Iraq's disabled community: marginalization and isolation
Abu Shahd, a wage earner from Baghdad's al-Doura area who found himself partially paralyzed after a stray bullet struck him in the back and severed his spinal cord, is one of tens of thousands of disabled Iraqis who are the victims of consequent wars and 5 years of violence.
Speaking to Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI), Umma Shahd, his wife, said, "He used to be quiet and he did love his job, but after the accident, he became high-strung and turned our life into a living hell. One of my sons left our home to stay with his uncle."
Faris al-Ubeidi, a social researcher, explained this tension in family relations, saying that disabled persons cannot stand the idea of them turning into a burden on their families. "It is for this reason that they get easily irritated by everything," he noted. "They are the most marginalized sector in Iraqi society. The government and civil society organizations do not give them due attention."
Al-Ubeidi explained that it is the duty of the state to qualify disabled persons to be a productive workforce, accusing civil society institutions of playing on people's feelings to collect donations without providing corresponding services for the disabled.
According to a study conducted by the International Disabled Persons' Organization (IDPO), in cooperation with the Iraqi ministries of labor and social affair, and health, there are over 1 million disabled persons, whose disability varies from mild to profound, in a country whose population is nearly 27 million.
There are an estimated 43,600 war disabled persons, including 5,600 who suffer from total disability, 100,000 amputees and over 100,000 blind persons, in addition to 205,000 who are threatened to lose their sight.
Abdul Ghaffar Saadi, the director of the mental disability department in the Labor Ministry, said that the mass media only focuses on the number of dead and wounded in the violence, but does not tackle the psychological or social effects on the victims and their families.
"We need a mass media that supports the disabled. It is not easy to be a disabled person in a society that does not know how to deal with disabled persons," Saadi noted.
Earlier this month, the independent news agency VOI organized a three-day workshop with the aim of developing a media guide on how to deal with the handicapped. The workshop was held under the auspices of the UNESCO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Social researchers divide disabled persons into two groups: those who have managed to overcome their disability and accept it, and others who have isolated themselves from society and chose to live a sad and lonely life.
Muhammad Qasim, a young man who lost his leg in a missile blast, is one of those who refused to surrender to his disability or to wear an artificial limb. "I feel disabled when I wear it and I feel more pain when I take it off. It will not compensate me for my leg anyway," Qasim said.
Determined not to be dependent on his family, Qasim had no option but to sell cigarettes in Baghdad's downtown area of al-Bab al-Muazzam.
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