Savan Abdulrahman – Iraqi Kurdistan
Chamchamal Zoo garden in Kurdistan, Chamchamal, provides therapy to survivors and victims of violence.
The project managers of the zoo are targeting help for those who were traumatised by the Anfal Genocide and the ISIS victims.
The original idea of the garden comes from Salah Ahmad, the manager of Jiyan foundation which supports survivors of human rights violations, defends fundamental freedoms and promotes democratic values in Iraq and Syria.
The garden was formally opened in 2018 by the attendance of Kurdistan Regional Government authorities and international NGO’s.
Aras Hiwa, the psychotherapist at the Jiyan foundation said “In this garden we explored and used our own cultural ideas such as mud and wooden houses. We redesigned them in a modern way. The bricks we’ve used can remain solid for fifty years.”
When you enter the garden, the smell of the grass and the view of nature pleasantly surprises you, Aras added “We have nearly eight to nine mud houses for birds, donkeys, deer, sheep, cats, dogs, hamsters and many other types of animals. Along with that we have empty mud houses designed for mental health therapy.”
In answer to the question of why Chamchamal was chosen to be the location for this garden, Aras explained “Many people are in need of mental health services in this district. They need to reconcile with their district because they are both survivors and victims. Especially Shorsh district, because when the genocide happened in 1987 this district was among the first districts that faced violence. Many civilians here are traumatised. That’s the reason why established the centre here in Chamchamal.”
Aras said “Though the first generation of this trauma managed to make it through life, the trauma has been transformed onto the second generation and the aftermath has taken it’s toll on their mental health. They are the holders of the second phase trauma.”
The aim of the project is to target the mental health of the people who have suffered trauma and resulting mental health issues. Especially women and children who survived ISIS.
Aras said “An atmosphere such as this can be useful in providing therapy to address the mental health of our clients.”
The staff at the centre want to also give the message that animals are in no way harmful and that they too also need to be well treated. Their message is to tell people that animals are our friends and they can be beneficial and calming for the mental health of humans.