Ahmed Al Hashash, a Hero Who «Lights a Candle Rather than Cursing the Darkness»

Reports

Fri, 04-06-2021 09:13:35 Evening, Aden Time

"It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”.. This american famous proverb can be typically applied in the case of Ahmed Al Hashas.

Ali Mahmood (South24)

Ahmed Al Hashash arrives daily in a wheelchair to run his startup business on Al Saeedi street in the port city of Aden Southern Yemen.

Admired as someone who has beaten the odds to become an inspiring entrepreneur, he has built a loyal client base among customers seeking his advice on starting a business or visiting his shops for phone repairs and accessories.

Life has not been easy for the 33-year-old, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis as a child, causing his arms and legs to shrink and grow thin, but this hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his dream of running an independent business and establishing a reputation as an honest, hard-working entrepreneur.
 
 “My disability will never stop me from achieving my dreams” he says, sitting in his small kiosk-like shop in Al Saeedi back street in the residential area of Al Mualla district.


 Ahmed working in his shop in Aden (Ahmed Al Hashash)

“I strongly believe that if there is a will, there is a way. This made me self-confident and granted me the power I need to carry on the struggle to fulfill my goals in life,” he tells South24
  
His calamities  began when he fell ill aged five. “I suffered a severe fever so my family took me to a public hospital in Aden where doctors gave me a Cortisone injection without an accurate diagnosis, which aggravated my condition.” Ahmed said
 
In 1993 when he was ten years old Mr Al Hashash’s family took him to Egypt for treatment but the doctors there misdiagnosed him. In 1998 his family tried again, this time taking him to Jordon where doctors diagnosed him with rheumatoid arthritis .

“Doctors in Jordon said that I was infected with rheumatoid arthritis while I was five. They said my case is overdue so I need to stay in Jordon for years.

Unfortunately,  “this was something which my family couldn’t afford due to the hard financial circumstances we have been living ” he recalls.
 
Ahmed’s family is composed of him, one brother, two sisters and his mother who was divorced several years ago and his father no longer lives with them.

The  family lives on a tight budget relying on the mother’s pension and the income Ahmed gets from his startup.
 
Mr Al Hashash grew up with deformities in his four limbs. He can’t walk, so is now confined to a wheelchair. His case worsened due to the incorrect diagnosis in Aden and since 2000 he lost his ability to walk or to even stand up on his legs.


 
As his condition worsened it became harder to attend school and he was forced to drop out in the third grade. But six years later, determined to continue his education, he resumed his studies, starting back at the third grade.
  
“The first year was really difficult for me. My classmates didn’t accept me easily. They bullied me a lot! I remember how they gazed at me the first day I joined the class on my chair,” Mr Al Hashash recalls.
 
Sometimes the bullying turned violent. “They used to push my wheelchair or stop in my path so I couldn't move ahead. That was difficult but I overcame it due to my strong character. I never keep silent whenever I feel discriminated against " Ahmed told South24
 
Despite such difficulties with his classmates, Mr Al Hashash did well in school. “I was smart and hardworking, which enabled me to keep up” he says. He also enjoyed learning and, after finishing secondary school, studied for and secured the International Computer Driving License before joining a training course in cell phone maintenance.


 Ahmed with his instructors at college (Ahmed Al Hashash)

Determination and Resolution

But the next step – getting a degree – was harder because the Sociology department at the Faculty of Arts in Aden University, where he wanted to study, lacked wheelchair access and was far from his home.

Determined to find a way, he asked a neighbor who attended the college to help him and in 2016, he started the course.
 
“My first year at college was difficult,” he recalls, describing challenges moving about campus in his wheelchair. “This frustration made me think about quitting many times until the dean of the University visited our college and I stopped in his way and talked to him about the problem. He ordered the administration of the faculty to build special passages for me and for those of special needs.” He says.

Smart and hardworking student

 At college Mr Al Hashash was known for his hard work and smart ideas.
 
“I worked hard inspite of the many challenges I faced and finally I received the bachelor degree in Sociology.” Ahmed told South24 that he  now plans to pursue a master's degree to become an expert in his field.
 
“I chose to study Sociology because I want to pursue a career through which I can help those with special needs.There are thousands of disabled people who die silently behind the walls in Yemen. Nobody cares for them. Nobody fights for their rights,” he adds.
 
Since  he has become a regular volunteer in social projects including doing surveys for IDPs and received support from the UNDP and some local organisations to start his own business, which he launched in 2018.
 
Two years in, he runs the shop and provides consultations for young people looking to start their own business in Aden. He also works to inspire others who face similar hardships, telling people with disabilities to “Believe in yourselves, be confident and carry on the battle to grasp your rights. You are not different so don’t let your odds frustrate you.”
 
Ahmed and thousands like him, share the same suffering amid the six-years long war. Their segment has been forgotten and excluded from their basic rights.

Aden-based freelance journalist who covers the war in Yemen via the National and other foreign media outlets.

- Photo:Ahmed giving speech in his graduation day at the Arts Faculty in Aden; celebrating his graduation at college; going to college on his wheechair (Ahmed Al Hashash)