In August 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launched a brutal genocide against the Yazidis in Sinjar, Iraq, prompting tens of thousands to flee north to Iraqi Kurdistan. Several years on, while the war against ISIS has ended, Sinjar has yet to be rebuilt, and continues to be contested by various armed factions. For the Yazidis, fears over safety in their hometowns is compounded by lingering trauma of past events, even as many of their family members remain missing today. The majority thus remain in limbo as internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps.
Rebuilding Iraq and reviving its economy are important long-term solutions to addressing the plight of IDPs, and efforts are underway. Given the scale and complexity of the issues the country faces, however, compounded by the recent political turmoil, protracted displacement of IDPs seems an eventuality. This has its own set of challenges: Limited access to livelihoods translates to continued reliance on humanitarian assistance and being trapped in poverty. Lack of meaningful employment with no end in sight can also take a toll on wellbeing and mental health.
This project was originally structured with a focus on creating livelihood opportunities through farming. But when Covid-19 hit, we realized we had to find ways to work with the community on a sustained basis, even when physical access to the camps – or even country – is limited. We are thus currently exploring how to blend participatory, asset-based community development with technology solutions. What this looks like is partnering with young, driven IDPs as change agents in their own communities, supporting them with a range of skills, resources and connections to a larger global community, and journeying with them (in person and online) as they take the lead to design and implement local solutions.
Camps for internally displaced people in Northern Iraq
Members of the Yazidi community host Project Lead Heidi (L) in a tent within the camp