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10-Year War Disfigures a Nation and Its People : Afghanistan: Amputees flood daily into Kabul for help. Many must wait months for artificial limbs.

April 02, 1990|MARK FINEMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mohammed Younis, for example, refused to give up when he stepped on a mine in Kunduz province four years ago. His face lit up with a proud, toothless grin through a yellowing beard as he rolled up his tattered trousers to show off an artificial leg that he made himself out of scrap metal and discarded bicycle parts.

Younis, 68, is a bicycle repair man by trade, so, he explained, he fixed his leg the same way he would a crumpled bike.

Raz and Lal Mohammed, 13-year-old cousins, are even more extraordinary, Red Cross workers said. Both boys lost both their legs a year ago when they stepped simultaneously on two land mines while walking to their uncle's house.

The boys have been walking on their new Red Cross legs for several months now and have become role models for other amputees, helping every day to run physiotherapy classes at the limb factory.

When asked what they want to do when they grow up, both respond, "I want to be a doctor."

In the women's dormitory at the factory, where Roshan and Anar Gul fill their time sewing prayer scarfs and chatting about their families, the same spirit came through.

"I am a seamstress by profession," Roshan explained. "When my husband was alive, we had a fine field of crops. We had children. We had a life.

"Now, I've lost everything. No money; my husband is dead; my children are gone; my leg is cut, and I have forgotten everything because of this war," she said. "But what I have lost, I have lost. I only pray that God will keep others from losing their lives, and that is what I live for--for those prayers."

Anar, the 16-year-old, said she has the same prayer. But for her, the future appears to be more difficult. Perhaps it was her age; many Afghan girls are preparing for marriage at 16.

But when asked to tell her dreams for her life, a tear formed at the corner of Anar's right eye.

Looking down, she said quietly, "Every night when I am sleeping, I dream that I have my leg back."

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