Envisioning peace: Trauma rehabilitation lessens despair in Iraq

By Sara Logeman
Hanas Program
Photo: Courtesy of Tutapona Trauma Rehabilitation

Hana was nine years old when ISIS came. They came in the night, the sounds of war startling her family of 14 awake. Amid gunfire and airplanes circling overhead, Hana’s family fled from their home in her father’s car.

A perilous, nine-day journey lay ahead for them. They ran out of food and water. They witnessed beheadings by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. The car, their lifeline, broke down.

The family began traveling on foot under the cover of darkness. Starving and exhausted, they were spotted by strangers on the roadside and brought to Khanke Refugee Camp in Dohuk, Iraq.

Hana hoped that her time away from home would be brief. She looked forward to going back to school.

She is now 13 and has yet to return home.

Continued trauma

Hana is one of 3 million internally displaced persons in Iraq. Violence between armed groups and government forces in Mosul has forced approximately 1 million Iraqi civilians to evacuate to safer governates since 2016, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Roughly 673,000 people cannot return home because of continued violence. Almost a quarter million Syrians have fled to Iraq as well.

While the necessity for immediate support of basic human needs has decreased since 2018, the need for psychosocial support is as necessary as ever. In addition to the trauma of being displaced, many witnessed and endured more horrific traumas including kidnappings, sexual violence, torture and mass killings.

Since 2008, Tutapona Trauma Rehabilitation has facilitated psychosocial support workshops with those affected by the horrors of war and conflict. Tutapona’s work began in northern Uganda with former child soldiers and has since expanded to the Middle East.

Committed to easing human suffering in all forms, the United Methodist Committee on Relief International Disaster Response provided Tutapona with a grant to deliver group trauma rehabilitation workshops to 480 internally displaced persons in Iraq.

Funding from UMCOR has made possible the implementation of 16 workshops spaced over a year. Each workshop welcomed eight to 20 people and met for two weeks, including a follow-up session after three months. The rehabilitation workshops served 247 men and 231 women.

Peace of mind

Hana is one of the 231 women who have received trauma rehabilitation support from Tutapona.

She recalls being afraid ISIS would come to Khanke. “Because of everything I had seen with my eyes,” she said, “It was so hard to live a normal life again. It was so hard to live with those feelings.” Tutapona helps survivors to name, honor and work through feelings of trauma. If left unchecked, the burden of trauma can become too heavy to bear.

For Hana, the workshop not only offered a gentle space to recount and examine her experiences, but also an opportunity to hope for a future she may not have envisioned for herself. “Now, I’m thinking in a positive way,” she said. “I’m much better than before. I want to finish school and go to college and have a future. I’m believing in God that good things will happen to me.”

You can Give Peace this Advent season to Hana and others affected by the traumatic effects of war and displacement. With your generous gift, you can give them the capacity to envision new scenes for themselves, scenes full of renewal and hope.


Sara Logeman is the content strategist for Global Ministries.

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