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.

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.




The OTT had the pleasure of receiving the German Consul-General, H.E. Barbara Wolf, at OTT office to discuss the current political and humanitarian developments in Iraq and the KRI.


Duhok. Sep 24, 2019


OTT  will gladly participate in co-organizing Nurses and the Future of Healthcare in the Middle East Conference in collaboration with The American University of Kurdistan and Nursing and Midwifery Development Centre. The conference will take place on 3-5 March of 2020 in Duhok.


As part of preparations for the Open Think Tank's upcoming conference (OPEN DEBATES 7), Dr. Mohammedali Taha, the President of the OTT, met with Kurdistan Parliament’s President Dr. Rewaz Faeq. We are glad to announce that Dr. Faeq will be participating in our next conference.
Erbil. Sep 8, 2019
Open Think Tank Logo
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram