No Peace Without Punishment? Reintegrating Islamic State “Collaborators” in Iraq

The American Journal of Comparative Law (accepted, forthcoming 2022)

60 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2020 Last revised: 18 Oct 2021

See all articles by Mara Redlich Revkin

Mara Redlich Revkin

Duke University School of Law; Georgetown University Law Center

Kristen Kao

University of Gothenburg; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 5, 2021


How does variation in the severity of punishment affect public opinion toward the reintegration of former enemy “collaborators” after war? We study this question in the context of Iraq where the Islamic State, an armed rebel group, captured and governed a population of more than 5 million Iraqi citizens between 2014 and 2017. Building upon extensive fieldwork and interviews in Iraq, we designed a survey experiment that randomly varied the severity of sentences in hypothetical scenarios of civilians who supported the Islamic State in non-violent roles (e.g., cleaners, cooks, and wives of fighters). The experiment allows us to estimate the causal effects of punishment on attitudes toward reintegration. We find that a long prison sentence (15 years) does not increase the likelihood of participants’ willingness to allow the reintegration of former collaborators; instead, a noncarceral punishment (community service) has a small but statistically significant positive effect. Our most striking findings are that noncarceral and community-based justice mechanisms can significantly increase the likelihood of successful reintegration after punishment. Fifteen percent of respondents who were initially opposed to the return of former collaborators into their communities said that they would be willing to change their judgment and support reintegration if they were asked to do so by a tribal or religious leader, or if the offender completes a noncarceral rehabilitation program. These findings suggest that noncarceral, restorative, and community-based justice mechanisms may be equally or potentially more effective than long-term incarceration for achieving the objectives of rehabilitation and eventual reintegration of former nonviolent offenders. Our study advances the field of comparative empirical legal scholarship by providing an innovative experimental research design that can be replicated by scholars studying other contexts to help answer important questions about the causal effects of criminal justice policies.

Keywords: Comparative Law, Iraq, Empirical Legal Scholarship, Transitional Justice, Reintegration, Prisons, Criminal Law, Survey Methodology

Suggested Citation

Revkin, Mara Redlich and Kao, Kristen, No Peace Without Punishment? Reintegrating Islamic State “Collaborators” in Iraq (October 5, 2021). The American Journal of Comparative Law (accepted, forthcoming 2022), Available at SSRN: or

Mara Redlich Revkin (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

Box 90360
Durham, NC 27708-0360
United States

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Kristen Kao

University of Gothenburg ( email )

Viktoriagatan 30
Göteborg, 405 30

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science

Los Angeles, CA
United States

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