"I wanted to break that barrier between myself and society"

Iraqi pharmacist-turned-athlete and TV presenter Zainab Al-Eqabi suffered a horrific accident after an undetonated bomb exploded in her garden in Baghdad when she was seven. It disfigured her father and sister, and badly injured Al-Eqabi’s hand and leg. Her leg was later amputated due to gangrene. 

“My father would always tell me that he wanted me to be strong and not depend on anyone,” she recalls. “He was worried to see me grow up in a society where there would always be questions about my abilities. He encouraged me to not let anyone underestimate me.” 

Al-Eqabi was boosted by her family, friends, and teachers. However, things changed in college. “I realized that when people in the wider world saw me limping, they didn’t know why; they didn’t know what an amputation was. When I told them I had a prosthesis, they didn’t understand. I knew I had to start something.” 

Al-Eqabi set up a Facebook page called Disabled and Proud and shared humorous experiences from her everyday life. “I wanted to break that barrier between myself and society.” Now, at 30, Al-Eqabi has completed two triathlons in the UAE, hauled a 2000 kg Jeep for Dubai Fitness Challenge, regularly scuba dives, is an ambassador for prosthetics manufacturer Ottobock, and is the first amputee to present a TV show in the Middle East. 

She appeared on MBC1’s Yalla Banat [Let’s Go Girls], which she filmed in Saudi, Egypt, Lebanon, and Dubai. “Management never asked me to cover my leg; they believed in me and my goal. They wanted me for who I was. It was an amazing step in my life,” says Al-Eqabi, who believes that the more people see her amputation, the more people will stop seeing it.

Read Meet the Arab Women of Determination Giving a Deeper Meaning to Body Positivity by Jade Bremner, which is a feature article in Vogue Arabia.

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