Success Story: How Rita Soothes Psychological Status of Her ISIS Survivors?

January 8, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Rita Behnam, the social worker specialized in assisting survivors from ISIS captivity

Ninawa: Kirkuk Now

’’I wish we were neighbours and I would see you every morning’’ a Yizidi girl that has survived ISIS has addressed her social worker Rita Behnam who replies saying ’’you are my little sister, and I will always be by your side’’.

Rita who is a social worker in IDPs camp in Duhok and has befriended that girl says ’’at the beginning she suffered psychological disorder as a result of being captured and maltreatment by ISIS fighters, she had a lot of problem speaking and even in sleeping, she has an obsession the ISIS would return to kidnap her, but she rapidly responded to the treatment and intensive psychological exercises’’.

’’with a smile I welcome and hug her, she was in need of a person who would understand her, at the beginning her words were unclear and she needed a lot of follow-up till she gradually recovered, and this made me very happy’’.

Rita Behnam is in her twenties who was born in Mosul, in 2007 she, along her family, moved to Duhok because of the security status in Mosul were she perused her studies in the Department of Education and Psychology in Duhok University.

After graduation, she started working with PSS teams for Yizidis, especially the female survivors of ISIS in October 2016.

Rita Behnam

’’I did not have enough experience in my work other that what I studied at university, in the first three months I faced a big challenge because I was not good in the Kurmanji dialect that the Yizidis spoke in and was different from the one used by people in Duhok, but I learnt it and tried to be closer to the Yazidi female survivors’’.

She contacted WADI Organization after knowing that Zhinda Organization, WADI’s partner, is in need of a social worker which she chose because it is within her expertise and it is a humanitarian work. She constantly tries to help others, maybe one day she would be in need of help too.

Sometimes I work till 7pm, and in some cases I do not rest. In case there was a referral case to hospital, she has to stay there up till 9pm.

In Sharya, Khanke and Ba’azri camps in Duhok, Rita provides her Pscyho-social services for the IDPs and people living in unfinished house-structures outside the camps as well.

Rita elucidates the challenge of working with IDPs saying ’’fear still haunts them, they do not have complete trust in people after all what they have undergone so some families do not provide their phone numbers, and some other provide two and they say if one number is turned off then call the other’’.

Rita sitting on the floor in one of IDP tents

She is trying to win the families trust whom she recurrently visit and frequently repeat their names ’’do not count me more important than you, I am your sister, if you accept me as a sister then I am in gratitude’’, most of them accept and they say ’’there is not a sweeter than a sister’’.

Rita says ’’I go on talking and do not interrupt them when they talk, some of them talk a lot, and some want to keep me to talk more and they come closer to me and sit by my side that borders between me and them vanish’’.

The collected information from these IDP families consist of, social situation within these families, their psychological status, the circumstances and problem they undertook with some questions that these IPDs cannot grasp to comprehend so she uses examples to clarify for them.

Most IDPs in Duhok are Yizidis, Christians and other minorities who lived in Ninawa. After ISIS assault in mid 2014, most of their properties were confiscated, they were killed or kidnapped and left their area.

Rita talked about a situation in Ba’azri camp where the family kicked her out, and when she asked the patient ’’why do not you want to talk to me? I ma like your sister’’ the patient said ’’every organization comes and asks about my status I feel dizzy and fall on the floor’’.

After two days, she visited the family again, so they apologized the minute they saw her saying ’’we did not know that you are from WADI organization’’, they accepted seeing her and her mother too who was not in a ’’good ’’ condition.

Talking about the most common cases she faces Rita said ’’we have IDPs who had insomnia, thinking of the comments pouring from people around her, like (you live your live and your children and husband are captured by ISIS! You come and go and eat and drink) so they become isolated in their homes and they do not go out to avoid hearing these comments’’.

And she adds ’’when I come home I start thinking about the case and find a solution for the problem, and even use the internet, I place myself in the shoes of the case and think how I should act when I hear the offensive comments, and go to the supervising doctor form Hartland and things become easier’’.

The General Directorate of Yizidi Affairs that is part of Ministry of Awqaf- Kurdistan Regional Government stated on the January 3, 2017 that the number of ISIS survivors are 3207 people, 1137 are women and 335 are men. While children survivors are: 904 girls and 831 boys.

Rita concluded saying that she is ’’happy ’’ with her work, despite the difficulties but her motive is humane that encourages her to lessen, even on a minor scale, the suffering of these female survivors.


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