For many Yazidi refugees, unbearable
life conditions lead to suicide

In the last 3 months, there has been an increase in the number of suicide cases among Yazidis in the refugee camps of the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. This is largely due to the absence of treatment for the trauma they have experienced, and the delay in returning them to their home areas.

On March 30, 2020, a refugee woman in KRG committed suicide due to the extremely hard economic conditions in the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps, following tens of young people who had already sought the same escape.

That Yazidi woman, a mother of 4 children in her 40s from Kabarto2 camp in Dohuk province, hanged herself in her tent because she did not have food to give to her children.

On March 15, 2020,  a 17-year-old woman from the same refugee camp in Dohuk, covered her entire body with gasoline and set herself on fire with a lighter in her tent.

Her brother later said: ” After my parents left home in the morning to visit our relatives, I saw her putting the gasoline in a container, I asked her why you are doing that. She said, “I will put it in the heater,” and then she asked me to go to the shop to buy some fruits. But when I went to the shop and stayed there for a while, I saw people run to our tent, and when I got there she was completely burned. I never thought she will do such a thing to herself, because she used to put gasoline in the heater.”

And on March 9, 2020, a 28-year man from the Khanki refugee camp ended his own life by drowning himself in the Khanki lake near the camp. He was a college graduate and still could not get a job a few years of graduation.  And his father and relatives had all been killed by ISIS.

A member of his family said that before throwing himself into the lake, “he called his mother and said ‘I can’t handle this situation anymore’, and ‘please mom forgive me to not be a good son to provide you with all your needs’.”

After the ISIS attacks on Sinjar on August 3, 2014, some were captured, some were killed and put into mass graves, and the majority became refugees in KRG. In some families, no one survived, while in others, just one or two survived. When some of them came back from captivity, they had no one left in their family. The majority who survived ended up living in the IDP camps in Kurdistan.

After being in the refugee camps for almost 6 years now, the Yazidi people are going through very hard economic conditions. This forces a lot of young people to drop out of school. As a result, their mental state deteriorates, often causing severe depression.

Psychologist Firas Rasho, who has been covering the mental health issues in refugee camps for 2 years with different NGOs, spoke about it: “Any society that experiences a trauma like Shingal, results in having a lot of issues — especially mental issues and suicide. The suicide is like any other mental issue, and its main cause is the late treatment from trauma. The delay in returning people to their areas causes an increase in suicide cases and social problems related to domestic violence and underage marriage, day after day, especially if they remain untreated from the trauma.”

During the last three months, the Sinuni Public Hospital has recorded 13 deaths as a result of suicide, and recorded more than 20 cases of those who attempted to commit suicide. And yesterday, March 30, 2020, there were 3 attempted suicides. One of those died, and two are being treated. 

In the refugee camps, the total number of suicides have totaled about 25 — in just the last two months.