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Young Boko Haram Survivors Share Horrific Experiences Through Art

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is a cliché for a reason. Art is popular with child psychologists, as children do not have to speak about violence they witnessed and endured. Psychologists are using this treatment with Boko Haram’s child victims.

“It is easier for children to express their fears through drawing,” explained psychologist Aurelia Morabito, adding:

Afterwards, we talk about the pictures with them and their parents with the aim to help them control their fears. In every session, the children recount horrible stories through their drawings. We see pictures of guns and helicopters, and decapitated people. We hear stories of children who left Nigeria, only to experience another attack in Niger, after which they went back to Nigeria to see the violence again. Many have fled alone in the night, staying hidden in the water until morning, hoping nobody will find them.

Thousands of families fled to Chad after the radical Islamic group attacked villages in Nigeria. Many found safety at a UNICEF camp, but there are over 126 children without any parents or supervision. The camps lack basic needs, including medicine and therapy.

Doctors Without Borders introduced psychology support at a new clinic in the Dar es Salaam refugee camp. The gruesome crimes the young children witnessed leave them vulnerable to “psychological disorders.” The doctors allow these children to properly “process their traumatizing experiences.” At least 425 children received treatment at the camp since it started in March.

“Through our sessions, MSF psychologists listen and try to normalize the reactions of the refugees,” continued Morabito. “This helps to stabilize and secure the patient while they connect with others and share experiences. We know that we cannot make the suffering go away, but we can help people manage their painful reactions.”

In July, Kurdish news outlet Rudaw profiled Yazidi artist Ammar Salim. His people, like those in Nigeria, have also been targeted by the Islamic State, now the father organization under which Boko Haram operates. ISIS kidnaps, tortures, slaughters, and destroys everything and everyone in their path.

Salim uses his talent to show the world what the Yazidis suffer under ISIS. The story spreads across nine canvases. They are graphic, but for the Yazidis, describing their past year against ISIS as brutal is putting it lightly. There are no words to describe the torture and horrific abuse inflicted upon the small religious group.

“It was a tragic thing that happened,” he said. “I feel that tragedy, and then I paint. When I meet witnesses and they tell me their stories, and I saw that in the media there were no images like this, I decided to make these kind of paintings. To record what happened and show it to the world.”

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