Thank you very much for the invitation.
I was medical and psychological head of the special quota of the state government in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Dr. Michael Blume, who will attend later, will maybe explain to you more of the details about the procedures of the special quota. I will talk about the psychological effects of the Yazidis' situation and how we worked with the Yazidi survivors in Iraq and later brought them to Germany.
My job was the psychological examination of the survivors in Iraq. I examined 1,400 Yazidi women and girls in northern Iraq. Later we brought them to Germany for treatment, care, and consultation at Baden-Württemberg.
I talked to hundreds of young women, and even children, and listened to what they had gone through. Their stories were not easy for me to hear, even as an expert working for 20 years with traumatized people from Rwanda, Bosnia, and other countries. Whenever I thought I had just been told the worst story of terror and utmost inhumanity, I had to listen to further tragic and incredible stories that cannot be grasped with common sense.
One of them happened to a 16-year old girl, Hanna, who woke up in the night, worried that jihadists could return to rape her again. She got up, sprinkled her face with fuel, and set fire to herself. The girl survived, but her face was skinned, and her hands are blunt. “If I am ugly, they will not rush to me,” she explained to me. When we found her in the Khanke refugee camp near the city of Dohuk, we brought her quickly to Germany on a special flight. She is now receiving treatment in Stuttgart, Germany.
There is also the story of nine-year-old Sari. She was walking to the bakery when all of a sudden IS commandos stopped her. They abducted her, as well as other families from her Iraqi Yazidi village. Sari had to watch the jihadists murder her grandfather. Afterwards, she was sold and held as a slave for months on end, until she was sold to the Kurdish government with some older women.
Nevertheless, the strength and hope of the young women, who spent many hours meeting me, impressed me very much. Despite all those unimaginable and cruel experiences, they kept fighting. They wanted to survive, and they still want to survive for a better future.
To further the integration process that followed and to deal with the trauma that these women and children had experienced, designated social workers, interpreters, and trauma therapists in 21 towns supported the women and children in their new journey. The survivors, as well as the Yazidi community they belong to, will be traumatized for decades. Forms of violence include rape, harassment, mutilation, enslavement, marking the victims by branding, and killing the victims. Rape is an extreme assault of the intimate self, and it causes enormous feeling of humiliation and shame. Most of the victims develop post-traumatic stress disorder and a range of other disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and somatic disorders. Their emotional well-being and psychosocial life situation can be impacted in several dimensions.
On the one hand, they may carry unperceived traumatic experiences, combined with the experience of fleeing. On the other hand, war changes values and norms, and people are confronted with a new institution and way of interacting with others during, as well as after, the war. It is especially difficult for people from communities that have found themselves on the run from wars, or war-like circumstances, for several generations. Some examples are the communities of minority religions in Syria: Yarsan, Shabaks, Mandeans, Oriental, Orthodox, Christian, and Yazidi.
Here we are talking about transgenerational trauma being in place for several generations, especially by the Yazidis. We can see that in the last 800 years, they have faced 74 genocides, so far as they know. The Yazidis called their holocaust Ferman. They know their ancestors have been part of the genocide through the last 800 years. They forced the Yazidis to convert to Islam over the last 800 years. Between 1.2 million to 1.8 million Yazidis have been killed over the last 603 years in the Middle East.
The medical and psychological care of people who experience the trauma process like the Yazidis provide significant challenges for therapists, physicians, and other experts. Apart from the language difficulties resulting from forced migration, they include patients, cultural-specific perspectives and description of illness, resulting in story-telling modes, political situation, gender-specific aspects, and transgenerational traumata. We are faced with groups who have been persecuted, excluded, and forcefully converted for centuries and over generations in Iraq and Syria.
Transgenerational trauma is passed from one generation to the next generation through culture and religious narratives and behaviours. These groups are now confronted with a collective traumatic hurt from being raped, tortured, and killed. At the same time, of course, each person experiences their own trauma when confronted with this kind of violence and destruction. In research, as well as in the traumata of people who have experienced trauma, these three types of traumata—transgenerational traumata, collective traumata, and individual traumata—have to be taken into account if you want to treat them effectively.
We know that collective trauma, like in Rwanda, Bosnia, and now in Iraq and Syria, impacts not only individuals separately, but also the community at war. Psychology and trauma studies are still unfamiliar fields in Iraq and Syria. The treatment of emotional hurt and dealing with the past are parts of reconciliation and the peace process. In the exceptional situation where people have no ability to have any medical and psychiatric treatment, the state government in Baden-Württemberg decided to bring 1,100 women and girls for treatment to Germany. In these cases, it would be desirable that Canada establish treatment access concepts where Yazidis can travel to the country and receive treatment.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is also a political sign that the survivors of the IS terrors are not alone and will get help through the democratic states and communities. For the Yazidis in Sinjar and in the diaspora, it is clear that, in addition to humanitarian aid, the first step must be taken to create a protective zone, a safe haven for Yazidis and other groups in Sinjar. A further step could involve more concrete rights for Yazidis, as a religion and social group in Kurdistan. It is our moral duty as human beings to find the more than 3,500 Yazidi girls and women who have been taken hostage, are sold by Islamic State and bring them home again, even if it takes several years. They cannot be allowed to remain nameless, as was the case with the Yazidis ancestors.
Thank you very much.