Support to Traditional
Cultural Practices in Northern Iraq

Traditional Cultural Practices

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has contributed more than $389 million to the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response initiative, which aims to assist ethnic and religious minorities in northern Iraq in healing and rebuilding their communities following the genocide perpetrated by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This assistance combines short, medium, and long-term efforts to meet these populations' immediate, life-saving, and recovery needs; restore access to essential services; rehabilitate critical infrastructure; improve job access; support local businesses; and mobilise local and national actors to prevent future atrocities.

USAID recognizes the need to find the importance of local partners. In the project "Support to Traditional Cultural Practices in Northern Iraq" funded project by USAID, the University of Duhok is the main local partner. 

Project Information

Title of Project: Support to Traditional Cultural Practices in Northern Iraq

Sector: Agriculture and Sociology

Country: Iraq

Lead Institution: Laser Pulse Consortium and University of Notre Dame (UND)


Final Budget: $5M, Funded by The U.S. Agency for International Development - USAID

Project Length: 3.5 years 


The purpose of this project is to identify and re-establish the agro-based cultural practices of major minority groups in Northern Iraq who were affected by ISIS. This project included an initial period of deep ethnographic research and comprehensive data collection to understand agricultural practices impacted by ISIS occupation and of particular cultural significance to local communities and ethno sectarian groups. This phase will be followed by an implementation period to help in re-establishing the identified agro-based cultural practices. (UND, Purdue, IU)

  LASER PULSE; Support to Traditional Cultural Practices in Northern Iraq


Dr. Dawood Sulaiman Atrushi is the President of the University of Duhok, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and Master's Degree in Civil Engineering from Norway, and a Master’s Degree in Higher Education Research and Practices from UK.

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Dr. Nashwan Shawkat Mahmood is the principal investigator of this project.  He is an Assistant Professor in Environmental Engineering. He has a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering/Environmental and Sanitary Engineering from the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, obtained in 2013.

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Dr. Lokman Hadi Hassan is the Vice President for Scientific Affairs and Postgraduate Studies. He is an Assistant Professor in Electrical Engineering, Power Systems. Dr. Lokman obtained Ph.D. in Power Systems, from the University of Malaya, Malaysia.

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Dr. Nabaz I. Mohammed is the Vice President for Student Affairs/University of Duhok (Since Oct. 2022). He was the Head of the Recreation & Ecotourism Department when the project started, at the College of Agricultural Engineering Sciences.  He is the Project Coordinator. He is a specialist in the field of Hydrology.

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DOIR's Director is Prof. Dr. Rund Hammoudi. She joined the office in 2007, and she has made an indelible mark on this directorate ever since. Prof. Hammoudi is a skilled geologist and professor. She believes in the internationalisation of the University. She is committed to the university's goals of international engagement and institutional accreditation. Furthermore, she is an excellent team leader who likes working with others.

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The literature review (Support to Traditional Cultural Practices in Northern Iraq-June 2020)  provides a detailed overview of the cultural and agricultural practices of the ethnic and religious minorities in the districts of Al Hamdaniya and TelKaif in Ninawa Plains, It provides a brief demographic and geographic background on the minority groups and examines both the intra- and inter-community dynamics in the wake of the Islamic State (IS) occupation. It also looks into the factors behind protracted displacement in Iraq by analyzing the main districts of origin and identifying the obstacles to return for the minority Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), as well as the driving factors behind the minority IDPs’ decisions to return or remain displaced among four ethno-religious groups (Christians, Yazidi, Shabaks, and Turkmen). ➤ EXPLORE MORE 

The Ninawa Plains of Iraq: How Culture is Helping to Restore Peace' short film describes the role of cultural and religious practices in the post-conflict reconstruction of Iraq’s most ethnically and religiously diverse region. The film tells the story from the perspective of minority groups living in the Ninawa Plains, weaving together footage from interviews with local people. During its onslaught, ISIS deliberately targeted minority communities, including Christians, Kakais, Shabaks, Turkmen and Yazidi, and destroyed their sources of livelihood, such as farmlands and livestock, and the heritage and sacred religious sites of these communities. Hundreds of thousands of people fled ISIS’ persecution and displaced as a result of this atrocity.  ➤ EXPLORE MORE


The University of Notre Dame (UND) was founded in November 1842 by Rev. Edward F. Sorin, C.S.C., a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross, a French missionary order. It is located adjacent to South Bend, Indiana. Chartered by the state of Indiana in 1844, the University was governed by the Holy Cross priests until 1967, when governance was transferred to a two-tiered, mixed board of lay and religious trustees and fellows.
UND is the coordinator partner in this project.

The University of Duhok is a public university in Duhok, Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The University describes itself as playing a vital role in community development by inciting cultural, scientific, socioeconomic, and educational progress in northern Iraq, and graduates from the University currently contribute to capacity building in Region

Purdue University is a public land-grant research university in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the flagship campus of the Purdue University system. The university was founded in 1869 after Lafayette businessman John Purdue donated land and money to establish a college of science, technology, and agriculture in his name.

Purdue is the University of Duhok's partner in Support to Traditional Cultural Practices in Northern Iraq project.

College of Agriculture to host University of Duhok delegates; campus invited to opening session

USAID is the world's premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID works to help lift lives, build communities, and advance democracy. USAID's work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity; demonstrates American generosity; and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience.


Since 1820, Indiana University has helped students create brighter futures, while also seeking ways to drive innovation, from breakthroughs in DNA technology and cancer research to trailblazing cultural programs and resources. IU is home to top-ranked business and music schools. We’re home to the world’s first school of philanthropy, the nation’s first school of informatics, and the country’s largest medical school. 

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute is a based in Stockholm, Sweden. SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public. Based in Stockholm, SIPRI is regularly ranked among the most respected think tanks worldwide.

New SIPRI film—The Nineveh Plains of Iraq: How culture is helping to restore peace