Five-year-old Sayeed Rehman does not know what resilience means, a word used several times over the last few days to describe him. The young Afghan is just happy that he can dance again with his new prosthetic leg, one of many that he has worn during his short life.
"I like to dance, and I am very happy with my new leg. Do you want to see me dance?" he offers, while talking to The National at Kabul prosthetic clinic on Tuesday.
A video of a cheerful Sayeed Rehman dancing at the International Committee of the Red Cross orthopedic centre went viral after it was published on Monday.
Despite Sayeed Rehman’s happy demeanour, the youngster has had to overcome a violent past. When he was eight-months-old, Sayeed Rehman was caught in crossfire between government and insurgent forces in his home province of Logar, 60 kilometres outside the Afghan capital.
"We were caught between an ongoing battle between the Afghan forces and the Taliban. Rehman and sister got shot at. While my daughter suffered bullet wounds to her kidney and legs, Rehman's right leg was badly injured," Sayeed Rehman's mother Raesa told The National. Raesa, who like most Afghans goes only by one name, also lost her brother and nephew in that same attack.
“We rushed the injured to the Emergency clinic at the provincial centre; Rehman’s injuries were so severe he had to be hospitalised for a month-and-a-half,” she recalled.
Soon after his leg was amputated.
The years that followed were particularly hard for Raesa, who has worked as a farm labourer to support her family of seven since her ailing husband has been unable to work. “These kind of attacks happen very frequently in our area. There are times we can’t even step out of the house for chores and work,” she said.
The added cost of medical treatment for Sayeed Rehman has been an additional burden for the family.
“I would take him to clinics everyday, carrying him in my arms,” Raesa said. “I looked after his recovery, and did all this while working in the farms. There is no one else to take care of us so it fell on me. I was mentally broken, too.”
Despite the hardship, Sayeed Rehman has grown into a loving and energetic child. “He became so happy when he first got his leg,” Raesa said. “He would walk and run in the fields. He sings and dances all the time. He is a very jovial kid who loves to make jokes. Everyone who met him gets so happy.”
For many Afghans, Sayeed Rehman’s happy dance is an embodiment of the spirit of Afghanistan: Resilience in the face of tragedy.
Children have been disproportionately affected by Afghanistan’s war. They have accounted for a third of civilian casualties this year, including 150 dead and 432 injured, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
Last year UNAMA reported 927 children were killed and 2,135 injured.
Schools across the country have also been targeted for attack, or occupied by armed groups.
Sayeed Rehman and his siblings are not in school, owing to the security situation.
“There is a school in our area but we haven’t yet admitted the children to it because of war,” Raesa said.
But she continues to nurture hopes for a better future for Sayeed Rehman and his siblings. “I do want him to go to school, get educated and be a doctor or some kind of an influential man.”