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.

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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.


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