Give back childhood

For a long time, the Kurdish areas in the border region of Syria, Iraq and Turkey have been the target of attacks from different directions - after pushing back ISIS, Turkey in particular is now trying to expand its military influence in the region. Many refugees and IDPs have found refuge in the city of Erbil. Trauma therapist and CCP alumna Sargul Naboureh looks after them.

Sargul, you studied sociology and psychology and are now working as a trauma therapist, mainly with children in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. When did you know you wanted to work in this field?

Sargul Naboureh: I was working as a social worker at an elementary school in Erbil, Kurdistan when the war in neighbouring Syria began in 2011. Suddenly, tens of thousands of people sought refuge in Iraq, mainly in Kurdistan. The situation got worse after ISIS seized Mosul in 2014 and millions of Iraqis were forced to leave their homes, among them numerous children.

"War had taken their childhood from them"

At school, I noticed that many of the children were traumatised and needed special support. War had taken their childhood from them, and that really touched my heart. This motivated me to study psychology and to specialise in trauma therapy.

You are currently working at Green Desert, an NGO based in Erbil. What does your work look like?

Sargul Naboureh: Keeping in mind the effect traumatising experiences can have on a person, like a disconnection to feelings and bodily sensations, we try to create an appreciative, supportive and stabilising environment by offering a range of different activities, such as entertainment, gaming and non-formal education. In addition to individual psychotherapy sessions, we also offer stress management training, both for refugees and IDPs as well as for the host community. It is important to offer support to the whole community, not just to a certain part of it, such as refugees and IDPs, in order to prevent conflicts between different groups.

To help people heal from traumatic events and heal emotional stress, Sargul (Naboureh) works with different therapeutic methods such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. © private/Sargul Naboureh

Creating an appreciative, stabilising environment

What are the biggest professional challenges you are currently facing?

Sargul Naboureh: One issue is project-based funding, which is limited in terms of time and money and thus contrasts with the needs we see at our locations where we have a large number of people in need of psychological support and long-term and specialised treatment. This setting would require a bigger team, including specialised staff, who are able to support the community for a longer period of time.

On international Red Hand Day the team of Green Desert stood up against the employment of child soldiers. © Green Desert

Conflict resolution is central to living in a community

What is your highlight or biggest takeaway from the CCP Fellowship and the collaboration with TraumaAid?

Sargul Naboureh: I have learned that one of the most valuable skills human activists can have is conflict resolution. During the CCP fellowship, we gained a greater understanding of peace and conflict, possible causes as well as intervention strategies. I found it fascinating to learn about how migration and related concerns might lead to societal conflict. I spread the CCP message in my job by attempting to raise awareness about the existence of child-friendly spaces for internally displaced people, refugees, and children from the host community to become local peacebuilders in NGOs in Kurdistan. I aim to be able to train children to help them develop their conflict resolution skills for their future.


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Sargul Naboureh

Sargul Naboureh is a mental health and psychosocial support worker at Green Desert, Erbil. Naboureh has completed degrees in Sociology and Psychology. She was a CCP Fellow at TraumaAid Germany in 2021.