“I’m a 20-year-old student of biology at the capital’s Mustansiriyah University. I was a victim in an explosion in Tayran Square, in central Baghdad, on 12 December 2006. In the incident I lost my left leg and sustained some injuries on my arms. At the time I thought I was lucky because I did not die - some 70 people were killed in that explosion. But today I realise that had I died, at least I would have been spared the discrimination that I now suffer.
“When the explosion happened I was a bride looking forward to my marriage on 27 December. My fiancé, Salah Youssef, who is also my classmate and a fellow Shi’ite from a traditional Muslim family, was the only person I loved in all my life. We fell in love on the first day we met in college.
“But when I lost my leg things changed. His love for me has evaporated. One week after my leg was amputated, he asked his mother to come to my home in Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district to cancel our engagement. Hear Kawkab Barakat's voice
“The reason he gave for wanting to end our dream was that I was now a disabled person and a dashing young man like him could not be seen with a woman who has only one leg because his friends would laugh at him.
“I couldn’t believe that my fiancé had dumped me just because I’d become disabled.
“My life has since turned out to be a disaster. To be frank, I no longer want to go back to university. I’m shy because I’m disabled. And in our community, a girl who has been dumped by her fiancé is considered a bad woman and sometimes is even seen as a loose woman.
“Even though I know why I was spurned by my fiancé, I cannot stand this stigma. It has hit me psychologically so much that I am shy to reveal myself as a one-legged woman.
“I thought Salah loved me but I now realise that he was only in love with my body and beauty. Arab men don’t know what love is. Sometimes I ask myself what I would have done if what had happened to me, had happened to him. I know the answer. For sure I would have continued loving him and would have been the most dedicated wife in the world.
“My father has been mistreating me since my engagement was broken. He says that having a girl rather than a boy was already unacceptable and now, on top of that, I have become useless.
Because I’m a Muslim, I will not commit suicide. But if I did not have God in my heart, as I have, I would have killed myself a long time ago. “My mother cries all day long. She is the only person in my family who stands by me. But I cannot be blamed for the violence in this country. A friend of mine has promised to look for an NGO that deals with the disabled. I am pretty useless myself, spending all my time in bed because I am still recuperating.
“I’m an innocent victim of this world and I am paying a huge price for not being killed in that explosion.
“Because I’m a Muslim, I will not commit suicide. But if I did not have God in my heart, as I have, I would have killed myself a long time ago.”