Wednesday 20 September 2017

Irish charity helps Yazidi survivors of Isil slavery

A Yazidi girl photographed by Calvin James of the Dublin-based Syria Vibes charity
A Yazidi girl photographed by Calvin James of the Dublin-based Syria Vibes charity

Ruaidhrí Giblin in Kurdistan

An Irish charity is seeking donations to help the former sex slaves of Isil militants.

Syrias Vibes is seeking to fund a psychologist to work with Yazidi women, after their psychologist's contract with an Italian NGO expired three weeks ago.

The Yazidis, an ethno-religious minority based mainly in northern Iraq, were targeted by Isil in a "convert or die" campaign in the summer of 2014.

Up to 5,000 men and boys were slaughtered and up to 7,000 women and children were taken into captivity where, it's believed, as many as 3,000 remain.

The women were sold as slaves in markets and researchers who've interviewed survivors describe their trauma as the "most distressing" they've ever encountered.

Calvin James, a Dublin-born DJ and special needs assistant, set up Syrias Vibes last year and has raised enough cash from Irish donors to buy an ambulance and life-saving equipment.

Last year Mr James volunteered for the Kurdish Red Crescent in Syria, at immense risk to himself. He is now focusing on a new project for survivors of the Yazidi genocide after visiting several camps in the region and discovering a total absence of support for former sex slaves.

"I was in Bajed Kandala [refugee] camp in Dohuk province [northern Iraq] which is home to 7,000 Yazidi survivors of the genocide by Isil of 2014," he told the Irish Independent in the Kurdistan region. "The camp sees around five people returning from captivity a week. They've been abused sexually and physically. Some survivors had been sold upwards of 15 times within Isil," he said.

"The UNHCR agency provides families with food and shelter, that's it. Services such as counselling and psychology are skeletal.

"So we at Syrias Vibes came across a psychologist who was being funded by an Italian NGO. Her contract expired two weeks ago so we took it over. She sees 25 survivors a month. This service costs €2,000 to run so we're aiming to keep this running as long as possible, hopefully beyond the end of the war too."

You can find out more about Syrias Vibes' latest funding project at https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/scoop/syriasvibes3 or go to syriasvibes.com. Mr James regularly hosts fundraising events in Dublin. A list of upcoming events is regularly published on Syrias Vibes' website and Facebook page.

Irish Independent

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