Iraqi Delegation Visits DRC and Jordan to Improve Mental Health Support for Genocide Survivors

The delegation at the Center for Victims of Torture. Photo: IOM Iraq 2024

Amman, Bukavu, Baghdad – From 25 April to 4 May, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq organized a study visit for Government of Iraq representatives to Jordan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to exchange best practices and lessons learned on the recovery and reintegration of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) and other human rights violations.

The Iraqi delegation included the Prime Minister’s Advisor for Human Rights, the Director General for Survivors Affairs, the Head of Women the Empowerment Department in the Ministry of Health, the National Advisor for Mental Health, a Ministry of Finance representative, and IOM representatives.

The visit began with a two-day exchange at the Center for Victims of Torture in Amman, which supports 3,700 survivors annually. It was focused on how the centre’s supports survivors of human rights violations to overcome trauma from conflict and violence.

In Bukavu, eastern DRC, the delegation met with Congolese counterparts at Panzi Hospital with the Panzi Foundation, a globally renowned institution for holistic treatment of survivors established by Dr Dennis Mukwege, a 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Ms Christine Schuler Deschryver, Vice President of the Panzi Foundation, highlighted the importance of cooperation: “Today, the path of recovery and healing is bringing us together and we have a duty to survivors to work together, and learn from each other”.

The Iraqi delegation had a first-hand opportunity to see the work of the Foundation and how it helps survivors to heal and overcome their traumas, in the context of prolonged conflict in DRC and how the organization provides support to more than 80,000 survivors since its establishment in 1999.

“The objective of these exchanges is to support Iraqi partners in ongoing deliberations on establishing a holistic centre for the care of survivors in Sinjar,” said Giorgi Gigauri, Chief of Mission of IOM Iraq. “IOM’s role in this process is the role of a facilitator, to make best practices in the rehabilitation of survivors available to our Iraqi partners, who will then assess what is the best modality for the Iraqi context, based on resources and survivors’ needs.”

The visit concluded with a meeting with 90 young women survivors at 'The City of Joy’ compound to learn about their transformative journey. It is a community project established by the Panzi Foundation and V-Day -- a global activist movement to end violence against all women and girls and Earth -- aimed to empower survivors of CRSV through therapy, art, and learning life skills.

“Even though the contexts between our countries are different, we have witnessed precious experience and expertise in good planning, needs assessment, and professional care of survivors,” said M. Zedan Khalaf, Prime Minister Advisor for Human Rights in Iraq. “We are eager to adapt and apply these practices within the future centres for treating Yazidi and survivors from other components covered by the Yazidi Survivors Law.”

The visit was organized within IOM’s framework of support to the Government of Iraq’s implementation of the Yazidi Survivors Law (YSL), adopted in 2021. The Law stipulates a wide range of measures for survivors of CRSV and genocide perpetrated by Daesh against Yazidi, Turkmen, Shabak, and Christian communities in Iraq starting in 2014. The Law foresees reparations for survivors of Daesh.

Since the application process began in September 2022, around 2,000 survivors have been verified by the YSL Committee for Verification. They have benefitted from financial support and improved access to health care, civil documentation, and basic rehabilitation services through a referral system with local organizations. 

This visit was facilitated by IOM Iraq’s Transitional Justice Programme, with financial support from the Kingdom of Netherlands’ Ministry for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation and the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

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