We have seen a distinct rise in traumatic experiences in the Middle East during the last decade. The complex Israeli / Palestinian situation is no nearer a resolution, and the Iraq War started in 2003 has created a chaotic situation with daily terror for its citizens. The post Arab Spring situation in Syria and other neighbouring countries still gripped by civil war continues to cause displacement, death and poverty across the entire region.
The demand for help with psychological wounds caused by the trauma of war is overwhelming and the resources to assist are scarce.
The Project began in November 2013. Thirty mental health practitioners from Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey’s refugee camps began their Trauma Aid UK EMDR Training in Istanbul. It was delivered in Arabic by Mona Zagrout, an EMDR Trainer from Palestine and her team of facilitators. Emre Konuk, an EMDR Trainer in Turkey, generously provided his premises for training.
In 2015 another group of 28 clinicians from the Middle East completed their EMDR training in Istanbul with Mona Zagrout and her team. Again, participants were from Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Syrians working in refugee camps in Turkey.
In 2016 a full EMDR training was held in Gaziantep on the Turkish/Syrian border with the majority of the participants working with Syrian refugees in the refugee camps and communities in that area. A total of 28 participants completed their training with Sian Morgan, an EMDR Accredited Trainer, and Dr. Walid Abdul-Hamid and Dr. Khaled Sultan – both EMDR Accredited Consultants, acting as facilitators and interpreters. Our hosts were the Syrian Mental Health Association who are based in Gaziantep. Four participants from the first cohort also assisted as trainee facilitators.
In April 2017, at the Association’s conference in Gaziantep, all 86 trainees from the three cohorts are invited to attend a training in G-Tep/R-Tep EMDR Protocols (for groups) which will be provided by Asena Yurtsever from HAP Turkey.
In addition, those working with children will be able to attend a Part 1 EMDR Child Training with Prof. Umran Kormaziar, also from Turkey. The training will be translated into Arabic.
Mental health workers trained by Trauma Aid UK were very enthusiastic about EMDR and pleased to have a method that they can use immediately to help relieve the suffering of refugees and locals. They continue to be supported by Skype both from UK EMDR Accredited Consultants and Arabic-speaking Accredited EMDR Practitioners and Consultants. Dr. Khaled Sultan frequently goes to Turkey to offer support to those working locally as well as providing treatment to Syrian refugees.
The project is co-ordinated by Dr. Walid Abdul-Hamid who also runs a WhatsApp group to provide supervision and support.
According to the training team, it is a humbling experience to work with clinicians whose daily lives are at the coal face of trauma. This is the beginning of a continuing Trauma Aid UK project in response to the region’s conflict.
Summary: in the Middle East so far, Trauma Aid UK has:
- Trained 86 clinicians
- Trained clinicians from more than eight countries
- Provided training in Arabic
- Equipped clinicians to provide EMDR in their home countries with ongoing support
- The majority of trainees are working directly with refugees
On the ground, Istanbul is one of the few relatively safe venues in the region in which to deliver EMDR training. There are also many travel restrictioins in the area which can prevent participants attending. This can be costly in terms of travel and accommodation.
Trauma Aid UK Trustees would like to express their thanks to:
- Middle East Co-ordinators
- Dr Walid Abdul-Hamid, Consultant Psychiatrist and an EMDR Accredited Consultant
- Dr Derek Indoe, Consultant Clinical and Forensic Psychologist and an EMDR Accredited Consultant
- Dr Khalid Sultan
- Dr Hamodi Kayal
- The team of Supervisors who provide support – some in English and some in Arabic
To conclude, some warming comments from the Istanbul trainees:
“For the first time we have been given a new complete approach of therapy, and not a disorganised approach that added to our disorganisation.”
“The Arabic examples and experiences (cases) given by lecturers and facilitators enriched the course. The course has given us the motivation for change and cooperation with others.”
“I came from Iraq where I have experienced a lot of stress, but this course has made me able to feel happy that I will be able to help my fellow Iraqis and I liked being in this group.”
“I felt for the first time that we (Arabs) are O.K. In spite of our differences, we managed to work together.”
“This course’s scientific rather than the emotional dialogue might help us overcome crises in the same way (i.e. being enabled to use scientific rather than emotional methods).”