Nujeen Mustafa being pushed by her sibling in Croatia. | Credit: picture-alliance/PIXSELL/Z. Lukunic
Nujeen Mustafa being pushed by her sibling in Croatia. | Credit: picture-alliance/PIXSELL/Z. Lukunic

She fled warn-torn Syria in a wheelchair. Now, Nujeen Mustafa spoke at the UN on behalf of other disabled Syrians.

Nujeen Mustafa, a 20-year-old Syrian woman with cerebral palsy, told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that hundreds of thousands of disabled people in her country were "forgotten in times of peace" and are "invisible" during the ongoing conflict in the country. She spoke at a meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria. 

Mustafa, who sat in a wheelchair during her testimony, said her siblings had to carry her out of the city of Aleppo after a bombing killed family members.

"The conflict has had a significant psychological impact, too. Even in my case, I still jump and get startled when I hear a loud noise, a reminder of those hours hiding in the bathroom (in Aleppo)," said Mustafa.

Mustafa and her siblings undertook a 16-month journey to Germany, where she is now a student.

Ursula Mueller, the UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, agreed with Mustafa. Mueller said Syrians "have lived through a litany of horrors" and disabled people are "among those people who suffered the most, and are still suffering today."

'Often excluded and highly vulnerable'

Mueller continued by saying disabled persons in Syria are "often excluded and highly vulnerable" as many cannot access health care and education. She added that the UN must do "our utmost to support or protect persons with disabilities and to ensure that their specific and diverse needs are met."

Mustafa's journey to Germany concurred with Mueller's statement. "On my way to Germany, I didn't find many accesible bathrooms along the way - and that's especially hard for a woman," she said.

"You need to address the needs of people with disabilities, particularly women," she continued. "This is not a favor. This is not charity. This is our rights."

The UN children's agency, UNICEF, estimates there are 1.5 million Syrians who are in the country that were disabled by the war, which is now in its ninth year. 

Mustafa said people with disabilities were a resource, not a burden, and should be represented in the Security Council's work because they are the ones who know best what risks they face and what care they need.

"Nothing about us, without us. Otherwise, we continue to remain invisible," said Mustafa.

With material from AP, AFP


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