Voices from the field

Forced to flee a war-torn country, determined to return and help

Heba Alibrahim, daughter of a doctor, was forced to flee the Syrian war at 15. Now, seven years later, she is studying psychology in Amsterdam, determined to return and support other war survivors.

In her home town at the Syrian-Iraqi border, living and assisting at her father’s hospital, a place supposed to be safe like no other, she and her family witnessed terrifying things. They had no choice but to flee after her father was arrested and accused of helping any patient, no matter their faith or political views. When he was freed and had managed to flee to the Netherlands in the end, his family followed him on a long and dangerous journey.

Engagement and inclusion

Heba has been active as a humanitarian, youth, and refugee advocate ever since, working on engagement and inclusion projects for children on the move and in humanitarian situations. Among other projects, she has participated in developing an e-learning programme, ‘Can’t Wait to Learn,’ with War Child Holland.

Heba hopes to return to Syria as soon as it is safe again. She is studying psychology at the university in order to empower war survivors like herself and help them heal. From her own experience she knows what they need. And she knows for sure she will be able to give it to them: ‘My memories have made me who I am now: Heba, a strong woman.’

Conference panelist

Mental health and psychosocial support must be part of the basic assistance provided in crisis situations, so that people are able to care for themselves and for others. The Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, will be hosting an international conference in Amsterdam on 7 and 8 October to help achieve this goal. Heba will be one of the panelists.

Watch this video about this young woman: