approaches can complement each other. In most cases, researchers fall into one of the two camps, either relying exclusively upon “objective” survey questionnaires and statistical analyses and eschewing warm and fuzzy qualitative methods, or using only qualitative methodologies, rejecting the quantitative approach as decontextualizing human behaviour. However, it is widely accepted that each approach has positive attributes and that combining different methods, if handled properly, can result in the best of both techniques. (Weinrich, 1996)
Research techniques used for quantitative analysis aim to achieve objective results and eschew subjective interpretation. The respondents are generally selected through random sampling in a statistical manner aimed at achieving a response from the selected sample, which will be representative of the total population. Qualitative research methods are vastly different and concentrate on working with smaller groups known as focus groups. These focus groups are selected with great care but later subjected to intensive questioning and interviewing by trained researchers who are very well versed in qualitative techniques. It is the job of these researchers to ensure that their respondents are able to provide them with subjective and interpretative data, which would have never come out with quantitative techniques.
There are however some techniques wherein it is possible to integrate qualitative and quantitative methods in research.
In the first approach, qualitative methods contribute to the development of quantitative instruments, such as the use of focus groups in questionnaire construction. The second model consists of a primarily quantitative study that uses qualitative results to help interpret or explain the quantitative findings. In the third approach, quantitative results help interpret predominantly qualitative findings, as when focus group participants are asked to fill out survey questionnaires at the session. In the fourth model, the two methodologies are used equally, in parallel to cross-validate, and build upon each other’s results. … may operate under one or more of these models; the approaches are not mutually exclusive. (Weinreich, 1996)
It is felt that integrating quantitative and qualitative research methods will lend depth and clarity to this research assignment. Using multiple approaches can be time-consuming, labour-intensive and expensive, but also possibly the most productive.
In addition to obtaining information from primary sources like official websites and journals, the researcher also proposes to carry out a detailed questionnaire based survey of 20 Iraqis for obtaining primary information on the key issues. The respondents can be sourced with the help of the Iraqi embassy. It is anticipated that there will not be much difficulty in obtaining agreeable respondents once the purpose of the study and the research credentials are clarified. As the sample population is not very large the questionnaires will have to focus on the research issues and on obtaining a qualitative response. This could be done either by framing 20 open ended questions focusing on research issues or by using 20 questions with multiple choice answers. Multiple choice questions will allow respondents to chose their response from a set of answers and be useful in preparing a tabulated response. The researcher is in favour of using a range of leading open ended questions but will have to use excellent interviewing skills, either personal or outsourced to get authentic responses. The code of ethics will be followed strictly both during the framing of the questionnaire and the conduct of the interviews. The right of the respondents to privacy and confidentiality will be strictly observed as well as their wish to answer questions.
The findings of the primary research and the findings obtained from a study of the secondary literature will need to be matched and cross tallied for support or contradiction to arrive at logical supported findings and thence to conclusions.
4. Limitations of Study
A number of constraints could arise during the course of the dissertation that could in some ways affect its final quality. The researcher has already started reading the data available from secondary sources and does not anticipate any problems to arise from unavailability of secondary data. However the possibility of missing out on some important information due to lack of time or knowledge does exist.
The researcher proposes to interview 20 people to obtain responses on issues relevant to the matter under investigation. This is still a grey area as no respondents have been finalised yet but the researcher does not anticipate much difficulty in obtaining these responses.
The subject proposed for investigation has multiple has multiple perspectives, evidenced by the large number of theories. The study will require time and perspicacity for a proper and acceptable result. The researcher proposes to make sincere efforts to examine the issue from different perspectives. The availability of more time would have possibly thrown up more data and a larger primary information sample leading to more accurate data for analysis and solutions.
Crano, W. D., & Brewer, M. B. 2002. Principles and Methods of Social Research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Kazemzadeh, M. 1998. Thinking the Unthinkable: Solving the Problem of Saddam Hussein for Good. Middle East Policy, 1(1), 73-86.
Kelsay, J. 1993. Islam and War: A Study in Comparative Ethics (1st ed.). Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press. Retrieved October 25, 2006, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=26085894
Murdock, D, 2004, “Saddam Hussein’s Philanthropy of Terror” Retrieved October 23, 2006 from www.husseinandterror.com
Palys, T., & Lowman, J. 2001. Social Research with Eyes Wide Shut: The Limited Confidentiality Dilemma. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 43(2), 255. Retrieved October 25, 2006, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001041487
Ragin, C, 1994, Constructing Social Research, Pine Forge Pr, ISBN: 0803990219
Rezun, M. 1992. Saddam Hussein’s Gulf Wars: Ambivalent Stakes in the Middle East. Westport, CT: Praeger. Retrieved October 25, 2006, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=107022508
Simons, G. 1996. Iraq From Sumer to Saddam (Second ed.). Basingstoke: Macmillan. Retrieved October 25, 2006, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=97576434
Zinger, I., Wichmann, C., & Gendreau, P. 2001. Legal and Ethical Obligations in Social Research: The Limited Confidentiality Requirement. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 43(2), 269.
Weinrich, N.K., 1996 Integrating Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Social Marketing Research, Social-Marketing.com, Retrieved October 21, 2006 from www.social-marketing.com/research.html
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