Safin’s Journey to Safety

Twelve-year-old Safin is just one of the thousands of children in northern Iraq who has been forced to witness terrible violence. His long journey to the safety of a refugee camp was fraught with danger - but he has now begun to rebuild his resilience. This is his story

Safin’s life with his mother, two sisters and two brothers near the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar was a simple one. His brother Kameran and his uncle worked and supported the family because Safin’s father had passed away. Safin attended school and was considered one of the smartest students in his class.

Safin’s life changed in 2014 when ISIS forces entered his village and unleashed a campaign of violence. He witnessed ISIS fighters behead and murder women, children and other innocent people. They killed his uncle in front of his eyes. Safin and his family were forced to leave his uncle’s body behind in order to run to safety.

The family were forced to walk for days in the middle of summer - with no water or food. Eventually they reached the safety of Duhok, where they went to live in a camp. They had to start their life again, with no income to meet their basic daily needs.

Building resilience

safinThese traumatic experiences had a significant effect on Safin. His memories of life under ISIS control and the hard journey his family undertook left Safin living in fear. He was plagued by insomnia - and when he finally could sleep he suffered nightmares in which ISIS fighters were coming to kill him as well.

Safin began attending sessions at a Child Friendly Space run by War Child. He took part in activities with many other children his age - all of whom experienced the same fears he did. Yet, despite the many things they had in common, Safin initially struggled to socialise with the other children.

Safin enrolled in War Child’s life skills course I DEAL which helped him to process the trauma he had experienced. The training helped him regain his normal personality. Safin’s behaviour began to improve - particularly when he took part in sessions addressing peace and conflict. He started to socialise with other children and gradually let go of his fear. Safin now sleeps free from nightmares.

Safin has now enrolled in school and is excited to resume his education.