Filmmaker: Ramzi Maqdisi
Around 113,000 people in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza live with disabilities. Over 33 percent of schoolgoers with disabilities drop out of school.
In this film, we meet seven Palestinians aged between seven and 28 with different disabilities. Most were born with them; one was injured in Israeli attacks on Gaza.
But they all have a positive attitude and a strong desire to overcome their physical weaknesses andrealise their dreams.
Disability is not in the body, it’s in the mind. If the mind is healthy, you can do whatever you want. When you learn, nothing is impossible and the biggest proof is that I can ride a bicycle. My dream is to learn and help people like me. I know how they feel.
We meet Haneen Abu Ayash, 25, who lives in Hebron. Haneen trained as a secretary but couldn’t find a job because of a speech impediment she‘s had since birth. Her mother suffered a lack of oxygen while giving birth to Haneen, which left her daughter with a balance defect. “Is it wrong to feel that I’m like everyone else?” she asks. “It’s not wrong to exercise my right or to know that I’m like the rest of the people.”
Mohamed Sadah, a young man who works for his uncle in a second-hand market, was born with a congenital malformation affecting his lower body. He bemoans the lack of electronic equipment and other facilities for the disabled in the Occupied West Bank. Yet, despite not having the use of his legs, he strives to be independent, using his hands to climb stairs.
Idriss Awaad, seven, is determined to learn how to walk and practises every single day along a long wall near his uncle’s house. He suffers from the same condition as Haneen.
“When I start walking, I’ll give [my brother] Issa the stand and this chair to sell,” he says.
Just before he graduated, Zyad Deeb, 28, an artist and photographer, lost 11 members of his family in Israeli rocket attacks during the Gaza War of 2008-2009. He also lost both his legs. His father and brother are buried in the same grave along with his legs.
But these tragedies haven’t stopped him from capturing the “beauty of things” in his beloved Gaza.
Also from Gaza is Anas Abu Haloub, a young schoolboy who has the same condition as Mohamed and requires a wheelchair. He goes to school and although he can’t play sport with other children, he doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him and help him.
Muna Zayed, a 14-year-old girl with a big smile, is close to her elder brother, Thaer, but says she has no friends because children her age “don’t accept playing with me”. Muna, who lives in Gaza, has had virtually to drop out of school because it became too difficult for her to use her manual wheelchair and her family couldn‘t take her to school every day. Nevertheless, she aspires to become a primary school teacher.
Abed Alrahman Abu Rawah, 17, who lives in Gaza, was born with a congenital malformation leaving him with one arm and one leg. Despite this, he taught himself how to ride a bike and is determined to get work helping other disabled people.
In the face of conflict, occupation, tragedy and disability – in places ill-equipped to handle special needs – we see how these seven people have learned to navigate complex challenges with both optimism and strength. In Defying My Disability we see how they‘re determined to rise above their disabilities, make the most out of life and draw strength from everyday things around them – their families, the sea and themselves.