Mona and Samir, a new chance
Published 11th January 2019
In August 2014, ISIS attacked the Iraqi town of Sinjar, targeting the Yezidi community. They executed men and abducted thousands women and children. Mona and Samir, a mother and son. were amongst them. Soon, 8 year-old Samir was separated from his mother.
Mona was sold as a slave in Mosul, and subjected to two years of physical, sexual, and emotional violence before her relatives found her and paid for her freedom. To protect her, they took her to Chamesku camp in northern Iraq.
When we first met her, Mona was distressed and traumatised from her experiences and suffered horrible nightmares and flashbacks. She was terrified that she would be kidnapped again. At Doctors of the World’s Health Care Centre, she was referred to a mental health specialists to start treating the psychological wounds.
A year later, Samir was also found and brought to the camp to be reunited with his mother.
He had lived for three years under ISIS rule and been kept as a servant where he was subjected to severe abuse and propaganda. He was trained in methods of violence and learnt how to make explosive devices, how to use different weapons and witnessed torture, and beheadings.
When he first came to the camp, his behaviour was not typical for a child his age. Samir was had strong radical beliefs and no interest in socializing with other children or adults. Mona reported that he was aggressive at home and he continued to follow ISIS activities on social media and TV. He refused the support of mental health worker due to her gender and because she did not wear a hijab.
In the beginning, it was important to not put pressure on Samir to change his beliefs but to take time to build his trust and get him the support needed. Mona had to show unconditional love and acceptance, and avoid ideological debates. His mother has helped establish a new and healthy daily routine. Everyday activities for a boy his age, like helping his mother in the house, socialising with other children and playing sports were new to him. He now joins activities with other children his own age, and happily socialises, showing good communication skills.