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.
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.
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:
Download here the project PDF
OPEN THINK TANK (OTT) organized its seventh conference under the name of Open Debates 7 in partnership with Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), Syria/Iraq office. The Open Debates is a series of public events such as conferences, meetings, and workshops held by Open Think Tank in collaboration with its partners. The following is the conference report which includes recommendations that were derived from a two-day conference debates, discussions, and questions and answers.
Conference Report by:
Dr. Mohammedali Taha , Revin Mahyad , and Hizel Hidayet
This project was prepared and conducted in partnership between Open Think Tank (NGO based in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq) and Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung Syria/Iraq Office. We hereby thank all the people who took the 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 additional information, please contact one of the project partners.