Inquiring into the Iraqi Uprising

Realities captured by the Elicitive Peace and Conflict Monitoring Pilot Phase

More than 500 people have died and 21 000 have been injured during the anti-government protests since their beginning in October. The demonstrations have been taking place mainly in Baghdad and the mostly Shia populated cities in Southern Iraq. While the Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi recently declared his resignation, protesters demand real political changes to end the thriving corruption and economic empowerment to the deprived youth. The elicitive conflict monitoring tool offers the possibility to understand the underlying dynamics of such episodes of conflict.


Monitoring Pilot Phase

The Unit for Peace and Conflict Studies of the University of Innsbruck has been engaged in Iraq since October 2018. A team of dedicated researchers currently implements a state-of-the-art peace and conflict monitoring project, with a particular focus on transrational peace philosophy and elicitive conflict transformation. This approach has become renown as the Innsbruck School of Peace Studies. While elicitive conflict mapping has proven itself as a beneficial tool of conflict analysis in myriad contexts, it has never been systematically applied to large-scale national conflicts. The monitoring phase was carried out during the intense period of Iraqi protests from mid-October to mid-December 2019.

The monitoring component is implemented as part of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) funded project “Education for Peace in the Iraqi Higher Education System” in cooperation with the Iraqi Al Amal Association. The collaborative communal work atmosphere between the project partners is visible on every step of the project. This ranges from the initial steps of project development, towards the outline of a research design and the processing of a large amount of both qualitative and quantitative data generated in this process.

The project team and the Iraqi colleagues developed the 8-step research cycle approach and the research questions together, in a series of three workshops in Iraq. As part of this cycle, the researchers select leaders of the middle-range and grassroot level, conduct semi-structured interviews, fill in quantitative online questionnaires, write a memo about the interview, transcribe and code the interviews, before sending them to the project team in Innsbruck and to Al Amal.

The Iraqi research team conducted interviews both in Arabic and English. Their choice of language was optional, depending on the circumstances of the interview situation, in order to eases the communication with the research participants. In a next step the researchers transmitted the data, including transcripts and audio files, to the Iraqi Al Amal Association. Al Amal has been translating the material, before forwarding it to the research team in Innsbruck for further analysis.

The ways of generating information outlined above guarantee a solid basis to grasp the layers of conflict, peace initiatives, and understandings of the many peaces. The research teams generated two kinds of codes. On the one hand, the codes are concept-driven, which means it derives from elicitive conflict mapping and serves as a basis for the analytical codes. On the other hand, the codes are data-driven, which offers the possibility of highlighting the many particularities that can only evolve out of context and its unique moments during the conduct of the interviews. After organising the interviews and their codes, the project team in Innsbruck analyses the data and presents them in a comprehensive study about the insights on conflict dynamics and peace initiatives and its ways of transformation. The findings of the research project will be presented at a conference in Baghdad in March 2020.


Elicitive Conflict Mapping

The elicitive conflict mapping approach helps to categorize the space of actions of the researchers and research participants. While the senior researchers, mostly Iraqi university professors, focus on middle-range leadership, the junior researchers focus on the grassroots leadership to analyse narratives embedded in specific contexts. This innovative pilot project is context-sensitive, exploring underlying dynamics of conflict beyond violent episodes, but more importantly, the elicitive conflict transformation approach makes the many processes of transformation visible.

The Unit for Peace and Conflict Studies’ team of researchers trained 27 researchers of the universities of Anbar, Bagdad, Mosul, and Tikrit in conducting semi-structured interviews in their respective university neighbourhoods. The purpose of the project is to understand the current developments with all its realities. The project aims towards finding multiple perspectives on conflicts and peaces in different layers, in their respective contexts. The elicitive conflict monitoring tool makes this inquiry possible because it widens the understanding of realities in conflict dynamics.

Researchers and research participants are sharing their current experiences. These experiences go far beyond the episode of conflict and make the deeper layers of human experience visible. The objective of this project is to apply elicitive conflict transformation approach and to develop a monitoring tool that allows us to understand and grasp the many layers of large-scale conflicts with multiple realities.

The elicitive conflict transformation approach differentiates between the sexual – family, the socio-emotional – communal, the mental – societal, and the spiritual – transpersonal layers. This indicates the strong potential of applying the model of elicitive peace and conflict analysis, developed in this pilot phase to further contexts. The theoretical framework inherent to the developed methodology offers the possibility to be applied to other national, international settings of peace and conflict. The equally interesting and analytical new field, which challenges the researchers to introduce methodological innovations, are the local particularities, which differ from each conflict and widen this theoretical framework in a flexible way. This is a distinguished and unique feature.

The blockages, which can be found in the layers, are indications of dysfunctionalities in conflicts. The layers give us insights about the relational aspects of a conflict, which come closer to the epicentre. The epicentre holds sources of conflicts of a human being, which feeds into the episode. This is relevant because the epicentre is the source of blockages of a human being and shows the personal connection to evolving conflicts.

This peace and conflict monitoring project goes beyond monitoring conflict dynamics and captures small, local peace initiatives, which are on the way of prospering and show the many peaces, which are possible. The twirl of a moment of dysfunctional conflict towards a moment of experienced peace can be seen as a turning point, which is called transformation. Ways of transformation are as individual as stories, and as narratives of a conflict can be.


First Insights

The word cloud pictured above provides a glimpse into the realities of the daily lives of the interviewees and researchers of this pilot project. Demonstrations, family, community, violence, religion, society, and people are the most mentioned catchwords in the so-far processed data, which give indications about the main topics at heart. The terms justice, harmony, tribe, spirituality, rights appear less often in the data and already hint towards underlying dimensions of conflict and peace.


The Iraqi protest movement comprises to a large extent of a young generation, who wants to have a self-determined future. Somehow, stories of the protestors and the people in Iraq are not communicated towards a global audience. The power of getting to know the aspects of a human being in conflict makes it possible to relate. This quality of humans to be able to relate has an influence on actions and opinions. This project offers insights towards a more differentiated knowledge of conflict with focussing on the many aspects of a human being, while transferring the complexity of conflict in a comprehensive manner towards a broader audience.

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