Nujeen Mustafa is an incredible young woman who, at just sixteen, made the 3,500-mile journey from Syria to Germany in a steel wheelchair. Nujeen was born with cerebral palsy and spent the majority of her life confined to her apartment in Aleppo, Syria, where she taught herself English watching shows on TV.
As war broke out, she and her family were forced to flee, first to her native Kobane, then Turkey. Her family didn’t have enough money for them all to make it to safety in Germany, where her brother lives, so her parents stayed in Turkey while she set out with her sister across the Mediterranean, braving inconceivable odds for the chance to have a normal life and an education.
Nujeen’s optimism and defiance when confronting all of her challenges have propelled this young refugee from Syria into the spotlight as the human face of an increasingly dehumanised crisis. Since moving to Germany, Nujeen has continued to tell her remarkable story and to capture the hearts of all who hear her speak.
Nujeen and UNHCR
Nujeen is now a powerful advocate for refugee youth, undertaking media interviews and speaking at a number of high-profile conferences including a UNHCR Age, Gender and Diversity event at the Palais Des Nations in Geneva, and international TEDx events in the UK and Iraq. She was a keynote speaker at the 2017 Nansen Refugee Award. In 2019, at the first ever Global Refugee Forum, Nujeen spoke about about the importance of keeping children’s dreams alive with Grover from the kids educational TV series Sesame Street. She also appeared on a panel where she stressed the need for the active involvement and meaningful participation of people with disabilities in the planning, development and decision-making processes at all stages of the refugee response, stating “we are not asking this as a favour; this is our right”.
Nujeen’s story has been told in a book co-authored by award winning journalist Christina Lamb: The Girl from Aleppo.