Coalition for Just Reparations – Media Release
Joint NGO Statement on Increased number of Suicide cases and the Deteriorating Mental Health Crisis facing Atrocity Crimes Survivors in northern Iraq
The Coalition for Just Reparations – an alliance of 27 Iraqi NGOs calling for comprehensive reparations for civilian victims of atrocity crimes perpetrated during the ISIS conflict in Iraq – expresses grave concern regarding the ongoing mental health crisis in the region, resulting in an increase in suicide cases within the Yazidi community. The total number of Yazidis who have taken their own lives in northern Iraq has increased by 11 in just the past month, according to a statement released last week by the Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychotraumatology (IPP) at the University of Duhok, Iraq.
An alarming corollary of the COVID-19 pandemic in Iraq is the psychological impact on at-risk communities, including Yazidis, Turkmen and Christians. Prior to the outbreak, Médecins Sans Frontières had already reported on a debilitating mental health crisis among Yazidis in Iraq, including the rising number of suicides. The entire Yazidi population is experiencing mental trauma caused by the acts of genocide, and some are displaying severe psychological difficulties. Among those at heightened risk are the women and girls who experienced systemic sexual violence, and the boys who were forcibly recruited by ISIS.
We are now seeing the tragic results of the failure to address these warnings. The impact of suicide on families and communities is devastating and long-lasting.
We support the IPP in calling on the Government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government to expedite the establishment and implementation of a national suicide prevention strategy. We welcome the efforts of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh to provide psychosocial support to genocide survivors and trainings to NGOs, and we now call on the World Health Organization and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq to take immediate action to address the acute mental health crisis by implementing enhanced suicide prevention awareness campaigns.
The underlying risk factors that lead to suicidal acts must be addressed. This includes bringing ISIS to justice for their crimes and ensuring that survivors receive comprehensive reparations. Such steps can break the culture of impunity and the continuum of atrocities that have devastated ethnoreligious communities in Iraq for generations.
We all have a collective moral responsibility to help survivors of genocide and other atrocity crimes by supporting those struggling with mental illness and by working to prevent suicides.
Every life has beauty, every life is precious.