New Trauma Therapy May Help Yazidi Survivors Of ISIS Massacre

The Islamic State militant group’s rampage through northern Iraq over the past year has left a deeply traumatized population in its wake. Survivors’ needs are so overwhelming that organizations are coming up with creative ways to help.

“I know 70-year-olds who cannot sleep, women who are afraid when a man asks, ‘How are you?’ and a child under six years old who explained to me how his parents were killed,” said Salah Ahmad, a Kurdish psychologist based in Germany and the president of the Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights.

Ahmad founded the organization in 2005 to help survivors of torture under Saddam Hussein’s regime. The group now provides medical and psychological services across northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. “There are millions of traumatized people in our country, and the need is bigger than what we can do,” Ahmad said.

Together with the Free Yezidi Foundation, a nonprofit founded last August to raise awareness about the massacre of Iraq’s Yazidi minority and support its survivors, the Jiyan Foundation is setting out to bring a new form of trauma therapy to a region buckling under the Islamic State’s brutality.

In early November, a team of international experts traveled to Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, to begin training over 30 psychotherapy staff members from the Jiyan Foundation and other nonprofits in a relatively new trauma therapy called “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing,” or EMDR.

“This is already a highly traumatized population. There is a real lack of mental health care. Now add the Islamic State and the genocide of the Yazidis, and you have high numbers of a traumatized population, but not sufficient resources to deal with it,” said Derek Farrell, a British psychologist who lectures at the U.K.’s University of Worcester and led the initial six-day course in Sulaymaniyah.

Farrell, who is a Free Yezidi Foundation board —> Read More