Violent Extremism in Mosul & the Kurdistan Region: Context, Drivers, and Public Perception

The Nineveh Province and Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) are co-located in northern Iraq. They are comparable in terms of ethno-religious and sectarian diversity, history, and political economy. However, since 2003, these two regions and their communities have produced two different environments. Nineveh became extremely vulnerable to violent extremism (VE), while the KRI demonstrated persistent resilience.

In this paper, a comparative analysis was carried out to examine public perception of the presence, root causes and drivers of VE, and their perception of the impact of on-going governmental and non-governmental initiatives for the prevention of VE (PVE). The issue occurrence and non-occurrence of VE in two comparable environments, are characterised in a local socio-economic, security and political context.

Combined with a comprehensive literature review, the data here shows that: VE should be contextualised within the broader security, governance, and identity crises, both locally in the governorate and nationally in Iraq as a whole. Thus, drivers enabling VE are different depending on the context, as well as the dynamic of other variables through time, which consequently need regular re-evaluation. Such, an understanding is critical for analysing the conditions that could facilitate the rise of extremist groups and VE, and for designing PVE policies.

Building resilience against radicalisation and transitioning to PVE is a long-term process that requires systematic and comprehensive investment in building intra- and inter-community trust, and trust between people and the authorities. Taken together, the Nineveh and KRI experience since 2003, highlights the need to focus on key policy priorities, including: countering pull factors, enhancing rule-of-law and good governance; reforming the security sector and state-monopoly of violence; economic reform and empowerment of the youth; and promoting religious moderation.

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