Helping in hostile environments March 2016
Author: Hatune Dogan
let me give You a report about my latest trip to the Middle East. At the end of March 2016, I went to North-Iraq for one week, together with two journalists from German television.
We arrived in Erbil and were picked up by members of our local association. We started going into several refugee camps in Ankawa, near Erbil. 4000 Christian families live there. The situation is terrible; people are in need of everything. They get water and bread, nothing else. No medical treatment. We helped with medicine and money, I had many therapy sessions.
a great depression
Almost all people are in heavy depression. Many of them are stuck there since 12 to 18 months. They have nothing to do, have no hope, no expectations. People, that once were wealthy, have lost everything and are now dependent on handouts. Grown men told me with tears in their eyes about their misery. Many have strong psychological problems and are haunted by ghosts of the past – experiences they made during their eviction and escape.
The next two days, we visited several camps there, and it was the same picture everywhere. We tried to help with medicine and money in all the camps.
Then, we drove to Khanik near Dohuk, to the huge Yazidi camp. 60.000 families live in a place, that was formerly a village of 14.000 people. We bought a truck full of aid for the people in the Sinjar mountains, for 32.000 families. We bought rice, couscous, oil, fruit and blankets.
in the wasteland of the sinjar mountains
We started early next morning, going to Sinjar. This time we did not have so many problems at the checkpoints, we had a filming permission, signed by Mr. Barzani himself, the leader of the Kurdish Peshmerga militia. We had to wait three hours at two checkpoints, though, until we could pass. The Peshmerga control the area, and they don’t want people helping the Yazidis – a revenge for the fact, that the Yazidies don’t want to cooperate on the Peshmerga’s conditions.
On the way, we brought blankets to some soldiers of the Yazidi People’s Army (YPG), at checkpoints to Islamic State (IS) held territories. It was still cold there. The people in the mountains are still suffering very hard. They live out in the open and have nothing, no food, no tents, no clothing. They suffer skin diseases, eye infections, some of their skin has turned dark blue. We tried to help, as good as we could. All aid was paid by your generous contributions, dear friends.
After that, we visited some mass graves, and that was terrible. Decayed bodies everywhere, bones in frazzled clothing. A spot with 85 young women, abased, mutilated, killed, just thrown upon each other, not even buried. A member of the YPG, that was with us, recognized in another mass grave 63 people he knew from his village, including 22 members of his own family, his uncle and all female relatives.
Because I was busy with translating for the journalists, I did not mention how it all affected me. I could not breathe, had to lay down on the grass and was almost passing out. The impressions came too close to me.
At another checkpoint of the YPG, at the border to IS territories, the soldiers reported about permanent attack by IS. For many weeks, IS attacked daily with rockets and chemical weapons. People got sick, had to throw up, lost their hair and got dark spots on the skin.
female pkk fighters
Then, we visited a group of female soldiers of the PKK, the Kurdish antagonist militia of the Peshmerga. They were about 30 fighters, 19-25 years old. My impression was, that they all were drilled ideologically, they only talked of fighting for Kurdish identity. The leader said: “Wherever we shed one drop of our blood, this area belongs to us.” These Kurds have settled on Yazidi area. They all, except one Yazidi girl, were Kurds and Sunni Muslims from Tukey. Anyway, we gave them some blankets, oil and fruit.
In the night, we drove back to Khanik. In the camps, we met some people, who were freed from IS. We supported them with money and I did a lot of therapy sessions. For example, with a young woman, that was eleven months in the hands of IS. She was abused permanently; her 7-month baby comes from there. She was sold five times among members of IS, before she was bought free, with the help of our local partners.
the horrors of war
Her sister burned herself to death, while she was in captivity. Of her family, 23 young men and 25 girls and women are still missing. Lately, she was called to identify some dead bodies, there were no members of her family, then. She is highly in danger to commit suicide.
From there, we drove back to Erbil and Germany.
Dear friends, we tried our best to ease the situation of all the people we met. We gave much aid, and that was only possible by Your generous donations. The two journalists got an intense impression of the horrors of war, the misery of the people and our efforts to help them.
Both journalists will bring out film reports about this trip very soon. We will keep You updated about it on our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/hatunefoundation/)
Please help with a donation, to keep our work going, to help the poor and persecuted, go to http://hatunefoundation.com/international/ .
Warburg 04 April 2016
Sister Hatune Dogan
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