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Last update: June 2022

General information

Salah al-Din is situated in central Iraq. It is divided into nine districts: al-Dour, al-Shirqat, Balad, Baiji, Fares, Samarra, Thethar, Tuz (disputed territory), and Tikrit. The Iraqi CSO estimated the governorate’s population for 2021 at 1 723 546 inhabitants. The population of the governorate is one of the most rural in Iraq. Salah al-Din governorate is predominantly inhabited by Sunni Arabs. The capital of the governorate, Tikrit city, is Saddam Hussein’s place of birth and has been viewed as an important power centre of the Sunni Arabs. Salah al-Din hosts refineries of strategic importance.

Background of the conflict

ISIL forces captured parts of Salah al-Din governorate in the summer of 2014. Salah al-Din governorate was among the first to be liberated as part of the Iraqi forces’ led offensive against ISIL in 2015. Salah al-Din was also one of the first governorates to witness large-scale return of IDPs. After the ousting of ISIL, large scale human rights violations were conducted by the PMF and non-state local actors. The PMF kept a presence and activity in Salah al-Din and is seeking to further a range of economic and political objectives. Although the final victory over ISIL was declared in 2017, ISIL still held a presence, waged a low-level insurgency, and exploited security gaps to gain strength and regroup. The ISF launched several major counter-terrorism operations involving different security actors including ISF, PMF and federal police.

Actors: control and presence

Due to its location linking the governorate to Anbar and further Syria, Salah al-Din is of strategic interest for ISIL and appeared to be a major target during ISIL’s 2021 summer offensive. ISIL was reported to be present in several parts of the governorate.

The ISF share responsibility over the security in many areas with the PMF or other tribal forces. They conducted several anti-terror operations against ISIL. PMF presence can be divided in two categories: first, PMF tribal groups in areas with no strategic importance and second Iranian backed PMF and Saraya al Salaam in areas of religious, strategic, security and economic importance such as the shrine in Samarra, Baiji oil refineries etc.

Nature of violence and examples of incidents

ISIL continued to carry out asymmetrical attacks. Insurgent tactics like the use of IED and hit and run attacks against checkpoint targeting the members of the ISF and PMF were reported. Attacks that caused civilian deaths also occurred. IED attacks targeting international coalition supply convoys often occurred. Based on ACLED data, ISIL was responsible for a third of the security incidents.

Anti-ISIL military operations of various scales conducted by ISF units were reported throughout Salah Al-Din governorate.

The PMU were accountable for coercion and violence against locals with apparent impunity. Looting, robbery, abductions, revenge killings, smuggling, diverting oil to Iran, the confiscation of land and even the smuggling of goods towards ISIL fighters were reported. PMU have ‘placed entire cities and rural zones under their direct control’, where they influence displacement and return dynamics. The continued presence of the PMF resulted in a tense atmosphere and attacks with local communities causing civilian deaths.

Incidents: data

In the reference period, ACLED reported a total of 284 security incidents (average of 4.4 security incidents per week) in Salah al-Din of which 131 incidents were coded as remote violence/explosions, 125 as battles and 28 as violence against civilians. UNAMI[41] recorded 31 armed conflict-related incidents, 8 taking place from 1st August to 31 December 2020 and 23 from 1st January until 31 October 2021 (average of 0.5 security incidents per week for the full reference period).

Geographical scope

The majority of the security incidents took place in Balad district, followed by Samarra.

Civilian casualties: data

In the reference period, UNAMI recorded a total of 107 civilian casualties (52 deaths and 54 injuries) in the aforementioned armed conflict-related incidents. More specifically, 34 casualties were reported from August to December 2020 and 73 casualties from 1st January until 31 October 2021. Compared to the official figures for the population in the governorate, this represents 6 civilian casualties per 100 000 inhabitants for the full reference period.


As of September 2021, 58 578 IDPs were registered in Salah al-Din, the majority of them were displaced within the government. 86 616 IDPs from Salah al-Din are registered in other parts of the country. Salah al-Din governorate registered 731 820 returnees.

Further impact on civilians

Salah al-Din is one of the governorates with particularly high scores of infrastructural damage as a result of conflict, especially in relation to damage to housing, to the agricultural sector, and to the water, sanitation and hygiene sector. Although reconstruction of schools, houses and public infrastructure occurred in Salah al-Din, there are still extensive reconstruction needs. ISIL continues to threaten road security with IEDs and hit and run attacks on checkpoints. In terms of the explosive risk level, stretches of roads in Salah al-Din were assessed by iMMAP to be at ‘primary risk’. Explosive ordnance contamination is also reported to pose an obstacle for safe returns of IDPs as well as to the implementation of humanitarian activities in Salah al-Din.

Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that indiscriminate violence is taking place in the governorate of Salah al-Din, however not at a high level. 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.

Main COI references: Security 2022, 2.7


Salah al-Din_15c_2022


[41] 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’.