Since the beginning of the Syrian insurrection in March 2011, more than four million Syrians have had to flee their homes and leave for the neighboring countries. Over 240,000 of them have sought refuge in Northern Iraq, a large part of which in Domiz Camp near the Iraqi town of Duhok. Thousands take shelter with relatives or in smaller refugee camps in other parts of the country.
Many refugees have experienced traumatizing events, such as losing relatives to bomb-attacks, witnessing combat situations or being detained or tortured on account of their political allegiances. All have lost their homes and work, most have concerns for their relatives. As a consequence, they suffer from depression, anxiety, sleep problems, suicidal tendencies, panic attacks and aggression.
With the support of Misereor and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development as well as the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau, the Jiyan Foundation assists traumatized Syrian refugees in Iraq. Our teams provide survivors with free medical and psychological support in our centers in Duhok, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah as well as in the camps Domiz, Qushtepe and Arbat. During the first year alone, our medical doctors and therapists struggled to cope with a rush of some 7000 patients seeking help at our facilities.
In 2014, the so-called Islamic State, the most ruthless terrorist organization currently in existence, took control of large parts of Iraqi territory. Between January and May, the terrorists launched an offensive in Anbar Province in central Iraq. Their seizure of Mosul led to a total of 1.2 million internally displaced persons by the end of June. At the beginning of August 2014, the terrorists captured the town of Sinjar and systematically targeted its Yazidi population.
Today, half of the three million fleeing Iraqis seek refuge in the northern provinces of the country. Most of them live in schools, mosques, unfinished buildings, parks and overcrowded camps. In these living conditions, they lack the most basic items needed to survive as well as much needed medical and psychological care.
Thanks to the support of Misereor, the Jiyan Foundation was able to provide some 5000 families with food and personal hygiene products. About one ton of relief items reached the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar by helicopter and car. Furthermore, our rehabilitation centers and mobile teams currently offer medical and psychological treatment to the injured and traumatized men, women, and children. In January 2015, we opened a center in Khanke, the overcrowded refugee camp near the city of Duhok, where about 50,000 displaced Yazidis live. This activity is funded by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Lutheran World Federation.
Protecting Pluralism in Iraq
Iraq is home to a dozen religious groups, including Sunni and Shia Muslims, Armenian, Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac Christians, as well as Yazidi, Kaka'i, Shabaks, Mandaeans, Baha'is, and Jews.
Since the advance of the so-called Islamic State, more than two million Iraqi adults and children live under a reign of terror and tyranny. Religious minorities represent a particularly vulnerable population. Tens of thousands of Christians, Yazidi, Shia Muslims, Shabak and others were forced to flee their homes. After the seizure of Mosul in June 2014, the terrorist group captured the town of Sinjar, massacred many, sexually enslaved approximately 5000 women and girls, and completely displaced the remaining Yazidi population. ISIS also targets religious minorities through the destruction of their holy sites, such as mosques and shrines dating back to the 8th century BCE. Such systematic targeting of religious minorities and their holy places amounts to ethnic cleansing.
Together with its international partners, the Jiyan Foundation commits itself to respecting and protecting the ancient cultural heritage of Kurdistan and Iraq. To do so, we educate children and youth, and create opportunities for exchange. We aim to see the diversity of the country reflected both in our clients and our teams, as we fight intolerance and extremism.