Vol. I, No. IX.  Ninth Issue-  January 2001






       “An Apartheid Regime Endangers the Mental Health of Victimized Palestinians” / DR. OMAR SHAHEEN, FRC Psych. 

q       The Islamic Approach to the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress / El Sendiony M.F (The American University in Cairo)

q       WIAMH World Congress:

q       “Teachers as Therapists”: A Program to Help War Traumatized Children Around the Globe. / Syed Arshad Husain, M.D





       “An Apartheid Regime Endangers the Mental Health of Victimized Palestinians” / Dr. Omar SHAHEEN, FRC Psych.

I feel proud and very happy to convey greetings to you as a WIAMH President. At the same time I feel an important commitment and responsibility. Although it is true that our organization has played a significant role in drawing attention to mental health problems, care and prevention in different parts of the Muslim world, it is also true that what characterizes our time is turmoil and change. I would like to invite all of you to participate actively in the World Islamic Association for Mental Health. If we wish the association to participate in the solution of major mental health problems of the Muslim world, then the commitment and responsibility belongs to all of us.

 I would like to congratulate all WIAMH members wherever they are in the Global Village for the holy month of Ramadan. I wish them also a happy Bairam. I wish you all a very generous Ramadan.

 It is a season of forgiveness, one of charity and solidarity.

 The WIAMH is heavily involved in the mental health of Muslims all over the world. It has come when the mental health of Palestinians has been adversely affected.

 The World is not adequately informed of the inhuman circumstances under which the Palestinians live – of how, for instance, the Israeli Army has prevented the flow of food and medicine to thousands of wounded civilians. For more than 3 months it has been a daily exercise for Israeli troops to bombard residential areas, gun down demonstrators and assassinate public figures – all in response to protests in which the Palestinians have only stones for weaponry.

 The tragedy is deepening. Israel is using helicopter gunships to kill Palestinian civilians and destroy their homes. Palestinian children and youngsters are being destroyed by Israeli armament for protesting with rocks inside Palestinian territory.

 The number of Palestinians killed is over 300, close to 10,000 injured – many of these people sustained serious wounds meaning they will be left with a host of disabilities for the rest of their lives.

 The situation is exacerbating by a criminal blockade which made the transfer of the seriously wounded to hospitals in the Arab world and some European countries more difficult, leading to more fatalities. This also has driven the numbers of Gazans in need for food assistance up from 8 to 85 percent of the sector’s 1.5 million population, creating “a severe humanitarian crisis” in the words of UNRWA commissioner – general Peter Hansen.

 If we are to call things by their real names, this is genocide in slow motion, there is no other word that can fully describe what has been happening in Palestine since the 28th of September 2000.

 Israel is an occupying power that is inflicting upon its subjugated people many of the same outrageous practices the Jews themselves suffered in other parts of the World. The Israelis must come to terms with the fact that no amount of plastic surgery will succeed in hiding the monstrous face of occupation.

 As a president of WIAMH, I call on the United Nations to deploy international peacekeeping forces to provide the Palestinians with protection and to deter Israeli occupation from the excessive use of violence. Jewish blood is not the only sacred blood, our blood is sacred too.

 I also call on the United Nations to provide WIAMH with a safe passage to deliver mental health services to the war traumatized and victimized Palestinians.

 As a mental health worker I feel that the Israelis are seriously disturbing the mental health of the Palestinians. At the end of the second millennium 3 million Palestinians are imprisoned in ghettos.

 For the past 12 weeks collective punishment in every form has been imposed on the inhabitants of these ghettos. Under a racist colonial policy of separation, the Israeli occupation forces are digging deep trenches in bypass roads to prohibit the Palestinians from using them to escape imprisonment. Muslims and Christians are prohibited from praying in their holy shrines in Jerusalem. Women in labor, especially those traveling from villages are stopped at Israeli military posts and prevented from reaching the hospital. Wounded children and young men are left to bleed to death. Ambulances are shot at and their drivers are killed.

This is an apartheid regime.

 A former Shin Bet security service director criticized such policies recently.

Ha’aretz newspaper quoted him in its editorial of 6 December 2000 as saying “This is the same security outlook whose failure to realize its aims led almost naturally to the idea of separation from the Palestinians. Is the option of a Jewish democracy with apartheid acceptable? In my opinion no.”

 The Israeli press has also launched a propaganda campaign against the Palestinian people’s uprising blaming the victims. One if its most outrageous and perverse claims has been that Palestinian parents send their children out to be killed by Israeli soldiers. Some American and Israeli writers have described this as “Palestinian Paganism”. This is more than racist folly – it is fascism; it is not even an attempt to dehumanize the Palestinians, it is far worse, for even animals protect their young.

 If willingness to sacrifice their children makes the Palestinians something less than animals, however, what are the civilized Israelis who are more than eager to massacre those children?

                                     DR. Omar SHAHEEN, FRC Psych. 


q       The Islamic Approach to the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress / El Sendiony M.F (The American University in Cairo)

The “treatment” for post-trauma stress does not have to be done by a health professional. The guidelines of UNHCR display an unusually strong commitment to demedicalizing the personal response to trauma. It repeatedly designated as ‘normal’ the typical and widespread reactions to these traumatic experiences.

 According to Peter Baynes of Charles Sturt University, “The treatment for post-trauma stress is simple, free and available from any trusted person who knows how to ask the right questions and then be a good listener.” In the Muslim world in which religion permeates the totality of life, spirituality and faith can contribute to the alleviation of psychological suffering induced by PST. A Muslim under whatever physical, mental, social and emotional circumstances is a believer in Allah. From this unshakable faith in Allah, the entire treatment of the Muslim with a post-traumatic stress should be grounded. Religion and psychiatry can and will make an ever increasing contribution in the coming years to help people with PTS to live normal, happy, and worthwhile lives.

Message from the Secretary General

“Help is needed for the victimized Palestinians”

 As Palestinians resume talks with the Americans in Washington, a State Department Spokesman said, “Israeli troops have been continuing their brutal repression of the uprising”. In the past week 14-21 December, the Israeli army and settlers have killed 18 Palestinians, including 3 children, bringing the Palestinian death toll since the outbreak of the Intifada to 328.

 More than 10,000 injured of which 1,000 are permanently disabled. Of this last number, 40 percent are children; according to Muhammad Said of the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

 Where the ratio of this casualty toll to the Palestinian population to be applied to a country the size of the US, for example it would equal 20,000 dead and 690,000 wounded, all within 3 months since the outbreak of the   Intifada.

 These bleak conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories have resulted in a high rate of traumatized children and adults.

 According to a study conducted by the Palestinian Child and Family Consultation Center in Jerusalem, “There is a high prevalence of psychological trauma in the Palestinian children exposed to war atrocities.” However, “There are not enough trained mental health professionals (MHP) in the Occupied Territories who can handle such a large number of psychological casualties.”

 This disproportion between the number of MHP’s and the children in need of help created the necessity for training mental health professionals in Trauma Psychology.

 WIAMH has a pioneer extensive and intensive experience with traumatized children, women and men. Its President Elect has led a team to train teachers in diagnosing and treating children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 In response to the needs of the war-traumatized children in Bosnia, Herzegovina and other parts of the world as well, Dr. Husain has established a specialized psychological trauma-training center within the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri.

 At the center, teachers and mental health professionals from around the world are trained by a multi-disciplinary team of psychiatrists, educators, psychologists and social workers.

 Dr. Husain and his team are to be commended for their pioneer efforts. Traumatized Palestinians can benefit from the perspective that Dr. Husain provides for the treatment and prevention of people whose disturbances are associated with trauma exposure. The Palestinian situation furnishes a classical laboratory for the study of Trauma Psychology.

 Because of the urgent need for Mental Health Professionals (MHP) who can detect and treat conditions associated with trauma in occupied Palestine, WIAMH is contemplating the possibility of organizing an in-service training for Palestinian mental health workers including General Practitioners psychologists, social workers and nurses. However, the continuous Israeli blockade of Palestinian territories has rendered this plan a Mission Impossible.

 Therefore the Secretariat General of WIAMH has sent a message to the World Health Organization.

From:  Dr. M. Farouk El Sendion  Secretary General  WIAMH

To:       Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland - Director-General (World Health Organization)

Dear Dr Gro Harlem,

 In due of the psychological devastation endured by the residents of the Palestinian territories, and the gross shortage of badly needed mental health personnel to cope with victims of trauma, WIAMH has planned an intensive in-service course for training Palestinian mental health professional in the Psychology of Trauma.

 The present Israeli blockade of Palestinian has made this program an impossible mission.

 We would highly appreciate your help to achieve this humanitarian goal.



q       WIAMH World Congress:

World Islamic Association for Mental Health Congress, Aden, Yemen, 10-12 October 2001. The venue is the University of Aden.

 The Secretariat General of WIAMH has received a letter from Dr. Abu Bakr Badahdah, Vice President of WIAMH, informing us that the next WIAMH Biennial Congress will be held in Aden on the above-mentioned date. Dr. Badahdah has worked very hard with the Yemeni

Association for Mental Health to set this congress in Aden.

 We appreciate his courtesy in working very hard with his Yemeni colleagues to bring this congress to a successful conclusion.

 We call on WIAMH members to send their ideas about possible themes for this congress. We look forward to your participation in this congress in this fascinating city.


q       “Teachers as Therapists”: A Program to Help War Traumatized Children Around the Globe. / Syed Arshad Husain, M.D

With the armed conflict taking place in a number of countries around the world, an alarming number of children and adolescents are being killed, maimed, bereaved and displaced. For example, a few years ago blood-letting in Rwanda caused the deaths of over 200,000 people – the majority of victims were women and children. Similarly, in the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, a large number of the victims also were women and children.

 In Bosnia and Herzegovina, of 200,000 people killed during the war, 17,000 were children. Moreover, a significant number of children who survived are suffering from severe psychological trauma produced by the exposure to war atrocities. According to a UNICEF survey, 7% of the children have lost one or both of their parents; 23% have been forced to leave their towns or villages; 60% have been in a situation in which they thought they would be killed. More than half of the children have been shot at by snipers. As a result 37% are severely clinically depressed, and a saddening 92% reported feeling so desperate that they often thought of killing themselves.

 With a this high prevalence of psychological trauma in the children exposed to war atrocities, there was an urgent need for mental health professionals (MHP) who were proficient in detecting and treating grief and psychosomatic behavioral and psychiatric conditions that are associated with trauma exposure. However, there were not enough trained mental health professionals in Bosnia and Herzegovina who could handle such a large number of psychological casualties. According to the reports of the Ministry of Health of Bosnia and Herzegovina, only a handful of MHP remained in the city of Sarajevo to serve 60,000 children exposed to war trauma. This disproportion between the number of MHP and the children in need of help created the necessity to train “lay therapists”.

 Consequently, a University of Missouri (UMC) team of mental health professionals, under the leadership of this author, a child psychiatrist by training developed a program to train teachers in diagnosing and treating children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 The selection of teachers as therapist was based on the observation – that teachers in Sarajevo have been recognized as the ones who have intuitively and effectively provided psychological help to their students during the war. The research literature has repeatedly advocated the use of teachers as interventionists for the children following trauma. Children trust their teachers, with whom they spend as much time as with their own families. Teachers have extensive experience in relating to children, they have exposure to children in crisis, and they often have intuitive mental health care skills that allow them to acquire mental health education rapidly. Thus, these 5,000 teachers of Sarajevo provide an effective pool of sophisticated workers who can be trained in detecting and treating PTSD an depression in their students.

 Since early 1994, the UMC team has made 16 trips to date to Bosnia and Herzegovina and has trained 2,000 teachers who are now providing help to approximately 20,000 children. In addition, the UMC team has trained over 200 mental health professionals in Bosnia who provide supervision to teachers.

 The situation in the Palestinian territories is very much similar to the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina described above where a high prevalence of psychological trauma is found among children exposed to war atrocities. There is also another similarity in the gross shortage in mental health professionals to cope with the basic treatment needs of war-traumatized children. The above-mentioned model can be replicated in the case of the Palestinian situation.