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Faith Matters

Faith Matters - The Church Program

Welcoming Syrian Refugees - Asylum in Kurdistan

Watch video 26:02

Dmiz Refugee Camp is located on the outskirts of Dohuk, in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, some 70 kilometers from the Syrian border. It was constructed to accommodate 10,000 persons but an estimated 70,000 are living there now: refugees from the civil war in Syria.

Dmiz Camp has developed into a fully-fledged town, with its own schools and mosques, currency exchanges and soccer fields. Many Syrian refugees want to remain in Iraqi-Kurdistan. For they have freedom of movement here, as opposed to refugees in Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon. The regional government provides them with work and residence permits.

Most of the refugees are Kurdish and Christian. Before the uprising, they suffered human rights violations at the hands the Syrian regime: intimidation, imprisonment without trial, torture, kidnapping and the targeted killing of political activists. Many of them are severely traumatized.

This report focuses on Salah Ahmad and his work with traumatized refugees. Salah Ahmad is himself Iraqi-born, and divides his time between the German capital, Berlin, and the Iraqi-Kurdistan city of Erbil. In Domiz Camp he has set up a treatment center for victims of human rights violations. It’s a branch of the Iraqi organization ‘Kirkuk Center for Torture Victims’, and is subsidized by the German Catholic aid organization, Misereor, in co-operation with the Berlin Center for the Victims of Torture. A doctor and two psychologists treat more than 400 people here each month. They include many women and children who can no longer sleep or eat properly. Some of them experience mysterious physical pain or are unable to talk. We report on these people in their distress, tell their stories and reveal their hopes of leading a normal life, without violence.

Salah Ahmad explains how traumatized people are severely disadvantaged in life. They need our help. A society that has only ever experienced violence will always remain a damaged society – a violent one.