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“He blew himself up next to my son”


Fetyan, 11, was caught in a terrorist attack in Mosul last June. Severely burned, he is now trying to recover from his injuries and regain the use of his hands. A team from Handicap International (HI) is providing him with rehabilitation care.  

Fetyan in Muharibeen hospital (East Mosul)

Fetyan in Muharibeen hospital (East Mosul) | E.Fourt / Handicap International

A constant flow of people arrives in the rehabilitation room at Muharibeen hospital, where Handicap International’s physiotherapists see patient after patient. Towards the end of the morning, a boy makes his entrance with his parents. They have never met the organization’s physiotherapists before. “Can you do something for my son?” asks his father, Mohammad, pointing to the boy’s hands, his face lined with worry. Fetyan’s arms and face are covered in burns. You can guess the force of the blast just by looking at him. Mohammad reaches for his mobile phone: “You probably want to know what happened to him,” he says before scrolling through photos and videos of the tragedy which took place two months earlier.

“All his skin was gone, but he was still conscious”

Fetyan’s father describes the attack, photo after photo, as the boy sits quietly, seemingly lost in his thoughts. “It happened on the 23rd of June, at 9.30pm precisely. My son had gone to buy an ice-cream with his cousin. First, two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the street. Fetyan, his cousin and the other customers managed to take shelter in the basement of the ice-cream shop. But then a third suicide bomber appeared and ran towards them. He blew himself up just next to my son.”

Mohammad’s eyes fill with tears. “I had a shop in the neighborhood and I was working when he had his accident. Not long after the explosions people came to help the wounded. I ran and found my son. His body was covered in burns. I could hardly recognize him. I was so distressed I started to cry. It was Fetyan who told me to stay strong, that everything would be alright. All his skin was gone, but he was still conscious. He was in a lot of pain but his main thought was to comfort me.”

“I’ll carry on fighting until I can’t see the pain in his eyes anymore.”

Fetyan was rushed to hospital. He stayed there for six weeks and had four operations. “The doctors took skin from his legs and back and grafted it onto his arms,” explains Mohammad. The family could only return to Mosul at the end of August.

Two physiotherapists examine Fetyan under the eyes of his parents. “We try to massage his arms and face every night, but it still really hurts him,” explains the boy’s mother. Handicap International’s professionals examine the impact of the burns on Fetyan’s hands and show him how to care for them. Violette, a physical rehabilitation specialist, says: “He’s unlikely to regain all the movement in his fingers, but we’ll do our best to improve his condition by giving him physiotherapy.”

The boy asks if he’ll be able to write again. He has to retake his end-of-year exam, which he missed because of the attack, and today is test day. “My son’s very intelligent. He loves going to school,” explains Mohammad. “I want to do everything I can to make sure he has a bright future. I sold my house and I’ve used up all my savings to make sure he gets better. I’ll carry on fighting until I can’t see the pain in his eyes anymore.”


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