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Bellwether International Stories of Resilience #2

HEALING: Support for Yazidi Women’s Center in Iraq Promotes Recovery and Flourishing

One of Bellwether’s earliest and longest-spanning projects has been support for a Yazidi women’s center in Iraq. In 2014, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or Daesh, invaded Sinjar leading to tremendous violence and persecution against the Yazidi people. ISIS committed human rights violations and atrocities against the  Yazidi people, massacring men and enslaving thousands of women and trafficking them regionally. Many of these women and girls lived in captivity for years and were subject to unimaginably cruel and inhuman treatment. In the wake of this trauma, many Yazidis fled Sinjar for the safety of IDP camps in Kurdistan.


Since 2021, Bellwether has worked with the Free Yazidi Foundation to fund staffing and operations of a Women’s Trauma Center in Sheikhan. With Bellwether’s support, the center now provides support and mental health services for women and children recovering from the trauma of the ISIS occupation. Since implementing a new mental health program this year, 2022, the center now has several social workers trained in cognitive-behavioral group therapy (CBT) techniques which are designed to help individuals and communities process complex trauma. In addition, this November, in collaboration with the University of Utah DNP Mental Health Program, Bellwether was thrilled to deliver mental health guide books to further assist our social workers and support post-genocide communities in Sheikhan and beyond.

Finally, as part of our commitment to sharing the stories of resilience from the Yazidi community, Bellwether sponsored a category “Honoring Yazidi People and Culture” in its inaugural Freedom of Religion or Belief Art Contest. The first prize winner in this category, Mia Hampton Sadler, said of her piece:

“I am passionate about using art to inspire empathy and engage people in some of the most pressing issues of our time, including human rights, refugee care, and environmental conservation. In this piece, it was important to me to convey both the truth of the past, but also hope for the future, as seen specifically through the women who are impacted by genocide. The Yazidi woman in this piece has her eyes closed– burdened by the weight of the pain and suffering she has both endured and witnessed– but her face is turned toward the sky, under the light of a new day, with a sense of peace and hope for the future. She is surrounded by beautiful temples and foliage of the Garden of Eden to remind us of the rich history of the Yazidi people, and to symbolize how she stands on the shoulders of giants, the people who have come before her. The title is in honor of the meaning of the word Yazidi. I hope this artwork inspires us to remember that we are more than the pain we experience. We are agents for change. Weare hope and the future.”

Sunrise Over the Servants of the Creator, Digital ink, watercolor, charcoal, and acrylic on canvas

As we prepare to embark upon the new year, in 2023 Bellwether plans to continue our commitment to supporting locally-led initiatives and organizations working towards empowerment and reconciliation for Yazidis in Iraq and around the world. 


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