Iraqi war victims find hope amid hardship

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Victims of violence in Iraq suffer in silence, left to face challenges without government support to help them reintegrate into society.

Salwan al-Abdaly, 21, lost the ability to walk at the age of 12 when, on the way back from school, he was shot in the back during crossfire between U.S. soldiers and armed Iraqis.

“After the injury I spent six months in therapy, and throughout that period I encountered psychological problems,” said Abdaly. “I continued my life, and adapted myself to using the (wheel) chair and live normally.”

However, “because of the six-month therapy program and poor security conditions,” he dropped out of school. “The situation is too difficult in Baghdad,” Abdaly said.

Like many in Iraq, he says no one pays attention to war victims and their needs, amid political and economic instability.

The general absence of disabled-access facilities in Iraq does not bode well for Abdaly. Schools, for example, have no elevators as an alternative to stairs.

Abdaly also suffered head and arm injuries in a 2011 blast in al-Zawra’a city, and was randomly shot in the shoulder in 2012.

Determined to work

Without a degree, Abdaly’s chances of finding a job are slim. Furthermore, most jobs would require him to be present at work on a daily basis, he said. This is something he is unable to do, as Iraq’s transport system does not cater to people with special needs.

However, spending time at home did not lessen Abdaly’s desire to work. “I bought a computer, I downloaded designing programs, and taught myself how to use them,” he said.

Abdaly also used his passion for photography to participate in online exhibitions and share of his artistic works with like-minded people over the internet.

“I participated in some online contests, and received appreciation certificates,” he said.

Abdaly worked with Al Arabiya’s office in Baghdad during the Iraqi parliamentary elections, and has designed a website for prominent Iraqi media figure Suhair al-Qaisi.

Lack of attention

Abdaly complains about his country’s disregard for his situation.

“I was promised several times by the Iraqi Ministry of Health to be treated at the country’s expense,” but “this never happened,” he said.

Some hospitals dedicated to the care of special-needs individuals are not adequately equipped, and lack cleanliness, rehab programs and proper food, Abdaly added.

The poor state of care in Iraq led his family to send him to Turkey to continue his treatment. He will stay there until his physical condition improves.

“Rehab programs aren’t provided for Iraqi war victims,” said Abdaly. “Ways to move from the bed to the wheelchair aren’t taught. Tips on how people with special needs should cross the road, for example, aren’t taught to those who need them."

Abdaly Photography