Born with cerebral palsy, the 16-year-old has spent her life in a wheelchair. She had little formal education in Syria but taught herself English by watching US soap operas. In 2014 her home town of Kobane was at the centre of fierce fighting between Isis militants and US-backed Kurdish forces, forcing her family to flee across the border into Turkey.
Her story first came to the world’s attention when Fergal Keane interviewed her for the BBC News. Accompanied by her older sister Nisreen, she’d spent the previous weeks travelling over Land from the Turkish/Syrian border to the coastal town of Bodrum, where they’d paid smugglers to take them on a dangerously overcrowded dinghy to the Greek island of Lesbos.
From there it had been a 14-hour ferry ride to Piraeus on the Greek mainland, followed by a bus journey across Macedonia to the Serbian/Hungarian border, which is where she met Keane and the BBC film crew.
It was a grueling trek that would have been daunting for even the fittest and most able-bodied, and she still had hundreds of miles to go, but her courage won over everyone who watched the bulletin, including Keane who was visibly moved by her cheerful refusal to see herself as a victim. “You should fight to get what you want in this world,” she told him, “so yes; it’s a journey for a new life.”
That new life finally began for Nujeen at the end of September when she was reunited with her brother Bland and sister Nahda in Germany. She has since claimed asylum and is now living in a two-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Cologne with Nisreen and Nahda and her four children, and recently started attending a specialist school for pupils with disabilities.
Prize-winning journalist and the co-author of smash New York Times bestseller I Am Malala, Christina Lamb, tells the inspiring true story of this remarkable young hero: Nujeen Mustafa in her book (Nujeen: One Girl's Incredible Journey from War-torn Syria in a Wheelchair).
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