Beauty is more than skin deep for the displaced of Iraq

February 15, 2019 • Iraq
The salon provides an outlet for Yazidi women living in a displacement camp to prepare for family weddings like they would have in their homeland of Sinjar.
The salon provides an outlet for Yazidi women living in a displacement camp to prepare for family weddings like they would have in their homeland of Sinjar.

Women who fled ISIS are discovering a supportive community and a chance to build their skills within a salon at the Northern Iraq Community Center, a Samaritan’s Purse project.

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Sarina (second from left) and Marwa (third from left) with ladies in the Northern Iraq Community Center salon.

Sarina (second from left) and Marwa (third from left) with ladies in the Northern Iraq Community Center salon.

Women in the longstanding displacement camp outside of our Northern Iraq Community Center were forced from their homes by ISIS. As they continue to live in challenging accommodations more than four years after fleeing for their lives, many are finding special solace at a salon within the community center.

Since Sarina* fled her home in Sinjar in 2014, her family has been living alongside thousands of other Yazidi families in an internal displacement camp. In the camp, there were no proper spaces or resources to prepare for her cousin’s wedding in the traditional way.

She explains that for a traditional wedding the entire community is invited to partake in a day filled with dancing, eating, and celebrating. For Iraqi women in particular, weddings mean going on a big family trip to the salon to have their hair and makeup done properly.

Salons are an important part of Iraqi culture where women can relax and spend hours helping one another feel beautiful in a space that is just for them.

Displaced women find special solace in the salon at the Northern Iraq Community Center.

Displaced women find special solace in the salon at the Northern Iraq Community Center.

“We spend all day with family doing hair and makeup at the salon, and everyone looks beautiful at the wedding,” Sarina said. “Here we don’t have a lot of makeup to look nice, and there is not a salon in the camp to help us.”

At Northern Iraq Community Center’s salon, Samaritan’s Purse provides internally displaced women a place to retreat, celebrate beauty, and get their hair and makeup done for weddings in a proper Iraqi way—including big hairstyles, bold eyebrows, thick eyeliner, and fun lip colors.

All of the supplies they could imagine are provided. Marwa*, the salon’s stylist, together with her team, empowers the ladies to try things on their own while providing any help, tips, or tricks that they need.

“It’s nice and comforting to get my hair done by Marwa because I don’t get to relax a lot, but here I can. The salon makes me and my sisters feel beautiful together, and we can get ready without boys around, just having fun with girls,” Sarina said.

“The salon makes me and my sisters feel beautiful together.”

Inside the salon, celebration is in the air as extended family members crowd in to help one another look their best. There is lively music, occasional dancing, laughter, and a sense of excitement, giving the women a small haven away from the hardships of living in a camp. As Sarina and relatives leave to attend the wedding, they exude confidence and joy, feeling refreshed and beautiful from an afternoon spent in the familiarity of a salon.

Training New Beauticians

In addition to serving wedding parties, the Samaritan’s Purse’s salon provides Yazidi women with training through beautician classes. Students attend a six-week course that equips them to properly do hair and makeup while also bringing a meaningful diversion from the long days in displacement camps.

Angel*, one of the 2 million internally displaced people in Iraq, enrolled in the class because she wanted to “learn how to help make others look beautiful.” Students learn skills such as proper blow-drying, straightening, and curling techniques for hair as well as how to expertly apply makeup. In addition to daily classes, the students assist with special events like weddings.

Angel (right) learns how to become a beautician from her instructor Marwa (left).

Angel (right) learns how to become a beautician from her instructor Marwa (left).

However, for all of the women who visit, the salon is more than just a place to look pretty. It’s a place to laugh, escape from the outside world, celebrate life’s triumphs, and form friendships with other women.

Spaces such as these are especially important because Yazidi women do not have the same job opportunities or freedoms as men. The salon, however, is just for them.

At the end of the training course, salon students eagerly prepare for their graduation ceremony. Each woman beams as she receives her certificate, validating skills learned. Angel says she feels beautiful as she celebrates with her classmates, and acknowledges that the course has made her want to open her own salon in Sinjar someday.

Northern Iraq Community Center’s salon is just one of the many ways Samaritan’s Purse serves displaced families in Jesus’ Name. Additional programs at the Center ranging from carpentry and sewing to counseling and art provide spaces for men, women, and children to be empowered and equipped even while living in a displacement camp.

Please pray for our Northern Iraq Community Center as we serve the displaced community. Ask God for many people to find hope and encouragement there.

*Names changed to protect identity

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