World

Iranian woman born without arms teaches others to live with disability

  • In this picture taken on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh poses for a photograph at her home in Tehran, Iran. Etezadossaltaneh  was born without arms. But that hasn’t stopped her from excelling in activities ranging from painting to ping pong. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

    In this picture taken on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh poses for a photograph at her home in Tehran, Iran. Etezadossaltaneh was born without arms. But that hasn’t stopped her from excelling in activities ranging from painting to ping pong. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this picture taken on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh, center, talks on her mobile phone, held with her foot, during a meeting at her friend's home in Tehran, Iran. Now 52 years old, the retired Iranian teacher who was born without arms has dedicated herself to helping others with similar disabilities live full and satisfying lives.(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

    In this picture taken on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh, center, talks on her mobile phone, held with her foot, during a meeting at her friend's home in Tehran, Iran. Now 52 years old, the retired Iranian teacher who was born without arms has dedicated herself to helping others with similar disabilities live full and satisfying lives.(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this picture taken on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh, left, who was born without arms, paints as her teacher Parisa Samavatian observes, at her home in Tehran, Iran. "She works so easily that I've totally forgotten she paints with her feet,” said Samavatian.(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

    In this picture taken on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh, left, who was born without arms, paints as her teacher Parisa Samavatian observes, at her home in Tehran, Iran. "She works so easily that I've totally forgotten she paints with her feet,” said Samavatian.(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)  (The Associated Press)

Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh was born without arms, but that hasn't stopped her from excelling in many activities, ranging from painting to table tennis.

Now 52 years old, the retired Iranian teacher has dedicated herself to helping others with similar disabilities live full and satisfying lives.

Her story is one of personal triumph and indomitable spirit.

"Each body might have some limitations and deficiencies. But if you have a pure, elevated soul I think the body won't matter," she said.

After receiving her primary education at a special school for disabled children, Etezadossaltaneh moved into the mainstream Iranian education system and eventually earned a degree in psychology.

Now she works with young people with similar disabilities. Among her students is 9-year-old Roohollah Jafar, who lost his hands in an accident and is now learning from Etezadossaltaneh to paint and do calligraphy using his feet.

At the start of their lesson, Etezadossaltaneh skillfully massages the boy's feet with her own feet and guides him on how to hold and control a pen between his toes.

Etezadossaltaneh's feet have become dexterous enough to hold a pingpong paddle or a paint brush. She has staged multiple exhibitions and supplements her retirement pension by selling some of her artwork.

"She works so easily that I've totally forgotten she paints with her feet," said her painting instructor, Parisa Samavatian.

Etezadossaltaneh's skill at table tennis has led to her being featured in public exhibition matches. But she insists that she wants to be more than just a symbolic figure of inspiration.

"I want to play seriously and get a name," she said. "I want to represent my country in competitions overseas."