Nujeen Mustafa’s story is not just one of survival but of unbreakable will, courage, and leadership. Born with cerebral palsy in Aleppo, Syria, Nujeen was confined to her apartment most of her life. Her confinement did not limit her spirit; she taught herself English by watching shows on TV, embracing a world beyond her physical boundaries.
When the war in Syria broke out, Nujeen’s life drastically changed. Forced to flee her home first to Kobane and then to Turkey, she faced the harsh realities of a refugee. The family’s financial constraints were such that Nujeen’s parents had to stay behind in Turkey, leaving the young girl to embark on a perilous 3,500-mile journey to Germany with her sister, all while in a steel wheelchair. Her destination was not just a place of safety but a beacon of hope and a promise of education.
The journey was filled with inconceivable odds, yet Nujeen’s optimism and defiance shone through, making her the human face of an increasingly dehumanised crisis. Her story transcended the narrative of struggle to become a testament to resilience, courage, and the unwavering belief in the possibility of a better life.
Upon arriving in Germany, Nujeen continued to share her story and became a powerful advocate for refugee youth. Her remarkable spirit captured hearts worldwide as she undertook media interviews and spoke at high-profile conferences. Whether addressing a UNHCR event at the Palais Des Nations in Geneva or international TEDx events in the UK and Iraq, her voice resonated with authenticity and conviction.
In 2019, Nujeen’s advocacy took her to the first-ever Global Refugee Forum, where she spoke about the importance of keeping children’s dreams alive. Appearing with Grover from the kids’ educational TV series Sesame Street, she also stressed the need for active involvement and meaningful participation of people with disabilities in all stages of the refugee response, declaring, “We are not asking this as a favour; this is our right.”
Nujeen’s leadership role in the Global Network of Young Persons with Disabilities (GNYPWD) amplifies her commitment to empowering others. Her influence extends beyond her own story, inspiring a generation to recognise their rights, embrace their potential, and to believe in the power of dreams.
Her story is beautifully captured in the book “The Girl from Aleppo,” co-authored by award-winning journalist Christina Lamb. Yet, the words on the pages merely reflect the vibrant spirit of a young woman who turned an extraordinary journey of survival into a mission of advocacy and leadership.
Nujeen Mustafa’s life is a vivid reminder that adversity can forge leaders, that a disability need not be an obstacle, and that the human spirit’s resilience can transform the world. Her voice continues to echo as a call to action, a testament to the strength of determination, and a beacon of hope for refugees and people with disabilities. Her story symbolises what is possible when courage, resilience, and belief in oneself intersect with the unwavering pursuit of dreams.