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Traumatized: Children's Psychological Health in Kurdistan

By Rozh A

Kurdish children at a refugee camp in Zakho, Southern Kurdistan, 1991. (Omnia)

For a long time Southern Kurdistan has been attacked by the Turkish government.

Usually the bombs land near village, and at least a few times the bombs have landed near Duhok, a big city in Southern Kurdistan (also called Bashur by the Kurdish community). This article will only focus on Kurdish children and their mental health.

War has a big impact on the Kurdish people, mostly children. So what does it


Children see war as danger, worry, change, no security. Not only does war

affect children in a horrible way, but also their families. Usually in West Asia families don't take mental illness as an actual sickness, they either see it as a kid being rebellious or lazy. These kids, just as us in the diaspora have mental illness, often have mental illnesses such as PTSD, Bipolar disorder, Autism, ADHD, Schizophrenia, Tourettes and so on.

My experience:

As a Kurdish woman who has lived in Kurdistan, I have I realized a lot of things about the problems facing us, particularly in Southern Kurdistan. One of those many things I realized was that Kurdish children don't get the help they need.

One time I went to the hospital in Akre, I met a boy who was there with his dad. He was quiet, withdrawn and he looked really sad and tired. The Kurdish health system is different in many ways than the healthcare system in the diaspora. When we met with the doctor the door was open, so I waited in the same room as the boy who was with his dad. The dad explained to the doctor that he's still sad and that he has trouble sleeping and eating. The doctor said that he will get better on his own, dismissing everything the dad said. After the dad looked frustrated, annoyed and scared. He knew something was wrong, from my perspective it looked like the kid had depression. I'm no professional but I knew he needed help and his problems were completely dismissed. I wanted to tell his dad that he should right away take his son to a psychiatrist but I didn't. I regret it to this day, that I stayed quiet instead of leading his dad to a


During the four months I stayed in Southern Kurdistan recently I met some of my cousins and their parents, who visited me since it had been a long time they had seen me. Many kids around 8-10 years old were very hyper. I also noticed that their parents didn't mind it. This time I didn't stay quiet. I told one of their mothers that their kid might have ADHD and he should get medicated for it because his behavior will affect his school experience and his future. As someone who has ADHD, I know how hard school was for me. I even dropped out because I could never focus, could never finish assignments and never got good grades. When I finally got medicated everything changed, I could focus and do things as non-ADHD people do. Back when I told the parents their kids might have ADHD, the mother looked at me like I had accused her son of being

crazy. She told me there is nothing wrong with her son, and that all mental illnesses are false. That people who get treated for mental illnesses are dumb because there is nothing wrong with them, they just need to turn to God and their life will change. This was her response. It seemed as though she felt like I had attacked her, which of course I did not. After that interaction I felt bad for her son, who needed help but would probably never get it.

In contrast, much of my family on my mother’s side is open-minded. They know that if someone starts showing symptoms of mental illness they take that person to a psychiatrist.

So what is the solution for this problem?

I wrote this article because I realized this should be talked about more. What needs to be done is very obvious and the answer is in front of our eyes. We need to advocate for our people back home.

It should be taught in schools, by the government, teaching families, and

having presentations in different cities. For kids to get the help they need, to get medicated or treated the way they feel the most comfortable with.


The point of this article is to not only raise awareness on children's mental

health issues, but also to raise awareness on how little the Kurdish community in Kurdistan actually knows about different types of illnesses. I know many activists and workers who have advocated for and support these children, but it needs more attention. We as a community need to realize how big of a problem this actually is, as these children are our future generation. All I want is for them to feel okay, feel like they have support, know that there is a solution for their problems, for the betterment of their wellbeing.

Poetry dedicated for our future generation in Kurdistan, the children:

Children of fire, seeing no light in the tunnel.

Feeling alone in their struggle, their life becomes a puzzle.

Their life feels like fire, frustrated and keeps burning.

All they feel is a desire, but people deny her.

I want you to know that you are admired.

Someday you will feel inspired.

Someday your life will feel lighter.

Don't let anyone else be the driver, in your life you are the only supplier.

We are here, for your every tear lights a chandelier.

You are not alone, let that be known.

You can seek help on your own, get out of your zone.

We are here for you, and everyone else.

When you tell people of your problems, some may disagree,

don't listen to those people. Because there is a way for you to be free.

Only you have the key.

- Rozh A



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