Yazidis in Iraq
Question: How to increase social mobility for Diaspora communities?
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. Five years on, while the war against ISIS has ended, majority of these Yazidis remain in limbo as internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps.
Rebuilding Iraq and reviving its economy are key 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
Financial, cultural and social capital for Yazidi IDPs can be increased by creating opportunities for livelihood. This will be done in a manner that restores dignity, with a view to raising their social mobility in the long run.
Yazidis are experienced in agriculture but do not have the resources to run their own farms as IDPs in Iraqi Kurdistan. To tap on the strengths of the community and create opportunities for livelihood, we will be partnering with farmers from China to recruit six Yazidi IDPs living in camps in Zakho to work on a 10-acre farmland in Duhok (a neighboring area to Zakho) that the Chinese farmers recently established.
Besides employment, we will facilitate cross-sharing of skills in agriculture and irrigation technology between the Yazidis and Chinese. We will also create opportunities for building of relationships and cross-cultural exchange, which can help to raise the cultural and social capital of the IDPs. The feasibility of Yazidi IDPs starting a community garden within the camps, or renting their own plot of land closer to the camps and running their own farm for subsistence and income will also be explored.
The covid-19 pandemic hit in the midst of this project, and 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 technological solutions. This would involve the partnering of 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.