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Dr. Nagham: balm for wounds of Yazidi women survivors
Nagham Nawzad, 43-year-old gynecologist, has spent years providing medical and emotional care to ISIS captives survived most atrocities, in Duhok Northern Province. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees UNHCR

By Karwan Baadry

Dr. Nagham: balm for wounds of Yazidi women survivors

  • 2023-07-31

Amidst the bitter conditions that tens of thousands of Yazidis went through, a displaced Yazidi doctor took on the difficult task of relieving the pain of women and girls who survived captivity of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS.

Nagham Nawzad Hassan, 43-years-old gynecologist, was displaced from her homeland in Bashiqa - the Nineveh Plain - in 2014, when the extremist militants of ISIS stormed Mosul - the center of Nineveh Governorate - and resided in Dohuk.

The displacement did not make Nagham stand still and wondered, "What to do?". However, the questions that were spinning in her head increased after that ISIS in August took Sinjar, home of the vulnerable Yazidi community, the displacement of thousands of Yazidi families, and the kidnapping and killing of thousands of others.

These events deeply touched Nagham and left her in a deteriorating psychological state, she says.

"The Yazidi religion is a religion that calls for tolerance, but we saw with our own eyes how our girls are kidnapped, our children are killed, and our families are subjected to mass killings. These things left a psychological impact on me," Nagham said. "I thought about what I can do and what my role will be."

The Yazidi religion is a religion that calls for tolerance, but we saw with our own eyes how our girls are kidnapped

Nagham graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Mosul, and practiced her profession in two Sheikhan, Mosul and Kirkuk, which helped her become a pioneer in delivering medical healthcare to thousands of displaced families that were distributed to the camps for the displaced in Dohuk Governorate.

Nergiz, a survivor of IS captivity, hugs Dr. Nagham Nawzad in Rwanga IDP camp in Duhok. UNHCR

The first step for Dr. Nagham, who is from the Yazidi component, was to provide medical treatment to the displaced people residing in the camps.

After the start of the liberation and escape of some of the kidnapped Yazidis, Nagham felt that they needed psychological counseling and medical treatment, so she devoted most of her work to these girls.

"I wanted to work with the girls who survived the grip of ISIS. I got close to them and saw their pain. I knew what I had to do. First, I provided them with medical treatment, then social, and how to reintegrate them into society," the passionate physician said.

Nagham saw that what she was doing was not enough, so she opened a center to provide psychological treatment for survivors, with the support of the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.

"Even after the German government decided to receive the Yazidi survivors for the purpose of providing them with treatment, I continued to work in this field for those who needed to emigrate in order to obtain treatment."

In August 2014, ISIS took control of Sinjar district and kidnapped 6,417 Yazidi citizens, including 3,548 women and girls.

According to the statistics of the Kurdistan Regional Government in 2023, over 3,562 Ezidi captives have been rescued up to the present, including 1,207 women and girls, while 2,693 abductees are still missing, including 1,262 women and girls.

Nagham was not satisfied with that, as she was among the activists who worked to inform the international community of the Yazidi cause and presented the Yazidi tragedies in dozens of conferences and forums in which she participated.

"My main goal was for countries to come to the aid of the Yazidis and the displaced, because they were living in very difficult conditions," she recalls.

Dr. Nagham Nawzad Hasan, director of Sheikhan Hospital, consults with her colleagues. UNHCR

In 2020, Nagham assumed her duties as director of Sheikhan Hospital, which was next to Sheikhan district, providing medical services to three camps for the displaced. Nagham says that her mission became more complicated that year due to the outbreak of the Corona virus, so in addition to providing medical services, they had to launch awareness campaigns, especially inside the IDP camps.

In honor of her tireless efforts and dedication to her work, in 2016 Nagham Nawzad was awarded the "Daring Woman" award by the US Department of State. In the same year, she was awarded the (Silver Rose) award for human rights by a Belgian organization.

I never imagined that in this era there would be people who would legitimize our killing

In 2018, Nagham was awarded an award by Physicians for Human Rights, as well as receiving the German-French Human Rights Prize by the German and French Foreign Ministries in 2020.

Two years later, the High Commissioner for Human Rights awarded her the Best Activist Award.

Nagham says that the thing that still hurts her is, "I never imagined that in this era there would be people who would legitimize our killing."

"I have other tasks and I have not stopped working. I want the world to understand how peaceful and tolerant the Yazidis are with other religions. From now on, this will be my mission,” she added.

“We are staying and steadfast, despite the calamities that befell us."


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