Academic journal article European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Prevalence and Gender Differences in Symptomatology of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Depression among Iraqi Yazidis Displaced into Turkey

Academic journal article European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Prevalence and Gender Differences in Symptomatology of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Depression among Iraqi Yazidis Displaced into Turkey

Article excerpt

Middle-eastern countries have increasingly been exposed to war and violent events due to longlasting political conflicts. These events caused millions of people to abandon the places they used to live. Psychiatric disorders related to stress are known to be common in such populations alongside general health problems. Previous studies on refugees reported diverse prevalences of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (3-86%) and depression (3-80%) (Başoglu et al., 2005; Fazel, Wheeler & Danesh, 2005; Steel et al., 2009).

A large population has been "displaced" and have taken shelter in Turkey following acts of war and conflict in the neighboring countries. The massive scale of this "displacement" phenomenon also shows certain different characteristics than "refuge" situations resulting from the relocating of hundreds of thousands of people in a very short time period. One of these communities has been the Yazidis of northern Iraq who had to move to Turkey in the summer of 2014 due to atrocities by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a terrorist organization. The main terrorist attack was conducted in the Shengal region. The migrants were settled in Cizre district of southeastern Turkey temporarily.

Yazidis, who are one of the oldest ethnic communities of Mesopotamia, mainly live in northern Iraq. Yazidism is a verbally transmitted religion and an important part of Kurdish folk culture. Even though Yazidis have been influenced by other religions such as Islam and Christianity, they have maintained their own unique religious beliefs throughout history. A major part of Iraqi Yazidis speak Kurdish, especially the Kurmanji dialect (Fuccaro, 1997).

The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of PTSD and depression in Iraqi Yazidi refugees who were displaced into Turkey due to the recent attacks. Gender differences in symptoms and antecedents ofPTSD and depression have been the focus of this study. Gender differences in response to traumatic stress have been an important issue in studies on PTSD (Kimerling, Quimette, & Wolfe, 2002). While both genders are exposed to stressful events to a similar degree, twice as much women develop PTSD in response to these experiences (Norris, Foster, & Weisshaar, 2002). As type of traumatic event, women report sexual abuse more frequently and experiences of war are more prevalent among men. However, the population evaluated in the present study represents a rather homogenous pattern in terms of the overall traumatic stress they have been exposed to.



The present study was conducted on migrants who were displaced from the Shengal region in Iraq and entered Turkey in a period as short as 3 months, that is, between July and September 2014. A representative study sample was selected from migrants (aged 18-65 years) who were staying at a camp during the study period (FebruaryApril 2015). This camp was located at the Cizre district near the Iraqi border of Turkey, and was built by the local municipal authority.

Demographic data on Yazidi migrants were obtained from Cizre Municipality. Among 3,413 inhabitants of the camp, 622 individuals were aged between 18 and 65 years. For the present study, a sample size calculation was based on error margin of 5%, 95% confidence level for a population of 622 individuals. The expected ratio of PTSD of 50% was run at the sample size calculator website (www. that resulted at 238. Participants were selected randomly using a computer-based random number generation ( random-number-generator.aspx).

Four individuals were unable to participate in the study due to physical disability (n = 3) or severe mental retardation (n = 1). Others of the same sex and age replaced them randomly. Each participant signed an informed consent form. None of the participants rejected participation. Ethical approval for the study was obtained from the Gaziantep University Ethics Committee. …

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