Sunday 25 February 2018

So many stories of the children of war haunt me. But Nujeen's is an inspiration

This brave teenager who made it from Aleppo to Cologne in a wheelchair and is now fluent in German offers us an example of triumph over adversity

Determined: Nujeen Mustafa has settled in Cologne and is thriving at school
Determined: Nujeen Mustafa has settled in Cologne and is thriving at school

Fergal Keane

There are no happy endings in war. The best we can hope for is that the survivors find respite, and that ruined nations are re-made as peaceful places. One heartening story of triumph over adversity cannot dilute the immensity of Syria's agony. Why do I feel the need to say this? Because I am thinking of Nujeen, whom I have just said goodbye to at her new home in Cologne. I remind myself that her story - heart-lifting as it is - cannot speak for the millions who have been cast out of their country. I am feeling so inspired by the example of this teenager in a wheelchair, and the narrative of hope she is forging, that I must state the obvious human truth of war here at the outset.

There are hundreds of thousands of Syrians languishing in refugee camps. They are going nowhere. At this moment, thousands more are stranded in the desert between Syria and Jordan. The EU and Turkey have cooked up a deal to make sure that fewer and fewer ever reach European shores.

It is exactly a year since I first met Nujeen Mustafa. The great refugee procession that began on the Greek islands had just come to a sudden halt on the Serbian-Hungarian border. There were new barbed wire fences and gates. Hungarian riot police were firing tear gas. Thousands of people sat out under the sun with their children, trying to figure out where they could go next.

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