Duhok City is located in the Kurdistan region, in the north part of Iraq, north-east of Mosul, 65 km to the north-east border with Turkey, and about 180 km north and north-east to the Kurdistan/Syrian border. Duhok is also 165 km south-east to the capital of Kurdistan region, Erbil.

Organisation reference

University of Duhok


The University of Duhok is a governmental institution in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq [7]. It was founded in 1992 to cater for the HE needs of the Kurdish youth. Currently, the university has 18 colleges, 17 training, consulting and research centers. The student population in the University of Duhok currently stands at 18,000 students. The University of Duhok’s mission is to support the economic, social, cultural and environmental development in the Duhok Governorate, Kurdistan Region and Iraq, through the continuous supply of quality graduates and research in the different specializations. The city of Duhok has other Universities with a wide range of academic subjects. These include Duhok Polytechnic University, a public institution, and three private universities (Newroz, Gihan and American University). In the area, there are also several private institutions which specialize in various subjects, including Computer Science IT, Business Management, Law, English Language, Accounting, and Oil Industries, Economic and Business.

Geographical context

Geographically, the city is located between two chains of mountains; it has four seasons and is surrounded by agricultural lands which mainly produce wheat, barley, sesame seeds, rice, corn, and a variety of fruits, nuts and vegetables. The main water supply of the city comes from Duhok Dam, Mosul Dam and several springs and rivers.

The city has four main highways, one linked to the Turkish border through Khabor border point to the Mediterranean ports, the second one to the north Syrian, Fyash Khabor border point across the Tigris river, the third one to Rabeaa – Mosul border point, to north central Syria to the Mediterranean ports, and the forth one to the regional capital Erbil. The highway from Erbil leads to the south through Kirkuk to Baghdad to the southern port of Basra to the Persian Gulf. Duhok has several, crude petroleum and gas pipelines going to Turkey.

Social context

The area of the city is about 1075 km2 and contains mainly native Kurdish people and minorities of Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmans and Arabs. The main religion practiced in the region is Islam, other practised religions include Christian Orthodox and Catholicism, Judaism, and old Kurdish religions, Yazidies and Kakais. Duhok has many mosques, monasteries and churches.

Duhok has a population of about half a million. In addition, there are about 850,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Mosul and about 250,000 external refugees from Syria. The number of refugees has increased during the past six-month military operation in Mosul against ISIS and in the surrounding areas of Mosul. Over the past three years, the region and other oil producing countries such as Iraq, Iran and the Gulf, were hit by economic hardships. The war against terrorists and the influx of large numbers of refugees along with economic problems have forced many people from the Kurdistan Region, including Iraq and Syria, to leave and immigrate to European and other countries worldwide.

Economic context

The city has various governmental and private institutions that develop activities in the following sectors: health, education, agriculture, water purification, dams, electricity generation and distribution, tourism industries (including holiday resorts and recreational centres, sightseeing of religious and historical sites), crude petroleum refineries for extraction, production and distribution, building materials and construction companies, refugees centres and camps. The main economy of the region depends on the selling of crude petroleum and natural gas production and the industries related to it. Agricultural products and tourism are also prominent in the region.

In Duhok, there are two public universities, three private universities and several private institutions with various disciplines. A strategic fiber optics network has been established and completed to link various government institutions and educational establishments.

Environmental issues

There are a range of environmental issues and challenges facing the region: food resources, water resources, air quality, biodiversity, and the environmental impact of conflict and landmine clearance. These are detailed below.

Food Resources

The region benefits from a wide range of locally sourced food products: rice, wheat, barely, seeds (sesame, sunflower), olives, various types of grapes, citric fruits (e.g., oranges, lemons, mandarins), apples, apricots, prunes, pomegranate, berries, figs, almonds, walnuts, melons and watermelons, and large verities of herbs and vegetables. Due to the current wars and insufficient agricultural support, many farmers have to leave the land and join the army while others have left the country. Therefore, the local food supply has considerably decreased and the import of food, mainly from the neighbouring countries, has increased.

Water Resources

The region is experiencing reduction of available water, and a diminishing quality of water that is available. There are external and internal causes of this.  from neighbouring regions. While this may be due to climate change and drought conditions, it is also related to the introduction of water projects and treatment plants in neighbouring regions such as Turkey, Iran and Syria [2,3].

Others suggest internal factors for reduction of available water and for the poor quality of what is available are mainly related to the following practices:

  1. lack of domestic water usage regulations and/or the lack of an enforcement policy for these regulations when they exist (e.g., Washing Car/Porch, Pipe tapping, well drilling, private lawn watering, etc.);
  2. municipality authorities’ lack of modern leak detection techniques for water mains and water networks;
  3. lack of public awareness and the absence of effective educational and awareness campaigns to build the knowledge base of the public for responsible water usage.
  4. inadequate industrial waste management system, including practices, regulations and enforcement;
  5. lack of adequate sewage treatment plants.
  6. lack of a National Water Quality Index to help set the guidelines for passing regulations regarding water-related practices affecting surface and groundwater;
  7. lack of rules regulating in-stream gravel mining which can have adverse affects to water quality, biodiversity and aquifers;
  8. inadequate trash collection, trash burning and the absence of trash recycling;
  9. inadequate rivers and lakes cleaning, and lack of projects to dredge the refuse deposited on the beds and banks;
  10. unregulated recycling mechanism of cars and domestic power generators, oil, diesel and spare parts (Substances would leak to contaminate groundwater tables.);
  11. wide, unregulated use of Pesticides, Herbicides and Insecticides in fishing and farming;
  12. regulating the use of water in the oil production sectors with coordination with the water related authorities;
  13. use of old techniques and practices in farming irrigation (flooding rather than using drip irrigation or controlled sprinkler systems);
  14. lack of assistance/demonstration/incentive programs that encourage and promote water conservation/protection practices.” [2,3]

Air Quality & Land

Some parts of Kurdistan Region and especially in the urban areas are suffering from unhealthy air quality and impact on land due to practices that both the government and the public are adopting such as:

  • unregulated use of power generators due to insufficient output of electricity generated by the government;
  • lack of car emission regulations and modern car inspection techniques;
  • trash burning (due to inadequate trash collection) and tire burning (in social and ethnic celebrations);
  • tree cutting/burning (reducing photosynthesis which helps reduce the CO2 from the air);
  • lack of green belts and parks in and around urban areas;
  • lack of standards and unregulated construction practices for buildings, roads and facilities, as well as dumping of construction materials, poor quality construction materials and methods that reduce efficiency and cause unnecessary emissions.
  • minimal use of alternative, less-polluting energy sources (Solar/Wind power)” [2,3]


A rich and healthy environment is expected to flourish in a region with a rich and diverse flora and fauna. The Kurdistan Region - Iraq are both suffering a great setback that started affecting the biodiversity in the region just a few decades ago. This degradation of the biodiversity is due to a number of factors that could be addressed short-term, through the implementation of strong and effective regulations, or long-term with stakeholder involvement in order to tackle more complex and multifaceted challenges.

The environmental impact of conflict and landmine clearance [4]
The Kurdish region faces an immediate threat due to the presence of landmines in the area. The majority of landmines, estimated about 5 million in the Duhok region, were primarily along the border with Turkey during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988 and up to 1990, during military operations against the Kurdish region conducted by the previous Saddam regime [5]. The current war against ISIS has increased the numbers of landmines fatalities and injuries.

The Iraq Landmine Impact Survey confirmed that all three of the governorates in the northern region of the country known as Iraqi Kurdistan were extensively contaminated. In all, contamination was recorded in 25 of 27 districts, 97 of 124 sub-districts, and 1,126 of 4,291 communities visited. An estimated total of 748,651 persons live in the impacted communities. There are 10,077 recovered landmines from 1997 to present. The total of the designated areas with landmines is 756 and, out of these, only 318 areas were cleared out of mines in the Duhok Region, while about 66% areas are still to be cleared out [5].

The contamination in Kurdistan affects mainly rural areas with an impact on rural development (infrastructure, agriculture, etc.). IDPs and refugees who wish to return to their communities are at risk because they do not know where the contamination is. According to the Landmine Monitor 2009, the number of mine casualties is significant, but due to continuous conflict and a lack of data, the precise figures are unknown, particularly in central and southern Iraq. In 2008, Landmine Monitor identified at least 263 new casualties in Iraq, of which 127 occurred in the KRG area. The majority of accidents occur in Suleimaniya governorate, but Duhok is also affected.

In the Kurdistan region – Iraq, the focus is on physical rehabilitation and the strengthening of orthopaedic centres for landmine victims.

In 2010, the Ministry of Planning opened a new office in Duhok, the Directorate on Planning and Mapping [6]. On 30 May 2010, this office sent a letter to the office of Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency (IKMAA) in Duhok asking a number of questions regarding mine contamination and accelerating demining actions in Duhok governorate, including the number of minefields, the number of victims, and the square meters of contaminated land. Next steps for mine action in Erbil and Duhok aim to define the scope of the problem as precisely as possible. For minefields, cluster strike and other battle areas will require the development of a regional mine action strategy.

Social issues

Due to the crisis that the region and the rest of Iraq are currently facing because of the wars, the low economy and the support needed for the large number of internally displaced people and refugees, the area is going through serious hardship. This is in spite of this country’s rich resources of oil and gas, water resources, agricultural lands, various types of economical minerals and tourism. The current crisis has affected different sectors. For instance, civil servants’ salaries have not been paid in full for the past three years; instead, they receive only a quarter of the salary every 3 months. Health services are facing considerable challenges and shortages in medicines and medical consumables, equipment and staff. This is mainly due to the additional strain and stretch in response to the need to care for the large numbers of refugees. 

Increasing numbers of refugee students have added additional financial, space, accommodation, materials and equipment strains on schools and universities. Due to the economic crisis, the region’s universities have to charge fees to accept parallel students (these students have obtained lower grades for their university entry requirements) and to open night classes for private students. Many people in the region are facing various social and financial difficulties and hardships as well. These stress factors are having a direct influence on the health, performance and productivity of the citizens.

In addition, due to insufficient public electricity power supply, a large number of private electric generators have been installed in populated areas. These generators are causing considerable noise and air pollution, thus adding to existent health problems. Conflict in the region and political instabilities are putting the society in disarray, turmoil, anxiety in the face of the an unknown immediate future.

Economic issues

Due to the current economic crisis and the low price of oil, a large number of companies mainly working in the oil sector have closed down and this has had a large impact on other industries and companies depending on these oil companies. For example, the construction of roads and highways, power generation agriculture and tourism have been badly affected. As a consequence, the number of unemployed people has increased the employability prospects of recent university graduates have decreased significantly. 

Also of issue is the high influx numbers of refugees, the associated costs of establishing refugee camps, and the high cost of the military war operations in fighting against terrorists (ISIS) and various security issues.

Other regionally-specific issues

The academic staff at University of Duhok, are confronted with a lack of academic materials, facilities and sustained contacts with their counterparts worldwide. This is due to the current war efforts and logistics against ISIS terrorists, economic and political crises which are facing the Kurdistan Region and the rest of Iraq. In addition, universities and staff are overloaded due to the influx of large numbers of refugees and IDPs from the other parts of Iraq and Syria. The University of Duhok, for instance, has accepted more than 2,000 refugees and IDPs who created an unexpected load on academic staff and resources. This means that the total number of students has increased dramatically by 11%, while the number of academic staff and facilities remains constant.

Due to the financial crises, for the past three years staff salaries had to be cut proportionally to a half or to a quarter. University staff have also been deprived of getting access to the most recent publications in their specializations and the resources in the library are yet to be updated. Researchers cannot afford subscriptions to international journals and periodicals because of economic constraints.

For similar reasons, laboratory materials, consumables, reagents, standards and scientific and medical equipment are lacking. Researchers do not have access to updated software and compatible computers with their auxiliaries. There is a clear need for curriculum development in various academic programs so they can become compatible with international academic standards.

For the reasons listed above, the academic staff in the region urgently needs the collaboration and support of partner EU universities to raise the quality of teaching and research of the academic and supporting staff.

Organisation and management

University presidents are appointed by the president of the Regional Government. Other senior managers down to heads of departments are appointed by the president of the university. All the universities’ senior posts are appointed by the Regional Minister of Higher Education.

Main priorities of HEI in the region

Since its establishment in 1992-1993, the University of Duhok has the following main priorities: medicine (with an established College of Medicine), agriculture (the College of Agriculture), engineering (College of Engineering), and languages. The focus on agriculture stems from the well-known potential of the Duhok region as a producer of fruits and vegetables. The Duhok Polytechnic University has the following technical colleges in various districts within Duhok governorate: Engineering and Administration in Akre district, Health in Shekhan district, Technical Informatics College of Akre district, Technical College of Petroleum & Mineral Sciences in Zakho district. The newly opened Technical College of Petroleum & Mineral Science is developing research programs in collaboration with petroleum companies in the region and with the Ministry of Natural Resources for the development of the oil and gas sectors and their related industries [8].

To sustain the rapid development of the city of Duhok, doctors, pharmacists, dentists, nurses and medical staff are needed in the area. The University of Duhok is directly involved in the process of forming and training qualified medical personnel that can further activate in the Health Services sector in the region. The University of Duhok opened faculties of law, basic education for school teachers at various levels, humanities (including languages) and IT. The new and recently built University library currently requires more books, journals and periodicals. Future plans for the University library include the establishment of online registration with various internationally recognized journals and other university libraries and academic institutions.

Addressing local issues

The HE sector is currently working on addressing local issues related to oil and gas, agriculture, health, tourism, education, water resources, management and distribution, and environmental Protection and management.Current HEIs in the area have initiated a series of concrete projects in this sense. For example, the College of Engineering coordinate civil engineering programs with Duhok city authorities for the development of water irrigation water supplies from Duhok and Mosul Dams and the rivers. These projects also work on purification and distribution systems and waste water treatment. Other projects address infrastructural issues related to the development of roads and highways and the modernization of residential areas.

The colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, and Nursing at the University of Duhok coordinated with Duhok city health authorities to provide health services and protection for about 800,000 IDP, mainly Syrian refugees from Mosul. University staff actively go into the war zone and provide healthcare and treatment to the Kurdish fighters (Peshmerge) and the 1,000 fleeing refugees. Such efforts are ongoing. In education, the College of Basic Education at the University of Duhok has developed programs to actively support the refugees in the following areas: training courses for refugee children, courses for Trauma and Psychological Rehabilitation for the IDP and refugees. The Psychology academic staff, in coordination with German Universities, travel to Germany in a cycle of two staff members for three months. German academics in their turn visit the University of Duhok and stay for a period of 2-4 weeks. In partnership with German humanitarian agencies, once a week a group of University of Duhok undergraduate psychology students go to the IDP and refugees camps in Duhok and they conduct rehabilitation and psychology programs in the area.

The College of Agriculture at the University of Duhok has special field programs with the farmers that focus on the development of agriculture products and the protection of economic plans. These collaborations result in programs on the uses of insecticides, herbicides and pesticides. The College of Agriculture also carries projects on soil treatment, water irrigation and fertilizers, beehives protection and honey production, animal production and health care through the Animal Production Department, economical flowers for research, production and sell through green houses. Environmental protection projects have been established through the newly open Department of Environment in coordination with Duhok Health and Environment authorities. Graduates at all levels contribute to various departments across the city, except for those students with first and second honors degrees who are employed at universities in KRG. Some of these students also obtain scholarships and go abroad to study for their Master’s and PhD degrees.

Contributing to the region

The newly opened Technical College of Petroleum & Mineral Sciences is conducting research programs and works in collaboration with petroleum companies in the region and with the Ministry of Natural Resources on the development of the oil and gas sectors and their related industries.

The main economy of the region depends on sales of crude petroleum and natural gas and their related industries, agriculture and tourism. Due to the current economic crisis and the low price of oil, there is a large number of companies mainly working in the oil sector that have been closed down. In turn, this has had a large impact on the other industries and companies working with and depending on oil companies. For example, construction companies working on the development of city infrastructure, power generation companies and other businesses in agriculture and tourism have been badly affected, leading to an increasing number of unemployed people and the backlash on the employability prospects of fresh university graduates.

As indicated in this report, besides the low prices of crude oil and gas, other challenging issues that HEIs can contribute to are the high influx of refugees and the establishment of refugee camps, as well as the high cost of military war operations in fighting against terrorists (ISIS) and their respective consequences on the social, cultural, economic and political landscape in the region.

Cultural issues

Duhok city is a mixture of various historically integrated ethnic and religious cultures. The majority of Kurdish people speak the Bahdinani Kurdish dialect, while the Assyrians speak the Aramic language. The Turkmans speak Turkish and the Arabs use Arabic. The city provides a rich landscape of languages and communities that tap into the resources of the region.

The religions in Duhok are mainly Islamic (75%), Yazidi (15%), Christian (7%) and Kakai (3%), represented in the city by mosques, churches, monasteries and Yazidi temples.


Duhok, Kurdistan