Yezidi Children's Safe Space

by Free Yezidi Foundation
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Yezidi Children's Safe Space
Yezidi Children's Safe Space
Yezidi Children's Safe Space
Yezidi Children's Safe Space
Yezidi Children's Safe Space
Yezidi Children's Safe Space
Yezidi Children's Safe Space
Yezidi Children's Safe Space
Yezidi Children's Safe Space
Yezidi Children's Safe Space
Yezidi Children's Safe Space
Yezidi Children's Safe Space
Yezidi Children's Safe Space
Children's Educational Course
Children's Educational Course

Programs

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. 

Positive stories

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. 

Future activities: 

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. 

Gardening Activity
Gardening Activity
Trauma Support Session
Trauma Support Session
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Heat, Dust & Hope - Report from Khanke IDP Camp

 

Khanke IDP camp

 

Dear Friends,

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.
 
Thank you. 


Sincerely,

- Pari Ibrahim
Executive Director
Free Yezidi Foundation

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FYF Statement - Five Year Commemoration of the ISIS Genocide Against Yezidis

 

Dear Friends,

Five years ago, ISIS militants swept through Shingal and surrounding towns, bent on destruction, murder, rape and pillage. The atrocities, sexual violence, and genocide perpetrated by ISIS or Daesh against Yezidis are now acknowledged by the international community.
 
It is important that these crimes are not only remembered in terms of numbers or historical facts. The attacks are personal to so many. The horror stories and the sexual violence have left incalculable wounds on individuals and our society as a whole. We in the Yezidi community struggle to provide assistance and rehabilitation to highly traumatized survivors. As of today, the fate of 2,930 Yezidis remains unknown. Already 80 mass graves have been identified and 68 Yezidi religious temples have been destroyed. We must not forget. The world should never forget.
 
The Free Yezidi Foundation appreciates the attention and contribution from governments, NGOs, and agencies to help Yezidis on the way forward. We also appreciate the efforts of the UNITAD team that seeks to build cases to bring justice and accountability to a place where it is severely lacking. The process takes time, but nonetheless, all parties must press forward, even if justice comes in small doses and over long periods of time.
 
Five years later, the vast majority of Yezidis remain displaced in Iraq or living abroad – an estimated 360,000 displaced and more than 100,000 emigrated. There is a heavy price to living as displaced person. At the same time, return to Shingal and home villages cannot be prematurely rushed in a way that endangers the welfare and the actual lives of the surviving community.
 
It is important for friends of Yezidis to realize that the antecedent causes of ISIS atrocities continue to exist in the form of stereotypes, discrimination, and hatred against religious minorities in Iraq. Reconstruction in Shingal moves forward very slowly. Even so, buildings and roads will not bring security and prosperity if we do not have equal rights. For Yezidis to live and succeed in Iraq, it is important to acknowledge that there were already multi-faceted, serious problems facing our communities before ISIS. The military defeat of the ISIS Caliphate does not erase these problems.
  

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


Sincerely,

- Pari Ibrahim
Executive Director
Free Yezidi Foundation

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FYF Statement - ISIS Burn Crop Fields in Sinjar

 

 

Dear Friends, 

Please see the FYF statement regarding ISIS terrorist operation to burn crop fields in Sinjar. To obtain the PDF file, please click here. This morning we received the news that two Yezidis died after trying to extinguish the fire. We are very saddende by this news. We remain saying that it is not yet safe for our people to return. 

 

We are hearing that our people that tried to go back to Sinjar are now once again fleeing the area. This means that the overcowded camps will have people waiting for a tent to sleep in. The suffering of our people continues, as ISIS continues insurgent, sleeper cell attacks.


Sincerely,

Pari Ibrahim
Executive Director
Free Yezidi Foundation


 

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Yezidi Children Born from Rape; Rights of Yezidi Women 

 

The Yezidi Spiritual Council, the supreme body charged with binding religious decisions for Yezidis, has in the last days addressed the very difficult issue of children born to Yezidi mothers from the rape of Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) members. This is an incredibly difficult matter for Yezidi civilian and authorities alike. 

Generally, both mother and father must be Yezidi for a child to be considered Yezidi. It appears that the Yezidi Spiritual Council initially decided that these children, though born from Daesh fathers, could be accepted into the Yezidi community with their mothers. This was the interpretation of many of us when reading the initial decision. However, largely due to outcry among the Yezidi population, a clarification was issued days later. The clarification stated that such children would not be welcomed as part of the Yezidi community. 

The atrocities committed by Daesh make it extremely difficult for Yezidi civilians or leaders to accept their children into the community. Yezidis will feel that ‘Daesh blood’ should never be accepted. However, the Yezidi women who were captured, raped, and gave birth to such children are now faced with immense difficulty and further trauma. FYF has treated a number of women with children born from Daesh rapists. In some cases, Yezidi mothers have chosen to leave the children behind and return to the Yezidi community. In other cases, Yezidi mothers wish to remain with and protect their children. These mothers find themselves facing serious challenges. Often, their families will not accept the children born of rape. The mother herself bears the burden of the trauma of enslavement and rape, along with stigma and shame of wishing to care for her ‘Daesh’ child. 

The Free Yezidi Foundation neither agrees with nor rejects the Yezidi Spiritual Council’s decision. These are difficult cultural and religious matters. But the primary concern is the manner in which such decisions are made. 

Like many other Middle Eastern societies, Yezidi society is dominated by male decision-making. In this case, Yezidi men have decided whether or not Yezidi mothers should be allowed to remain with their children. The Yezidi community suffers from intense, prolonged trauma, and the presence of the children of Daesh members in the community would certainly be troubling. However, the trauma facing the Yezidi mothers themselves is far greater. The impact of such decisions on Yezidi mothers is not heavily considered, and that is because of rampant discrimination and sexism against women within Yezidi society. As a traditional, insulated ethno- religious minority, Yezidis have developed our own ways of surviving. Unfortunately, one negative aspect of our social structure is the subjugation of the rights of women. 

The Yezidi Spiritual Council appears ready to test social norms through forward looking practices. This included the attempt, now failed, to accept the children of Yezidi mothers conceived through

the rape of Daesh fighters. This also includes the decision to ‘accept’ Yezidi women back into society even after they have been raped by Daesh members. But we as Yezidis must also think carefully about that decision. Should such a decision even be necessary? Without such a decision, would it have been acceptable for Yezidi families to reject their own daughters, wives, or mothers because of the horrors inflicted upon them by Daesh? This could only be possible in a society where the value of women is extremely low, in comparison to international standards. We as Yezidis must urgently and forcefully improve the treatment of women in our society. 

There are other instructive examples of religious and cultural oppression of Yezidi women. In many cases, Yezidi women will marry upon the decision of their parents. In some cases, the woman or girl will participate in the decision making. In many other cases, the woman or girl will have no choice. This has been a problem prior to the Daesh genocide perpetrated against Yezidis. Currently, early marriage and forced marriage are of great concern in the Yezidi community, including in the IDP camps. There are some unfortunate cases where young Yezidi women have burned themselves to death rather than live a life that is forced upon them by their parents. This trauma did not come from Daesh, it came from inside our own society. Therefore, this is something we Yezidis can and should fix. 

We Yezidis have rightly appealed to the international community for aid and assistance during the attempted eradication of our people and the horrific crimes of sexual violence committed against Yezidi women. When young Yezidi women are forced to marry much older Yezidi men in the camp, we as Yezidis must think carefully about the image and the reality of our own traditions and work very hard to modernize our culture. If not, those who rallied to support Yezidis as an endangered, surviving community will notice the maltreatment and abuse of women existing within our own society. 

Relatedly, in many cases Yezidi women are restricted from education at an early age. In the Yezidi community, there was and remains a great challenge for Yezidi girls to attain an education beyond primary school. Some families do not wish this for their young girls. This archaic practice should end. We Yezidis must begin to treat girls and boys as equals and help provide basic skills and rights to all of our children. 

Another matter of concern to Yezidis living in the diaspora, especially Europe, is relationships with members of other communities. In Europe, there are a number of Yezidi men who have relationships, wives, and even children with non-Yezidis. This is generally kept quiet, as it is considered a ‘shame’ to be hidden. However, if a Yezidi woman would have a relationship with a non-Yezidi, she would be executed. This is a so-called ‘honor’ killing. This happened recently in Europe, where a Yezidi woman was shot in the face as a result of her relationship. In other cases, Yezidi women are lured to Sinjar, where they are executed far away from any rule of law. The double standard and the subjugation of women’s rights and the value of women’s lives compared to men’s is stark. We as Yezidis, especially those of us who live in the Western world and understand international law and human rights, must think very carefully about these old traditions and how to change them to fit in with the current times, laws, and norms. Yezidi family members exiling or executing women in the community is never, ever acceptable. 

Of course, many other communities in Iraq face similar problems in terms of oppression of women and gender rights. But we are concerned specifically with the Yezidi community, and the fact that 

abuse and maltreatment occur in other Iraqi communities does not normalize or justify these problems among Yezidis. 

At the same time, we must acknowledge that there are many good, heroic Yezidi men who believe in women’s rights. In such families, women have the good fortune of being treated more fairly and can live better, freer lives. But this in itself exposes the problem – only the presence of more modern, kinder men in the family can ‘grant’ women their rights. Women’s rights in our society is not automatic and inalienable. This is wrong. Yezidi society must move forward into the 21st century, and we must dramatically improve our behavior towards women. 

The Free Yezidi Foundation deals with many women who struggle with the issues of forced or early marriages, mistreatment and abuse, and other serious social problems. We also deal with those Yezidi mothers who have children from Daesh fathers through rape. The decision by the Yezidi Spiritual Council must therefore be seen through a wider, gendered lens. This decision, or shall we say the reversal of the original decision, has been based on the wishes of the larger Yezidi community. And by this, we mean Yezidi men, whether political or tribal leaders, with the exclusion of Yezidi women. Once again, the decision of the community comes at the expense of the wishes and needs of Yezidi women; in this case, Yezidi mothers who must choose between Yezidi society on one hand and their children on the other. 

FYF abhors the disgraceful and inhumane behavior of Daesh members, including Daesh women, who planned and carried out the most unspeakable crimes against innocent Yezidi civilians. However, it is unacceptable to abandon Yezidi mothers because of their will to remain with their children. These Yezidi mothers have the sole right to decide to raise their children. Neither Yezidi society nor the families of these mothers have the right to make such decisions. Whatever choice the Yezidi mother makes, we as the Free Yezidi Foundation will provide her with all support possible. Our women’s center has been and will remain a safe space for Yezidi women, including these Yezidi mothers, regardless of any decisions from community figures or religious authorities. 

The Free Yezidi Foundation calls for the resettlement abroad of Yezidi mothers who have children born from Daesh rapists. These mothers and children will not find safe haven in Iraq. According to Iraqi law, a child born from a Muslim father will be considered Muslim regardless of the mother’s identity. [This is only one of a multitude of discriminatory regulations that adversely affect women and religious minorities in Iraq.] To provide relief and any prospect of a life for these mothers and children, options in foreign countries should be provided as soon as possible. 

 

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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