The pain of exile

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Science  19 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6339, pp. 682-685
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6339.682

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Hazim Shingali and his family had no time to gather their belongings on 3 August 2014, when they heard that armed Islamic State (IS) group fighters were storming toward their town of Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan. The college student, his parents, and his five younger sisters fled on foot to an arid mountain near the Syrian border, along with about 50,000 other Yezidis, members of a religious minority. Members of the IS group massacred 3100 Yezidis who stayed behind, and abducted some 6800 women and children. Shingali and his family escaped grave bodily harm, but like thousands of other exiled Yezidis they are a case study of the psychological challenges that refugees face at every stage of forced migration, from the initial trauma of upheaval to the stress of uncertain asylum status and eventual resettlement. Yet psychologists and psychiatrists working with Yezidis also note their resilience, stemming in part from their tight-knit communities and the rituals and storytelling traditions that have helped them weather centuries of persecution.

  • * This reporting was made possible by a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism.