Country Director Hewan and FYF graduates
FYF Country Director Hewan leading a meeting
- Pari Ibrahim
Free Yezidi Foundation
Shaha sewing in the Women's Center
Women's Center sewing room
Shaded space at the FYF Women's Center
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I would like to thank you, our Foundation's friends and donors, and I hope we can count on your support for the coming year.
- Pari Ibrahim
Free Yezidi Foundation
Since early September, FYF made some major changes in the schedule of provided classes and hours, which had a positive impact our work. Previously provided sewing, knitting, IT and English language classes lasted for 45min for approx. 18-20 women per class. Now we classes run for 90min with approx. 10 women. FYF’s goal is to concentrate more on quality of provided service rather than quantity. The intimate setting has seen improvements in the skills of the women, which is a huge success.
During the reporting period, FYF’s leadership worked on more regular communication with staff and teachers, which gives them an opportunity to communicate their concerns, ideas and challenges, which increased motivation and creativity in conducting their work.
The outcome of the aforementioned improvement in communication was changes have also been made in the Children’s Center, reducing the number of children attending classes in order to provide better quality education rather than having more kids than what the space allows. This has led to more children showing improvement in homework and presentations.
On September 7 through 9, FYF staff and 15 Harikara, attended a workshop provided by National Democratic Institute. The Harikara representatives were trained on basic concepts of democracy, definition, parties, institutions, elections, citizen rights, while FYF staff received training on community dialogue, facilitation, training methodology. This training will be integrated into the work of FYF staff and the Harikara.
FYF has also continued to utilize the garden at our facility to support 14 FYF beneficiaries. Women had their own plots of garden to tend, overseen by FYF senior staff members. Beneficiaries were able to successfully grow a significant quantity of crops, providing both food and a sense of accomplishment. Gardening has given the beneficiaries an outlet that gives them a sense of purpose and meaning. Many of the gardening beneficiaries had serious psychological problems, and some have attempted suicide before. The women were even coming on the weekends, because it helped them physiologically, to have some time for themselves.
The third week of October, FYF’s 20 Harikara representatives started their work inside of Khanke IDP camp. They are going to work in pairs providing basic phycological support for the families, which starts with a session of normalizing trauma, followed by techniques, such as breathing techniques, butterfly hug, healing light and emotional support. They will also provide extra support if they encounter more demanding cases which include one on one sessions.
During the reporting period FYF received several international visitors who made small purchases of 4 crafted items women created during their classes. The total of this purchase was 75,000IQD (62.50$) which was distributed amount the ladies (beneficiaries).
FYF Centre in Khanke became, in a sense, a "safe haven" for not just FYF beneficiaries, but everyone who is in a need to be heard, because it became known in the Yezidi community that FYF staff treat beneficiaries with most utter respect, unparalleled with any other organisation or foundation. Occasionally we would see people sitting in the shade of FYF Centre who would tell us they are not attend classes, but they just feel safe being in the circle of FYF Centre.
Khanke Camp as Winter Approaches
During the winter season daily life in Khanke Camp becomes harder due to heavy rains, leaking tents, electricity and wiring becomes more dangerous to handle, which leads to a lot of accidents and deaths. Moreover, shortage of gas is causing problems for the majority of families who cannot afford to buy it.
Additionally, distribution of cash by various organizations to all IDPs in Khanke Camp was reduced from 20,000 IQD to 11,000 IQD (every 40 days), which cannot provide for a lot.
Unfortunately, Camp Management cannot do a lot about all these issues as they have stated that funding was cut, and they just need to work with what they were supplied.
FYF is currently unable to provide necessary financial support or maintenance of the tents as are mandate only provides phycological support services.
During the month of December, FYF is planning to organise Children Centre Graduation, of approx. 134 kids. For this occasion FYF is planning to decorate the centre, prepare certificates for the children as well as small gifts.
During the month of November and December, FYF Harikara representatives are planning to conduct their usual visits to the families of Khanke Camp providing basic phycological support.
Heat, Dust & Hope - Report from Khanke IDP Camp
Khanke IDP camp
For five years, the Yezidi community has been highlighting the plight of our displaced people in Iraq. FYF has brought to you many stories from the Khanke camp for internally displaced people. Khanke is not the typical place one might choose to spend an afternoon, let alone years. Yet for 28,000 Yezidis, this is a temporary refuge. Tents, huts, and makeshift shelters stretch as far as the eye can see. Nestling on a dusty stretch of plain, the temperature regularly reaches 108 F (42 C) in the summer. Now in September, the heatwaves of August are beginning to subside, leaving a scorched feeling behind. In the camp, residents already start to worry about the coming winter months. Floods, cold, and the dangers of tent fires will worry Yezidi IDPs in the coming months. The protection against the heat and the cold is a thin fabric tent. Those who use gas heaters take serious risk in their efforts to combat the cold, and the tents easily catch fire.
To the north of Khanke, one can see the mountains that separate Iraq from Turkey. Along that ridge the flames of oil wells and the shapes of Yezidi temples dot the skyline. Battles have been fought for millennia for control of this and neighboring lands, hardly a comfort to the Yezidis, who are the original inhabitants and have struggled to find safety and security here.
Thirty minutes’ drive away is the bustling city of Duhok, with its shopping malls, restaurants, and traffic jams. In Khanke, the pace of life is slower, and residents wait to find out if, when, and how it will be safe to return home to Sinjar. Without stability, economic opportunity, and, most importantly, security, return to Sinjar is a hope for another day.
Significant numbers of women and girls who escaped from ISIS captivity are living in tents and huts like these ones in Khanke. The Yezidi boys who escaped captivity were brainwashed and indoctrinated by ISIS. They struggle to overcome trauma and confusion now that they have returned to the community. Most of the population fled Sinjar, just in time, in August 2014. All who live here carry with them the memories of the unspeakable medieval acts of barbarism and horror they or their family members endured at the hands of ISIS. Yezidis have survived another attempt of eradication.
Still, in this inhospitable place, there are glimmers of optimism and determination. Among the tents, families and communities discuss the daily news, opportunities and challenges, how to manage in the short term and what to hope for in the long term.
Free Yezidi Foundation Center in Khanke
In the Free Yezidi Foundation center, you can hear the children laugh and women smile again. In a cabin near the playground, the FYF yoga teacher is leading a class and helping women and girls to relax. The staff have been trained in psychological first aid. The 26 FYF ‘Harikara’, or ‘helpers’, are lay workers trained in mental health and psycho-social support. These Harikara are all women. They can be seen throughout the camp, in tents, in huts, and walking the dirt roads, speaking to camp residents. The community respects them, and they help men, women, and children to cope with nightmares and panic attacks. The network reaches across the camp and into the non-camp areas, connecting with families. It is an exercise in kindness, empathy, solidarity, and support. It is also an iron will to deny ISIS its aim of destroying the Yezidi community.
The needs in this camp and the many other camps are immense. FYF and other NGOs play important roles in rebuilding lives, one at a time. Lives change, hope can regrow, and individuals and families can learn to love life again.
Thank you, supporters, for your help in backstopping our work and making sure Yezidi women are able to come to our center, feel safe and heard, and study English, Arabic, ICT, women’s rights, and basic livelihood skills. The courses help women to find jobs, start their own businesses, and improve their chances at economic success. And our children's center also serves as a daycare center so that mothers have a chance to learn, heal, grow, and care for themselves too.
One day, our people will return to Sinjar. Until that time, the best the humanitarian community can do is to provide sustainable, transferrable skills so that our people will have better opportunities, capable of living in dignity and prosperity anywhere they go.
- Pari Ibrahim
Free Yezidi Foundation
FYF Statement - Five Year Commemoration of the ISIS Genocide Against Yezidis
Photo: Sebastian Meyer
The following matters are among the cornerstone requisites to address fundamental, systemic problems and improve the prospect of success for Yezidis in Iraq.
1. Diverse religious education. Mandatory changes must be adopted throughout basic and secondary school, throughout Iraq, to ensure that religious education is diverse and acceptable to religious leaders of all Iraq’s minority religion. Many members of the older generation may be too set in their ways to change. But children should learn that all people, of all religions, have equal rights, and not grow up believing members of some religions are inferior. Messages of hate and intolerance that continue to stream from religious institutions in Iraq should be met with serious consequences.
2. Representation. In Baghdad and Erbil, it is essential that minority members of parliament and functional, empowered government actors have voices and can represent their constituencies without fear of reprisal. But further, there must be genuine representation at all levels including governorate, district, and sub-district levels. Local town officials and police officers can have a major impact on whether people feel protected or excluded. There must be enough power devolved to local levels and minority officials so that communities can feel ownership of their progress.
3. Opportunity. For Yezidis in particular, one of the greatest outcomes of isolation and exclusion has been a lack of education and employment opportunities. Traditionally, Yezidis have subsisted and struggled to survive as farmers. Returning to pre-ISIS conditions will not help Yezidis to solve our problems. Rather, every Yezidi, whether in an IDP camp or in villages in and around Sinjar, must have opportunity for basic education and development of skills for better employment. Subsistence agriculture cannot sustain us in the 21st century. We need better access to schooling, universities, job trainings, and job opportunities. Discrimination and acts of hatred or abuse against Yezidis must not be accepted and should be punished by law enforcement according to relevant laws. We do not want any favors or handouts, but we religious minorities demand equal chances.
4. Justice. It is impossible for Yezidis to return home and live comfortably if there is not a successful effort to bring perpetrators to justice. These criminal acts and atrocities must be punished. It is up to all governments, including Iraq and the international community, to ensure that the crime of genocide is not forgotten. Five years later, we fear that perpetrators have committed these crimes with impunity. This cannot stand, and justice must be delivered.
5. Security. The international community should also acknowledge that there will be no return for Yezidis if it is not safe. Now, five years since the ISIS attacks, security is a primary barrier for return, and no force in Iraq is capable or interested in providing security for Yezidis. Furthermore, the resurgence of ISIS is an ongoing, existential threat to Yezidis. It is important to bear in mind that Yezidi IDPs remain in tents primarily because it is not safe for them to go home.
As Yezidis continue to struggle in recovery, the preconditions that enabled our persecution must not be neglected through a focus solely on physical reconstruction. Similarly, we Yezidis must understand that although the international community sympathizes with our plight, it is only Yezidis ourselves who can truly rebuild the community. We Yezidis must learn from others who have overcome persecution. We must strengthen future generations and ensure that we are not dependent on others, whether it is the domestic government or foreign assistance. During a time of genuine sympathy and concern, let us focus on building the skills, the capacity, and the knowledge of our people – not only buildings and roads. This begins with education, modernizing our society with attention to gender equality, and creating economic strength.
August 3rd is a sorrowful day for Yezidis, especially survivors, but we and our friends should mobilize our energies to build a better future through sustainable investments in our people.
This statement is available on the FYF website here. #Remember3August
- Pari Ibrahim
Free Yezidi Foundation
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