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Disabilities And The "War On Terror"

Related resource:
September 11, 2001 and Beyond: The Impact of the Terror Attacks on People With Disabilities (Inclusion Daily Express)

Feb. 20: Authorities Resort To Saddam-Era Laws To Detain 'Street People'
Feb. 20: VA: Veterans Won't Have To 'Reprove' PTSD
Feb. 1: Officials: Terrorists Used Women With Disabilities To Kill Dozens At Baghdad Pet Markets
Nov. 15: Iraqi Official Reluctantly Speaks About Children's Deadly Illnesses
Oct. 15: Pathologist: Taliban Mostly Recruits Afghans With Disabilities For Suicide Bombings
Sept. 18: Soldier Fights To Keep Service Dog At His Side
May 8: Taliban Recruits 'Disenfranchised' For Suicide Bombings
April 11: Reports: Al-Qaeda Uses Children With Disabilities As Weapons
March 8: Durbin Recommends Duckworth For Military Hospital Commission
February 28: Bob Woodruff Report Draws Attention To Vets' Brain Injuries And Inadequate Care
Nov. 6: Paralympic Athlete And Coach Kidnapped At Gunpoint
May 18: U.S. Military Puts Soldiers With Mental Illness In Harm's Way, Newspaper Reveals
May 10: Young Man With Autism Was Recruited For Dangerous Army Role
April 4: Children Traumatized By War Join Specialized School
Sept. 14: Iraqi Constitution Grants People With Disabilities Health Care And Rehabilitation, But Little Else
Sept 1: Iraqi Officials Say Disability Programs Improved Since War
August 22: Muslim Women With Disabilities March For Peace
Feb 2: Insurgents Used Teen With Down Syndrome As Human Bomb On Election Day
Aug 4: Post-War Afghans Experience High Rates Of Mental Illness
April 12: Would-be Terrorist Had Mental Disabilities
December 23: U.S. Soldiers Bond With Children At Iraqi Orphanage
July 07: Baghdad Psych Facility Is Missing Medications, Files, Patients
April 30: "Disabled Vets Should Not Bear the Costs of War" by Mike Ervin
April 17: Officials Stand By Refusal To Allow Mother And Son Into Country (Czech Republic)
April 7: "Iraq Vets Might Get Fewer Services" by Deborah Kendrick (Ohio)
April 3: Peaceful Protests To Be Outlawed? (Oregon)
April 2: Frightened Orphans Wait Out War In Baghdad (Iraq)
March 28: "Personal Voices: Wheelchairs Against War" by Marta Russell (US)
March 25: Children With Disabilities Caught In Middle Of Iraq Conflict (Iraq)
March 20: Crowd Protests Cuts To Transit And Human Services (Pennsylvania)
February 20: Commentary On Article About Gas Masks (Israel)
February 13: Devices Will Help Deaf Israelis 'Hear' War Alerts (Israel)
January 16: Afghan Protesters Stage Second Demonstration (Afghanistan)
January 2: No Gas Masks For People With Disabilities (Israel)

December 10: Afghans With Disabilities Take To Streets To Protest Lack Of Funding (Afghanistan)
November 29:Putin Hears Concerns From Disability Groups, Orders Government To Make Changes (Russia)
November 12: Battle Continues Over Disabled Vet Benefits(US)
October 11: Standoff Looms On Benefits For Disabled Vets (US)

December 7: Afghan Children To Receive Medical Care In Germany (Pakistan)
November 5: Future Uncertain For Teen In War Zone (Afghanistan)

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Future Uncertain For Teen In War Zone
November 5, 2001
BAMYAN, AFGHANISTAN--A European woman told the Irish Times about the conditions faced by a 14-year-old girl in Afghanistan named Zaria who has a disability and tuberculosis.

The teen, who is from an ethnic group that is traditionally persecuted in her country, worked in a carpet factory to support the 10 members of her family. There she and her young coworkers were forced to take caffeine tablets to keep them alert through the night shifts.

Things have changed for the worse since an injury and illness have left Zaria paralyzed on one side.

Zaria's story is told in the Irish Times: (Registration required)

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Afghan Children To Receive Medical Care In Germany
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 7, 2001
PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN--Seven Afghan children below age 15 were sent to Germany Thursday for medical care for injuries they have received during the war in their country.

The Afghanistan Commission for Human Rights (ACHR) and a German organization say another 12 children will be sent to Germany within the next few days.

The Peshawar Frontier Post reports that while some of the children have lost legs or arms during fighting that has been going on in Afghanistan for the last several years, the numbers of people becoming disabled through injuries has increased significantly during the recent bombings.

Officials say the children are to receive medical treatment to recover from their injuries. Later they will be fitted with artificial limbs so they can live as independently as possible.

An ACHR spokesperson said a team of doctors would soon be going into Afghanistan to collect information about other children with disabilities who may also need medical treatment.

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Standoff Looms On Benefits For Disabled Vets
October 11, 2002
WASHINGTON, DC--Even as they gave President Bush new authority to deal with Iraq -- by force, if necessary -- and moved toward final approval of $355 billion in defense spending for 2003, lawmakers remained at odds with the administration this week over proposals to increase the retirement benefits of thousands of disabled military retirees. (Virginian Pilot)

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Battle Continues Over Vet Benefits
November 12, 2002
UNITED STATES--As American forces are fighting a war against terrorism and planning is under way for another war against Iraq, American veterans wounded in other wars are in their own fight. After their military careers, they expected full retirement pay — but they didn’t expect their wounds would be a penalty.

(Hank) Nix and half a million other disabled veterans learned after retiring that an obscure 19th century law reduces their retirement pay by the amount they get in disability. It’s a quirky law applying only to disabled soldiers and no other federal workers. (MSNBC)

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Putin Hears Concerns From Disability Groups, Orders Government To Make Changes
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 29, 2002

MOSCOW, RUSSIA--President Vladimer Putin this week ordered his ministers to put together plans to improve conditions for the 11 million Russians with disabilities.

Putin met with leaders of several groups representing Russians that are blind or deaf, along with veterans from the Afghan war, and victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The advocates presented Putin with a list of concerns. Most worriesome, they said, is the new tax code which has removed tax breaks and incentives for companies that hire workers with disabilities. The head of the Russian Society for the Blind told Putin that withdrawing those tax breaks would force businesses operated and staffed by such workers to close down.

The President has urged his government to come up with new tax incentives before the end of the current fiscal year.

Putin said that during the Soviet era people with disabilities were outcasts and made to feel ashamed. Accompanied by a sign language interpreter, he said that while some of this has changed, there is much more to be done.

"We still have a long way to go in this respect," Putin said, according to Friday's BBC News.

Nearly one in every ten Russians has a disability, and the numbers are growing, the news service noted.

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Afghans Take To Streets To Protest Lack Of Funding
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 10, 2002

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN--Around 300 Afghans with disabilities, many using crutches and wheelchairs, protested outside the presidential palace Monday, demanding the government increase their benefits.

The peaceful demonstration took place as President Hamid Karzai's cabinet met inside to increase the social benefits it pays through the Ministry for the Disabled and Martyrs. The protesters, which included women and children, had warned the government that the demonstrations would continue until their demands were met.

"We are in a desperate condition," one of the demonstrators explained.

Twenty-three years of war and occupation have left Afghanistan with the highest percentage of people with disabilities of any country in the world, according to Reuters news. Approximately 400,000 people are registered with the ministry. It is believed there are another 400,000 not yet registered. Many lost arms and legs from land mine accidents over the past two decades.

"In the past they used to receive 100,000 afghanis ($2 US) a month and a committee was set up at the cabinet meeting to increase privileges," said Karzai's spokesman Sayed Fazl Akbar.

"We are talking about several million dollars a month now only for the Disabled and Martyrs' Ministry."

The ministry currently provides little funding, but some people with disabilities receive help from international aid agencies such as the Red Cross.

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No Gas Masks For People With Disabilities
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 2, 2003

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL--As many as 25,000 Israelis with developmental and other disabilities have no protection from biological or chemical attacks.

According to an article in the independent newspaper Ha'aretz, the Israeli government has not supplied defense kits with gas masks for people -- including thousands of children -- that have certain disabilities.

People that do not have gas masks are expected to find shelter in "protected spaces" -- rooms with special filter systems that can be turned on in an emergency. This could be a particular problem for the estimated 8,000 people who live in institutions, most of which have no such "protected spaces."

The Home Front Command and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs apparently have been aware of the problem for years.

In fact, the official emergency civil defense guidelines released two years ago state in bold letters: "Do not strap gas masks on people with developmental disabilities, as they could endanger their lives."

The government has some specially designed kits, but not enough to cover the need. Even so, it is not distributing the ones that have been produced, nor is it providing instructions to the families of people with developmental disabilities.

Related article:
"No suitable gas masks for those with special needs"(Ha'aretz Daily)

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Afghan Protesters Stage Second Demonstration
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 16, 2003

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN--For the second time in six weeks, Afghans with disabilities have protested the government's lack of attention to their needs.

Up to 80,000 Afghans experience physical disabilities stemming from the Soviet occupation from 1979 to 1989 and the country's civil war that followed. Many were permanently injured by land mines.

The crowd Tuesday included about 300 veterans, many missing arms and legs, who gathered outside the health ministry at the capital. Police kept the crowd from moving onto the presidential palace.

"We're here demanding our rights," Mohammad Akbar, whose leg had been amputated below his knee, told the Associated Press news agency. "We're not terrorists, we're sons of the nation who sacrificed and suffered."

The veterans want the new government of President Hamid Karzai to pay them their pensions, amounting to $2 US a month, that have been owed to them for the past several months. They also want the government to increase the amount of those pensions.

"It's nothing, we have to spend twice the stipend we get on transport," protester Gull Baba told the AFP news agency.

In addition, the demonstrators want the government to help them with subsidized housing, food coupons, and jobs.

"I'm an educated man. I'm not illiterate," said Mohammed Abdullah, a graduate of the former government's military academy. "Yet they won't give us the opportunity to make a decent life, so we live like beggars."

The protest ended when President Karzai promised to meet with the group's leader to discuss the veterans' concerns.

On December 9, a crowd of protesters, which included women and children, marched on the capital with similar demands. They warned the government that the demonstrations would continue until their demands were met.

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Devices Will Help Deaf Israelis 'Hear' War Alerts
February 13, 2003
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL--North American Jewish communities raised more than $1 million to purchase thousands of special devices that will help hearing impaired people in Israel "hear" warning sirens and receive civil defense instructions from the Home Front Command in the event of an Iraqi missile attack on Israel.

During the last Gulf War in 1991, Israelis were warned to don their gas masks and enter their sealed rooms by sirens and radio messages, but that created a problem for the hearing impaired. (Crosswalk)

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Commentary On Article About Gas Masks
February 20, 2003

The following email is from Inclusion Daily Express reader Marianne Roche from Pennsylvania, who recently returned from a visit to Israel. She commented on the report from early January that 250,000 Israelis with disabilities do not have gas masks to protect them from biological and chemical attacks.

This is published with her permission:

Date: February 17, 2003

Dear Dave,

Thanks so much. I so enjoy reading Inclusion news. In fact, when I think "What the heck" I read it and it reenergizes me.

Just wanted to get back to you about the gas masks and people with disabilities in Israel. As always, these things are more complicated than they would first appear. In all the places I visited that served people with disabilities, precautions are being taken. Every building and every apartment has a room that is a safety shelter that is stocked with food and other supplies. Children and adults have regular drills. It is quite an experience to behold but people are orderly and they take it as business as usual. In general there are not enough masks to go around. After the last Infatada, there apparently was a promise extracted from the companies that make gas masks that they would make them to properly fit people with craniofacial needs who require special sized masks. Apparently the promise was not delivered on and they are quite short of masks that would fit properly. I asked about this of many people and this was what I was consistently told. There is quite a bit of sensitivity about it and both families and professionals are advocating for improved speed in making these masks and many believe they are being heard. Let's just all hope that it never has to be tested.

Thanks again for making better advocates of us all.

Marianne Roche

Related article from January 2:
"No suitable gas masks for those with special needs"(Ha'aretz Daily)

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Crowd Protests Cuts To Transit And Human Services
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 20, 2003

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA--A crowd of 200 protesters demonstrated in the city's Market Square Wednesday, demanding Governor Ed Rendell reverse his position on a proposed $30 million cut in funding for Allegheny County transit and social services.

The demonstrators, who included ACCESS riders in wheelchairs, along with members of the City Council, said they want Rendell to scrap the entire $21 billion spending plan he had proposed and then start over with a new plan.

Allegheny County Department of Human Services has estimated that the governor's budget would cut $25.6 million from community programs, ending services for nearly 19,000 residents. Port Authority officials have also said the proposed reduction in state funding for public transportation could lead to fare increases and reductions in services.

Some of those speaking at the demonstration made a direct connection between the cost of the U.S. war with Iraq and the government's cuts in human service funding, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Related article:
"Protesters urge Rendell budget veto" (Post-Gazette)

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Children With Disabilities Caught In Middle Of Iraq Conflict
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 25, 2003

BAGHDAD, IRAQ--While U.S. and Allied forces bomb government buildings and other installations in the Iraqi capital, hundreds of children with disabilities are facing the war from inside several nearby institutions, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

International relief organizations are working to deliver food from local reserves and from nearby Jordan to the facilities which house 900 children with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and other disabilities. In the past few days, Iraqi UNICEF workers have managed to deliver tinned meat, wheat, rice, milk, and high-protein biscuits to the six institutions, four of which are in central Baghdad, the other two of which are in Karbala to the south.

When the bombing started last week, some of the children were sent to stay with family members until the end of the conflict. Most of those who remain are either orphans or children who had been abandoned by their parents.

Geoff Keele, a U.N. Children's Fund spokesman, told the AP that two UNICEF staff members visited the institutions over the weekend.

"The children could hear the explosions from their rooms," said Baghdad aid worker Hatim George, of the nightly and now daily bombing raids.

None of the facilities had been damaged, nor had the children been directly injured. George explained he was worried, however, about the psychological harm the children are suffering.

"Some of the children appear to have been traumatized by the sounds of bombing going on outside," said George.

"You can see fear in their faces."

Institutional staff members, who are staying at the homes 24 hours a day, told George they are worried that they will not be able to maintain adequate child-care standards much longer if the raids continue.

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Personal Voices: Wheelchairs Against War
By Marta Russell, AlterNet
March 28, 2003
I got arrested at the March 19 Los Angeles demo near the Westwood Federal Building. It was not planned. There were several hundred of us who gathered at noon before the military dropped Bush's "Shock and Awe" bombs onto the people of Iraq.

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Frightened Orphans Wait Out War In Baghdad
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 2, 2003

BAGHDAD, IRAQ--Twenty-two children with disabilities are "suffering severe trauma" in a downtown Baghdad orphanage operated through an organization founded by Mother Teresa.

"They are very frightened and cling desperately to the Sisters," Missionaries of Charity Superior General Sister Nirmala told the Indian Express News.

Mother's House orphanage, which houses children who have physical disabilities and mental retardation, is located near St. Raphael's Hospital in central Baghdad.

According to MOC officials in India, the orphanage has escaped bomb damage so far. The children, however, are experiencing "pure fear and terror" as huge explosions go off all around the facility.

Volunteers at the orphanage told Sister Nirmala earlier this week that the children panic whenever an air raid drone is heard, followed by loud explosions.

The four sisters running Mother's House in Baghdad had been given the option of leaving the country before the war began. All four refused.

MOC Sisters from Jordan and India plan to travel to Baghdad in light of the crisis, partly to strengthen the workforce, but primarily to reassure and comfort the children and the staff that remain, the Indian Express reported.

Mother Teresa visited the orphanage when it opened in 1991.

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Peaceful Protests To Be Outlawed?
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 3, 2003
SALEM, OREGON--An anti-terrorism bill being considered in Oregon would label street-blocking protesters as "terrorists" and automatically have them jailed for at least 25 years, according to Reuters news service.

Senate Bill 742 identifies a terrorist as a person who "plans or participates in an act that is intended, by at least one of its participants" to disrupt business, transportation, schools, government, or free assembly.

The measure has been heavily supported by conservative radio talk show host Lars Larson -- and few others. Larson says police need more tools to control protests like the anti-war demonstrations that have gone on peaceably here since last fall.

Opponents acknowledge that the bill has very little chance of passing, primarily because it would violate the First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceable assembly. Even police unions oppose the bill for fear it could have a "chilling effect on relations between police and poor people, minorities, children and 'vulnerable' populations," the Reuters article noted.

If the bill were made into law and somehow got past the constitutionality questions -- and granted, those are big "ifs" -- what might this mean for disability rights activists and other grassroots groups that have gotten action only through protesting?

One of the most powerful tools disability rights groups such as ADAPT, Not Dead Yet, and dozens others have utilized during the past three decades is the ability to publicly demonstrate in a non-violent manner. Too often, allies in the disability rights movement have had to disrupt businesses, transportation, schools and government simply to get the attention of people who can change policy.

Such actions are exhausting for those involved and annoying for those whose lives are disrupted. But sometimes they are the only tools that work.

The events of September 11, 2001 have shown us that Americans, like much of the rest of the world, need to be on the alert for terrorists and potential terrorist acts. But labeling non-violent, peaceful demonstrators as terrorists would net few, if any, true terrorists, and would likely have the reverse effect of turning demonstrations into less-than-peaceful clashes in the streets.

It would, however, end one of the very principles on which this nation was founded -- a principle that, until now, has distinguished us from those who would plan to do us harm.

Let's focus on nabbing real terrorists before they strike, and let Americans on both sides of the war debate voice our opinions as guaranteed by our nation's Constitution.

Related resource:
"Oregon Law Would Jail War Protesters as Terrorists" (Reuters via FindLaw Legal News)

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"Iraq Vets Might Get Fewer Services" by Deborah Kendrick
April 7, 2003

CINCINNATI, OHIO--Columnist and advocate Deborah Kendrick wrote an article, published in Sunday's Cincinnati Enquirer, in which she points out that the veterans who return with disabilities from the current Iraq war will likely not get the level of services that vets in the past have received.

"In addition to cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other programs for the disabled, women and the elderly, the budget being hammered out by Congress this week proposes a $14 billion cut to veterans' services."

"Where programs and services initiated to serve and rehabilitate our war veterans after World War II and later have grown to be standard training for all Americans with disabilities, loved ones of soldiers in this war might well wonder if their returning heroes will have the opportunity to be rehabilitated at all."

Full article:
"Iraq vets might get fewer services" (Cincinnati Enquirer)

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Officials Stand By Refusal To Allow Mother And Son Into Country
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 17, 2003

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC--Following a two-week ordeal with Czech immigration officials, it looks like Salya Khalaf will be able to come to Prague this Sunday to visit her sister and seek medical treatment for her son.

The 26-year-old Iraqi woman, her husband, and her 1-1/2 year-old son arrived at Prague's Ruzyne Airport with valid visas on April 3. But police refused to let Khalaf and her son into the Czech Republic.

"She told me that as soon as she showed her passport, two policemen with machine guns started shouting at her, 'No Saddam. No Saddam,'" her sister, Sunduss Khalaf, told the Prague Post.

Human rights organizations are now wondering why Khalaf was sent away even though she had a valid visa and it was clear that her son, who has cerebral palsy, needed medical attention.

Interior Ministry officials said Khalaf's expulsion was consistent with security measures during war time.

Related article:
"New visa issued to expelled Iraqi" (Prague Post)

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"Disabled Vets Should Not Bear the Costs of War" by Mike Ervin
April 30, 2003

UNITED STATES--The following three paragraphs are excerpts from a Knight Ridder story that appeared in Sunday's Salt Lake Tribune:

The last group of people the American public would have expected to bear the cost of President Bush's war are the soldiers he sent to fight it. But as soon as the war began, the House Budget Committee unveiled a budget proposal that would have cut $25 billion over the next decade in spending on disability benefits and health care for veterans.

Fortunately, PVA and other advocacy organizations for disabled vets were able to prevail upon the Senate to eliminate the cuts in their budget proposal. Even though Republican House leaders like Speaker Dennis Hastert continued to defend the drastic reductions, the final budget that emerged from the conference committee actually contained a funding increase for the programs.

That should be a relief to U.S. soldiers wounded in this latest war, as well as to the disabled vets who for years have depended on the government for health-care and other benefits.

Entire article:
"Disabled Vets Should Not Bear the Costs of War" (Salt Lake Tribune)

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Baghdad Psych Facility Is Missing Medications, Files, Patients
July 7, 2003

BAGHDAD, IRAQ--The Mercury News ran a story Monday about the Al-Rashaad State Hospital for the Mentally Ill located in Baghdad.

Looters hit the facility as Baghdad fell nearly three months ago, taking virtually everything that was not nailed down, including individual medical records, appliances and patients' medications.

About 500 patients are still missing, presumably walking the streets begging for food, water and shelter from the 115 degree heat.

"We need beds, blankets, sheets, but most of all electricity and ice," said Jinal Falha, a nurse.

According to the report, the International Committee for the Red Cross is helping the staff rebuild. They are working to get generators running so the hospital will have electricity.

Entire article with link to 7 photographs:
"Mental hospital in dire shape" (The Mercury News)

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