The Trauma Stories of Iraqi Refugees

October 6, 2008

A recent article from The Daily Iowan covered the work of Noah Merrill, a native of Vermont who has done humanitarian work with Direct Aid Iraq. Since his involvement with the organization in 2007, Merrill has been traveling around the country to defend the human rights of those who have been displaced.

While the article is focused on the work of an American in Iraq rather than the plethora of issues facing refugees, the opening paragraph captured my attention in highlighting the reality of trauma and the need for healing:

Noah Merrill expected to interview two, maybe three, Iraqi refugees inside of a small home in Jordan. But when word spread that an American wanted to hear their stories, more than a dozen families showed up, desperate to be heard. The refugees filled the cramped room for hours, one at a time telling tales of sad goodbyes to their country, to their homes.

The Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, under the leadership of Dr. Richard Mollica, has done extensive research and documentation on the role of the refugee story in the healing and recovery process. While Merrill was surprised so many were willing to share their painful stories, for refugees, telling and retelling their stories not only affirmed that violence and pain was inflicted on them, but it is a psychological coping mechanism for trauma.

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