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Last update: June 2022

General information

Dohuk governorate is part of the KRI and is Iraq’s northernmost governorate. It borders Ninewa and Erbil governorates and shares international borders with Turkey and Syria. According to the Dohuk General Directorate of Tourism, the governorate is divided into six territories ‘managerially’: Dohuk, Semeal, Zakho, Amedeye, Sheikhan, and Akri. Akre and Sheikhan districts are parts of Ninewa governorate but have been administered by the KRG since 1991. The security situation in Akre and Sheikhan districts is assessed under Ninewa governorate. The capital of the governorate is Dohuk. The Iraqi CSO estimated the governorate’s population for 2021 at 1 396 480. The main ethnic group in Dohuk governorate are Kurds.

Background of the conflict

The overall stability in the KRI depends on the nature of the relationship between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which controls Erbil and Dohuk and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls Sulaymaniyah. The cooperation between both parties appears to be difficult.

Dohuk governorate was not affected by ISIL attacks in the 2014-2017 period. Since July 2015 Turkey renewed its military operations against the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) inside Iraq. In 2019 the security situation in the northern border areas deteriorated due to conflict between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In 2020 Turkey advanced further in the KRI establishing new military bases and checkpoints. The northern border areas were heavily targeted by Turkish airstrikes and shelling leading to the evacuation of numerous villages in Zakho and Amedi districts. During the reference period the conflict became asymmetrical and aerial and affected in a higher degree the life of the civilians. On 10 February 2021, Turkey launched the operation ‘Claw Eagle 2’ consisting of airstrikes and of the deployment of Turkish troops, which led to clashes with the PKK. In April 2021 operation ‘Claw Lightning’ was launched by the Turkish army. The fighting intensified and numerous airstrikes and military offensives against PKK hide outs were conducted. Tensions between the PKK and the KRG were rising, leading to armed clashes. Recurrent protests and social unrest due to an economic crisis have been reported and led to the arrest of a number of activists by Kurdish authorities.

Actors: control and presence

Kurdistan Region Government is responsible for the internal security. KDP and/or PUK affiliated Peshmerga units aim to ensure the security of the KRI and are responsible to eliminate ISIL terrorist threats. The Peshmerga established new bases to curb PKK activity. The Zerevani, military police units operate under the Kurdish Interior Ministry. Asayish security forces (PUK or KDP) are loyal to their respective parties and are involved in day-to-day security and administrative affairs.

The Iraqi government opposes the presence of PKK and of Turkish forces in the KRI and central Iraq. Iraqi border guards together with Peshmerga forces were deployed in Amedi, to maintain security in the area and to protect civilians.

PKK fighters presence is substantiated. They stationed primarily in the mountainous area in the KRI.

Turkish military forces have multiple military bases, military points and checkpoints in the KRI with the majority located in Dohuk governorate.

Turkish forces and PKK were involved in the majority of security incidents recorded by ACLED.

Nature of violence and examples of incidents

The conflict between Turkey and PKK was described by ACLED as increasingly aerial and asymmetrical. Turkey conducted numerous airstrikes, bombardments, warplane and drone attacks and launched ground offensives on alleged PKK fighters and their hideouts. Attacks of villages and bombings of their surroundings by Turkish forces were reported. PKK engaged in clashes with Turkey and KRG forces. Residents of more than 13 villages were reportedly forced to flee their village due to shelling between PKK and Turkish forces.

Some Asayish units and Peshmerga are said to act against the law including arbitrary arrests and to commit human right abuses such as torture and other inhumane treatment without being held accountable for it.

Incidents: data

Dohuk was the governorate with the highest number of security incidents. During the reference period, ACLED reported a total of 1702 security incidents (average of 26.1 security incidents per week) in the period from August 2020 and October 2021, of which 1314 were coded as remote violence/explosions, 380 as battles and 8 as violence against civilians. UNAMI[31] recorded 81 armed conflict-related incidents, 45 taking place from 1st August to 31 December 2020 and 36 from 1st January until 31 October 2021 (average of 1.2 security incidents per week for the full reference period).

Geographical scope

Security incidents mainly took place in the districts of Amedi and Zakho.

Civilian casualties: data

In the reference period, UNAMI recorded a total of 32 civilian casualties (9 deaths and 23 injuries) in the aforementioned armed conflict-related incidents. More specifically, 4 casualties were reported in 2020 and 28 casualties from 1st January until 31 October 2021. Compared to the official figures for the population in the governorate, this represents 2 civilian casualties per 100 000 inhabitants for the full reference period.


As of 30 September 2021, 249 513 IDPs are registered in Dohuk, the second highest number among Iraq’s governorates, the majority originating from Ninewa. No IDPs originating from Dohuk governorate in other parts of the country were reported during the reference period.

Further impact on civilians

Turkish military operations against the PKK caused important infrastructural damage to water project, the electricity grid and farms and lead to the burning down of agricultural land. Incidents related to road security occurred, five of which were incidents of explosions/remote violence, three were related to battles, and two to violence against civilians. The KRI including Dohuk was an area with high numbers of mines. As of the end of 2021, an area of 20 268 239 square metres was contaminated with mines specifically in Dohuk governorate.

Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that ‘mere presence’ in the area would not be sufficient to establish a real risk of serious harm under Article 15(c) QD in the districts of Amedi and Zakho. However, indiscriminate violence reaches a high level, and, accordingly, a lower level of individual elements is required 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.

Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that in the rest of the governorate of Dohuk there is, in general, no real risk for a civilian to be personally affected within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.

Main COI references: Security 2022, 1.3.3, 2.8, 2.9, 2.9.2



[31] UNAMI data focuses on armed conflict-related incidents, which have directly impacted civilians (causing civilian casualties) and the civilian nature of property and protected areas (such as civilian houses, cropland, schools, health facilities and mosque), see ‘Indicators of indiscriminate violence, number of incidents’.