Yemenis have not let their disabilities get in the way of starting their own projects to sustain themselves and their families.
Taiz, Yemen — Amjad Faisal, 32, used to work in a cement factory in the Taiz governorate of southwest Yemen, a job that enabled him to enjoy a good life and provide for his ten family members.
But in May 2015, Saudi-led airstrikes hit the factory with eight missiles. Faisal lost his job and returned to Taiz city where he started to look for work.
“While I was walking on the street in October 2015, a shelling fell on me and my friends ran away. I felt that I flew and fell down,” Faisal told TRT World. “I felt that I was dreaming.”
“In a few minutes I regained consciousness and tried to walk, but I saw that I don’t have legs.”
Faisal would be rescued and rushed to a hospital, where doctors decided to amputate his legs to save the rest of his body from further infection. Faisal has had more than 30 operations, and still continues to have more procedures done to remove all of the shrapnel lodged in him.
Faisal has adapted to his disability. Not wanting to see himself as dependent on others, he decided to start his own project which would help provide for himself.
At the beginning of the war in Taiz, many shops were forced to close and many businesses went bankrupt. Faisal decided to buy one of the shops and started selling ice cream.
“I opened this ice cream shop in 2017. It was damaged and this street was almost empty back then,” Faisal recalled.
“I rehabilitated the shop and started my work - and succeeded against all odds.”
Later more shops reopened near Faisal's, as life started to return to the street - and revenues along with it.
“Because of the bad economic situation, there are not many opportunities to make money. But work is good and it is better than unemployment,” Faisal added.
Faisal started without any experience, but it ended up being a good choice as the same shop was selling ice cream before the war. He works in the shop with other employees who help him in making the ice cream.
Now he is happy with his newfound project, and advises other disabled people not to fall into despair but to try finding work that is a good fit for them.
“My advice to disabled people not to surrender to disability and stay at home, but to seek out work and they will find it,” he said.
“If you surrender to disability, you will stay in need of people forever. Those who stay without work, they destroy themselves. Allah [God] supports anyone who works.”
Gawhar Abulsalam, 23, a frequent customer at the shop confirmed that he always buys ice cream from Faisal’s because of the quality.
“I always buy from this shop. But I didn’t know that Faisal is disabled. He sits on a chair behind the desk, so it is now the first day I realised he is a disabled man,” he told TRT World.
“After knowing this, we must encourage him and I will tell friends and people who I know to buy from his shop.”
Abdulsalam stated that Faisal’s shop is the only one in the city that makes the ice cream in front of the customers, so they know it's clean and hygienically handled.
Before the war, there were around two million disabled people in Yemen. In 2020, that number reached at least 4.5 million and counting.
Omar Ahmed, a father of two children, used to work in a shop where he’d get a daily wage that was hardly enough for him to provide for his family.
In 2019, he stepped on a landmine in Taiz city and lost one of his legs and shrapnel hit different parts of his body, including the other leg.
“I remained six months on a bed and then I started to walk with crutches,” he told TRT World. “Before disability, I was planning to open my own shop but I couldn’t do so.”
“But even with my disability, I decided to achieve my goal.”
Ahmed opened a small shop in a container near a hospital in the city, and started to work and get enough of an income that helped him support his family.
Ahmed’s brother and some friends supported him when he opened the shop. He also borrowed some money and bought more goods as stock, and now plans to start selling vegetables too.
“The worst feeling is depending on others to help even if they are your brothers,” he said.
“My message to disabled people is to depend on themselves because those who help you today won’t help tomorrow.”