Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Orphan Ali settles into London life.
By Gareth Furby BBC News, London.

Three years after losing his arms and his parents when his home in Baghdad was destroyed by an off target Allied missile, Ali Abbas is a changed boy. Ali's plight moved people across the world.At Hall School in Wimbledon, south-west London, where 15-year-old Ali has been given free tuition for more than two years (it normally costs around £8,000 a year) the teenager has been fitting into school life, and is making remarkable progress. His favourite lessons are maths and geography but he is also a keen artist. An exhibition of his work was on display at a local gallery just last month. The school provides him with his own tutor, Caroline Morris, so he can keep up in class. But Ali has learned to write with his feet and he can also type on a computer with his toes.

Ali Abbas now lives in Wimbledon. The school hopes that Ali will go on to take at least five GCSEs and even go on to university, should he wish. Perhaps bizarrely Ali also enjoys playing violent computer games in school break time, again using his toes on a lap top computer's touch pad or using a Playstation. But Ali says: "Everyone enjoys violence. Every Iraqi boy is used to it." Ali's says one of his favourite pastimes at school is eating and is savouring an ambition to open a restaurant called 'Ali's' perhaps in London or even Iraq. In his kitchen at his Wimbledon home, he is helped by his uncle to prepare a lamb dish based cooked in a traditional Iraqi style.
He now lives in a rented house paid for by a charity, which he shares with his uncle and a friend called Ahmed, who also lost his hand and part of a leg during the war in Iraq. Both boys came to London to be fitted with artificial limbs. But at home, it seems Ali chooses to leave his arms on his bed. He said: "I don't like wearing them at home. They are too heavy."

Ali has leant to play computer games with his feet.He chooses not to wear his artificial arms when he goes to the gym, when he goes cycling on a special bike, and when he plays football, which he does every weekend. At the moment Ali wears them at school because he says it makes him feel normal. But he may yet change this habit as well. "I can play football much better without the arms," he said. "My balance is much better. I am thinking about stopping wearing them altogether." He added he does want to return to Iraq but he cannot for two reasons.

Ali likes to take his arms off when he is at home. First of all, it is too dangerous at present in Baghdad where the surviving members of his family live. Secondly, Ali is worried that his current high profile status may single him out as a target for kidnapping. "Some people think because I have been on television I am rich," he said. "So I may be taken and held for ransom. I can only go back when the Iraq returns to normal." When asked when he thought that might be, he replied "God knows." But for now, his life is improving both at home and at school in Wimbledon.



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