Disabled Iraqi Athletes Still Struggle - 12.24.2007

Video - Damascus, Syria - Today Iraq’s many survivors of car bombings and terrorist attacks have a great number of role models to look to. The Iraqi Paralympics Committee and Weightlifting Federation have come together to ensure that disabled Iraqi weightlifters/powerlifters have as great a chance to compete in the Paralympics as other sports, such as the swimming events.

Hayder Fahad met up with members of the Paralympic branch of the Weightlifting Federation before they journeyed to Greece for the European Open Championship. Because of the violence in Baghdad, it has become more and more difficult for athletes of all types to train regularly in Baghdad. Those with disabilities find it even more difficult to navigate the dangerous and unpredictable streets.

Because of these risks, the teams have been seeking training locations outside of Iraq. Under President Basher Assad, the Syrian Government has offered visas and facilities to many of Iraq’s athletes, including the powerlifting division of Iraq’s Paralympics hopefuls. Iraqi weightlifters and powerlifters have been making news not onlyafter the invasion of Iraq but since at least 1960.

In the European Open, powerlifters from Iraq went home with three medals and seven qualifications for the Beijin Paralympics in 2008. Thekra Zakri, one of the fourth place finalists who will go on to the Paralympics was interviewed here by Hayder Fahad. She told them their one goal on the team was to win a “great achievement for our country.”

With the vast number of injured and disabled Iraqis across the entire country due to the war, the sport of weightlifting, and particularly wheelchair weightlifting and powerlifting will not be going away soon. Gyms such as Sabah Talib’s will be a great asset to Iraqis hoping to train and excel in their own country as well as abroad.

Although it is with great excitement that members of Iraq’s team will be going on to the Paralympics, they will unfortunately be without one of their beloved coaches. Hassan Ridha Ali, himself wheelchair-bound, recently died from a brain thrombosis.

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Alive in Baghdad correspondents such as Hayder Fahad will continue to bring stories of daily life in Baghdad, as well as the difficulties of Iraqis living in surrounding countries. Please consider becoming a paying subscriber or making a donation above to Alive in Baghdad, and support our Iraqi staff who continue to work under these difficult circumstances.


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