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June 15, 2021

Update: Psychological Support for Uyghur Refugees


Update: Psychological Support for Uyghur Refugees

“Every day I would fear for my husband’s life. I was unsure about getting psychological support, but I feel much better now. World Jewish Relief’s project has helped me to cope with my emotions. It was a relief to talk with a professional…I felt safe.”

Aynur* is 40 years old. She is a single mother living in Istanbul with her children, aged 7 and 9. Aynur and her husband relocated to Turkey ten years ago for his work. In 2017 he was on a work trip back in China and was stopped from leaving the country to return to his family in Turkey. It was at this time that China began increasing their surveillance of, and restrictions over, Uyghur Muslims.  Since then, Aynur has been unable to contact her husband or the rest of her family in China. She believes he has been detained in a concentration camp in Xinjiang.

When Aynur joined World Jewish Relief and International Blue Crescent’s (IBC)  programme in Turkey, providing psychological support for Uyghur refugees in the city, she was struggling with stress and anxiety. Fear for her husband, alongside awful news coming out of China, left her feeling angry, sad, and isolated. She was unable to leave the house, meaning she could not work, which compounded her stress. She had lost interest and daily activities and was struggling to sleep. She worried that her mental state might negatively affect her bond with her children.

Thanks to support from World Jewish Relief, Aynur was offered two months of counselling with a psychologist. The psychologist combined Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with mindfulness approaches designed to improve mood and wellbeing. By the end of this process, Aynur described feeling more psychologically resilient. She felt better about herself, her mood and sleep had improved, and she started a new job. She said:

My kids say that I seem livelier now. I can go outside, and I am sleeping better. I am thankful for this support.

In collaboration with local partner IBC, we are supporting Uyghur refugees like Aynur who have experienced immense trauma. We are providing emergency food packages, hygiene kids, psychological support, and legal assistance to the most vulnerable Uyghur families in and around Istanbul. You can support our Uyghur Refugee Appeal, make a donation today.

*Not her real name.

IBC representative distributing a food package in Istanbul to a programme participant.