Our Yazda office in Iraq.
The Yazda office in Iraq commenced operations on the 15th of January 2015. With direct access to IDPs, refugees, returnees and the host community, Yazda Iraq is the central hub of our work. Working on the ground in Iraq allows us to effectively and efficiently support people in need to better recover from the short-, medium-, and long-term effects of the ongoing genocidal campaign perpetrated against the Yazidi people.
Locations of work:
Yazda currently works within Duhok Governorate, located within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and Nineveh Governorate, which is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government of Iraq. In Dohuk, there are 22 IDP and refugee camps. We also support households and communities in informal settlements, which include non-camp locations and unfinished buildings, as well as displaced persons who may be living in urban areas. In Nineveh, we work in the Sinjar district, especially on Sinjar mountain, where IDP families have been living since 2014, and in the foothills, villages, and towns on the north side of Sinjar, where people and families are beginning to return and resettle following the liberation of the area from IS.
Ongoing projects in Iraq:
Rehabilitation of Survivors
Thousands of Yazidi civilians, mostly women and children, were kidnapped by IS during and after the attack on the Sinjar region. One of Yazda’s biggest projects in Iraq is the psychosocial support (PSS) program which operates out of the Yazda Women’s Center near our main office in Duhok. The center receives survivors of IS captivity and enslavement, and offers services which include case management, counselling, support group sessions, classes and recreational activities, and material aid as needs demand and our resources can provide. Our case managers are trained to support those who have experienced trauma, rape, trafficking, and other atrocities.
So far, Yazda has received over 1,100 female survivors. We also work in collaboration with the government of Iraq to provide cash assistance through a social security program and we coordinate with other organizations, agencies, and government facilities to refer survivors to other forms of assistance where necessary. Currently, we are piloting a children’s program which combines psychosocial support and educational interventions, with the aim of transitioning children back or into formal education settings. We hope to expand this program very soon.
Yazda operates the first primary healthcare (PHC) center in Essian IDP Camp, which is located in the Shekhan District of eastern Dohuk Governorate. The camp is home to approximately 14,900 IDPs. the center treats approximately 3,500 people every month with a team of four doctors and eighteen nurses, in addition to administrative staff. The PHC also offers psychosocial support, and contains an integrated laboratory, an ultrasound and technician for care of pregnant women, and a dental department.
Additionally, Yazda operates a Mobile Medical clinic in Sinjar which serves and supports people across 35 locations in the liberated areas north of Sinjar Mountain. The unit covers a 72 kilometer wide stretch of territory over a three week cycle. It is operated by two clinical nurses in conjunction with two social workers. Yazda Mobile Medical treats around 1,500 people monthly, many of whom live in remote areas and have no other access to medical services.
This project aims to support vulnerable households by distributing income-generating livestock, such as milking goats, egg-laying chickens, and honeybees, or by training women in sewing, handicrafts, and soap-making activities, in conjunction with the distribution of sewing machines and other tools and materials. The training programs also include long-term follow-up to best empower women to support their families and communities in a sustainable, self-reliant manner. Through Sinjar Outreach, materials including tents and waterproof tarpaulins are also distributed to households continuing to live in camp-based situations in Sinjar to allow people and families to continue focusing on rebuilding and rehabilitating their lives with minimal hindrance from difficult life circumstances.
Currently, Yazda is operating Sinjar Outreach in coordination with a generous partnership from the UNDP.
In late 2016, Yazda is piloting a children’s program which combines psychosocial support and educational interventions, with the aim of transitioning children back or into formal education settings, as mentioned above. This is currently running out of a child-friendly space (CFS) within the Yazda Women’s Center but expansion will include outreach to camps and Sinjar.
Further, Yazda has previously supported schools in Dohuk, operated informal education classes in camps, provided school kits and clothing to orphans, and and is currently building a school which will accommodate over 200 primary-school aged children in Sinjar. An earlier project, Qeleme Zerin (Golden Pen) operated for six months from during 2016, and helped to prepare students for study at institutes and university. Activities included lectures, discussion sessions, and travel to different museums, archaeological sites, and places of note in Kurdistan – including Halabja, the site of Saddam Hussein’s chemical attack on Kurdish civilians in 1988. Murad Suliman Allo, a Yazidi poet and intellectual, managed and operated this project.
Yazda aims to launch an expanded education program in 2017 which will include professional and academic career preparation classes, literacy classes, informal education activities and CFS in camps, and reconstruction and rehabilitation of educational infrastructure in Sinjar. We are currently seeking funding for this. Yazda firmly believes that educational support for children and youth is crucial for the long-term rehabilitation, rejuvenation, and self-sufficiency of the Yazidi community.
Yazda has team of ten staff trained and qualified to collecting data and information through interviewing survivors of the August 3rd attack in Sinjar. We aim to document their stories and experiences, as well as to build a database of information about Yazidi history, culture, and daily life before 2014. The Documentation team previously published a report detailing 35 mass graves in the Sinjar Region, which is available on our website.
Tîrêja Rojê (Ray of the Sun)
Yazda operates Tîrêja Rojê in conjunction with Yazidi religious and community leaders. Within this project, leaders hold regular sessions for children and adults to pass on oral Yazidi traditions in the manner in which the community has done so for generations. Further, the sessions operate as a space to pass on messages of positive social values, which include topics such as honesty, respect, and good manners for children, and heavier subjects such as community reintegration and peace-building for adults. Thus, Tîrêja Rojê operates as both a community reintegration project and a tool of cultural preservation, which is of vital importance following the existential threat to the Yazidi community from August 2014.
The leaders working within this project also closely collaborate with our case management team in the Yazda Women’s Center. Religious leaders attend support group sessions and facilitate pilgrimages to Lalish for survivors of captivity and enslavement. These pilgrimages are extremely effective in enabling survivors to feel welcomed and supported by the wider community and able to begin moving forward again in their lives. The visibility of the pilgrimages and strong messages of support expressed by the religious leaders further reinforce a long-term message of community reintegration and solidarity. This unique aspect of Yazda’s work is enabled by our strong community roots and the substantial trust given to us by the community with which we work and support.
Yazda’s International Advocacy Efforts
Yazda supports the defense and promotion of human rights in general. In the case of the Yazidis, Yazda has been working with Nadia Murad Base Taha, whose work has taken the experience of suffering at the hands of IS from 2014 into international knowledge. Nadia works tirelessly to advocate for the thousands of persecuted Yazidi women and children who remain in captivity today and to generate the international will never to allow such atrocities to occur again, either to the Yazidis or to any other peoples. Nadia was honored with the appointment of UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking in 2016, and was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Nadia has been recognized by numerous other bodies and awarded a number of prizes related to her work to champion human rights. Nadia is also working in conjunction with noted human rights lawyer Amal Clooney to bring a case of genocide before the International Criminal Court.
Yazda Iraq Management Team
Yazda Iraq operates with a team of 70 staff, all of whom are crucial to the continued success of our operations. Our in-country senior management team consists of:
- Amber Webb – Iraq Country Director
- Daria Wadsworth – Iraq Deputy Country Director
- Jameel Ghanim – Manager of Operations
- Abid Shamdin – Founding Member of the Yazda Board of Directors, and Manager of the Sinjar Outreach Project
Coordination with Board of Directors in the US
Yazda Iraq operates in close coordination with the Board of Directors in the US. We enjoy frequent visits by Board Members here on the ground, and Abid Shamdin, named above, is working within Yazda Iraq on a long-term basis.
Address: Malta- Sozdar Road
Behind Aland Motel
Mobile: (+964) 7504190169
Meet our people and contact our leadership in Yazda-Iraq here.