With UAE’s support, Yemen’s war victims get a healing touch in India

Mansoor Ali Mastor, 28, from Hodeidah, Yemen, who lost both his legs to a landmine blast, being treated in Delhi for four months. (AN photo by Sanjay Kumar)
Updated 31 July 2019

With UAE’s support, Yemen’s war victims get a healing touch in India

  • In two years, more than 1,000 have been brought to New Delhi for treatment

NEW DELHI: Mansoor Ali Mastor’s quiet demeanor hides the fire inside. His amputated legs have not dampened his spirit to go to the battlefield again. He is now waiting for his artificial legs to be fitted so that he can stand.

The 28-year-old farmer is from Hodeidah, a district in the northwest of Yemen. Late last year he gave up farming, as Houthi rebels planted landmines in his field, and joined the army to fight the Iranian-backed militia. His father was kidnapped and kept in captivity for a year. In March this year, as he was walking down the street leading to his house, a landmine claimed both his legs. 

For the past four months he has been at New Delhi’s Medeor hospital.

“The Houthis have planted bombs not only in the fields but also in our kitchen. For us living is a daily challenge,” Mastor said.

“I am just waiting for my artificial legs to fit, so I can go back home and fight. I am really thankful to the UAE government for giving me new hope in life, and grateful to the Medeor hospital for nurturing me.”

Twenty-one-year-old Helmi Mahfoodh is also taking treatment for his badly injured leg in Medeor. Hailing from Al-Wazaia in Taiz District in Yemen, Mahfoodh’s left leg was badly injured by a landmine when he was fighting the Houthis. 

After spending four months in hospital, he is waiting to fly back home.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The UAE has been funding the treatment, and India has been facilitating the process, by issuing visas to the injured and those accompanying them.

• Helping the UAE is the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, a humanitarian group which helps people in the conflict zone.

• Some of the injuries were so complex that the doctors at the Medeor hospital had to perform multiple surgeries.

“We are grateful to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for standing by the people of Yemen,” he said. He, too, was considering becoming a farmer, but “Houthi insurgency has destabilized our lives. We need to eliminate them for the future of Yemen.”

In the last two years more than 1,000 injured people from Yemen — both soldiers and civilians — have been brought to New Delhi for treatment. Some of the injuries were so complex that the doctors at the Medeor hospital had to perform multiple surgeries.

The UAE government has been funding the treatment, and India has been facilitating the process, by issuing visas to the injured people and those accompanying them.

“The UAE has strong bilateral ties and cooperation with India, and health care is one of the most important areas of collaboration,” said Dr. Ahmed Al-Banna, the UAE’s ambassador to India.

“The UAE government, as part of its international responsibility to humanitarian aid, chose the Medeor hospital as its partner to provide health care facilities to injured Yemeni people. Since July 2016 we have helped over 1,000 people from Yemen in India,” added Al-Banna at a press conference in Delhi last week.

Helping the UAE is the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, a humanitarian group which helps people in the conflict zone.

Al-Banna says that the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis was doing its best to ensure there are no civilian casualties.

Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman and managing director of VPS Health Care, told Arab News: “The mission was initiated by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Shaikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

“We are extremely privileged that the UAE government has trusted us to send Yemeni patients to our hospital for treatment. We have formed a special team of specialist doctors and nurses,” he added.


A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

Updated 22 January 2020

A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

  • Will give migrants a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes torn apart by partition of 1947

NEW DELHI: Sparsh Ahuja and Ameena Malak grew up listening to their grandparents narrate stories of the partition from 1947.
Ahuja’s grandfather, Ishar Das Arora, was 7 years old when the Indian subcontinent was divided into two by the British, creating India and Pakistan. 
More than 14 million people were displaced at the time, and about one million perished in the fighting that followed.
Arora moved from a Pakistani village, named Bela, to Delhi after living in several refugee camps and escaping the violence.
Meanwhile, Malak’s grandfather, Ahmed Rafiq, moved from the Indian city of Hoshiarpur to Pakistan’s Lahore.
Now in their 70s, both the grandparents yearn to go back home and see the places where they were born and spent their childhoods. 
However, the constant uncertainty in the relationship between India and Pakistan and their old age has made the task of visiting their respective birthplaces extremely difficult.
To fulfill the wishes of their grandparents, and several others who yearn to visit their ancestral homelands, Ahuja and Malak decided to launch Project Dastaan (story).
“What started as an idea for a student project last year at Oxford University became a larger peace-building venture,” Ahuja, the director of the project, said.
Project Dastaan is a university-backed virtual reality (VR) peace-building initiative reconnecting displaced survivors of partition with their childhood through bespoke 360-degree digital experiences.
Backed by the South Asia Programme at Oxford, it uses VR headsets to give these migrants, who are often over 80 years old, a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes. It shows them the people and places they most want to see again by finding the exact locations and memories that the survivors seek to revisit, and recreates them.
“It is a creative effort to start a new kind of conversation based on the direct experience of a now-foreign country in the present, rather than relying upon records and memories from the past,” Ahuja told Arab News.
He added that Pakistan-based Khalid Bashir Rai “teared up after his VR experience, and told us we had transported him back” to his childhood.
“At its heart, the project is a poignant commentary on its own absurdity. By taking these refugees back we are trying to highlight the cultural impact of decades of divisive foreign policy and sectarian conflict on the subcontinent. This is a task for policymakers, not university students. In an ideal world, a project like this shouldn’t exist,” Ahuja said.
Other members of Project Dastaan — Saadia Gardezi and Sam Dalrymple — have a connection with partition, too. Gardezi grew up with partition stories; her grandmother volunteered at refugee camps in Lahore, and her grandfather witnessed terrible violence as a young man.
Dalrymple’s grandfather had been a British officer in India during the twilight years of the British Empire. So scarred was he by the partition that he never visited Dalrymple’s family in Delhi, even after 30 years of them living there.
“I think Dastaan is ultimately about stripping away the layers of politics and trying to solve a very simple problem: That children forced to leave their homes, have never been able to go back again,” Dalrymple told Arab News.
Ahuja added: “The partition projects are a peace offering in the heart of hostility. It is an attempt at creating a wider cultural dialogue between citizens and policymakers of the three countries.”
The project aims to reconnect 75 survivors of the partition of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh with their childhood memories, when the subcontinent observes 75 years of partition in 2022.
Project Dastaan is also producing a documentary called “Child of Empire” that will put viewers in the shoes of a 1947 partition migrant, and will be shown at film festivals and museums.