WARNING: This document contains distressing…
What is 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day?
74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration is also known as Roja Resh or Black day and different communities within NSW will refer to this day in different ways. The number 74 signifies the number of genocides throughout history of the Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi people. It is held on the 3rd of August each year and commemorates the day in August 2014 that thousands of Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi were killed or abducted by ISIS forces in and around the city of Sinjar in Northern Iraq and other areas where Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi live. Many Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi that were abducted, are still missing. These forces aimed to eradicate the Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi people and their identity, with 69 holy places destroyed and 93 mass graves discovered. Up to 70% of the Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi people are still displaced, while others are still experiencing the effects of these events.
Why is 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day important to the Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi community?
The 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day provides a time and space to remember together what happened to the Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi community. They believe that talking about their memories and openly expressing their distress, loss and grief is important to healing, and understanding about what it means to be Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi. It provides a way to honour and remember the loss of their families and friends.
How is 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day commemorated in the Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi community in Australia?
Adults in the community meet at a public ceremony and testimony is given. This may also include graphic videos or photos of the events in Sinjar and other areas. Telling stories about what happened is part of their culture’s oral tradition and there are songs that are sung to tell these stories. The community wants to ensure that what happened to them is not forgotten. There are outward displays of grief, crying and telling of stories. Young children previously attended community activities, however the Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi community decided that it was better that children were not exposed to the potentially traumatic events that are replayed.
Young people at high school may or may not attend on the day at school and may choose to attend the ceremony or stay at home. Younger children in primary school are encouraged to attend school. While 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day is a specific day, for many students and their families, it is not just the one day that is difficult for them but the lead up to and after this event. Some of the previous Genocide experiences also happened in August. The children may be reminded of their losses and the distress through their family and community responses and not just their own experiences.
Sometimes these events can be re-traumatising for people, and they may experience an exacerbation of symptoms, however for some it can make symptoms more visible by bringing this grief and other feelings to the surface.
Why should my school community consider commemorating 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day?
- Commemoration honours the survivors, pays respect to victims who were killed or are missing and reassure survivors some good can come out of what they and their loved ones endured/are enduring.
- Due to the “anniversary effect” students and families will likely experience elevated levels of psychological distress approaching this day.
- Preparations for and media interest leading up to the commemoration can trigger difficult emotions and symptoms for students, such as intrusive thoughts, sleeping difficulty, irritability, changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating, emotional numbing and lethargy. Students are likely to feel better understood and included if their behaviour is viewed through a trauma-informed lens.
- Public expressions of acknowledgement and validation of the genocide and its ramifications by people within and outside the affected community can be helpful to psychological healing and fostering a sense of belonging in the school community.
- Commemorations can aid intercultural understanding and help host communities better understand how people become refugees.
- School attendance by affected students may improve if students, parents/guardians know that the school is sympathetic to students’ needs around the time of 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day.
What are some examples of what to include in a 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day?
- Ensure commemorations are environmentally friendly. For instance, balloons should not be released into the air, not even “biodegradable” balloons, as even these are harmful to wildlife.
- Commemoration activities should be culturally sensitive to the impacted community and designed in consultation with members of the community.
- Don’t request that Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi students speak in front of an audience as part of the commemoration, as they may feel pressured to comply. If students volunteer, reinforce that they can withdraw at anytime, without consequence. Plan a backup activity.
- Consider symbolic ways to honour the day such as a minute silence, tree planting, or the lighting of candles.
- Consider culturally specific ways to honour the day such as folk art, telling stories, making drawings. Children do not generally sing or dance at community events during this time.
- Class members work together on a joint artwork on a topic relevant to the commemoration e.g., peace, respect, human rights.
- Include access to alternative activities if students affected by the event feel that they are not able to engage in 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day activities at school..
What are some of the challenges with having a 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day and how can they be minimized?
- Students may be triggered by 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day and become tearful, withdrawn, angry, aggressive, anxious and/or attempt to leave school grounds.
- Even students who were very young when they fled or were born in Australia will understand that something within their community is upsetting to their family or friends during this time and that they may try to fill the gaps in their knowledge and search the internet and find graphic content about the ISIS invasion. They may play this over and over to try to make sense of their own or their families’ experiences. Families may find it hard to consider how to help their child to understand what has happened when they are feeling so distressed themselves.
- Students who identify with a different ethnic or religious group may feel guilty, excluded, blamed or that the school is taking sides.
- Communicating boundaries/make decisions about how much school activities will be impacted by the commemoration and for how long. One day? One week?
- Consult with School Counsellors, Refugee Student Counselling Support Team and STARTTS to discuss availability for debriefs or supports during this time.
- Include contact details for specialist and 24/7 counselling services on the program of the event.
- Talking to students about the risks of vicarious trauma through viewing/reading media/social media about 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day and discussing how students can limit their exposure.
- Recognise the impact on school staff during this time and consider what supports staff may need. Considering ways to support your students during this time.
How can I best support students during 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day?
- Continue to provide students with their familiar timetable and predictable class routines. Prepare them for any changes where possible.
- Facilitate absent notes for students who are attending the community ceremony prior to the event so their school attendance record is not impacted.
- Have a calm and familiar space that students can go to if they are feeling overwhelmed. Some children may want to use this space for prayer.
- Identify to students the familiar staff that they can talk to. Allow students and parents/guardians to control how much they disclose to you.
- Discuss options for calming and comfort with students for if they become overwhelmed during lessons or while trying to complete schoolwork. This may need to include activities that are fun for the student as this may help to regulate their nervous system.
- It can be helpful to offer some suggestions for wellbeing breaks throughout the day, such as gentle stretching, exercise, connecting with a friend, taking time to draw or paint, playing a game, going outside and noticing small, beautiful things, taking five deep, diaphragmatic breaths with slow exhales.
- If a student is distressed, it is important to acknowledge their emotions and highlight to the student that the expression of the emotion is normal. Being there, attuned to the student and providing a safe place to grieve is important.
- Remove as many additional stressors from the students’ life as possible. For instance, consider the exam timetable and offering an alternative time to sit tests and exams, providing an extension on assignment due dates and flexibility around schoolwork completion. This may mean that those in the school who schedule important exam timetables are aware of these times and there may need
- Also ensure the student knows how to contact 24/7 counselling services such as Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), Lifeline (13 11 14) and BeyondBlue (1300 22 4636).
What are the signs that a student may be struggling?
Outward displays of emotion are normal during this time particularly with what the Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi community has been through, and cultural expressions of grief. Expressions of grief in this context can be healthy and provide a source of healing when contained. If a student is upset or tells you about their experience – this is not an immediate sign that they need a referral to counselling. When students’ ability to participate in their education or daily life continues past this time, the following signs and symptoms may require further professional support, such as:
- Periods of being unresponsive or fainting
- Ongoing sadness and tearfulness, unable to stop crying
- Unexplained stomach aches, headaches or body aches
- Hypervigilant, easily startled
- Fearful or anxious
- Outbursts of anger and/or aggression
- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, little motivation
- Having trouble concentrating.
What can we do to support staff during this time?
- Ezidi/ Yezidi / Yazidi bicultural staff may find this time particularly challenging as there may be expectations of supporting students or families while also having their own reactions to this time. Acknowledge that they may need some time off to attend the memorial or to assist family or community members. Consult with them about how they can be supported during this time.
- As educators and counsellors, we are not immune to the impacts of trauma. You may find that 74 Ezidi Genocide Commemoration / Roja Resh / Black Day has affected you personally. Some symptoms you may recognise in yourself include a change in appetite, sleep and/or mood, nightmares, intrusive imagery, trouble concentrating, memory problems, social withdrawal, increased sensitivity to violence and/or feelings of despair and hopelessness. There are several avenues through which you can seek support.
- Through your workplace, seeking professional supervision and/or through your Employee Assistance Program.
- Private psychological services. You can talk to your GP about a mental health care plan.
- Lifeline Australia (Call: 13 11 14) provides free, confidential support and is available 24/7
- STARTTS counselling services are available to anyone in NSW who has survived trauma (including inter-generational trauma) and has had a refugee, asylum seeker or refugee-like experience.
- STARTTS in Schools has produced a series of professional learning videos on Vicarious Trauma, Resilience and Self Care.
- Vicarious Trauma and Resilience Part 1: Introduction
- Vicarious Trauma and Resilience Part 2: Consequences of Trauma
- Vicarious Trauma and Resilience Part 3: Impacts on the Practitioner
- Vicarious Trauma and Resilience Part 4: Boundaries
- Vicarious Trauma and Resilience Part 5: Resilience and Post-Traumatic Growth
- Vicarious Trauma and Resilience Part 6: Self Care and Seeking Support
STARTTS School Liaison Program
For more information or to request specialist consultation, professional learning or support for your school community, please visit our website or contact Rachelle Coe, Acting School Liaison Team Leader, Rachelle.firstname.lastname@example.org