Help-seeking, trust and intimate partner violence: social connections amongst displaced and non-displaced Yezidi women and men in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq

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Alison Strang, Oonagh O'Brien, Maggie Sandilands & Rebecca Horn

Conflict and Health volume 14, Article number: 61 (2020) Cite this article

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Background Conflict and displacement impact the social fabric of communities through the disruption of social connections and the erosion of trust. Effective humanitarian assistance requires understanding the social capital that shapes patterns of help-seeking in these circumstances - especially with stigmatised issues such as violence against women (VAW) and intimate partner violence (IPV).

Methods A novel social mapping methodology was adopted amongst a Yezidi population displaced by ISIS (ISIS: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, locally known as Da’esh) occupation and a neighbouring settled Yezidi population in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq in late 2016. Six participatory workshops were conducted to identify available resources with respect to: meeting basic needs, dispute resolution and VAW. Subsequently, 51 individual interviews were conducted (segmented by gender and settlement status) to identify connectedness to, and trust in, the resources identified, with a focus on IPV against women.

Results 90% of participants reported God as a key source of help in the previous 6 months, representing the most widely cited resource. Following God, the most accessed and trusted resources were family and community, with NGO (non-governmental organisation) provision being the least. Women drew more strongly upon familial resources than men (Χ2 = 5.73, df = 1, p = 0.017). There was reduced trust in resources in relation to seeking help with IPV. A distinction between trust to provide emotional support and trust to resolve issues was identified. Settled women were 1.6 times more likely to trust community members and government services and 3.7 times more likely to trust NGOs than displaced women.

Conclusions Mapping social connections and trust provides valuable insight into the social capital available to support help-seeking in populations of humanitarian concern. For these Yezidi populations, family, religious and community resources were the most widely utilised and trusted. Trust was mostly reserved for family and their main religious leader regarding IPV against women. Lack of trust appeared to be a major barrier to stronger engagement with available NGO provision, particularly amongst displaced women. The role of faith and religious resources for this population is clearly significant, and warrants an explicitly faith-sensitive approach to humanitarian assistance.