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Iraq: prostheses and a motorcycle revive hope for Hassan

28-07-2009 Feature

Father of six, Hassan Majid Rasoul, was once a farmer in Erbil – where he was born in 1951 – until he lost his legs in an attack. He recovered and managed to get on with his life. He shares his story with the ICRC’s Avin Yassin Mohammad.

   

  ©ICRC/H. Y. Gorges / iq-e-00736    
 
  Hassan is able to earn a living again, thanks to this motorbike, given to him by the ICRC after he lost his legs.    
     

The events of that fateful day in July 1986 turned Hassan's life upside down and changed it forever. He chokes with emotion as he remembers the details of the dreadful incident. " A volley of bullets penetrated our car from all sides. I saw my father die right in front of me. This scene will remain engraved in my mind for as long as I live. I had no idea what was happening around me. I fainted and when I recovered consciousness, I found m yself in hospital " .

Hassan was severely injured. His legs were badly burnt by the flames that consumed the car. His father was not the only member of his family to die in the incident. His six-year old son succumbed to the severe burns he received. Hassan spent 11 months in hospital only to be stuck in a wheelchair when he was released, unable to move without the assistance of his family.

" It is difficult to see your own family in need, while you are imprisoned and helpless in a wheelchair,” he laments. “I will never forget my eldest son asking me repeatedly why I was always sitting in that chair. "

Owing to Hassan's disability, his eldest son, who was only 11 years old at the time, was forced to quit school to work in the market in Erbil.

    

 Standing up on his own again  

In 1998, doctors advised Hassan to have his legs amputated and be fitted with prostheses so that he could walk again. In September of that year, 12 years after that awful incident, Hassan headed to the ICRC-supported physical rehabilitation centre in Erbil to undergo physical rehabilitation. " The emotion of that day was enormous. The idea that I would be able to walk again was overwhelming. I was so thrilled " , he says. Since then Hassan Majid regularly benefits from the services provided by the physical rehabilitation centre in Erbil.

Nevertheless, he felt there was something still missing. " I was walking again, but did not feel useful to my loved ones. I had no job " .

In 2008, the ICRC launched a project to help disabled people and those who are indigent carry out economic initiatives that would enable them to regain some degree of self-reliance. The organization asses sed Hassan's case and decided to help him. On February 9, 2009, Hassan received a motorcycle. The whole family gathered around to celebrate on that day.

Today, that motorcycle has become his source of livelihood. Thanks to his motorcycle Hassan finds it much easier to transport his goods to the market for sale, and is making more profit than he did in the past. This has encouraged him to expand his activities by increasing the variety of food products for sale and, and the places where to sell them, such as parks and highways. " My life has changed significantly since the first day I visited Erbil's physical rehabilitation centre " , he sums up.