Syrian refugees in Iraq; a Survivor’s Journey Towards Making a Difference

Adolescents are subjected to a fair amount of changes at the early stages of their lives. These changes can be physical, psychological, emotional, sexual and others. Yet, despite the fact that change is the essence of life, young people find it hard to embrace it.


In times of war, these natural changes are topped with trauma and shock. In Syria, the devastating seven-year-long war destroyed most parts of the country, leading to the displacement of hundred thousands of people. Many have sought refuge in neighbouring countries like Iraq.
Aysheh was only 15 years old when she and her family fled Qamishli, north-eastern Syria, to find refuge in Iraq in 2014. They landed in Domiz 1 camp for Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. However, the miserable livelihood conditions pressured her father to travel to Europe seeking better job opportunities.
“I was devastated; not only had I lost my friends and home, but now my father was leaving. I remember consoling myself that day and saying that at least I was fortunate to continue my education. I had plans to obtain a degree and then, when we return home, to work on rebuilding my community and country,” said Aysheh.
However, two years later, her stepmother decided to take her out of school and marry her off to a 45-year-old man; 28 years her senior.
Feeling helpless, the then-teenager sought help from the women centre in the camp where she told them her story. The women centre reached out to the stepmother and explained to her the risks of early marriage and the repercussions it would have on the young girl. Luckily, the intervention was successful, and the social workers convinced the step-mother to allow Aysheh to go back to school and complete her education.
“I would not be exaggerating if I said that that was the best day of my life; I couldn’t believe it,” she recalled. “I had given up on the idea of having a normal life again; I felt my life had meaning again.”
Shortly after, the young woman became a regular, at the women centre attending all the sessions given and when a part-time volunteering opportunity at the centre rose, Aysheh applied and was selected.
“I feel content when I help women who are going through hard times; they talk to me, I listen and advise them. Besides, the sum that I get in return helps me support my sibling and our family,” she added.
“My goal right now is to advocate against early and child marriages through the awareness sessions and activities conducted at the centre,” concluded the 19-year-old
Domiz 1 camp is home to close to 5,608 Syrian refugees families who fled the war seeking a haven. UNFPA supports a reproductive health unit within the Domiz hospital, a youth centre and a women’s social centre. These centres provide young people and women counselling, psychosocial support, awareness sessions, recreational activities, and life-skills courses.
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Additional Info

  • Agency: UNFPA
Last modified on Tuesday, 22 May 2018 10:48

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