Idlib… Political empowerment of people with disabilities
Enab Baladi – Idlib
“After my leg was amputated, I gave up on participating in any political or cultural activity. I suffered tremendously from an injury that caused the loss of my leg,” with these words Khaled Mishmesh expressed his suffering from disability after his house was hit by a missile in Idlib and caused him below knee amputation.
His suffering and others like him prompted the launching of activities and event that sought the integration of people with disabilities into social life in the opposition-held areas in northern Syria
In the spirit of that principle, a campaign called “Capable despite the Difference” was launched in Idlib, on 15 February and it will continue until 30 March, to support amputees in northern Syria.
Khaled said to Enab Baladi, that his participation in the event “Capable Despite the Difference” has been a great asset, and raised his awareness about the political scene in the country as, he previously, was completely disconnected to such issues. This was due to the restriction of amputees’ activities to sports only.
The campaign “Capable despite the Difference” aims to support people with disabilities and facilitate their integration into the political life being part of the society. It also seeks to provide training to a specific category on issues related to advocacy.
This campaign is supported by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting ( IWPR), and targets people with mobility impairment mainly those with amputated limbs or paralysis, however, it does not include persons with mental disabilities.
The event includes educational sessions on the rights of persons with disabilities in general, as well as explaining the axes of the constitution, elections and local and civil governance.
Mohamed Nour Hallaq, the campaign coordinator, said to Enab Baladi that the campaign was backed by youth efforts. Its aim is to enable people with disabilities to defend their own causes and guiding them to significant key steps for mobilization and advocacy.
Hallaq added that “Capable despite the Difference” campaign is the first step for previously subsequent planned campaigns aiming to support people with special needs in the liberated areas in northern Syria.
So far, 150 people have benefited from this campaign, half of whom were females. It offers a variety of activities like graffiti to raise awareness about the challenges amputees face as well as to draw attention to the campaign.
Some Idlib based associations showed their support and bridged the gap between the campaign organizers and the interested entities, such as “Basher al-Sabreen association” and the “Physical Therapy Center” in Idlib.
“The campaign proves that disabled people are just like us, and that they enjoy the same rights. Even if they face a certain degree of rejection from society or suffered from unfair treatment by others, there are associations which take care of them and work on their integration into the political life” said the director of the “Physical Therapy Center” in Idlib, Muhammad Marhi Sheikh al-Haddadin, to Enab Baladi.
Figures and Statistics
There are no official statistics on the number of people with physical disabilities in Syria, but in December 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that more than 3 million Syrians suffer from disabilities and war injuries.
According to a report published by the organization, more than 1.5 million Syrians were disabled by conflicts and war in Syria after 2011, with an average of 30,000 injuries every month, pointing out that 86,000 of them are amputees where children constitute one-third of these cases.
The report attributed the high number of “war disabilities” to the use of new weapons and explosives; notably explosive barrels and incendiary weapons during the first seven years of revolution in Syria.
In opposition-held areas northern Syria, amputees suffered exponentially as they were subjected to prompt field-based surgeries without advanced diagnosis or examination.
This was due to the absence of qualified medical centers to perform these operations, in addition to the lack of medical personnel, equipments and the required sterilization materials to conduct amputation surgeries.
Most amputees suffer greatly in their search for prosthetic supported centers, which is a stressful and costly process requiring much time and effort, let alone the financial cost of moving between cities and towns northern Syria.
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