Toward Comprehensive Rehabilitation: Mental Health Service Referral System Launched for Genocide Survivors in Iraq
28 March 2023
Erbil – On March 26, the Directorate for Survivors Affairs and eight NGOs from across Iraqi Kurdistan and Ninewa Governorate signed an Agreement of Cooperation for the establishment and activation of a formal referral system through which beneficiaries of the Yezidi Survivors Law (YSL) – individuals who survived the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL, also referred to as Daesh) genocide – can receive referrals for mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services in their areas of residence.
Under the Agreement, Directorate staff will refer survivors to and follow up with these organizations, which have committed to the ethical provision services according to their respective capacities. Located in areas of displacement and return, the eight organizations include: Dialogue Organization for Development and Relief, Farida Global, Free Yezidi Foundation, Hope Makers, Jesuit Rescue Services, Jiyan Foundation, SEED Foundation and Yazda.
“Iraq is showing the world what commitment to transitional justice looks like – first with the passage of the YSL in March 2021 and establishment of the Directorate for Survivors Affairs; then with the opening of the application process last September for survivors to begin receiving reparations; this month with the first distribution of monthly salaries promised to survivors under the YSL; and now through the activation of the MHPSS Referral System,” said Chief of Mission for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq, Mr. Giorgi Gigauri. “IOM Iraq is proud to have been able to support every step along the way, and we remain committed to a trauma-informed, survivor-centred transitional justice process.”
The aim of the Directorate’s MHPSS Referral System is to bridge the institutional gap in the MHPSS services available to survivors in Iraq as they undergo rehabilitation in the genocide’s aftermath; Indeed, the need for such services and care among genocide survivors is immense, but state facilities and resources for MHPSS provision are almost non-existent, with local and international organizations acting as the main providers of such services for survivors.
“Many survivors who escaped ISIL in 2014 have not seen any MHPSS providers at all,” said Khawla, a Yezidi survivor and member of the Survivors Voices Network. “It is very important for survivors to know that there are people who think about them, there are people supporting them to rebuild their lives. And it is crucial that the MHPSS services are sustained because many survivors will need MHPSS support over a long period to be able to overcome their trauma, heal and rebuild their lives.”
The Referral System will function as the main framework through which beneficiaries of YSL can access MHPSS services, until the official MHPSS institutional framework is properly equipped and effective. IOM Iraq will help to strengthen the Referral System over the course of 2023 through capacity building, in-kind support and funding. In parallel, the Directorate will initiate work to build a specialized MHPSS facility for YSL beneficiaries in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.
Director General of the Directorate for Survivors Affairs, Ms. Sarab Elias Barakat, said, “This is an important step in the implementation of the YSL. We are happy with this cooperation with NGOs to provide MHPSS services to the survivors who have been suffering greatly and are in desperate need of this support. This referral mechanism will enable survivors to have access to MHPSS services in their own areas of residence.”
“The UK continues to champion the rights of survivors and remains a strong advocate for the implementation of the Yezidi Survivor’s Law. We are delighted by the launch of the referral system – the atrocities committed by Daesh have had a profound impact on minority communities; mental health and psychosocial support remains essential. We look forward to continuing our close cooperation with IOM and the Directorate for Survivor Affairs to further help survivors,” said British Ambassador to Iraq, H.E. Mark Bryson-Richardson.
“The Dutch Government is a very proud partner of IOM for their advert support in the making and implementation of the Yezidi Survivors Law. We are very pleased to see this step – hopefully one in line of many – to have a direct effect on the lives of those impacted so devastatingly nine years ago. This is really a strong sign that successful steps are being made in the pursuit of transitional justice and a major step towards a more hopeful future for those who were affected,” said Mr. Jelle-Jochem Duits, Second Secretary of the Dutch Consulate General.
The YSL represents a key institutional framework for addressing the legacy of ISIL’s genocidal crimes against Yezidis, Shabak, Turkmen and Christians, and also stipulates a variety of rights and benefits – including monthly pension, rehabilitation support and a plot of land – for women and girls who survived conflict-related sexual violence and children who survived abduction at the hands of ISIL.