“I said in an interview with some Greeks that I am a man who does not give up, in spite of losing my both legs, and that I will carry on my sport career with determination, no matter what. This was my message to the world”
This is how the Syrian swimmer from Deir Ezzor addressed the world from Greece after a long journey that started from the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor to several Turkish cities and then Greece during a risky smuggling process from the sea.
Despite his physical disability, he managed to reach international platforms and won for several times, overcoming his disability which he suffered in a shelling by Assad’s forces on residential buildings in the city of Deir Ezzor during the beginning of the Syrian Revolution.
In an interview with D24, he spoke about his disability by saying, “I was heavily wounded after I partook in a peaceful protest in the Orafi neighborhood of Deir Ezzor city. I had to jump from a four-floor building to escape from being arrested by Assad’s forces. This caused the hinge in my left to come apart. Therefore, I had to undergo a surgery and replaced it with a plastic one. My second injury took place five months after the first, as I was attempting to rescue a friend of mine from an artillery shell that was coming at him, which exploded near me and caused me to lose my entire right leg.
After losing his faith in some revolutionary institutions in the province who promised to provide medical treatment for his injury, Hussein headed to Turkey. However, after a year, he learned that those promises were nothing but lies and that a surgery for his wounds is costly.
He continues, “ I had a plastic leg replacement surgery in the city of Rayhaniya of Turkey, which in the end turned out to be an unqualified surgery. Therefore, I headed to Istanbul in search of a good quality plastic part.”
Hussein was caught between two stark choices, either he returns to Syria or travel to Europe in a risky journey just like thousands of other Syrians. Ibrahim decided to travel to Europe with the help of some of his friends who managed to smuggle him into Greece, but he could not continue his journey to Europe due to a lack of money.
He says,” I ran out of money once I arrived in Greece. I knew an Armenian girl in Greece, and once she knew I am from Deir Ezzor, she recalled the massacres against Armenian which were perpetrated by the Ottomans. She persists on helping me because she was aware of the fact that people in Deir Ezzor helped the Armenians to escape those massacres and that they are still living together in there. She introduced me to a Greek girl. And the first kind of help she provided was a medical surgery of 2300 euros, which the Greek and the Armenian girls paid.”
Most people did not expect that Ibrahim who suffers from a physical disability would resume his sport career one day.
He joined a basketball club for people with disabilities called ‘Marossi” which is located in the capital of Greece Athena.
Ibrahim says, “ After joining that club, I made up my mind to practice my favorite sport game, which is swimming. My Greek friend told me that I needed some kinds of documents proving my sport career from the Syrian Sport Union. Then, I applied for the documents by the help of some lawyers; however, the union considered the matter unserious and rejected to give me any documents, which increased my resilience to continue my career.”
The Greek Sport Union gave him documents proving his sport career in order to legally continue his career. Once he got the documents, he immediately joined the Porto Buri Sport Club and began training without any salary, apart from some rewards that were not even enough to pay his bus tickets…
Hussein won a golden medal in a competition organized in Athena. While standing on the winners’ platform, he took of his medal and gave it to the Greek girl who provided him with all kinds of help to return to his career.
After the Greek championship ended and the Olympics games approached, his coaches contacted the Greek Sport Union to nominate him for carrying the Olympics torch, which they succeeded in.
Ibrahim says, “After two months of carrying the torch, I partook in two swimming competitions in which I was second. Then, I participated in the Olympics games for people with disabilities which took place in Brazil, making it the first time in my life in which I participate in a foreign competition”
The jury valued my participation with S9 due to my disability, even though I deserved S8. It was a good participation and powerful in which I gained a prize for the most significant sport man story. In 2017, I will partake in four competitions; two will be held in Greece and others in Mexico.
After attaining success in multiple sport competitions, the Syrian Union affiliated with the Assad regime attempted to contact him. However, all of their attempts were rejected by Ibrahim who said, “I did not answer their calls because they are only good at saying nationalist slogans devoid of any value.”
In recent days, Ibrahim was invited to attend a meeting at the cultural center in Madrid, which coincided with the tragedy in Aleppo due to the siege lead to it by Assad’s forces and allied militias. During the meeting, he talked about that tragedy instead of addressing his honoring by the center.
He began his talk by addressing the children of Aleppo, “ one day, your children would ask you where have you been concerning what was taking place in Aleppo. What did you do to them?”
Concerning his message to Deir Ezzor, he said that he hope that one day, the sieged would be lifted and that they manage to get rid of all tyrants.
Hussein Ibrahim is from the Omal neighborhood of Deir Ezzor city. He gained several prizes in the year of 2002, most notable of which was the second rank in the province of Hasakah. His father was also the coach of the Yaqda Club for Swimming in Deir Ezzor.