In a major effort to support victims of the Yazidi genocide, Bar-Ilan University and IsraAID partnered to provide crucial professional training to those who are treating them. Eighteen Yazidi, Muslim, and Christian female mental health workers were discreetly brought from the Kurdistan region of Iraq to Israel this summer for a first-of-its-kind, intensive two-week workshop teaching them how to treat the symptoms of Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) and other trauma.
Over the past four years, Bar-Ilan University researchers Dr. Yaakov Hoffman, of the Interdisciplinary Department of Social Sciences, and Prof. Ari Zivotofsky, of the Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, have conducted studies among Yazidi women held captive by Islamic State. They found that over 50% of them suffer from C-PTSD, while 23% suffer from standard post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Though C-PTSD is a fundamentally different disorder than PTSD, they discovered that in best case scenarios, the women have only been treated for PTSD. The researchers say that administering PTSD intervention for C-PTSD is not only incorrect, it may even be detrimental.
“We feel a moral obligation not only to study the effects of genocide, but to share our know-how to assist those suffering from it,” says Dr. Hoffman. To this end, participants in the workshop received training in specially-tailored seminars on PTSD, C-PTSD, depression, suicide, insomnia, and more. Seminars were conducted by American and Israeli experts, including Prof. Marylene Cloitre, one of the world’s leading specialists in C-PTSD who focuses on trauma involving captivity and sexual slavery, Prof. Ehud Bodner, Dr. Yaakov Hoffman, Prof. Amit Shrira, and Dr. Joel Petashnik, of Bar-Ilan University’s Interdisciplinary Department of Social Sciences.
“We see efforts like this as our responsibility as a university to take our research, our knowledge, and our understanding one step forward in order to generate real, positive impact in the world.” says University President Prof. Arie Zaban.
Prof. Zaban thanked the generous supporters of the project: Mrs. Rachel Gindi and Alan and Barbara Gindi were the predominant funders, along with the Hitter Family Foundation and Alan Zekelman.
Contact between Bar-Ilan University researchers and the Yazidis in Kurdistan was facilitated by the German-based, Yazidi humanitarian Dr. Mirza Dinnayi, who assisted 1,000 Yazidi women escape and resettle in Germany, and was instrumental in bringing the current group to Israel.
The program was made possible through the generosity of Rachel Gindi and Alan and Barbara Gindi, the predominant funders, along with the Hitter Family Foundation and Alan Zekelman.
During the course of their visit to Israel, the German ambassador to Israel hosted a reception in their honor. Workshop participants also visited Yad Vashem, an Israeli Druze community, Jerusalem and its holy sites, and more.
Former Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky greeted the women and spoke about the late Russian nuclear physicist, dissident, Nobel laureate, and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov. Sharansky was a close aide and friend of Sakharov, and was particularly interested to meet workshop participant Lamiya Aji Bashar, a former ISIS captive who today is a human rights activist. Lamiya Aji Bashar won the 2016 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought with human rights advocate Nadia Murad.