The 2011 Duhok riots refers to riots which began on December 2, 2011 in the Duhok Governorate, Iraq. They were instigated by Friday prayers' sermons by Ismail Osman Sindai,[2] a Kurdish imam, calling for attacks against stores selling alcohol and massage parlours in Zakho. The riots soon developed into the looting and burning down of Assyrian- and Yazidi-owned properties in other towns in the governorate, causing four million dollars of damage.[3]

2011 Duhok riots
Shops in Zakho after the riots
DateDecember 2–5, 2011
Caused byIslamic sermons[1]
GoalsTo destroy massage parlors and alcohol shops
MethodsArson, coercion
Resulted inWidespread property damage, arrest of KIU members

The riots ended after Kurdistan Regional Government security forces intervened and began a massive crackdown on demonstrators. As a result of the riots, a group of secular Kurds attacked a number of buildings belonging to the Kurdistan Islamic Union party.[4]



Assyrian personalities in the region had been wary of the changes of the Arab Spring, particularity the rise of radical Islamism.[5] The riots started in Zakho, the northernmost town of Iraq, located close to the Turkish border. The town has a majority Kurdish population with a sizeable Assyrian and Yazidi minority.

Friday events


The small riots were instigated by Friday sermons in the northern city of Zakho after Muslim clerics called for the destruction of stores that sold alcohol in the city on December 2, 2011.[5] Angry youth mobs attacked Assyrian- and Yazidi-owned businesses such as stores, hotels, casinos, and massage parlors in the northern town of Zakho.[1][6] The violence spilled into nearby towns of Duhok and Semel. Many Assyrian social clubs and homes were also attacked throughout the province. Angry Kurdish pro-government supporters that belonged to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party suspected Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) clerics to be behind the violence and attacked offices of the Islamic party in Duhok and Erbil overnight. However, in an official statement, the KIU denied any connections to the riots.[7]

The riots ended three days later with the strong response from the Kurdistan Regional Government.



Riots began in Zakho but quickly expanded to Semel, Duhok and surrounding Assyrian villages.

December 2 Targets:
  • 30 stores that sold alcohol, 4 hotels, 1 massage parlor, a number of hair salons, cafeterias, and a Catholic diocese in Zakho.
  • The Assyrian Nohadra Social Club in Duhok was attacked by a mob of 200 people, causing damage worth 50,000 dollars[8]
  • The Yazidi Health Club in Duhok[9][10]
  • The Wan Restaurant in Semel[11]
  • A bar[12] and a tourist hotel[13] in Zawita that led to the arrest of 32 people.
December 3 Targets:
  • A group of 100 local Islamists attacked the Assyrian Saint Daniel Church and many Christian homes in Mansouriyah early in the morning. Locals claim young students were instigated by teachers.[14]
  • Homes in the village of Sheoz[5]
December 4 Targets
  • Three shops that sold alcohol were set on fire by a mob of 20 in the Assyrian village of Deralok[15]
  • A store that sold alcohol was shot with an automatic weapon in Duhok[16]
December 5 Targets
  • Shops that sold alcohol were burned down by mobs in Koy Sanjaq[17]
  • Massage parlor burned in Sulaymaniyah[17]
  • Previously burned shops in Zakho were pasted with flyers threatening to burn down any shop that decides to reopen[18]



On December 3, the Kurdish intelligence agency Asaish arrested 20 KIU members of parliament and high officials within the party.[19] The President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani ordered the formation of a committee to investigate the event.[20] In an official press release, he stated: "I condemn both these unlawful acts. I call on the people of the Kurdistan Region to preserve our traditions of ethnic and religious co-existence. I have ordered the formation of a committee to look into these disturbances and bring to justice those responsible."[21]


  1. ^ a b "Sermons spark riots in Iraqi Kurdish city". USA Today. 3 December 2011. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  2. ^ "Ankawa: Mullah Denies Responsibility for Kurdish Riots". Archived from the original on 2018-03-28. Retrieved 2017-07-14.
  3. ^ Ankawa: مصدر: نحو 4 ملايين دولار حجم الخسائر الناجمة عن إحراق الأماكن السياحية في أحداث دهوك Archived 2019-07-12 at the Wayback Machine (in Arabic)
  4. ^ Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) (December 5, 2011). "Christians Attacked in Iraq by Kurdish Extremists". Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "Zakho, Iraqi Islamic extremists attack Christian-owned shops and properties". 3 December 2011. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  6. ^ كردستانية - بارزاني: الحفاظ على التعايش السلمي ليس واجب حكومة الاقليم فحسب بل واجب كل اهالي كردستان. peyamner (in Arabic). 3 December 2011. Archived from the original on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  7. ^ "KIU Politburo Statement on Bahdinan Riots". Kurdish Islamic Union. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  8. ^ بالصور .. اعمال التخريب التي طالت نادي نوهدرا الاجتماعي في دهوك, قناة عشتار الفضائية
  9. ^ صور حصرية بالموقع توضح اثار التخريب ب "نادي الصحة" في حي الشرطة بدهوك
  10. ^ "تصريح من السيد هيثم بطرس عضو الهيئة الإدارية لنادي نوهدرا الاجتماعي ورئيس تحرير مجلة نوهدرا الاجتماعية".
  11. ^ صور حصرية بالموقع توضح اثار الاعتداءات الارهابية على سميل
  12. ^ عاجل...حرق كازينو في زاويته والفوضويين في طريقهم لحرق المزيد من محال بيع المشروبات
  13. ^ دخول
  14. ^ عاجل: صباح اليوم هجوم على كنيسة ومنازل المسيحيين في مجمع المنصورية بالحجارة
  15. ^ "حرق اربع محلات لبيع المشروبات الكحولية في ناحية ديرلوك".
  16. ^ "حدث مساء امس...اطلاق نار على محال بيع المشروبات الروحية في دهوك".
  17. ^ a b "طالب بالكشف عن الجناة والاعلان عنهم رسميا وتقديمهم للعدالة...جونسون سياويش للموقع: " ماحدث من عنف لم".
  18. ^ "عاجل من زاخو/ منشورات تهدد بقتل أصحاب المحلات المحروقة في حال فتحها ثانية".
  19. ^ قوات الاسايش تعتقل قيادات في الاتحاد الاسلامي ومنهم النائب نجيب عبدالله
  20. ^ "Rioters Attack Liquor Stores, Offices of Local Islamic Party". 3 December 2011. Archived from the original on 5 December 2011. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  21. ^ "National - President Barzani Condemns Violence in Duhok, Calls for Calm". peyamner. 3 December 2011. Archived from the original on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2011.