LASER PULSE Project Engaging in Research to Support Cultural Restoration in Northern Iraq

Northern Iraq

LASER PULSE Project Engaging in Research to Support Cultural Restoration in Northern Iraq

Between 2014 and 2017 hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed, and millions of individuals were displaced, due to the Islamic State’s (IS) occupation and the subsequent military campaign to defeat its forces. IS particularly targeted minority communities living in Ninewa province in northern Iraq. Regional livelihoods based on farming and animal husbandry were devastated. IS also destroyed many historical, religious, and cultural heritage sites, leading to a sense of spiritual loss and community estrangement. 

In 2020, the LASER PULSE consortium partners University of Notre Dame, Indiana University, and Purdue University, in partnership with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the University of Duhok in Iraq, began field work on a buy-in to support the restoration of culturally significant agricultural practices destroyed by the IS in Northern Iraq. Through the initial field research conducted between August 2020 and March 2021 – including over 200 key informant interviews with farmers, villagers, community leaders, and internally displaced persons, and nearly 900 surveys gathered from farmers and villagers – the team identified a number of cross-cutting and cross-group findings. Most significant among these include the critical nexus between agriculture, culture, and income-generating activities, the importance of reactivating local markets and exchange systems, as well misconceptions about inter-group conflict. The ability to practice culture was also highlighted across groups as an important determinant  in the majority of individuals’ sense of belonging in Iraq and, for many, in their decision to return home.

Based on findings and consultations among stakeholders, the team plans to complete additional activities toward cultural restoration, including ag extension, restoration of wild plants, community exchange through cooperative agriculture workshops, enhanced marketing through storytelling techniques, and other cultural awareness activities. These activities have the potential to strengthen the generative connections between cultural meaning and agricultural landscapes, and to support community resilience, recovery, and healing over the long term. The team is currently in the process of further defining these activities and the associated work plan, with implementation expected to begin later this year.

To stay up to date on the project’s continued activities in Northern Iraq, you can visit the website page here:

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