Iraq: Blind Saman embraces a new world of radio broadcast
A year ago, Saman Ali Sadeq, a Kurdish man from Takiya, a small town 60 km from Suleymanieh in northern Iraq, would never have dreamed of owning his own business. Now he runs a shop and his own local radio station educating people about computers.
Blind by birth, Saman could not go to school because of the limited opportunities to learn Braille. For a while he helped his father in making felt but, as the industry shifted towards handicrafts, his input became limited as the change involved needlework.
Saman has always been interested in radio and electronics as he embraces the world through touch and sound. Recalling his teenage years he says: “In the early 1990s I made my first transmitter from pieces of an Atari computer. I tried to run it for a while but failed because back then to run a radio you needed money for equipment.”
Saman in his home-based studio from where he broadcasts Kurdish music and talk shows about computers to people in the neighbouring villages. ICRC/P. Krzysiek
A dream fulfilled
In September 2012, Saman, a father of two, Malo (two) and Sherko (eight), received a grant from the ICRC to establish his own stationery and computer shop. A few months later, with his first profit he was able to fulfil his dream of launching his own local radio station.
"When we visited Saman for the first time, he was in a very difficult situation. When you are blind and have two children, your life here can be very difficult," recalls Soran Mohammed Ahmed, an ICRC field officer working on micro-economic projects in the Suleymanieh area. "We decided to support him because he had a project and the strong willingness to change his life despite disability."
"With the money I received from the ICRC, I bought a photocopy machine, stationery material, some CDs with software and opened a shop. As I live next to a school and the municipality, many people come to buy things. I still remember the exact amount of money I earned during the first month in my shop," says Saman.
A mix of music and education
Now Saman’s daily life revolves around his radio, where he plays a mix of Kurdish folklore songs and runs educational programmes about computers. His radio station is called Zanwer, which in the Kurdish language means ‘lovely’.
"I wake up, have my breakfast and I start playing music on the radio. Then I go to my shop, come back for lunch, prepare programmes for the next day and start my thirty-minute long computer lectures," Saman says proudly.
With his shop, Saman earns roughly 300,000 Iraqi dinnars (about US$260) per month, which allows him to support his family while satisfying his personal interest in electronics. Yet he has some more ambitious projects in mind.
"People find my radio useful. They are interested in my programmes and love the music I play. They come from nearby towns asking me to expand because they cannot hear the programmes since my 100 MHz signal is too weak. But I have plans to provide classes for all blind people in this area. I want to expand, but cannot afford it just yet."