It is only when one is handicapped that one can know how difficult life really is. Nujeen Mustafa, a wheelchair-bound girl, spent years suffering from cerebral palsy. However, when trouble shook her hometown, she did not cower behind her disability. Knowing the escape from Syria would be tough, she nonetheless undertook the tedious 3,500 mile journey to Germany.
Born in a Kurdish family as the youngest of five girls, it wasn’t long before her parents realized she couldn’t walk and soon discovered that she suffered from tetra-spasticity, a type of cerebral palsy.
The Arduous Journey to Freedom
Crossing borders is not an everyday thing for people but it is a journey that thousands of refugees have to make and Nujeen Mustafa was one of them. Restricted to a wheelchair, Nujeen had no choice but to make the journey from Aleppo in Syria to Germany in her wheelchair. Her entire story is documented in her book, Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey From War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair.
Co-written by foreign correspondent Christina Lamb, who is also known for co-authoring ‘I am Malala’, this book outlines the story of how Nujeen and her sister Nasreen overcame difficult terrain, confrontations with smugglers, dangerous – looking dinghies and finally squeezed themselves through wire-mesh to arrive in a land that would afford them peace and freedom.
Beginning in the Mediterranean, Lamb and Nujeen trace out the entire journey of the escape from Syria that took the two girls through Serbia, to Hungary and finally across the German border.
When Survival Seemed Bleak
Nujeen speaks of the many encounters that came her way and put a dent in her otherwise optimistic attitude. One fearful incident that gripped her during the 16-month long trek was when riding in the dinghy. She was aware that a small shift of her wheelchair would be enough to capsize the boat. This voyage across the sea was just one of the frightening many things that these young girls had to endure.
On reaching the island of Lesbos, Nujeen recounts having to stay in a camp that was not disabled-friendly. At the point of crossing into Slovenia, the treatment meted out to them was that shown to criminals. But she states that the worst experience was when the Serbia-Hungary border was suddenly closed and she and her sister, along with other refugees remained stranded outside.
However, none of this weakened her resolve and she went on to record her heart-breaking story so others could read about the horrors faced by refugees from war-wracked Syria. The incident reflects the tensions that are gripping the Syrian region. Starting with the Arab Spring, it snowballed into a revolution leading to large scale migrations from Syria. This refugee crisis is certain to bring about a massive change in the structure of Europe.
However, this wheelchair-bound girl continues to hold on to her hopes and dreams. The escape from Syria that Nujeen embarked on did not break her spirit. In fact, she displays the strength of her unbreakable spirit by saying, “The hard times will pass."