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BORDA at the opening ceremony of the Healing Garden in Chamchamal, Northern Iraq

Healing Garden opening ceremony (photo © 2018 Jiyan Foundation)

On 28 October 2018, BORDA Iraq participated in the opening ceremony of the Healing Garden at the Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights’ Trauma Therapy Centre in Chamchamal, Northern Iraq. The therapeutic garden was created as a safe space for women, children and youth who have experienced domestic violence, abuse and other human rights violations.

“If it was not for this water, none of this could have been possible,” said Mr. Salah Ahmad, President of the Jiyan Foundation during the opening ceremony, in reference to the BORDA-built Decentralised Wastewater Treatment System (DEWATS) that not only treats the centre’s wastewater, but also supplies the garden with water for the plants.

Sustainable water & energy: greywater reuse & biogas

The modular DEWATS system uses no power or chemical inputs and can be tailored to local conditions thanks to its modular design. The DEWATS is an important contribution to the healing centre’s natural resources management, with 100m3 of greywater treated every day.

In addition to the wastewater treatment plant, BORDA built a biogas plant that processes locally generated biodegradable waste and animal manure. Anaerobic bacteria degrade the mass, thereby creating a gas mixture made primarily of methane and carbon dioxide. The gas is used for cooking; the remaining solid mass, rich in concentrated minerals, is used as fertiliser in the centre’s greenhouse. The combination of the wastewater treatment and biogas systems closes the sanitation loop for a sustainable and self-sufficient small community centre and illustrates BORDA’s holistic approach to resources management: waste produced by human activities is collected and transformed to supply the necessary resources for continuing human activities.

Sustainable buildings: employing local traditions

Also of note is the architecture of the buildings, which are adapted to the local climate and culture. Designed by German architectural firm ZRS, the healing centre revisited traditional Kurdish construction methods that do not rely on fossil fuel consumption. The insulating properties of clay mortar, dried brick and stone reduce energy consumption in heating and cooling the centre’s indoor spaces. Moreover, the buildings’ Kurdish aesthetic evokes a feeling of cultural identity that may aid the therapy process.

The Jiyan Foundation

The goal of the Jiyan Foundation’s project is to contribute to post-war recovery with psycho-social support. People from Chamchamal have suffered extreme violence committed by the Islamic State (ISIL). In particular, the Yazidi community – a distinct religious community group from Northern Iraq – was the target of ISIL’s forced conversion campaign, which was classified as a genocide by UNHCR in 2015. Starting in 2014, ISIL declared the Yazidi to be mushrik (idolaters), and began segregating the Yazidi community by gender and systematically killing males. Women and girls were abducted, enslaved and subjected to rape, forced marriage and conversion.

As Mr. Salah Ahmad explained during the Healing Garden ceremony, women were the Healing Garden’s first target group, as a response to the systematic violence against Yazidi women. The centre now welcomes children and men who are victims of abuse and human rights violations.

The Jiyan Foundation has formulated their programme according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see figure 1). Therapists work towards creating a safe space where participants can choose whether they want to directly seek a psychologist’s support or simply partake in the centre’s activities. These activities are either related to garden maintenance (watering the plants or feeding the animals) or are more creatively orientated (baking or play-acting). Each activity contributes to answering one of Maslow’s needs, so that the victims regain a sense of ownership over their lives and develop a sense of belonging to a community.

Protecting human rights & the environment

For BORDA, the Healing Garden project is a model of sustainable community development and is also grounds for hope that more comprehensive projects aiming at simultaneously protecting human rights and the environment will be developed.

On 28 October 2018, BORDA Iraq participated in the opening ceremony of the Healing Garden at the Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights’ Trauma Therapy Centre, where a BORDA-built DEWATS treats greywater for garden irrigation and produces biogas

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