The Nahrein Network


Small research grants awarded

These awards support interdisciplinary research on themes relating to one or more of the Nahrein Network’s five aims in fostering the sustainable development of antiquity, heritage and the humanities

small grant awardees home institutions


Integrating Comprehensive, Cross-community History with Reconciliation and Heritage Protection

Team:  Sam Andrews (Arab Human Rights Academy)

Duration: Funded for 6 months starting with 1st of September 2018


This project will investigate and write a comprehensive history of a politically contested shrine using documentary and oral sources from Iraqi Shia, local Iraqi and Iraqi Jewish communities. It will also recognize that the contested history of the shrine means that effective preservation requires community political mobilization from stakeholder communities. The project then also looks to the creation of a joint forum for both steering the research, so that competing narratives are negotiated and reconciled with the historical record and by both sides, and for creating and implementing an action plan for mobilizing to preserve the shrine in both its Jewish and Islamic role. The forum will prioritize sustainable development and create a model for future projects.

A Scoping Study of the Post-Conflict Textile Crafts of Iraq – The case of Samawa and Erbil

Team: Dr Neelam Raina, Dr Janroj Yilmaz Keles (Middlesex University)

Duration: 30 June 2018 - 28 February 2019


This research questions the impact of the longstanding conflict in Iraq on the crafts of the State from the perspective of the Iraqi and Kurdish craftspeople. It looks at the socio-economic changes in Iraq’s craft tradition, with a special focus on the craftswomen of the region. This research explores the potential that crafts have as a means of sustainable income generation that in turn could contribute towards the reconstruction and development of this post-conflict region. The research hopes to build on the resulting outputs in a meaningful way by providing relevant training and capacity building interventions to promote the craft practices of the region.

Postgraduate Teaching Programme: A Scientific, Historical and Intercultural Dialogue

Team: Dr Olga Babenko, Dr Anwar Anaid (University of Kurdistan Hewler)

Duration: 2 January 2019 - 15 July 2020

The project Postgraduate Teaching Programme: A Scientific, Historical and Intercultural Dialogue is aimed at: —at the primary level—designing an internationally competitive, contextually adapted and culturally aware Postgraduate Teaching Programme (with Postgraduate Teaching Certificate as the final award), which will be offered by University of Kurdistan Hewlêr to the graduates with Master’s degree to empower them with the best international teaching practices, adapt their teaching methodology to post-ISIS and post-conflict context, and promote historical, cultural and artistic heritage of the Kurdistan Region. This project will enhance local teaching expertise at a tertiary level in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, promote understanding and better collaboration between countries and cultures in the field of higher education, and induce internationalization of local teaching staff as well as better adaptation of international teaching staff to the local environment and culture; —at the minor level—honouring and bringing up attention to the Kurdish history, art and culture; establishing the postgraduate teacher training ground for upbringing patriotic Kurdish elité in the sphere of higher education and beyond.

Thesiger's Tarada: Using art to reconnect the archival, local, and archaeological strata of memory of Iraq's vernacular watercraft heritage

Team: Rashad Salim, Hannah Lewis (Safina Projects CIC), Abdulamir Hamdani Al-Dafar (Nature Iraq)

Duration: 18 June 2018 - 30 November 2019


Led by renowned Iraqi artist Rashad Salim, this project examines the relationship between recent Iraqi marshland boats like the tarada canoe made for Wilfrid Thesiger in 1952 and ancient boats of comparable form, known from the archaeological record. Current and recent information about Iraq’s marsh canoes—gathered through oral history work with today's marsh communities, as well as exploring Thesiger's archive—will be analysed together with available archaeological data on similar boats, aiming to shed new light on the development of a boat form and craft tradition that endured for millennia but is now endangered. 

Community Heritage of Mosul

Team: Dr Hussein Dhaher, Mushtaq Abdullah Jameel, Yasmin Abdul Kareem, Su'ad a'id Alhamid, Tariq Hazim Quja, Khalaf Zedan Khalaf (Mosul University)

Duration: 15 April 2019 - 30 April 2021 

The Comunity Heritage of Mosul aims to both understand and strengthen Ninewah communities’ connections to cultural heritage. It is a research project oriented towards practice-based skills in developing community heritage as a pillar of Mosul’s rebuilding. The College of Archaeology at Mosul University plans to reach out to Mosul secondary schools through its staff and help create a community heritage focused environment. The key output will be the production of teaching resources based on field visits to archaeological and heritage sites in Ninewah as well as a training programme for teachers in partnership with the Directorate of Education. The training programme aims to train 50 secondary school level teachers by the end of the projects life-cycle. 

The plural heritage landscapes of Najaf: Creating a sustainable plan for Christian heritage

Team: Dr Khalid Al-Hussainy; Dr Amel Ibrahim; Mr Aqeel Jahil (University of Kufa); Dr Yuri Stoyanov (SOAS); Sarah Zaaimi

Duration: 1 September 2019 - 30 June 2021

This project, led by Kufa University, intends to create a sustainable plan for the documentation and promotion of Iraqi Christian heritage in the province of Najaf.

Najaf’s rich cultural history includes Christian heritage. Its connections to other cultures and histories are integral to the cultural diversity of Iraq and especially of the Kufa region. Unfortunately, it has been neglected and degraded over the past few decades. There are tens of Christian heritage-related archaeological sites such as cemeteries, churches, and monasteries, which have not been documented and lie in ruin. 

The project will work with Iraqi Christian and Shi’i groups, including the Shia Endowment, local and provincial authorities, the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage and numerous other stakeholders to raise awareness of Iraqi Christian heritage.

 Creating an Intangible Cultural Heritage teaching module for Iraq’s national undergraduate university curriculum

Team: Dr Salah Hatem (University of Al-Qadisiyah); Dr Hussain Al-Najim (Mosul University); Dr Mahdi Hussain (University of Samara); Dr Alaa Jasim (University of Kufa); Dr Faris Al-Khalidi (University of ThiQar), Ms Clara Arokiasamy (ICOMOS-UK); Sarah Zaaimi 

Duration: 1 October 2019 - 10 March 2021

This project is a collaborative effort to create a module on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). In the past, curriculum reforms have been ineffective, mostly due to a top-down, externally designed approach.  The team, led by Al-Qadisiyah University, aims to strengthen and further develop the existing syllabus of a teaching module entitled Local Heritage, which the Ministry of Higher Education spearheaded in five Iraqi universities in 2017.

The new module will frame the topic within the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Operating Guidelines. In practice, it emphasizes collaboration between practising communities, heritage, arts practitioners and universities. It will be the first such initiative since 2003.

The project has two parts. In part one, a symposium will identify and explore key issues and concerns associated with defining and safeguarding local ICH. Local practicing communities, NGOs, government departments, museums, archives, libraries, artists, and participating universities will be invited to send representatives. This stage will also gather the data needed to direct the development of a new ICH module. It will conclude by issuing a report on the process and findings, produced in collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education.

In part two will the team will develop the new module and pilot it for one academic year at the five participating universities.

Heritage Buildings of Kufa

Team: Dr Ali Naji Attiyah; Dr Muhsin Al Dhalimi; Dr Hayder Al Hamdany (University of Kufa)

Duration:  1 October 2019 - 30 June 2021

The city of Kufa lies in the east of the Najaf governorate in southern Iraq. The project “Heritage Buildings of Kufa” aims to enhance awareness of heritage buildings in the city, and to promote sustainable protection among the community and local authorities. Implementation will involve documenting buildings, recording structural and architectural elements, setting up an inventory database, as well as promoting knowledge among students, local politicians, and the local community.

Plural heritage and local perspectives of Baghdadi cultural heritage

Team: Dr Zainab Alwaeli, Dr Ghaith Farham (Al Mustansiriya University); Father Rami Marisho (Convent of the Dominican in Baghdad);  Rafah Al-Hitali (Yardina Charity Court Baghdad); Helen Walasek (Exeter University); Sarah Zaaimi 

Duration: 1 October 2019 - 30 June 2021

This research plans to provide a strategy for protecting and preserving the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of minority groups. The project will bring together academics, architects and students, heritage professionals, policy-makers, religious and minority groups leaders, media and the civil society in an effort to raise awareness and advance a pluralist collective Iraqi identity. 

The team will research a group of at least five sites in Baghdad which reflect the city's historic and present post-conflict topography of heritage and will include the 12th century Abbasid Palace, the Meir Taweig Synagogue, a Mandean owned park, the historic Armenian orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary, as well as another church and a Sufi shrine. 

 In practice, they will focus on:

creating a detailed map of tangible and their intangible cultural heritage; developing method that can be used in future to identify and record other lost, threatened or abandoned heritages.

The project will involve communities at the grassroots level and propose measures at the policy level. The team brings together academics and researchers from minority communities, as well as researchers who have experience in documenting and preserving cultural heritage in conflict and post-conflict scenarios.


The Shrine of Prophet Uzayr, a site for diversity and cohesion

Team: Prof. Abdulrahim H. Atia, Asst.Prof. Ghufran Mohammed, Asst.Prof. Alaa Dhafer Amer (University of Misan); Asst.Prof. Saad Salman Fahad (University of Baghdad); Muntadher Majed Aloda (The State Board of Antiquities and Heritage)

Duration: funded for 12 months from 15 December 2019


Through this project, University of Misan is basically aims at planning, documentation and conservation of the shrine of the Prophet Uzair. It is one of the Iraqi Jewish heritage in Misan Province. It has an archaeological environment of cultural value which is, like other archaeological sites, subject to a great risk of loss due to several social, economic, religious and cultural changes of far-reaching effects that Iraq has been undergoing since the last five to six decades. The project will work with the Protective Machinery in the Conservation of the Heritage of the Shrine, notably Directorate of

Antiquities, Directorate of Planning, Ministry of Awqaf, Research and Educational Centres and even Tourism Administration. As a sacred place which has a distinct position in Iraq for both Muslims and Jews, the shrine can be revived, reconstructed and developed to be a tourist source in Misan in addition to the marshes.

Developing the Iraqi Marshland Tourist Experience

Team: Raheem Hameed Abed Al-Abdan, Zeyad Wahab Ahmed (University of Thi-Qar), Taher Kewin Eneid Al Ali (Thi-Qar Directorate of Archaeology and Heritage), Eoghan Darbyshire (The Conflict and Environment Observatory)

Duration: funded for 12 months from 15 December 2019

The Iraqi Marshlands of the Mesopotamian Plain consider one of the largest wetland ecosystems and unique historical and ecological environment. In the last three decades, the Marshlands witnessed actions of draining and reviving of water and military processes which resulted of changes in its environmental and economic aspects. The main objective of this project is promoting the tourism reality of Marshlands as part of the ancient Civilization of Marshlands of Iraq. The key importance to perform that is by assessing the environmental background and cultural values based on investigating past and present environmental studies to close research gaps and mapping its current status, therefore it can assist to build up and establishing a tourism model in the region.

Furthermore, improving tourist content is another major aim. This could be achieved by educating students at universities and preparing trained and fully qualified tour guides whose must obtain knowledge in history of Marshlands from the perspective of their cultural heritage which is relevant to the nature, viability and traditions of the society of southern Iraq. Consequently, this decreases the limited awareness of the environmental, economic and cultural value of the marshlands which could enhance towards a better tourism future. It also can assist to provide job opportunities for graduate students through providing job opportunities in tourism sector. This proposal introduces, for instance tourism maps of marshlands and its archaeological sites using Geographical Information system (GIS) programs and Remote Sensing Platforms which will be a brand new attempt in the region in this category of knowledge. As well, citizen science that can open up science to the public in conflict zones. Not only, but the project also aims to raise the awareness of local governments and decision-makers about the importance of tourism in marshlands region to attract tourists on a global scale.

Documenting and analysing local archives and oral knowledge about the British Colonial Period at the Zheen Centre in Slemani, Iraqi Kurdistan

Team: Shenah Abdullah, Shozan Abdul-Qadir Abdullah (Kurdistan Institution for Strategic Studies and Scientific Research); Safen O. Muhammad (ART+),

Duration: funded for 12 months from 01 January 2020 

This proposed research study aims to examine Kurdish local archives (texts, hand-written manuscripts, memoirs, autobiographies, as well as legal, financial local, colonial and other historical documents from the British colonial period (direct and indirect rule from 1917-1958), which are stored at the Zheen Archival Centre in Slemani. The centre houses a rich collection of local archives written in Kurdish, Arabic, English and other languages. The focus of this particular research project is to critically read, analyse and categorize the sources written in the main three languages, along with examining and categorizing visual material such as photographs, art work, audio and video recordings and other paraphernalia. Among the collections of library archives to be examined are the personal library collections of local men and women that continue to be donated to the centre. Most of these personal archives are yet to be examined critically to understand their historical, as well as socio-political and economic significance for scholars and society at large. Moreover, these important local archives are stored at an archival centre and continue to be inaccessible to wider audiences, local, national, and transnational scholars, public decision makers, educators and ordinary people. Therefore, this proposed study aims to make them accessible by categorizing and identifying their historical, anthropological and other significance for the aforementioned groups to benefit from. Along with examination of the preserved archives, this study also aims to include ethnographic interviews form some of the living individuals and their loved ones whose collections are kept in the archival centre. The aim of the oral knowledge documentation is to contextualize the old written documents and visual material with individual and collective living recollections about the latter period of the British installed monarchy. Moreover, the interviews will expand our understanding of the British colonial era and fill in the gaps left by the archival documents. Thus, this critical study aims to make the knowledge and material examined and documented, accessible to scholars, public decision makers, educators, and people from marginalised groups and others from the local, national and transnational levels.

Historical Memory, Heritage, and Cultural Identification amongst Displaced Communities in Cilicia and the Northern Levant

Team: Tevfik Emre Şerifoğlu (Şirince Archaeological Association and Koç University); Güldem Baykal Büyüksaraç (Istanbul University), İlmon Hançer (Association for the Protection of Cultural Heritage), Anna Collar (University of Southampton), Oya Topdemir Koçyiğit (Istanbul University), Ulaş Bayraktar, Bediz Yılmaz Bayraktar (Maya Association of Education, Culture, Research, Charity, and Solidarity)

Duration: funded for 18 months from 01 January 2020 

Forced displacement is one of the most pressing issues in the Middle East, a region long marked by political unrest, war and violence. Many communities across the region have been forced to leave their homelands throughout the recent and more distant past. Forced migration is an extremely painful process, which alienates people from their cultural landscape and disrupts their sense of place, belonging and identity. Displaced people must find ways of maintaining cultural ties to their places of origin, as well as relating to cultural elements in their new homes to begin to identify with a new heritage. This project will engage with these processes for contemporary migrants and the descendants of past migrants, focusing on Cilicia (modern day Adana and Mersin provinces) in southern Turkey. Cilicia has always been home to a diversity of Muslim and non-Muslim communities, and has experienced ebbs and flows in these communities. 
We will work with two groups of forced migrants, to engage with their identification with cultural heritage sites in Cilicia: the Armenian and other Christian communities in Lebanon, as descendants of Christians forced to leave Cilicia in the early 20th century; and Syrian migrants of varying ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Christians, who have recently made Cilicia their new home. 
The project will examine how these two groups perceive the cultural heritage of Cilicia, particularly the Christian and Muslim heritage landmarks of the region to which they can directly relate. The local Christians of Cilicia will also be included to study their perceptions of cultural heritage. We aim to bring together the previous and current inhabitants for a series of community-involved heritage preservation and management activities (workshops, trainings in methods of documentation and dissemination of knowledge), and work on ways of utilising cultural tourism for economic vitality and cultural integration.

Dictionary of the colloquial and Marsh Arab dialects in Southern Iraq 

Team: Hussein Mohammed Ridha, Basim Olaiel Khalaf, Faris Ajeel Jassem, Ali Raheem Abu Alhail Al Jaberi (University of Thi-Qar

Duration: funded for 6 months from 1 January 2021 

The Marsh Arabs are a minority group of the Marshlands of southern Iraq, with Sumerian and Bedouin origins. They have their own specific culture and architecture, way of life and dialect, all rooted in and shaped by their environment: the marshes. Their way of life and their tangible heritage, such as the reed architecture and their boats, have been well documented. However, their dialect was not. It now could be lost forever, as only a small number of elders still speak it, and they are now at risk due to Covid-19.  

The Marsh Arabs have suffered considerably over many generations, and their dialect is generally looked down upon by other Arabic speakers. They also suffered destruction and attacks during Saddam Hussein’s time in power. Despite some investments in restoring it, the region has continued to suffer. Past and current threats include the 2003 US/Coalition occupation and conflict, oil industry interests and, increasingly, the climate crisis. Dams in Turkey reduce water flow and endanger the Marshes' existence, which in turn, endangers the Marsh Arabs' way of life.  

The project aims to record the Marsh Arab dialect and work towards producing a dictionary in Arabic. The dictionary will be published in print and online and later translated into English. The team hopes their work will help preserve and allow a better understanding of the Marsh Arab dialect. 

Digital documentation of heritages sites that affected by armed conflicts in Tikrit Province, Northern Iraq 

Team: Dr. Khalil Khalaf Hussein, Dr. Mustafa Mohsen Mohammed Aljubory, Dr. Ammar Subhy Khalaf, Dr. Faris Nejers Hassan (University of Tikrit

Duration: funded for 6 months from 1 January 2021 

This project intends to create a sustainable plan for the documentation and promotion of the cultural heritage of Tikrit province in northern Iraq. The region's rich and diverse cultural history has been neglected and degraded over the past few decades. The project will work with Iraqi Christian and Shi’i groups, including the Shia Endowment, and local and provincial authorities, to document and help preserve the many heritage sites present.  

The project will have four phases: 

  • Using materials from phase 2 and 3 to raise awareness in the community by organising workshops, meetings and curating exhibitions galleries. The outreach effort hopes to reach tribes, farmers and other groups to educate them about the importance of the cultural heritage. 
  • Use information from phase 2 to put together a proposal for a local museum; 
  • Collating the information from phase 1 in an easily accessible and comprehensive format for future use;  
  • Identifying and mapping heritage sites in Tikrit province.
Digital documentation of heritage sites affected by armed conflicts in Anbar Province, western Iraq 

Team: Dr. Abdulazez Khudhair Abbas, Mrs. Buraq Sadiq Jafar, Dr. Ammar Subhy Khalaf (University of Al-Anbar), Mr. Muhammad Jasim Abid (SBAH Anbar) 

Duration: funded for 6 months from 1 January 2021 

Al-Anbar is a large province in western Iraq, home to many heritage sites, which suffer the effects of the 2003 conflict and ISIS invasion of 2014.  

The project aims to raise the residents' awareness of the importance of local heritage and its protection. To achieve this, the team will document sites and identify the extent of their destruction. The results of their study will be published and disseminated through workshops and conferences, with the aim of involving the local community and changing their perspective and understanding of local heritage. 

The impact of armed conflicts on the cultural heritage in Diyala Province, Northern Iraq 

Team:  Dr. Saif Tawfeeq Ibrahim (University of Diyala), Dr. Ali Ahmad Abdulatif, Mr. Ahmed Abduljabbar Khammas (SBAH Diyala) 

Duration: funded for 6 months from 1 January 2021 

The project seeks to address the significant destruction of heritage and archaeological sites by ISIS and its military operations in Diyala province of Iraq, as well as the impact of Iraqi army camps built there.  

The team will investigate residents' opinions about these events and involve them in discussing the future of cultural heritage in the province.  

The first step will be to survey and document the current state of the sites. The results will facilitate the understanding of local heritage, its importance and how to protect it in the future.  

A second step will be to open a dialogue with the Ministry of Culture and other government institutions and inform them of the findings. A third component concerns the general public. The team plans to reach them through conferences, meetings and other events designed to raise awareness. 

Post-ISIS Identity (Re)construction in the War-torn Areas: Al-Karma as a Case Study 

Team: Dr. Dhiaa Kareem Ali (University of Kufa), Dr. Alaa Mohammed Al-Halbosy (Al-Iraqia University), Dr. Abdul Kareem (University of Diyala

Duration: funded for 6 months from 1 January 2021 

The proposed research looks at changes in the social identity and intangible heritage of the people of Al-Karma, Anbar province, Iraq, in the wake of recent conflict. They experienced ISIS control, the subsequent liberation by Iraqi forces and resultant disruption.  

Over 98% of the population of Al-Karma city were displaced. A large proportion of them settled in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which has a different culture and language.  As a result, their traditions, socio-cultural identity and heritage were transformed. 

The project aims to collect data on this transformation and how the merged cultural practices were brought back to Al-Karma upon the return of the displaced. The team will seek to discern the reasons behind these changes and their impact on the social and cultural fabric of the people of Al-Karma.  

The results will be shared in ways useful to scholars, local authorities and the community itself.