Meyro is a 36-year-old Kurdish woman who survived the March 1988 Halabja chemical attacks. She grew up in a loving family with whom she had close ties. This is her story of how she lost her family.
Meyro was nineteen years old when the Iraqi army struck Halabja with chemical weapons. At the time of the bombing, she was visiting her grandparents. Her grandmother sought shelter outside of Halabja, but she remained with her grandfather. Meyro knew her family was in grave danger, but she could not go to them. She told our therapists:
"During the bombing, my grandfather and I were terrified for our family. When the attack started we did not know anything about what had happened to them. We had to escaped to Iran without them. The journey was sad and tiring. We saw so many injured and dead."
Meyro and her grandfather reached the Saryas camp in Iran with no news of her father, pregnant mother, or any of her six siblings. While in the camp, Meyro recalls:
"All I could think of was searching for my family. We stayed in that camp for one month and then secretly returned to Kurdistan to search for them. We had no idea where to look. I remember my grandmother fainting from psychological strain and my grandfather’s continuous tears."
One day, Meyro’s uncle told them that he had plans to look for his own family in Iran. He returned with bad news. He had spoken to her father in a hospital where he was in critical condition. Her mother had died shortly after giving birth to stillborn twins. When Daban visited the hospital again two days later, Meyro’s father was dead as well. Meyro recounts how she felt after the news:
"For two days after learning that my family was dead, I did not think about anything. I was in shock. My grandparents’ mourning made me feel even worse."
To this day, Meyro does not know what happened to her siblings. She believes that they are still alive. Because of the chemical attacks, Meyro suffers from nightmares, nervousness, lack of appetite, flashbacks, crying, and aggression. She told our staff:
"I have a good husband who treats me well and a little girl. I have a good standing in society and a good financial situation, yet I don’t feel happy. My family is gone. Until now I have been waiting for my siblings to return. I get angry easily, and sometimes I end up hurting my daughter. I don’t want to do that. That is why I came to your center. I need to face this nightmare. I need your help."
Our staff diagnosed Meyro with depression, anxiety, and a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because she has no knowledge of her siblings, she has had a difficult time mourning the loss of her family. Talking to one of our psychotherapists and practicing coping techniques have helped alleviate her flashbacks and lessened her periods of aggression. We anticipate that with more therapy sessions, Meyro’s other symptoms will diminish and her quality of life will improve.