In the News

Rima returned from Germany to Iraq in 2018. The 33-year-old shares her powerful story of resilience and transformation, and the support she received.
The married mother-of-three’s life took a tragic turn in 2013 when her son was killed in an explosion in a Baghdad market. After suffering from depression for two years because of this tragedy, Rima and her surviving family made the difficult decision to flee their home country in 2016 and seek safety, which they found in Germany. However, the journey to Germany was difficult, and initially, the family was placed in a refugee shelter. They were grappling with grief and depression because of their loss, and uncertain of their future.
Despite the hurdles, their situation gradually improved, and Rima gave birth to a baby girl. After residency was granted, the older children enrolled in school and regained stability.
However, the shadow of distress loomed as Rima’s mother-in-law fell ill, prompting the family to urge them to return to Iraq. Reluctant to go back, the stress took a toll on her husband, leading to his hospitalisation and a subsequent decline in his mental well-being. The challenges intensified with the tragic deaths of Rima’s father-in-law in 2021, thrusting the family into another period of instability as they returned to Baghdad.
After their return, Rima experienced a significant decline in her psychological well-being as she grappled with the challenges of readjusting to her old life amidst the ongoing instability and adversity faced by her family.
Amidst these hardships, Rima found hope through the Jiyan Foundation’s center in Baghdad. She sought out its services after seeing the positive transformation in her husband’s friend, who had received prior psychological support from the center.

"When she first came to us, Rima was hopeless about the future, and had trouble sleeping," says Hoor Adnan, a psychotherapist at the Jiyan Foundation in Baghdad. “However, she has made remarkable progress in just eight sessions and improved her sleep. We encouraged her to channel her energy towards her strengths and interests, such as her passion for sewing.”

Somatic problems—for example, different kinds of pain—are often symptoms of mental health challenges, and Rima is no exception. In cooperation with the therapist, our medical team offered her the necessary support and resources to manage her health effectively and maintain optimal well-being.

Rima's heartfelt message resonates with the importance of seeking psychological support when facing psychological crises. “Everyone has vulnerabilities,” she says. “These vulnerabilities should not be ignored; they need timely intervention to prevent mental health crises from worsening and leading to further repercussions.”

At Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights, the commitment to providing mental health, medical treatment, and supportive services is evident in Rima’s story. We support survivors of trauma, terror, domestic violence, and human rights violations, contributing to the rebuilding of lives in Iraq.

For privacy reasons, the client’s name was changed.

Supported with funding by

The Jiyan Foundation’s impact is made possible through the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and Johanniter International Assistance.

German Cooperation LOGO

"I see many people who have principles, who live their lives according to their principles to help their communities. These people process their trauma, maybe quicker or more effectively, because they have an outlet or a reason to grow. When people focus their efforts on building a better society and preventing past atrocities from reoccurring, they tend to respond better to treatment than those who live without these principles."

How did you start working with Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights?

I first met Mr. Salah Ahmed in 1993. At the time, Saddam Hussein was in power, and this was just after the Anfal Genocide. I am with Mr. Salah as my friend as my brother. Well, in 2003 Mr. Salah told me he wanted to introduce psychotherapy and trauma treatment to survivors of torture in Iraq. Back then, it was called the Kirkuk Center for Torture Victims. From that moment, I gave myself to his mission. As you know, today Jiyan Foundation is providing life-saving mental health and medical support to the survivors of human rights violations across the country. In this way, I see that Mr. Salah has accomplished much more than what he set out to do twenty years ago.

I, myself am a psychiatrist, and have been working with Jiyan Foundation since the beginning.

You started working for Jiyan Foundation when it was the Kirkuk Center for Torture Victims. You have seen it go from one center to now more than ten facilities. That’s a big leap in the size of the organization and the number of patients that you are seeing.

Yes, right. You know the story of chemical weapons, torture, and political violence; people commonly live with trauma. Through this, I’ve seen two things. Number one, I’ve been around long enough to see recurrent trauma, a collective and transgenerational trauma, when a group of people are exposed to the same homicide, torture or event. These events change the fabric of our society for generations to come.

Second, what’s important, in my experience, I see many people who have principles, who live their lives according to their principles to help their communities. These people process their trauma, maybe quicker or more effectively, because they have an outlet or a reason to grow. When people focus their efforts on building a better society and preventing past atrocities from reoccurring, they tend to respond better to treatment than those who live without these principles. This is of course, just my personal experience.

As a psychiatrist did the types of patients you see change over time?

In terms of the classification of the kinds of symptoms and mental disorders, yes absolutely. You know every ten or fifteen years we have changes and updates to the classifications or terminologies used in our work; this is all academic. However, the symptoms we see tend to repeat themselves. This is in part why experience as a psychiatrist or mental health professional is so important. When you have experience, when you are a good listener to the patient, you will pick up on things.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is very common with people in Iraq. Many people suffer from childhood trauma, sexual abuse, and violence that lasts their entire lives. I had one adult patient for example, who was suffering from instances of sexual abuse she experienced as a child. She had not spoken about these events for her entire life, and it just lived in her mind like a toxin.

So when you do get a patient, like the one you just described who was sexually abused, how do you how do you begin to address it with that person?

The patient is usually seeking help with many abnormal symptoms. I mean physical symptoms, and in this case, she is not focused on her mental health because she’s focusing on her physical pain. In many cases, these are psychosomatic symptoms, a physical distress caused by psychological trauma. In these cases, the patient is coming in for medical treatment, and she will see a medical doctor. After examining her, the doctor will refer the patient to me. Commonly, our patients at Jiyan Foundation meet with both medical and mental health professionals, and many of them come in seeking relief from physical symptoms.

When I meet with the patient, they will often describe their own anxiety in public spaces or other hints that point to a past occurrence. After a few sessions, the patient and I will begin to develop trust, and only then can we begin to talk about these past traumas.

Sometimes the trauma is so strong that the patient may require medication to help them function in their day-to-day life. These are the sorts of things I address as a psychiatrist.

The goal, of course, is to address these traumas so that the patient can lead a normal life without fear, anxiety, or the need for medication. It’s for this reason that Jiyan Foundation uses a holistic approach to recovery, It’s why our patients usually have sessions with physicians, psychotherapists, and a psychiatrist. We all work together on each individual to provide the best treatment we can.

What would you say is the most important lesson for people to take away from your experience working with Jiyan Foundation?

I’ve learned in my years that no one can heal alone. You cannot take a traumatized person away from their family and bring them somewhere alone. We must bring the whole community into the healing process. We must educate and include the community to support each other.

Second, we must have principles and goals to work toward. These principles for equality, justice, and human rights provide us with purpose. As humans, we are much more successful when we have family, community, and principles we can hold dear. I love Jiyan Foundation because we take these lessons to heart, and build our programs based on these things.

Concerns about the non-renewal of UNITAD’s mandate in Iraq

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Iraq, September 12, 2023

 

We, the undersigned organizations, have been made aware of highly concerning news that the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL’s (UNITAD) mandate may not be renewed in Iraq beyond September 2024.

 

UNITAD was mandated pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2379 to collect, preserve, and store evidence of ISIL crimes in Iraq in line with the highest possible standards. UNITAD was established following the tireless advocacy of survivors and several of the undersigned organizations, and in response to the scale of ISIL crimes. This advocacy was aiming to ensure that evidence of ISIL crimes would not get lost until a holistic strategy from both Iraq and the international community would be in place to address ISIL crimes. This has yet to happen.

 

UNITAD began operating in Iraq in the fall of 2018 and has in the past five years made significant progress including collecting thousands of pieces of evidence, interviewing survivors from all Iraqi communities, supporting national prosecutions in third countries, and substantially supporting exhumations of mass graves all over the country. UNITAD has also strengthened the capacity of Iraqi authorities and Iraqi civil society, including some of the undersigned organizations.

 

Many survivors and the undersigned organizations see UNITAD as the only hope to achieve meaningful justice in Iraq. For its work to stop so abruptly, when not a single ISIL member has been tried in Iraq for core international crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes), would be a disaster for survivors, Iraq, and the international community. It would send the signal that justice is not a real priority, that trust with survivors was built for nothing and that their testimonies and continuous calls for justice were in vain.

 

This news is all the more alarming since Iraq currently has no legal framework in place to use UNITAD’s evidence and also has no experience prosecuting international crimes. Furthermore, Iraq has not communicated any plan or strategy on how it is planning to move this process forward without UNITAD’s expertise. Nor has Iraq recognized the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court or responded to detailed proposals submitted by survivor groups to establish a hybrid tribunal to prosecute ISIL members for international crimes.

“Terminating UNITAD´s mandate in Iraq will have far-reaching negative consequences, as it will prevent putting the collected evidence of ISIL crimes against Yazidis, Shia, Sunni, Christian, Kaka’i, Shabak and Turkmen Shia and others to proper use. Clearly, every mandate comes to an end, but without a sound legislative framework and a clear roadmap on how to ensure delivery of justice in a survivor-centred manner and in line with international fair trial standards, the entire engagement would have been in vain.”
Dr. Bojan Gavrilovic
Head of Program for Rights and Justice

For the reasons above, UNITAD must continue to operate because Iraq alone is currently not in a position to achieve meaningful justice for survivors. Survivors have also repeatedly highlighted that they would not trust a purely national process and called for appropriate international involvement.

We, the undersigned organizations, call upon Iraq, the UN Security Council, and the international community to:

    • Renew UNITAD’s mandate beyond September 2024 and as long as it is needed.

    • Prepare a strategy to prosecute ISIL crimes holistically both in Iraq and other jurisdictions.

    • Support Iraq in adopting a legal framework to prosecute core international crimes and to establish a survivor-centered mechanism which would allow for such prosecutions.

    • Ensure that UNITAD supports Iraq in the prosecution of ISIL crimes in Iraq until Iraq is able to follow fair trial rights and implement a survivor-centered mechanism.

Download the statement in English and Arabic here.

Undersigned organizations:

  1. Air Bridge Iraq (Germany)
  2. All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Yazidis (UK)
  3. Bassma NGO (Iraq)
  4. Better World (Iraq)
  5. Coalition for Genocide Response (UK)
  6. DAK Organization for Ezidi Women Development (Iraq)
  7. Ezidi Millennium Organization for Development (Iraq)
  8. Eyzidi Organisation For Documentation
  9. Farida Global Organization (Germany and Iraq)
  10. Fight For Humanity (Switzerland)
  11. Free Yezidi Foundation (Iraq and USA)
  12. Gazi Organization for Civilian Activities (Iraq)
  13. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (USA)
  14. Harikar (Iraq)
  15. HÁWAR.help (Germany)
  16. Hope Givers (Iraq) – Network of Yazidi male survivors
  17. Hope Maker’s Organization for Women (Iraq)
  18. House of Coexistence (Iraq)
  19. Inhalation of Hope Organization (Iraq)
  20. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (UK)
  21. International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
  22. Jiyan Foundation For Human Rights (Iraq and Germany)
  23. JOMR (Iraq)
  24. Nadia’s Initiative (Iraq and USA)
  25. Nasem Sinjar Organization for the Care of People With Special Needs (Iraq)
  26. NL Helpt Yezidis (The Netherlands)
  27. Nuhanovic Foundation (The Netherlands)
  28. Office of Yazidi Affairs (Germany)
  29. Petrichor Organization for Human Rights (Iraq)
  30. Religious Freedom Institute
  31. Shingal Engineering Organization (Iraq)
  32. Sinjar Academy (USA and Iraq)
  33. Sunrise Organization for Civil Society Development (Iraq)
  34. Sustainable Peace Foundation (Iraq)
  35. Turkmen Rescue Foundation (Iraq)
  36. Voice of Ezidis (France)
  37. We Are With You (Iraq)
  38. WOLA organization (Iraq)
  39. Yazda (Iraq and USA)
  40. Yazidi Legal Network (The Netherlands)
  41. Yazidi Survivors Network (Iraq) – Network of Yazidi female survivors
  42. Zentralrat der Êzîiden in Deutschland e.V. (Germany)
  43.