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Profile photo of Lina Eklund

Lina Eklund


Profile photo of Lina Eklund

“No Friends but the Mountains” Understanding Population Mobility and Land Dynamics in Iraqi Kurdistan


  • Lina Eklund

Summary, in English

The link between population mobility and environmental change is fundamental for our understanding of how future global environmental changes will affect our societies, and also how the increased mobility will change our role in the Earth system. Climate change has been predicted as a major cause of human migration, both voluntary and forced, through for example increased storm and drought frequency, sea level rise, and reduced fresh water availability. On the other hand, contemporary migration patterns are part of processes that change the face of the Earth.

Social, political, and natural processes have shaped the development of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) since the 1980’s. This dissertation explores the environmental aspects of such changes by focusing on how population mobility relates to land systems in the Duhok governorate, KR-I. This dissertation takes an interdisciplinary approach by combining household survey data with information extracted from satellite images. This enables analysis of patterns at both provincial and household levels.

The findings of this work reveal that migration patterns are mainly explained by economic drivers. The environment as a driver of migration is not emphasized in the interview responses, and only a small share of households are economically dependent on agriculture. The 2007-2009 drought was severe in terms of precipitation decrease, vegetation anomalies, and from a socio-economic perspective. The analyses, however, show no evidence of increased migration during the drought period. Migration for other reasons, such as the Anfal genocide in the late 1980’s, and the subsequent reconstruction program was found to influence land use activity. In times of migration and displacement the cropland area was reduced, while it increased during resettlement initiatives.

The final part of this dissertation consists of a methodological discussion of how scale affects analyses of the environment-migration nexus. A review of the current literature reveals that common scale-problems in this field include the mismatch between different data types, generalizations, and neglect of spatial variability.


  • Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science
  • Centre for Advanced Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)
  • MECW: The Middle East in the Contemporary World

Publishing year




Document type



Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University


  • Other Social Sciences
  • Physical Geography


  • migration
  • drought
  • Iraqi Kurdistan
  • agriculture
  • land
  • scale




  • Petter Pilesjö


  • ISBN: 978-91-85793-47-1

Defence date

13 May 2015

Defence time


Defence place

Pangea, Geocentrum II, Sölvegatan 12, Lund


  • Tobias Kümmerle