Earlier this week, we visited Chamchamal, to talk about psychology education with the President and Vice-President of Charmo University. Since one of the greatest constraints to delivering quality mental health and psychosocial support services to the survivors of ISIS, we are investing in building the skills of future psychologists and service providers.

You can’t visit Chamchamal without confronting the horrors and the tragedies of that place and recognizing the mental health needs that exist there today. As we work to address the needs of the current crisis, we are never far from decades of persecution and violence. Chamchamal is known as the “capital of Anfal and Martyrs.” The Anfal Campaign was a series of systematic genocidal attacks perpetrated by the Ba’ath regime between 1986 and 1989 against the Kurdish population. At the Anfal Museum and Monument, we looked at the stages of that war and remembered the victims. Every family in Chamchamal has martyrs from that era and this new war with ISIS takes more precious loved ones. We also went to their new museum for those killed by ISIS which was very powerful. Such loss, such grief in every home and yet they wear it as a badge of honor.

The victims of Anfal in Kurdistan have never really had the opportunity to receive psychological and other psychosocial services, and the needs are great. While the psychological effects of the victims of Anfal and decades of violence in the Kurdistan Region have not been fully studied, they are evident in society, and remain untreated.

This painful history is a central part of the Kurdish psyche – to live and work in Kurdistan and to truly understand its people, you must first listen to the pain, internalize the stories, and understand. I feel humbled by the resiliency in the people, who survived this past, and who seek to meet the needs of their population in their work today.

Thank you to Dr. Sala Raza Saeed, President and Dr. Shwan Kamal Rachid, Vice President of Charmo University for meeting with us and taking us to see the Anfal Museum and Monument of Chamchamal.  Check out our photos.