About the project

The recent wars in Syria and Iraq, labelled as the worst human disaster since WWII, have had incalculable effects for the civilian populations in terms of forced displacement and human suffering.

Through July 2016, more than 4.8 million Syrians were officially registered as refugees in neighbouring countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt) and 7.6 million IDPs (Internally Displaced People).

Religion has become increasingly relevant in Migration and Refugee studies

Proportionally a big number of refugees have an ethno-religious minority background;. More than half of these populations in Syria and Iraq have been displaced.

In Iraq, the number of Christians has dwindled from approximately 1.5 million to between 250,000 and 500,000. The Yazidis reported that since 2005 their population decreased by nearly 200,000 to approximately 500,000.

Christians in Syria in 2011 numbered approximately 10% of the population of 22 million. From the beginning of the Syrian civil war 40% of Christians have left the country, while at the time of writing it is believed that about two thirds have left the country. These statistics are estimates only, as it is very difficult to gather reliable data.

These vulnerable groups were targeted by the Islamic State in the summer of 2014 and confronted with different forms of persecution, such as expulsions from their houses, imposing the Jizya tax, or conversion to Islam, became victims of mass raids, kidnappings, killings and destruction of their cultural heritage.

This added to their collectively experienced suffering resulting from earlier similar forms of persecution, for example the genocide of 1915, massacres and persecutions before and during the Saddam regime, and an economic and socio-political emigration resulting in becoming uprooted.

The extent of the displacement and emigration of Christians, Yazidis and other ethno-religious minorities from the Middle East has attracted the attention of eminent scholars who fear that the presence of these indigenous groups in the region is endangered.

We consider it important to support refugees of vulnerable groups to find tools to improve their collective and self image, as this is one of the most damaged aspects due to the war

Based on our research among these populations, we conclude the presence of discourses of having become uprooted and fearing cultural extinction embedded in individual and collective narratives and that these narratives and meaning systems influence adaptive responses and help-seeking behaviour today in their new host countries.

In some of our studies we have used the instrument of Fear of cultural extinction, consisting of five items, developed by psychiatrists Nickerson et al. (2009) for use among Mandaeans. We have adjusted and translated this instrument for the case of Syrian refugees.

The research project “Gilgamesh: Untold Experiences of Vulnerable Groups” is co-financed by the Swedish Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.