The research conducted by the Open Think Tank (OTT) as part of the PAVE project in Iraq aimed to examine the relationship between state and religious actors and their impact on community vulnerability or resilience to violent extremism in the country. Specifically, the study sought to understand the extent to which the rise of violent extremism is connected to the absence or dysfunction of state institutions or inactive and mistrusted religious institutions. The research focused on two districts in Nineveh Province, Hamdaniyyah and Tel Afar, which experienced the rule of the Islamic State and the devastating consequences of violent extremism.

Through 59 in-depth face-to-face interviews with various stakeholders, including civil society members, political representatives, grassroots communities, and religious representatives, the research gathered data on the influence of religious institutions on countering and preventing violent extremism (C/PVE) initiatives. The study also collected socio-demographic indicators to ensure the representativeness of the sampled populations, including gender and ethno-religious groups.

The PAVE research in Iraq addresses the gaps in existing literature, which often provides descriptive accounts of C/PVE policies without considering the involvement and impact of different stakeholders, particularly religious actors. The research analyzes the actions, legitimacy, and interaction between religious and political spheres within the context of Iraq's post-2003 state apparatus. The hybrid political and legal system in Iraq since the removal of Saddam Hussein has created a shared space of governance and challenged traditional dichotomies of formal-informal and secular-religious institutions.

Contrary to the dominant narrative that attributes violent extremism in Iraq solely to the collapse of the state and sectarian politics, the research suggests a mutually reinforcing relationship between violent extremism and the sustainability of the Iraqi political structures. The absence of a functioning state has hindered social transformation and contributed to the grievances and desire for radical change that fuel violent extremism. However, preventing violent extremism without the involvement of the state is impossible, emphasizing the need for an innovative and inclusive approach to address the complex network of stakeholders with diverse backgrounds and objectives.

The research findings highlight the contested legitimacy of religious institutions in Nineveh Province, the limited interactions between religious institutions, political systems, and civil society, and the fragmentation of the state apparatus reflected in uncoordinated C/PVE strategies. Additionally, the study emphasizes the interplay and competition between different forms of resilience in Iraq, where the resilience of the state or political system undermines community resilience to violent extremism.

Based on the research findings, several recommendations are provided for the government, civil society, and the international community. These recommendations include efforts to rehabilitate liberated areas, prioritize psychological reconstruction alongside material reconstruction, support women's engagement in public life, establish local peace committees, reform the legal framework, encourage interfaith dialogue and cooperation, and promote inclusive development policies.

In conclusion, the PAVE research in Iraq offers insights into the interplay between state and religious actors in relation to violent extremism and emphasizes the need for an inclusive and holistic approach that addresses the complexities of the Iraqi context. The findings provide valuable recommendations for various stakeholders to foster resilience, prevent violent extremism, and promote sustainable development in Iraq.

Click here to see the full report (English).

Click here to see the full report (Arabic).

This article investigates the role of religious institutions in the countering and
prevention of violent extremism (C/PVE) in Nineveh province, Iraq. It addresses a
major gap in the literature that offers largely descriptive accounts of C/PVE
policies, without considering the different stakeholders involved in their
implementation and the complex network of relationships among them. The
actions and legitimacy of religious institutions are analysed against the
background of the post-2003 Iraqi state apparatus. The hybridity of the new
political system of the second republic (2005-present) justifies the focus on the
initiatives of both formal and informal religious institutions towards key C/PVE
sectors such as education and peace-building. Building on 59 interviews
conducted in Hamdaniyyah and Tel Afar four years after the official victory over
the Islamic State, this paper introduces new data and innovative insights into the
relationships between religious institutions, state apparatus and civil society. The
findings suggest that i) while the legitimacy of religious institutions is contested
across Nineveh province, there is a consensus on the need for these institutions to
be involved in C/PVE; ii) interactions between religious institutions, political
systems, and civil society have increased but remain limited; and iii) the
fragmentation of the state apparatus is reflected in uncoordinated and unregulated
C/PVE strategies. The importance of religious institutions in fostering community
resilience to violent extremism in Nineveh province should not overlook the need
for a transversal and inclusive approach to healing the scars left by two decades of
rampant conflicts.

Note: Article published in Journal for Radicalization.

Click here to see the full report.

With its partners in the PAVE project consortium, OTT attended the second progress and general assembly meeting between 22 and 24 February 2022. The meeting took place at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (FMSH) in Paris, France. On the first day of the meeting, OTT presented its progress over the previous year, notably the findings of a 71-page report investigating the role of political and religious institutions, and their relations, in the vulnerability and resilience of communities in Nineveh province to violent extremism. The first day of the meeting was also the occasion to compare key findings between the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the Balkans, bringing together unique perspectives into the factors of vulnerability and resilience to violent extremism in and across the two regions.

On the second day of the meeting, PAVE partners welcomed Horizon 2020 sister projects The sister projects Preventing Violent Extremism (PREVEX) and Contexts of Violent Extremism in MENA and Balkan Societies (CONNEKT). The three projects and their partners exchanged views on violent extremism, including terminology caveats, drivers and aspects of violent extremism, national findings, and regional trends. Participants stressed the significance of coordinating research efforts to get a better understanding of violent extremism in the MENA and Balkan regions.

On the third and final day of the meeting, OTT and his partners from the MENA and Balkans gathered for a validation workshop held by the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. During the workshop, the Network’s partners presented key themes of interest related to the prevention of violent extremism with the purpose of developing capacity-building tools and training modules. PAVE key stakeholders were given the opportunity to offer reflections and sustainable recommendations on the identified capacity needs and proposed solutions.

OTT is grateful to Marie Kortham and her colleagues at FMSH, as well as Berghof Foundation’s Véronique Dudouet and Johanna Hülzer, for organising the event. OTT also thanks all PAVE colleagues who attended the meeting in person and virtually for their feedback and comments on the work conducted in Iraq.

This report presents the methodology and socio-demographic data gathered by the Open Think Tank (OTT) as part of its research on the interplay between state and religious actors and their influence on community vulnerability or resilience to patterns of violent extremism (VE) in Iraq. The focus of this study is to understand the extent to which the rise of violent extremism is linked to or influenced by the absence or dysfunction of state/governance institutions in affected communities, as well as the role of inactive and mistrusted formal religious institutions.

The analysis presented in this report is based on 59 interviews conducted between June and November 2021. The research team selected two case studies, namely the Hamdaniyyah and Tal Afar districts, which encompass the main cities in each district located in Nineveh Province, Iraq. The cities of Qaraqosh and Tal Afar were chosen as they have experienced significant impacts of violent extremism, particularly under the Islamic State group (IS). Following the liberation of these cities from IS between 2016 and 2017, they witnessed substantial demographic shifts and a process of militarization with the proliferation of armed groups along ethnic and confessional lines.


Click here to see the full report.



The First International Nursing Conference in Kurdistan Region of Iraq was successfully held in the two past days (7th and 8th July, 2021) under the title of “The future of nursing and healthcare in Kurdistan”. The conference was held by Nursing & Midwifery Development Centre in Erbil, was hosted and co-organized by the college of Nursing of the American University of Kurdistan, and was supported by the Open Think Tank.

The conference was initiated by the Nursing & Midwifery Development Centre in Erbil in 2019 in collaboration with the Open Think Tank, but due to the global pandemic of COVID-19, the conference was not held in its intended time, which was in 2020.

Due to the global travel restrictions and in order to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19, the conference was transformed to online format. The conference hosted many international keynote speakers, local representatives, and nurses, that made up to 120 participants from all around the world. It is worth mentioning that during the conference twenty research/projects/papers were also presented.

The keynote speakers were from the USA and Canada, including AUK Dean of Nursing, Dr. Susie Chen, who presented two important topics: Core Measures, a must-know in nursing practice and education, and High-Fidelity Simulation for nursing technology and innovation. Dr. Chen also introduced the conceptual frameworks in developing the AUK nursing bachelor’s degree curriculum from the Core Measures and the concepts of simulation-based education and a high-fidelity simulation lab in AUK.

Under the motto of “Nursing is a life-long learning profession,” the International Nursing Conference in Kurdistan Region is planned to be held yearly. The Second International Nursing Conference is now being planned for 2022 by the Nursing & Midwifery Development Centre. For more information about the Second International Nursing Conference, visit the official website of the conference.


Open Think Tank (OTT) gladly advertises limited volunteering opportunities. You can now apply for a volunteering internship and get the chance to work in our organization. Applicants will need to submit a CV and expect an interview. Applicants can apply for the opportunity by filling up our online form.




The president and the staff of the Open Think Tank (OTT) paid a visit to the Christian Aid Program Nohadra-Iraq (CAPNI). The meeting reaffirmed the importance of cooperation between both organizations to develop joint projects and implement them in different areas including peace-building, coexistence and education.


Duhok. Apr 23, 2021

We are delighted to announce that OTT will take part in the EU's Horizon 2020 research programme "Preventing and Addressing Violent Extremism through Community Resilience in the Balkan and MENA (PAVE)", Pave project will be implemented by a consortium of 13 partners from 12 countries.

Preventing and Addressing Violent Extremism (PAVE): Drivers and contexts of violent extremism in the broader MENA region and the Balkans through community resilience. The project PAVE, funded by the EU's Horizon 2020 research programme, examines the root causes of violent extremism and strengthens community resilience in the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa.

13 partners from 12 countries: The European research project PAVE aims to examine driving and mitigating factors of radicalisation and violent extremism in the Balkans and MENA region.

In the light of an increase in radicalism and violent extremism in Europe and worldwide, there is a growing need for a common political strategy and effective prevention measures.

PAVE aims to tackle the global issue of radicalisation by examining its root causes and driving factors. Based on a participatory and inter-regional approach, we aim to advance evidence-based knowledge on violent extremism in the broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the Western Balkan and to strengthen the capacity of policy-makers and community leaders for an effective prevention strategy between the European Union and its neighbourhood.

The three researchers from Open Think Tank who participate in this project are Dr. Amjed Rasheed, Dr. Juline Beaujouan and Dr. Mohammedali Yaseen Taha.


Watch the short animated video clip showcasing the approach and goals of the project



This project was prepared and conducted in partnership between Open Think Tank (NGO based in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq) and Konrad Adenauer Shiftung Syria/Iraq Office, with funcding support from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany.

We hereby thank all the people who took time to participate in this survey and all the collaborators who contributed to this project.

If you have questions about this project or would like to additional information, please contact one of the project partners. Copies of this report can be found on the partners' websites:

Open Think Tank website  and Konrad Adenauer Shiftung website


Download here the project PDF

COVID-19 has attracted much attention in Kurdish neighbourhoods and has been relayed massively by the media across the KRI. Kurdistanis put their trust mostly in television as the most accessible source of information across the region. Conversely, social media was not considered a reliable source of information during the pandemic. The results of this survey highlight a strong lack of trust in federal political figures and institutions. At the regional level, Kurdistanis are divided along lines of political affiliation and geography. While respondents from Duhok and Erbil expressed a high level of trust in the KRG, people of Silemani are openly distrustful of the KRI government. The institutions responsible for mitigating the impact of the pandemic attract the highest level of trust across governorates. This is the case with the KRG Ministry of Health and Ministry of Interior, including the security forces and the police. Conversely, participants expressed strong rejection of both parliaments that sit in Baghdad and Erbil. The legislative body attracted the least trust among the population surveyed. The COVID-19 pandemic has fostered social cohesion in the KRI. The majority of respondents believed that all Kurdistanis, including both vulnerable and non-vulnerable groups, should be
treated equally and should receive the same amount of government support during the pandemic. That being said, a significant number of respondents recognized the importance of caring for those most vulnerable, such as the elderly, Syrian refugees, and International
Displaced Persons (IDPs) more broadly. Finally, respondents have been shown to rely mostly on their social circles and family throughout the crisis, rather than regional and federal
institutions. Those surveyed strongly supported the preventive measures in general imposed by the KRG on the three governorates. Yet, answers to the survey reveal that such measures have had an
impact on the personal economic circumstances of Kurdistanis, especially among the younger portion of the population, who expected to face financial difficulties in the near future as a direct
consequence of the pandemic and its impact.


Click here to find the full report

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