• By Daniah Al Sadoon, IOM Iraq

IRAQ, Ninewa – In the heart of Hassan Sham camp in Nineveh Governorate, northern Iraq, an artistic journey unfolds, echoing the stories of young souls finding strength and empowerment through the strokes of the paintbrush.

Farah, 17 years old, from Mosul, who is one of the participants getting trained on drawing at the IOM Mental health and Psychosocial Support Center says her feelings are brought to life through drawing as she pours them onto the canvas: “Drawing allows me to express what is inside me - revealing the power of transferring negative emotions into positive energy by pouring my emotions onto paper, and in the process alleviate unspoken burdens and feeling better”

 “When you pick up the pencil and start drawing, you will see what was inside you. It is my way of getting rid of the things that I cannot say,” explaining the healing and emotional liberation that art brings.

Using only few main colors to draw, the girls managed to make harmonious drawings. Photo: ©IOM 2023/Daniah ALSADOON.

Amina, a 20-year-old student, lets her feelings dance on paper with every brushstroke. “Drawing is my happy place,” she says, emphasizing the sheer joy of letting her feelings out, and the lightness that removes internal conflicts. “I love drawing my hobbies and even my dreams. It’s a way to make them tangible, a way to bring them to life,” says Amina, explaining how art empowers her to deal with her daily life as an internally displaced person living in camp.

IOM’s art sessions work to promote well-being, nurture artistic abilities, and empower the women and girls to break societal norms that suppress the emotional expression of women and girls.

During the “Use only 3 colors” challenge, Amina and other girls had no problem making beautiful artworks. Photo: ©IOM 2023/Daniah ALSADOON.
Some of the participants drew buildings that they used to live in, hoping that one day they’ll return to see them again. Photo: ©IOM 2023/Daniah ALSADOON.

Farah and Amina found themselves immersed in a world of new knowledge and artistic discoveries through the art course. From the basics of shading to exploring vibrant color palettes, their art has transformed from simple drawings into complex masterpieces.

Despite having exams, the participants kept eagerly coming to the center and attend the art course to make more art. Photo: ©IOM 2023/Daniah ALSADOON.
IOM’s trainer explaining shading in still life drawings. Photo: ©IOM 2023/Maha ALKASIM.

Amina, who aspires to become a laboratory doctor and a famous painter, envisions a future in which her love of drawing and scientific pursuits coexists harmoniously. “I will not give up my hobby for my other dream. I want to achieve both,” she said.

On International Women's Day, the girls celebrated their achievement and presented a wonderful exhibition. Photo: ©IOM 2023/Daniah ALSADOON.

As the strokes of hope continue to shape the future of Hassan Sham camp’s women and girls, the art course becomes not just a creative outlet, but a profound journey of self-discovery, resilience, and empowerment for many women and girls.

The girls raised their artworks and graduation certificates high, recalling the happy moments they shared, and the hard work through which they experienced the sweetness of achievement and the joy of colors. Photo: ©IOM 2023/Daniah ALSADOON.

On the international women’s day, the girls crowned their artistic journey in a small graduation ceremony exhibiting their artworks, to celebrate the knowledge they’ve gained throughout the course and to proudly show their artistic skills with the world.

SDG 5 - Gender Equality
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities