Investigating the role of religious institutions in the prevention of violent extremism in Nineveh province, Iraq


  • Juline Beaujouan University of Edinburgh
  • Amjed Rasheed Queen’s University Belfast


Violent Extremism, Religious Institutions, Iraq, P/CVE


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.


The findings presented in this paper are the result of research undertaken under the Preventing and Addressing Violent Extremism Through Community Resilience (PAVE) project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870769. The publication of this paper has been supported by the Peace and Conflict Resolution Evidence Platform (PeaceRep), funded by UK Aid from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the benefit of developing countries. The information and views set out in this publication are those of the authors.


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