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Mine victims in Iraq: the story of Safin Mustafa

25-09-2007 Feature

Safin Mustafa Aziz comes from a village near Erbil. He was out playing with his younger brother when the two were ripped apart by a mine. With courage and determination – and a little help from a blind donkey – he survived and prospered.

One day, it was a Friday morning at about 10 o'clock, I went with my younger brother Saman to play at a nearby hill. Like most of the hills in northern Iraq there had been an army post there.

After the army withdrew, it became a place for children to play, and shepherds took their sheep there sometimes.
 
Hidden in the long grass was a mine; it exploded under our feet. The explosion blew us into the air like birds. Our parents were on the other side of the hill, working in the fields, but many people came to help us. They took us straight to the emergency hospital in Erbil.
 
On our way there, I stretched my hand to feel my legs – it touched a piece of bone. I pulled it out and threw it away. Until this point I was awake, but after that I lost consciousness.

   
  ©ICRC /iq-e-00634    
 
At the ICRC's orthopaedic centre in Erbil.    
    After a few days, I discovered that I had lost both legs and I would never be able to play again with Saman – not knowing that in fact, Saman had died and I would never see him again. However, life goes on and after we returned home our financial position was very bad and, because of my situation, I could not continue with my studies.
 
After the incident I asked my father several times to buy me a donkey, to help me to move around more easily and help him in the fields.
 
If you ask me how it was possible for me to help, I will tell you that since my knees were still there, I could stand on them. So I sewed myself some pads and put them under my knees. Then I asked my father to take me to the field with him, so I could participate in the harvesting process. But I still wanted a donkey.
 
At that time my father had little money and all he could afford to buy was a blind one, for 700 Iraqi dinars. I started to move around with this blind donkey and go to the field. I was lucky because she was pregnant, so after a while she gave birth to a small donkey, which I was very pleased with. Unfortunately, this blind donkey fell down a hillside as she could not see; we could not get her out, so she died there.
 
One day someone from an NGO visited our village. They decided to build a school for us. I started working as a labourer, digging the foundation of the school. The person in charge of the NGO was astonished to see me on my knees, with my spade.
 
He asked me about my accident and about our finances, and offered to help me. The NGO took me to the ICRC orthopaedic centre in Erbil, and there the staff took very good care of me, and made me a pair of artificial limbs. This was in June 1997.
 
When I returned home, everybody was so happy to see me walking on legs again. This gave me a big push to integrate again in the community and start to study again. So I finished my secondary school and went to the college of Fine Arts and Social Sciences, where I graduated. I am now married and have one child.
 
Thanks be to God, I could reach to this stage. Maybe one day I will finish my higher education, to show people that even an amputee can be an active person in the community.