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Wheelchair basketball rekindles young Yemeni woman's passion for life

(Xinhua)    09:39, December 10, 2020

Yemeni women with disabilities play a wheelchair basketball match in Sanaa, Yemen, Dec. 8, 2020. (Photo by Mohammed Mohammed/Xinhua)

SANAA, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- Eshwaq Al-Maarshy, a young woman in Yemen, lost her right leg in a landmine explosion ten years ago. Since then, she had been sulking in frustration and anger for a long time until she found wheelchair basketball.

"The disability does affect my life," the 23-year-old Al-Maarshy said. "But I am trying to get myself out of the negative feelings. Today, I just see myself as a normal basketball player."

Al-Maarshy started to play wheelchair basketball in 2018 and quickly showed her talent in the sport.

Now she is in a wheelchair basketball team that competes in a national tournament, which started on Sunday. It has five teams all comprised of women with disabilities in the war-torn country.

The event was organized by the International Committee of Red Cross and the Disabled Welfare Department in the Houthi-controlled Sanaa to improve disabled women's life quality and social inclusion.

Abda Mohamed Zayed, basketball coach and tournament superintendent, told Xinhua that "the tournament is served as a psychosocial support program for people with disabilities to get them out of isolation through sports. Through the program, we have boosted many female players' confidence and improved their ability to care for themselves."

The five teams were divided by how the players got their disabilities, such as gunshots and airstrikes. Al-Maarshy and her five teammates are all victims of landmines.

As a result of decades of wars and conflicts, including the ongoing civil war that has lasted around six years, tens of thousands of landmines were laid across the country, posing a grave danger for civilians.

Previous reports of humanitarian organizations suggested that Yemen has become one of the largest landmine battlefields in the world since World War II.

Worse than that, the war and blockade dismantled the country's health system and bereft most of the welfare services for people with disabilities.

"I would never forgive the people who planted that landmine," Al-Maarshy said. "Because it also destroyed my soul."

Al-Maarshy lost her leg ten years ago even before the current civil war erupted. A landmine buried decades ago from the previous wars exploded when she and other little girls were playing hide and seek near their house in the Dhalea province in southern Yemen when she was only 13.

Most of Al-Maarshy's teammates, however, lost their legs due to the landmines laid during the current war, which already took more than 230,000 lives and injured even more since it broke up in 2014.

She expressed gratefulness to the wheelchair basketball for bringing positive attitude into her life. But she knew that the suffering of her country is still far from the end.

"My message is to stop the war on Yemen and let us live in peace. Enough suffering and devastations have been caused. Yemen is one of the poorest countries (in the Middle East) and life here is very hard," she said.


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(Web editor: Wen Ying, Bianji)

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