• Maamoon A. Mohammed Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies, University of Dohuk. Kurdistan Region, Iraq



Iraqi Kurdistan comprises many tribes, each with a leader or Agha who is greatly respected by that tribe and many outside it. The position is inherited from the Aghas’ ancestors and, traditionally,  conflict resolution is seen as their responsibility. Although primarily Muslim, they have an open-door policy and intervene in all cases of conflict that are brought to them, whether they involve social conflicts (such as blood feuds), family disputes, issues relating to honour killings, or friction between tribes.

The paper explores the ways that Aghas intervene in and resolve the most complicated cases of conflicts as well as working to rebuild the broken relationships among conflicting parties. It explains the processes they follow when resolving conflict and what makes them successful in doing so. Many Aghas have secular ideas and do not make judgements based on religion; consequently, they are also sometimes preferred as referees by non-Muslim communities. While this discussion considers the Aghas’ methods to provide fair and constructive means for resolving conflicts - thus playing a significant role in maintaining stability within the multi-ethnic society of Iraqi Kurdistan, it also suggests ways these methods might be better supported and developed to be more relevant to contemporary society.


Download data is not yet available.


1. Barnes, C. (2006). Governments and civil society organisations: Issues in working together towards peace. Discussion paper for GPPAC Strategy Meeting. The Hague: European Centre for Conflict Prevention, 25 October 2006.
2. Boege, V. (2006). Traditional approaches to conflict transformation: Potential and limits. Breghof Research Centre for Constructive Conflict Management. Retrieved March 10, 2010, from http://www.berghof-handbook.nd
3. Boege, V. (2011). Potentials and Limits of Traditional Approaches in Peacebuilding. In B. Austin, M. Fischer & H. J. Giessmann (Eds.), Advancing Conflict Transformation: The Berghof Handbook II (445-449). Barbara Budrich Publishers, Opladen/Farmington Hills.
4. Bonta, B. D. (1996). Conflict Resolution among Peaceful Societies: The Culture of Peacefulness. Journal of Peace Research, 33(4), 403-420.
5. Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
6. Board of Relief and Humanities (BRHA) Duhok (2016). IDPs and Refugees in Duhok Governorate: Profile and General Information. Retrieved January 6, 2018, from
7. Bruinessen, Martin Van (1992) Agha, Shaikh and State: The Social and Political Structures of Kurdistan. Zed Books.
8. Deutsch, M. (1973). The Resolution of Conflict. New Haven: Yale University Press.
9. Galtung, J. (1996). Peace by peaceful means: peace and conflict, development and civilization. London UK: Sage Publications.
10. Hamo, Breendar (2014) Mediation in Kurdistan. Unpublished MA. University of Dohuk. College of Law and Political sciences.
11. Hassin, A. (2013). Tribes and conflict management in Iraq. Proceedings of Communication and Conflict 3rd Global Conference 2013, (pp. 1-13). Oxford, UK.
12. Hobsbawm, E. (1983). Inventing Traditions. In E. Hobsbawm & T. Ranger. (Eds.). The Invention of Tradition (1-13). Cambridge UK: University Press.
13. International Organization for Migration (IOM) (2014). Iraq Crisis Response Displacement Map. Retrieved June 12, 2017, from
14. Lederach, J.P. (2000) Journey from resolution to transformative peacebuilding. In: Sampson, C & Lederach. J. P. (Eds.). From the ground up: Mennonite contributions to international peacebuilding, (45–55). Oxford, Oxford University Press.

15. Lederach, J.P. (1997). Building peace: Sustainable reconciliation in divided societies. Washington DC: United States Institute for Peace.
16. Mac Ginty, R. (2008). Indigenous Peace-Making versus the Liberal Peace. Cooperation and Conflict, 43(2), 139-163.
17. Miall, H. (2007). Emergent Conflict and Peaceful Change. Basingstoke UK, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
18. Quran, online version, an Authorized English Version, Translated from the original by Dr. Rashad Khalifa, PhD.
19. Reichel, P. (1998). Comparative Criminal Justice Systems, New York: Prentice-Hall.
20. Search for Common Ground (SFCG) (2013). Understanding the Dynamics of Conflict and Peacebuilding in Pakistan, A Perception Study. Pakistan: Search for Common Ground Pakistan.
21. United Nations Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace (1999). Retrieved January 5, 2018, from
22. Van Bruinessen, M. (1992). Agha, Shaikh and State. The Social and Political Structures of Kurdistan. London: Zed Books.
23. Van Cott, Donna L. (2000). A Political Analysis of Legal Pluralism in Bolivia and Colombia, Journal of Latin American Studies, 32, 207-234.
24. Weber, M. (2009). The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. New York: Simon and Schuster.
25. Zartman, W. I. (Ed.) (2000). Traditional Cures for Modern Conflicts: African Conflict “Medicine”. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.



How to Cite

Mohammed, M. A. (2020). TRADTIONAL METHODS OF RESOLVING CONFLICTS: THE ROLE OF KURDISH AGHAS (TRIBAL LEADERS). Academic Journal of Nawroz University, 9(3), 114–128.