Erbil is part of the KRI. It is located in the north-eastern part of Iraq and has internal borders with Dohuk, Ninewa, Salah al-Din, Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah governorates, and international borders with Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Erbil governorate is divided into the following districts: Choman, Erbil (the capital of the KRI), Koisnjaq, Makhmour, Mergasur, Shaqlawa, and Soran. Makhmour’s administrative status remains officially undetermined, however the district has been administered by the Ninewa governorate since 1991. The governorate of Erbil has an estimated population of 1 903 608 with the majority being Kurds.
Since 1991, Erbil governorate had come under the control of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The 2017, KDP-led independence referendum backfired, resulting in a reaction from the Iraqi central government, causing the KRG to lose territorial control to the Government of Iraq over most of the disputed territories. In recent years, Turkey has set up military bases in key areas, including Erbil governorate, in an attempt to fight PKK presence in the area. The presence of Iranian state forces and of Kurdish insurgent and Kurdish-Iranian opposition groups was also reported. ISIL members were operating in Makhmour district.
Turkey launched regular cross-border attacks into the KRI by engaging in air and ground offensives targeting PKK fighters. These attacks inflicted mainly material damage, but they also resulted in civilian casualties. Heavy Iranian shelling was also reported in Sidakan district, resulting in the displacement of numerous families. Following the death of the Commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, General Qasem Soleimani in a January 2020 US airstrike, Iran launched missiles at the US airbase in Erbil governorate, with no reported casualties. Iranian missile fire also targeted bases of Kurdish forces originating from Iran in Erbil governorate. Remnants of ISIL continued to launch frequent asymmetric attacks against Iraqi civilians and security forces, mainly in Makhmour district. Their tactics were characterised as a return to earlier insurgency tactics through the ambush of security forces, the use of kidnapping and executions of suspected informants, as well as the extortion of money from vulnerable rural civilians. Iraqi forces also launched air raids on ISIL hideouts.
ACLED reported a total of 613 security incidents (average of 7.4 security incidents per week) in Erbil governorate in the reference period, the majority of which coded as remote violence/explosions. The largest overall number of security incidents was recorded in the district of Soran, followed by Mergasur, Choman and Makhmour. Few incidents were recorded in Erbil and Koisnjaq and no incidents were recorded in Shaqlawa during the reporting period. UNAMI recorded 28 armed conflict related incidents, 16 taking place in 2019 and 12 from 1st January until 31st July 2020 (average of 0.3 security incidents per week for the full reference period).
In the reference period, UNAMI recorded a total of 22 civilian casualties (9 deaths and 13 injuries) in the aforementioned armed conflict related incidents. More specifically, 17 casualties were reported in 2019 and 5 casualties were reported from 1st January until 31st July 2020. Compared to the official figures for the population in the governorate, this represents 1 civilian casualty per 100 000 inhabitants for the full reference period.
As of 30 June 2020, Erbil governorate had 236 496 IDPs residing in three main districts: Erbil, Makhmour and Shaqlawa. IDPs originated mainly from Ninewa, Anbar and Salah al-Din. Serious gender-based violence incidents perpetrated by armed actors were reported in both camps and informal settlements. As of 30 June 2020, 53 004 IDPs returned to their area of origin, all of whom to Makhmour.
The district of Choman, followed by southern parts of Soran district, were the most contaminated with explosive hazards areas in Erbil governorate. Moderate explosive hazard risk level was also documented in the district of Makhmour.
Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that indiscriminate violence is taking place in the districts of Choman, Makhmour, Mergasur and Soran, however not at a high level and, accordingly, a higher level of individual elements is required in order to show substantial grounds for believing that a civilian, returned to the territory, would face a real risk of serious harm within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.
Indiscriminate violence is taking place in the districts of Erbil, Koisnjaq and Shaqlawa at such a low level that in general there is no real risk for a civilian to be personally affected by reason of indiscriminate violence within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD. However, individual elements always need to be taken into account as they could put the applicant in risk-enhancing situations.
Main COI reference: Security situation 2020, 3.2