Go to contents

[Opinion] A Girl with an Artificial Leg

Posted September. 23, 2004 22:07,   


A 14-year-old Afghan girl named Mareena Karim does not remember the accident that caused her handicap. According to her mother, when Mareena was a baby, she was injured with a moderate burn and was taken to the hospital where she had half of her right leg amputated and lost all of her toes on her left foot. Mareena was not allowed to go to school during the Taliban administration period (1995-2001). The Taliban administration prohibited women from receiving an education. As the war rose between Allied opposition forces in northern Afghanistan and the Taliban, her family moved to Kabul. Her father found a roof that barely sheltered the family there, in this city in ruins.

On the day that Careem was leaving the Kabul Airport, having been selected as a national athlete for the Athens Paralympics, her parents came to give her a send-off along with her siblings and cousins. The family consists of 10 brothers and 8 sisters. It is unknown whether all 18 of the siblings were born from the same mother. After finishing last in the 100 m race, Mareena burst into tears, covering her face with her hands. Maybe it was because she wasn’t able to bring a medal to her family who had come to the airport for a send-off.

Careem said, “It is not fair that a person who has a leg disability and a person with an arm disability compete in the same race.” Comparing the capacity of different types of disabled people with different kinds and degrees of disabilities is a difficult task for the Paralympics. Although Mareena ran the 100 m in 18.85 seconds, she was praised as the “real champion” of the Paralympics. This Afghan girl gave hope to Islamic women who are endeavoring to recover their right as human beings and citizens of their country, as well as to the disabled people around the world.

According to the cause of death statistics from the National Statistical Office, 30 people committed suicide each day in Korea last year. Suicide is the number one cause of death among those in their twenties and the thirties in Korea. Youth without a dream may be more hopeless than those who are disabled with no legs or arms. There even was a statistic from the Samsung Economic Research Institute revealing that one out of four workers suffer an early stage of alcohol dependency. Suicide and alcohol dependency have a common characteristic of escapism. Careem showed a combative spirit towards life under a hopeless situation. She spoke about her dream saying, “I want to participate in the Beijing Paralympics, and I also want to become a doctor in the future.” A dream gives courage. A life without a dream chooses extreme escapism.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial writer, hthwang@donga.com