Yezidi girls and women

In August 2014 militants of the Islamic State (IS) attacked the habitat of the Iraqi Yezidi minority abducting thousands of girls and women. While an estimated 1800 people were killed at least 3200 Yezidi girls and women have been forced into slavery. Those who managed to escape or have been freed are often severely traumatized.

The girls and women have often been abused and used as sex slaves for the IS fighters returning from the front lines. Some of them have been sold on to Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Libya. Two years later around 2400 women and girls have escaped or have been bought free by their families. The war has destroyed the Yezidi community and is redrawing their culture.

War Trauma Foundation has been involved since 2015 to train community workers of the EMMA Foundation, an organisation in Kurdish Iraq, to provide individual support to the girls and women. The women have not only been physically hurt, but are suffering serious psychological consequencs of abuse, imprisonment, their escape and the attrocities they were forced to witness.

EMMA Foundation is now supporting around 800 women, one third of the women who escaped. We have been able to teach art therapy to the psychosocial supporters which helps the women to cope with their experiences and express their feelings. In addition we are providing supervision to their staff to improve their care skills.

Recently we also started to learn EMMA how to provide staff support after receiving signals that the social workers who have been working with the Yezidi and other people hurt by the conflict, found it difficult themselves to cope with the gruesome stories they hear every day.

In addition, we were able to support the EMMA foundation to take part in a regional exchange in the West Bank to learn more about the Multi Family Approach as a system for peer support and group therapy.

Currently our work is reaching Erbil and Duhok in Kurdistan and we hope to expand the training to community workers elsewhere in Kurdistan and Iraq.

Donate now to make psychosocial support more widely available in Iraqi Kurdistan.

(Original story March 2016, updated in June and November 2017)