Iraq: An easier life for Sabah


Handicap International’s mobile team is visiting Sabah in Jalawla. The door is opened by a cheerful little girl holding a rabbit. “His name is Bobby," she says as she pets her rabbit. Resting on the bed donated by Handicap International, her father Sabah greets Handicap International physical therapist Shvan and psychosocial worker Awtar who have been working with him for several months. “It’s great to see him smile,” says Awtar. “A few months ago, he was still very depressed. He hasn’t had an easy life.”

In 1987, Sahab was working as a deminer in southern Iraq. The Iran-Iraq War was at its height and his job was to clear the mines laid during the conflict. “One day, we were working and soldiers fired at us,” Sabah says. “We ran and climbed over a wall and I fell on a mine. When it exploded, I saw my foot blown from my body. A colleague put me on his back and continued running.” When Sabah reached the hospital, surgeons advised an amputation. The accident changed his life and the trauma was difficult to shake off.

Years passed by and Sabah married and started a family. He began to enjoy the little things in life again and seemed to have forgotten his accident, until 2014, when another war turned his life upside down. “When the Islamic State arrived in Jalawla, I immediately decided to flee with my family. We left at night, terrified they’d kill us if they saw us. We crossed a bridge and a few minutes later a bomb struck it. It was really dangerous, and my amputation made it harder. We were so frightened.”

Sabah took refuge with his family in another town where they stayed for over a year before returning to Jalawla in February 2016. “When we arrived, the authorities warned us we’d be shocked. They were right. I didn’t recognize my house when I opened the front door. Everything was gone. They had looted everything. Thank God the walls were still there. Lots of houses were reduced to rubble, so I can’t complain.”

Since returning to Jalawla, Handicap International has been providing Sabah with support. “We gave him a toilet chair and a bed because they had stolen everything and he couldn’t do without them,” says physical therapist Shvan. “I also worked with the governmental hospital to get him a new prosthesis, better adapted to his needs. Today, I want to check and see how he's managing.” The two men head into the courtyard for rehabilitation exercises.

A little later, at the end of the session, Shvan and Awtar congratulate him on his progress. “The organization has helped me a lot," Sabah explains. "Life is easier now. All this effort, I do it for them," he says as he gestures to his children.

Handicap International has been working in Iraq since 1991. Currently we are providing emergency response to the Syrian crisis, rehabilitation, and support for disabled people's organizations (DPOs). Learn more about our work in Iraq.