Psychological impacts on Yezidis

By Bnar Jalal Ali:

Mount Sinjar, for the 37th time, was the savior of Yezidis when more than 20,000 from Sinjar fled there after ISIS militants took over the city, killing many and kidnapping hundreds of women. Yezidis fled in bare feet, many dying from hunger and dehydration under the burning sun. The scenes from the screens were heartrending. They had to walk dozens of miles to Syria and then back to the Kurdistan region. Each one of their tired faces tell many horrific stories; their streaming tears can be a written novel. Shengal became another unhealed wound in Kurdish history. Death was the tip of the iceberg. Now that most of the refugees have escaped to safety, what will be the impacts of this war on the mental health of the victims?

War causes mortality in many ways, including the psychological impacts. Society’s relationships will transform after war. Victims will form inerasable memories that will be reflected in every aspect of their lives. This brutal extinction of Yezidis by ISIS militants will leave a psychological burden, after the inhuman acts of killing, kidnapping and abusing women.

Mental illnesses, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and psychosomatic disorders are the indicators of war memories. These psychological wounds have long-term effects. This aspect has always been sidelined in the analysis of the authorities; but it shouldn’t be, because it has indisputably negative outcomes on society.

Psychological traumas have a very strong impact on women and children, especially. The traumatized children went through near death experiences, including dehydration, hunger, fear, anxiety; many of them were abandoned by their parents, without understanding why.

Kurds experienced genocides, Anfal, chemical warfare, and many wars over decades. For instance, in Halabja alone there are 10,000 victims with continuous physical and psychological disorders. Many survivors of March 16, 1988 are living dead; they remain in misery, unable to escape the memories of that black day and the aftermath.

This time the Yezidi victims must be provided with long-term physical and psychological care, as part of a collective process to rebuild the community, helping them to overcome their extreme shock, while making reconciliation with other religions and races. That’s why the international health organizations must make sure to turn their attention to the displaced people in Iraq; especially the Yezidis, assisting them to rehabilitation, particularly the children and abused women who will carry a heavy burden of this tragedy. After all, healing is better than failed attempts at erasing the memories.

Bnar Jalal Ali has an MSc in Biomedicine, from the Martin Luther University, Germany, and is currently working at the Kurdistan Institute for Strategic Studies and Scientific Research.

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