Yezidi Children's Safe Space

by Free Yezidi Foundation
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Yezidi Children's Safe Space
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FYF Monthly Newsletter - January 2021

Yezidi IDP camp, IraqDear friends,



We at the Free Yezidi Foundation wish you a Happy New Year and a healthy 2021. This year has brought some challenging developments, but also some exciting new projects and opportunities.

This month, we have unfortunately witnessed a spike in Yezidi suicides and suicide attempts. In addition, Iraq's federal government has closed camps in federal Iraq and may seek to close camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, where most Yezidi IDPs currently reside. FYF issued a statement on these two developments:

"Suicide rates have increased among Yezidi IDP camp residents...it appears that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated an already acute community-wide trauma. There is need for targeted, smart efforts to provide trauma treatment to Yezidis, with a focus on supporting Yezidi-led organizations."

"Forced closures of IDP camps and premature return to Sinjar right now is unsafe and unsustainable for most Yezidis, which is why they choose to remain in the camps...If and when IDPs voluntary choose to return, they should be strongly supported. But IDP camps should not be closed in an effort to force the hand of an endangered, persecuted minority community. Instead, Yezidis should have the right to remain in the relative safety of IDP camps if they choose, while government bodies and international and local aid organizations should deploy wide-scale trauma treatment to address suicide risks. Traumatized or suicidal civilians will not benefit from being made homeless. While IDP camps should not be the permanent future for Yezidis, they do offer basic protection and housing and should not be forcibly closed until their residents freely choose to leave."


Please find the full statement here: FYF Statement on the Yezidi Suicide Crisis and Threat of Camp Closures.

Visit of Netherlands Foreign Ministry to FYF center, January 2021

The Free Yezidi Foundation is grateful to the Netherlands Foreign Ministry for supporting our education, livelihood, and trauma service provision for Yezidi IDPs. In early January, FYF was pleased to host a visit from Netherlands Embassy - Baghdad and Consulate - Erbil officials. The primary focus of this visit was trauma and MHPSS service provision, especially FYF's Harikara model. FYF continues to urge the Netherlands and other governments to invest in trauma treatment and MHPSS service provision, in coordination with civil society organizations that are active within affected communities and can connect with women, men, and children to provide stabilization and coping techniques.

FYF Justice Project Manager Waheeda Omer discussed the Yezidi situation at a virtual presentation with Techfugees.

 

Combating GBV and Gender Discrimination

The following is an excerpt describing FYF's USAID-funded program, recently completed, to combat gender discrimination and gender-based violence:

"Iraq is a tribal society. When people face problems they often go to traditional tribal and religious leaders to find solutions. This is particularly challenging for women and girls: 'Women face a lot of stigma if they decide to go to the police or authorities. People might talk about them, and sometimes they might think that the woman committed a crime. Many women choose to stay silent rather than seek solutions to their problems,' said Zozan, a Supervisor with the Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF), a USAID partner. When problems involve violations of women's and girls' rights, leaders tend to use traditional solutions that favor men and may result in harmful outcomes for women, such as underage and forced marriages. In extreme cases, tribal leaders can issue decisions that could even lead to an honor killing." (USAID, 21 January 2021) The full piece can be found at the USAID website by clicking here. We are grateful to USAID for generously funding this important project.

 

FYF Center in Sheikhan, and GBV team outreach to community leaders and community members

 

This month, the Free Yezidi Foundation has completed an agreement with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to transform its existing Carpet Factory facility into the Free Yezidi Foundation's Enterprise and Training Center. In the coming months, FYF will begin opening new programs in this facility, including a grand opening event, depending on the COVID-19 situation in the community.

FYF envisions a bustling facility where Yezidis from the IDP and host communities can learn, grow, attain skills, identify job opportunities, and strengthen their personal and community-wide economic positions. Much more will be shared in the coming months on this and other targeted initiatives to facilitate economic empowerment in the Yezidi community.

Thank you, friends, for your continued solidarity with the Free Yezidi Foundation and the Yezidi people.

Sincerely,

Pari Ibrahim
Executive Director
Free Yezidi Foundation

In the News
 
Lawfare Blog | Negotiating Peace in Iraq's Disputed Territories: Modifying the Sinjar Agreement | This article includes the Free Yezidi Foundation's comments on the inclusion of the Yezidi community on decision-making processes related to Sinjar.

USAID | Advocating for Gender Sensitive Negotiation in Northern Iraq | This article describes a USAID-funded project implemented in Sheikhan by the Free Yezidi Foundation.

Rudaw | 'We Need Help': Suicides Spike at Duhok's Camps for Yazidis | The increase in suicides and suicide attempts among the Yezidi community is reaching a crisis point; this article includes FYF comments and analysis on trauma treatment and recovery.

The Media Line | Techfugees Data Hub Live Session - Rebuilding Cities in Iraq | Techfugees hosted FYF in an online session about the experience of Yezidis in Iraq and next steps in rebuilding the community.

Kurdistan-24 | Some Yezidi Survivors Still Fear Returning Home to Sinjar  | The Free Yezidi Foundation is quoted in this article regarding the need for support to Yezidi survivors returning from ISIS captivity, including those with children born from rape.
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FYF Monthly Newsletter - December 2020

Yezidi child celebrating the holiday, December 2020 (photo obtained with informed consent of child and legal guardian)

 

Dear friends,

We at the Free Yezidi Foundation wish you a happy and healthy holiday season. Yezidis also celebrate an important holiday in December: Ida Ezid. According to tradition Yezidis fast for three days and then celebrate the holiday. Despite the suffering of the community, families do their best to mark this holiday occasion, even from tents in the IDP camps or from the huts or unfinished buildings where they live. At the same time, we wish those celebrating other religious holidays in December a pleasant holiday season.

December 9th marked the International Day of Commemoration & Dignity of the Victims of Genocide. FYF issued the following statement: "On the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of Genocide, FYF points to the promises made a long time ago that appear to have been forgotten. We need to ensure and reiterate that never again means never again. Justice for survivors of a genocide brings back some hope that they had lost in humanity. Around the world, there must be action, so survivors can believe in a system that will protect the most vulnerable. The lives of the next generation depend on decisions and actions that take place now. Impunity today will have deleterious consequences tomorrow."

 

Yezidi genocide survivors in August 2014 (photos Sebastian Meyer)

 

As the year comes to a close, FYF is wrapping up its 2020 trauma portfolio and preparing for service provision in 2021. Similarly, new elements of justice efforts, including continued and expanded collaboration with UNITAD, will be forthcoming in the new year. Operations will be continuing at the FYF Women's and Children's Centers, at our base of operations in Sheikhan, and through our mobile team in Shariya. FYF remains concerned by the spread of the COVID-19 virus not only in the camp but also in areas of Shingal which are still lacking adequate health and service provision for civilians. FYF and many other Yezidi and international actors are putting forth best efforts to warn all members of the community about the danger of COVID-19 and share prevention measures that can be taken.

FYF courtesy visit with Ido Baba Sheikh, who died recently due to COVID-19 complications. He and his late brother, the former Baba Sheikh and Yezidi religious leader, were pillars of strength and wisdom in the Yezidi community. FYF urges all Yezidis, especially in the camps, to wear masks for protection against the COVID-19 pandemic.

FYF is beginning to recruit trainees / beneficiaries for its Bakery Training Center, to begin classes and operations in 2021. The purpose of the Center is to provide the trainees with business and basic math courses, bakery training, and on-site practice working in and establishing a functioning business. The skills to be taught are transferrable to other locations and other businesses. If and when beneficiaries return to Sinjar, they will have gained some skills and tools to improve their economic opportunities in the future.

FYF Women's Center Graduation on 7 December 2020

 

On 7 December, FYF Women's Center beneficiaries graduated. This was the reaction from one graduate, Almas*: "My life has changed a lot after attending classes at FYF's Women's Center. I did not know how to sew and knit before, but since attending classes [here] I have been able to produce many different garments. Attending those classes helped me a lot: psychologically, mentally, and financially. In addition, I opened my own business. It is small, but it makes me feel happy and strong."

Finally, we ask our friends to bear in mind the forthcoming winter and the difficult conditions facing Yezidis living in and out of IDP camps, those who returned to Sinjar, and those living on Mount Sinjar. The bitter cold, danger of tent gas-fires, lack of basic goods and services, and COVID pandemic will make the next months extremely challenging. This is all the more reason to ensure that Yezidis have access to training, education, job opportunities, and a better chance to grow and participate in the modern economy. FYF will be addressing some of these systemic problems in the coming year. In the meantime, we wish strength, resilience, and health to our people through the harsh winter.

 

IDP camp residents struggle through harsh winters (photo courtesy @Ezidi2)

 

Finally we have nearly reached our goal for our end of the year fundraising! If you want to make a donation via GlobalGiving, please click here.

Thank you, friends, for your continued solidarity with the Free Yezidi Foundation and the Yezidi people. We wish you a Happy New Year and a prosperous and safe 2021.


Sincerely,

 


Pari Ibrahim
Executive Director
Free Yezidi Foundation

 

In the News
 
RED | De Free Yezidi Foundation probeert hoop te bieden | This article (in Dutch) outlines the Free Yezidi Foundation activities and its impact on its beneficiaries.

Kurdistan-24 Prominent Yezidi Activist Ido Baba Sheikh Dies from COVID-19 | This article quotes Yezidi leaders and organizations, including the Free Yezidi Foundation, in lamenting the passing of Ido Baba Sheikh.
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FYF Monthly Newsletter - November 2020

FYF hand-knitted items, fall / winter 2020Dear friends,


This month our staff members and beneficiaries have been preparing for another winter ahead in the IDP camps. As last year's winter was very cold, our women's center beneficiaries have been making winter products for their family members or for sale in the community. We are anticipating the opening of a formal storefront in the coming months, where FYF will sell hand-crafted items by Yezidi women. Stay tuned for more developments in 2021!

FYF has also been producing thousands of masks and PPE for free distribution in the camps to combat COVID-19. Through a generous grant, FYF has been able to employ local Yezidi women to produce and distribute masks in the IDP camps. We remain extremely concerned by the prospect of COVID-19 spread through the camps and in Sinjar. In both locations, health provisions are low and the risk of spread and danger to vulnerable individuals is very high. We call on all organizations and leaders within the Yezidi community to emphasize the importance of adhering to WHO safety and health guidelines.

Toward the end of November, FYF participated in marking the global effort to highlight the importance of combating gender-based violence, sexual violence, and promotion of women's rights and women's equality. Organizations all over the world are taking 16 days of to highlight activism in this important field, which is also part of all FYF projects. As a women-led organization working with countless survivors of sexual violence and gender-based violence, we call for protection of women in every community in the world, including our own.

FYF Harikara discuss justice and women's rights in an IDP camp

 

The Free Yezidi Foundation also participated in two discussions hosted by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum this month, highlighting the situation facing Yezidis six years on from the ISIS genocide. FYF's Executive Director and Justice Project Manager participated in the two events.

This month, Samantha Elhassani was sentenced to more than six years in Indiana, United States, for her role in providing material support to a terror organization. The full US Department of Justice press release can be found here.

The Free Yezidi Foundation has been advocating for appropriate criminal charges for all members of ISIS, male or female, in all relevant jurisdictions in response to the genocide perpetrated against Yezidis. The role that all forms of financial, material, and human resource support that were extended to ISIS to help it achieve its ghastly aims - especially the sale, purchase, and rape of Yezidi 'slaves' in the ISIS caliphate - should be prosecuted.

In the News
 
Al-Monitor | Indiana Woman Gets 6 Years in Prison after Smuggling Cash for the Islamic State | This article quotes FYF comments on the Elhassani case.

Kurdistan-24 Yezidis Suspicious over Syrian Opposition Leader Visit to Town in Afrin | This article includes comments from FYF on the situation of Yezidis in Afrin.

El Periodico | la Lucha del pueblo Yazidi seis anos despues del genocidio  | This article (in Spanish) includes excerpts of an interview with the FYF Executive Director on post-genocide recovery.

Kurdistan-24 Yezidis Official in KRG Responsible for rescuing Yezidi Awarded with Sergio Vieira De Mello Prize | This article includes the FYF position on continued efforts to rescue kidnapped Yezidis.

 

Finally, as we enter the Giving season, we again ask you to consider supporting the Free Yezidi Foundation.

Please donate to one of the FYF projects on GlobalGiving. To donate on GlobalGiving click here

Thank you, friends, for your continued solidarity with the Free Yezidi Foundation and the Yezidi people.



Sincerely,



Pari Ibrahim
Executive Director
Free Yezidi Foundation

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You Can Make a Difference!

Support FYF Tomorrow on Giving Tuesday

 

FYF beneficiary, Kafia, 2019

 

Dear friends,

This holiday season, we are highlighting stories of Yezidi staff members and beneficiaries. Here is a reflection from FYF Women's Center beneficiary, Kafia, in 2019:

"When I was younger, in Sinjar, I asked my family why I was not sent to school like all the other girls. My family tried to register me in school, but the school didn’t accept me because I have a disability with my legs. In the IDP camp, I heard about the Free Yezidi Foundation registering women to participate in their projects. They told me they even have bus drivers to pick up women who live far away or are unable to reach the center by themselves. I was not sure if they would accept me because I am not like others, because of my disability. It was the first time I was ever accepted to enroll in classes. I was so happy. I was amazed that people like me could get a chance to get an education. I love learning, especially English and Arabic. I learned so much about women’s rights, and I felt more empowered than ever before. I never expected to be enrolled and equally accepted like everyone else. I will keep trying hard to learn and achieve something, so I can become more independent. I don’t like to be the 'disabled woman' that is a burden on her family or other people."

Kafia has been an IDP since August 2014, like many others from Sinjar. Life is generally very difficult for IDPs, but those with disabilities can face considerably more hardship.

FYF beneficiary, Kafia, prepares for her future role as a paid FYF Children's Center helper

 

The Free Yezidi Foundation offers courses at our women’s center regardless of beneficiaries’ prior educational experience or capabilities. Two core values at the FYF Women’s Center are inclusion and resilience. No one has taken those values to heart more than Kafia. In 2019 Kafia registered to take classes at the center for the first time, where she blossomed into a star student. Now, she is preparing to work as a helper in the FYF Children’s Center.
 
As a girl I never had dreams for my future. Today I am excited by my future and I have the right to get an education just like the other women. I can do something with my life. I have new dreams, especially to work with children and earn an income for my family.”  
 
Kafia told us that FYF embracing her as a person, rather than focusing on her disability, has given her a newfound confidence that has inspired her. Kafia wants the world to know that people with disabilities, if given 
a chance, can do great things. “We can support our family and have something to offer the community. We can contribute."

On Giving Tuesday we ask you, our friends and donors, to consider supporting the Free Yezidi Foundation. Our provision of care, education, treatment, and services for vulnerable and disenfranchised members of the Yezidi community is possible because of people like you.


*This story and associated photos have been published with permission and informed consent from Kafia and her legal guardian*

 

 

Please donate to one of the FYF projects on GlobalGiving. To donate on GlobalGiving click here

 


Thank you, friends, for your continued solidarity with the Free Yezidi Foundation and the Yezidi people.



Sincerely,



Pari Ibrahim
Executive Director
Free Yezidi Foundation

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You Can Make a Difference! Support FYF on Giving Tuesday!

 

FYF staff and children celebrate FYF graduation (pre-COVID)

 

Dear friends,


This holiday season, we will be highlighting some of the stories of Yezidi staff members and beneficiaries. Here are some thoughts from Children's Center beneficiaries:



"I liked all the classes. It was much better than school! I learned many new things: many new English words and how to use a computer. At the school we did not take computer classes like we did at FYF. My favorite game here was football. I made a lot of new friends and my old friends also attended the FYF Children’s Center. My dream for the future is to become a mathematics teacher." - 'A', age 13, more than six years living in an IDP camp (not pictured).



Like other children, 'A' has had to adjust his life considerably in the aftermath of the genocide perpetrated by ISIS against the Yezidi population. He is from Khanasor, Sinjar.

 

Yezidi children in an IDP camp (pre-COVID)

 

"I was coming to the Children’s Center with my mother when she was attending sewing and knitting classes...I like coming to the Children’s Center very much, I like the teachers and the way that they teach us. We were taking English, computer, painting, and games classes. I learned a lot from all of them. My favorite game was tennis. I do not remember much about Sinjar because I was very young. I heard that Sinjar now is not like before, it is not safe and there are no services there, like water and electricity. I do not want to go back to Sinjar. In Sinjar there are no courses for children like here, and also, here I can come to FYF and I have a lot of friends in the camp. When I grow up, I want to work as an English teacher because I like English very much. It is the most important language in the whole world and it will allow me to be able to work with organizations like FYF." 'K',  11 years old, from Tel Azar, Sinjar, currently living for six years in an IDP camp (not pictured).

 

This holiday season, we ask you, our friends and donors, to consider supporting the Free Yezidi Foundation. Our provision of care, education, treatment, and services for vulnerable and disenfranchised members of the Yezidi community is possible because of people like you. Please donate to one of the FYF projects on GlobalGiving. To donate on GlobalGiving click here

 

Thank you, friends, for your continued solidarity with the Free Yezidi Foundation and the Yezidi people.



Sincerely,



Pari Ibrahim
Executive Director
Free Yezidi Foundation

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Organization Information

Free Yezidi Foundation

Location: Duhok, NA - Iraq
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @free_yezidi
Project Leader:
Pari Ibrahim
Duhok, Kurdistan Region Iraq
$34,474 raised of $103,800 goal
 
321 donations
$69,326 to go
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