HIVE is a youth-led social-impact organisation working to address issues of extremism and marginalisation in Pakistan. In 2023, HIVE launched Community Innovation Lab (CIL) which is a collaborative action-learning space that examines, incubates, and catalyses innovative solutions to complex social problems at the community level. CIL provides on-demand support using a flexible and adaptive methodology to local actors across Pakistan.
Hazara students presenting their work in October 2023.

In the Hazara community, particularly among those who migrated away from Quetta in the last decade, mental health challenges are pervasive. Many face symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental disorders due to exposure to violence and persecution against their community, along with the painful loss of loved ones to targeted attacks.

The traumatic events of persecution have not only shattered lives but have also imposed severe economic challenges on the Hazara community. This systemic violence impacted their businesses, amplifying economic hardships that continue to afflict the community to this day.

Sajjad Hussain Aasim is a scholar with a PhD in International Relations. He shared, “An assessment in the Cambridge Medical Journal revealed a staggering 68.2% positivity rate for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among Hazara individuals, highlighting the urgent need for intervention”.  

This study became the cornerstone of Healing Soul, an initiative he started for the Shia Hazara students who came to Islamabad after facing some form of discrimination and struggling to build their community and alliance and make peace with their reality. He started this initiative under the Simurg Fund supported by HIVE Pakistan.

Healing Soul provided a 10-week programme of mental health awareness training and psychosocial support. Sakina Ali, pursuing her PhD at a respected university in Islamabad, sought solace in Healing Souls. She shares, “Anxiety, stress, and panic attacks were unfamiliar to us, and we didn't grasp the significance of mental health in our overall well-being. There was also a stigma attached to discussing these mental health challenges within our community.” She adds, “Healing Souls was one of the earliest programs that helped normalize conversations about mental health. Before this program, we lacked awareness of the signs and symptoms of these crucial issues and how to support each other during difficult times.”

The Healing Soul program had 10 sessions tailored to address the mental health challenges within the community. The first two sessions were centred on raising awareness about mental health, an often-taboo subject within their culture. Subsequent sessions were dedicated to the healing process, providing comprehensive psychosocial support.   

Sakina, explaining how Hazara were confined to designated areas in the name of protection. October 2023.

Throughout these sessions, the community received education on the interconnectedness of mental health and financial stability. They learned how one impacts the other. In Quetta, securing employment proves to be a challenging task for both Hazara men and women.  

Sajjad highlighted this struggle, expressing, "Our distinctive appearance makes us appear threatening to employers, hindering our chances of finding work and placing us in vulnerable positions. We're unfairly labelled as a constant security risk, while merely trying to make a living."

The last session of the Healing Souls was an open day in which the entire community which has been uprooted from Quetta and is now living in sprawls, rather than in community structures, came together in Islamabad. That was a grand day giving them a safe space to celebrate the Hazargi culture and meet their fellow Hazaras.  

Neimat, a 27-year-old Program Assistant with Healing Soul, reflects on this memory and says, “It felt like a home away from home. The sense of peace and security that enveloped us that day will remain the highlight of the life I lived so far.” He also emphasises the importance of taking the Healing Soul program back to Quetta, aiming to break the cycle of generational trauma carried by the community. 

Neimat sharing his journey to Healing Souls, with Sajjad on his right.

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