The intervention follows an earlier Red Pencil project in Kurdistan, known as “Support Survivors of Human Rights violation, torture and violence in Kirkuk”.
ISIS’s invasion of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq has led to the expulsion and exile of the Yazidis from their ancestral home, and to vast numbers of children, adults and families who were born into life circumstances being haunted by trauma and terror and exposed to violence that contravenes the most basic of human rights. Kurdistan has witnessed prolonged physical and psychological torture in degrading detention conditions, and has potentially been subjected to a series of atrocities ranging from chemical attacks, military conflict, kidnappings, massacres, persecution and rape to other serious forms of abuse and violence.
The survivors of these inhumanities, who are taken into refugee camps, are often unable to move forward or deal with their shock when they emerge from these tragedies. What is more, the level of trauma to which these survivors have been exposed often strips them of the ability to verbally express their experiences or the emotions associated with them. In order to help them find a form of stability, strength and resources and develop a vision of a possible future, mental health professionals are assigned in these countries where circumstances are particularly difficult and testing. These psychologists and psychotherapists are faced with children on the run who are literally unable to speak about their experiences. However, expression as a means of release is an essential first step towards a gradual and patient recovery and the possibility of a new future. Through the power of drawing, children in particular can immediately regain the language of expression which they know best, and which comes entirely naturally to them. Drawing allows victims to expel the trauma on paper, and in time to add words of relief, renewed self-confidence and regained trust in others through proper attachment, to find new inner resources, and to grow towards healing and the hope of one day being part of a better world.
The primary goal of this mission in Kurdistan is to provide thorough art therapy training to these health professionals, who speak the language of these children and families. This training gives them an additional, indispensable tool that can be used in the therapeutic support they offer these victims, but it is also a self-care tool for the professionals: they too undergo trauma in their daily contact with these children and adults, who are deeply affected by the armed conflict around them.