Child genocide survivor quits job to help those suffering in Kurdistan
Iraq-born woman, 36, who was thrown in prison aged four and narrowly escaping being killed by Saddam Hussein’s regime has quit her high-flying City career to return and help those still suffering in Kurdistan
- Taban Shoresh, 36, lives in London but is from Erbil, Kurdistan region of Iraq
- Moved to UK and built successful career at Investment Asset Management firm
- Quit job to help those left behind and returned to do humantiarian work in 2014
- In 2016, she launched charity The Lotus Flower and has helped 7500 women
A child genocide survivor whose family narrowly escaped being killed by Saddam Hussein’s regime has revealed how she left her high-flying job in London to help those she left behind.
Taban Shoresh, 36, who lives in London but is originally from Erbil, Kurdistan region of Iraq, built a successful career for herself at an Investment Asset Management firm after fleeing to the UK.
Whilst raising her son, she began to feel guilty about the suffering of those still in the region she left behind and returned to the area to do humanitarian work in 2014.
Determined to still do more, in 2016, Taban founded The Lotus Flower, a charity committed to helping women and girls impacted by conflict and displacement, helping them to rebuild their lives.
‘They can do training courses from adult literacy to computing English language,’ she explained. ‘We have three centres in three different camps and we’ve managed to help 7500 women and girls to date, and this is just the beginning.’
Taban Shoresh, 36, who lives in London but is originally from Erbil, Kurdistan region of Iraq, fled to the UK and built a successful career for herself in London. She began to feel guilty about those she left behind and quit to do humanitarian work in 2014
Taban (pictured) founded non-profit, The Lotus Flower in 2016, a charity committed to helping women and girls impacted by conflict and displacement, helping them to rebuild their live
Haifa (pictured) is a single mum, deaf and mute, who has been through most of Taban’s livelihoods projects. She is part of the Women’s Business Incubator project where women are encouraged to set up their own small businesses. Haifa is excited to start selling mobile phone top up cards and hopes the income she gets will support her children
With a political activist father, Taban’s family were on Saddam Hussein’s ‘Most Wanted’ list, and aged just four, the secret police arrived at her home arresting her mother, paternal grandparents and Taban for interrogation.
‘In the Autumn of 1986 my dad was a poet and a Peshmerga,’ explained Taban. ‘At that time Saddam Hussein wanted anyone who was part of a cause to be killed, and so our names were on the death sentence.’
Taban was imprisoned for two weeks, along with her family – and they all had a miraculous escape.
‘The moment the car doors opened my grandparents were also held, and all of the adults just screamed and cried and begged them not to take me, because I was only four at the time,’ explained Taban.
‘We were driven to one prison where we were questioned and my mum and grandparents were interrogated to try and get as much information out of them as possible.’
Taban told how her political activist father was on Saddam Hussein’s ‘Most Wanted’ list. Pictured, in the park with adults in Tehran, Iran just before the family moved to the UK
Taban and her family (pictured with her brother) narrowly escaped being buried alive and becoming part of the Kurdish genocide in 1986
The terrified family narrowly escaped being buried alive and becoming part of the Kurdish (Anfal) genocide in 1986.
‘While in prison some family names were called out and ours was one of them,’ said Taban. ‘At that time I was too young and I didn’t really know what was going to happen.’
‘When the adults were taken out they all started crying and screaming because there were two diggers in front of the buses. At that time they would do mass burials, so we were meant to be buried alive.’
Taban recalled the moment she and her family went on the buses and everyone started reciting prayers, convinced they were being taken to their deaths.
‘At that time the way they would kill people in mass burials, they would make you watch the diggers drive with you, dig the holes in front of you and they’d throw everyone in alive and then slowly start shoveling soil over you so it was a slow torture,’ she explained.
‘We had a miraculous escape. The buses drove out and then stopped – there must have been some sort of deal that was made outside.’
She added: ‘The second time the buses started driving and stopped, the door was opened and there was two Kurdish men who told my family we needed to disappear and pretend as if we we’re dead because they weren’t going to kill us.’
Taban, then aged six (pictured), her brother and the rest of the family arrived in the UK in 1988 where despite the impact of the trauma, a relatively normal childhood ensued
The humanitarian worker (pictured) told how The Lotus Flower have three centres in three different camps. ‘We’ve managed to help 7500 women and girls to date, and this is just the beginning,’ she added
Taban Shoresh (pictured) at the women and girl’s centre in Rwanga Community Camp she helped to set up after quitting her high-flying job in
After three months in hiding, and twelve months fleeing, dodging mines, bombs and bullets, the Shoresh family finally arrived in Iran.
However, her father was poisoned by Saddam Hussein and Amnesty International flew him to the UK for medical treatment in 1987.
The rest of the family arrived in the UK one year later in 1988 where, despite the impact of the trauma, a relatively normal childhood ensued for a then six-year-old Taban.
‘There were lots of scary parts of the journey for me, definitely escaping the mass burial, but also the journey of fleeing being stuck in bomb raids and suddenly going into a bomb bunkers,’ she explained. ‘The sound of bombs for me is the scariest thing.’
Through her teen years Taban studied and she married aged 19, before becoming a mother the following year.
She then balanced a career in an Investment Asset Management firm with raising her son, who is now sixteen.
Taban’s early years of trauma seemed behind her, though she remained acutely aware of the many thousands of Kurds back in Kurdistan impacted by the massacre.
Speaking of when the charity was set up, Taban said: ‘We noticed there was a massive need for supporting women and girls impacted by conflict and displacement within camps.’ Pictured, Taban at the women and girl’s centre in Rwanga Community Camp
The centres strive for a world where vulnerable girls and women are able to drive social and economic change through the charity’s pillars of education, livelihood, wellbeing, mental health, peace building and human rights and gender equality. Pictured at the centre
Then in April 2014 when she was asked by the Kurdistan Regional Government to speak publicly for the first time about her experiences in the House of Lords, everything changed.
The experience of using her voice to bring awareness to the suffering of her people triggered a shift in the career woman who realised a desire to return to the home she had fled, and use her life to be of service.
The Baking Project – a testimonial from a lady Taban has helped
‘My name is Malka. I am thirty three years old. I am from Dgur, Snjar. It has been five years that we have been displaced from our villages.
Making candies is my hobby; I make very delicious candies.
Before displacement I was making sweets and selling them to my neighbours, friends and relatives as they liked my work and were asking me to make cakes and sweets for their special events
For years I was saving that money with the hope of opening a shop of my own where I can make and sell sweets.
However, when ISIS attacked Snjar, we just rescued our lives and run; our properties stayed remained there and were damaged by ISIS.
After I came to the camp, it was good that humanitarian actors helped us and were providing us with job opportunities.
When I showed them my skills in making candies they selected me to work in a bakery shop and café.
Now that I am working in this shop, I make sweets every day for camp people and I get an income from it.
But I don’t spend the money I receive and will collect every Dinar in order to fulfill my dream and open a shop by myself as I planned before.’
So in August, with the blessing of the company CEO, she found herself doing just that – on a helicopter as part of a rescue mission distributing aid to displaced Yezidi’s trapped on Mount Sinjar.
And whilst everyone else was fleeing ISIS, Taban broke cultural boundaries – a woman in what was seen as man’s role, to be on board the dangerous mission with Rwanga Foundation.
‘I brought my son back with me and from the first day of landing I was working with Rwanga Foundation,’ she explained. ‘It was very front line and we ended up flying over ISIS on mount Sinjar rescuing people and delivering aid.’
She continued: ‘That experience took me back and it just made me realise how much I needed to connect with my past and help those that were suffering.’
‘That helicopter mission changed everything. I knew life couldn’t be the same again. I had found my calling.’
Staying in the region for fifteen months with her then eleven-year-old son, witnessing a new humanitarian crisis in her homeland that displaced 2.6 million people, Taban helped through various charitable activities with Rwanga Foundation, which included building schools.
‘After that when I went back to the UK I knew I had to do something,’ she explained. ‘It was then that I decided to set up the Lotus Flower with the aim of helping women and girls impacted by conflict and displacement.’
The Lotus Flower was registered as a non-profit in 2016 before she had any clarity as to what the initiative was.
The why, completely preceded the how, with Taban clear only that she was going to help girls and women impacted by the conflict and displacement, to rebuild their lives.
Now, The Lotus Flower has three centres set up in 2017 and 2018 in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
The Lotus Flower started the “baking sisters” (pictured) initiative, where women bake and then sell the goods so the money goes back to them
Taban set up The Lotus Flower with the aim of helping women and girls impacted by conflict and displacement. Pictured at the women and girl’s centre in Rwanga Community Camp
Speaking of the centres, Taban said:’Our safe social spaces for women and girl’s centres provide a safe haven for them to come to learn, meet each other, build skills’
‘When our project started we just noticed that there was a massive need for supporting women and girls impacted by conflict and displacement within camps,’ she explained.
‘Many of these women are very vulnerable. They don’t have access to services because they’re stuck in their cabins and tents for several reasons, not only through trauma but also through cultural and social restrictions set upon them.’
She added: ‘Our safe social spaces for women and girl’s centres provide a safe haven for them to come to learn, meet each other, build skills.
The centres strive for a world where vulnerable girls and women are able to drive social and economic change through the charity’s pillars of education, livelihood, wellbeing, mental health, peace building and human rights and gender equality.
‘We’ve just launched a café in one of our centres, that’s a social enterprise space for women and girls to a come and meet and socialise but also a space where they can eat,’ said Taban.
‘We’ve also got “baking sisters” where they bake and then they sell the goods and the money goes back to them, “sewing sisters” and “boxing sisters” – where we train the women and girls to become boxing instructors and implement boxing projects in our centres.
Taban at the women and girl’s centre in Rwanga Community Camp
Hazna (pictured) is a trained boxing instructor. She started out as part of Boxing Sister’s and is now teaching other women and girls to box. The project has provided her with opportunity to support her family with her income as well as improve her physical and mental well-being
Source: Read Full Article