The Girl From Aleppo - Nujeen Mustafa, Christina Lamb

The Girl From Aleppo - Nujeen Mustafa, Christina Lamb

Discover the surprising story of a Kurdish girl who had to flee Syria due to the war and her unbelievable journey in a wheelchair.

You may have already seen in the news about the refugee crisis, and perhaps you have thought about how difficult the routes they face are. Now, can you imagine someone going through all this being in a wheelchair?

In the book "The Girl From Aleppo", written in partnership with journalist Christina Lamb (co-author of "I Am Malala"), the story of the young Nujeen Mustafa is told. She, who already faced challenges due to her disability, and even her ethnicity, is on a challenging path to escape the war in Syria.

Imagine not being able to leave your home due to the lack of accessibility on the streets of your city and, suddenly, making a journey of 5, 782 kilometers, passing through several countries! All this, however, in a search for the preservation of the greatest asset that anyone can have: life.

Do you want to know more about this story? So, keep reading this summary and learn more about this exciting survival story.

About the book "The Girl From Aleppo"

"The Girl From Aleppo" is a biography of Nujeen Mustafa, co-authored with Christina Lamb, which was released in 2017.

The book consists of a first-person report given by the teenager who names the book and has a total of 247 pages, divided into 21 chapters. It also contains photos of the journey and important situations in Syria, as well as an appendix with details (distances, means of transport and amounts spent) of the journey.

The story is divided into 3 parts: "The loss of a country" (comments on the Kurdish ethnicity, Arab spring, the war in Syria and the reasons for the escape); "The journey" (reports the dangers, fears and how was the arrival in Europe); and "A normal life" (about life as a refugee in Germany and the challenges she still faces).

The teenager's memories and perceptions give an even more striking and sensitive meaning to the inhumane events of the Syrian war and the forced migration diaspora. Her narrative shows a lot of courage and hope, from a person so young, but who never stopped dreaming.

About the authors Nujeen Mustafa and Christina Lamb

Nujeen Mustafa is a Kurdish refugee who, when she was just 16, made a journey of 5, 782 kilometers in a wheelchair. The young victim of the war migrated with her sister from Syria to Germany. Since 2018, she has supported UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

Christina Lamb is a British journalist, trained at Oxford and Harvard, who has been working since 1987 as a correspondent for The Sunday Times in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She won 15 awards, including the "Bayeux-Calvados" prize for war correspondents. She is the author/co-author of 9 books, including the best seller "I Am Malala".

To whom is this book indicated?

"The Girl From Aleppo" is suitable for researchers or people interested in migration, the refugee crisis, the Arab spring and also the Syrian conflicts.

The book is also essential for those who want to know more about forced migration, understand what has led these people to leave their homeland and also for those interested in the impressive story of the young woman.

Main ideas of the book "The Girl From Aleppo"

  • The word "refugees" came to refer to the idea of statistical data and numbers, rather than people with stories, pains and challenges;
  • Kurds are the largest stateless people (people who do not have nationality recognized by any country) in the world;
  • The "Arab Spring" consisted of popular protests against totalitarian governments and its repercussion was driven by social networks such as Facebook;
  • The Assad family has been ruling Syria for nearly 50 years, with a hereditary and dictatorial government, acting with strong and cruel repression against opponents;
  • Western intervention in the Middle East wars and the lack of military actions in the Syrian conflict is something to be questioned;
  • The constant conflicts between rebel groups and the government make the population helpless, terrified and victims of fatal attacks;
  • The conditions offered on the crossings are unhealthy and inhumane, in addition to having no guarantee of survival and being extremely expensive;
  • Despite all difficulties, the young Nujeen Mustafa remained optimistic and always cared about being able to contribute in some way to her group.

These are the main points discussed in the book, sometimes with data and sometimes with insight or information from the author and her family. Throughout the publication, thoughts by the young woman are always brought up, which lead us to analyze our own life.

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[Book Summary] The Girl From Aleppo - Nujeen Mustafa, Christina Lamb

Live without belonging

Nujeen begins the story telling the preparation for her crossing in a boat, which had a maximum capacity of 15 people, but would carry 38!

In the first part, the author tells that she is of Kurdish ethnicity, a people that, despite having its history, language and customs, does not have a territory with a State. Therefore, they are either persecuted in the countries where they are located, or deprived of basic rights.

Amidst the data or information of his people, Nujeen Mustafa also tells the meaning of her name, which is "new life". She reports that she has a big age difference to her siblings, that's why everyone always took care of her. In addition, she explains that she needed support due to the limitations of her disability.

The author recounts the difficulties in treatment and the lack of accessibility to move around the city of Aleppo, Syria. She also says that she couldn't go to school, but learned to read from her family and learned English from television programs.

The writer cites some thoughts that she called the "Nujeen principles":

  • She doesn't understand why anyone would plunge into suffering while there is a beautiful world out there;
  • Nujeen believes that no one is born bad, not even her country's dictator.

Spring has begun...

According to the author, news began to emerge from Egypt about popular protests against totalitarian governments, which responded with strong repression, through war tanks going towards the population, tear gas and rubber bullets. Despite this, the people remained firm and managed to get the president to step down.

Nujeen reports that this feeling of change has spread to other countries and how this has given strength and hope to other individuals. With the evolution of this movement, the so-called "Arab Spring" was born.

The author says that they initially followed the riots on television, but later the regimes tried to suppress the news and contain the information. Because of that, they started to follow it on YouTube and schedule the protests on Facebook.

The young woman reports that even with the favorable moment for change, Syria was not successful in its attempts to make political changes. The people suffered brutal and cruel repression and the Assad family spared no efforts against opponents.

Clashes between rebel groups and the government created an even more unstable environment, resulting in a war scenario, with victims of fatal and inhuman attacks. Nujeen Mustafa asks why there was no military intervention by Western countries in the Syrian conflict, just as it happened in other countries.

She says that her family decided to leave the city of Aleppo and go to Manbij, a countryside city, in search of more safety. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, they were faced with such a hostile situation that they became aware of the types of bombs or missiles launched just by the sound or impact caused.

They then consider relocating again, departing for Turkey with the goal of then going further afield.

In the midst of so much catastrophe, the book brings the teenager's soft vision and her desire to do something, revealing her belief that each person has a purpose and reason for being in this world.

Expanding horizons

The second part of the book "The Girl From Aleppo" is considered by many as distressing due to all the anxiety generated by the uncertainty of the situations reported.

First, the author reports that despite being safer in Turkish lands, they were still not welcome there, which led to planning the trip of Nujeen and her sister, Nasrine, to Germany to meet their brother. Due to the high cost of the crossings and the age of the parents, the family could not go complete.

On the way, the migrants faced many things, from smugglers who do not show up on time to periods in prison, even though this is illegal according to the UN. Despite all the gravity of the situation, the girl has a surprisingly optimistic attitude that surprises everyone and annoys many.

And so, the sisters continued, impressing the other migrants, as they passed long and difficult paths pushing the wheelchair. Nujeen Mustafa tells how she was still able to catch a glimpse of the countries through which they passed and be fascinated by each landscape.

As the journey progresses, one of the most dangerous points is narrated: the crossing in a boat, with more than twice its maximum capacity, to Greece. A short journey, but which, according to Nujeen, was known as the "death route".

The author and her sister completed the route alive, and she reports that, upon being received on the island of Lesbos, she heard a voice communicating in English and was able to respond. At that moment, she felt her sense of satisfaction at being helpful and acting as an "interpreter."

The narrative continues to bring surprises, such as the scarcity of resources in refugee camps, which, according to the girl, generated internal conflicts both by trying to guarantee for itself, and by the hopelessness and fear of being in an inhospitable environment.

Nujeen talks about the people she met on the way and the assistance she received due to her disability. Among them, she reports that she met a Spanish journalist who interviewed her, which made her visible to the world.

With that, the book brings the thought that the condition of refugees is not what defines them, and that they are not data or numbers. It claims that they are people with stories, families and professions, but who had to escape for their lives.

At one point, Nujeen Mustafa points out the insensitivity or ignorance of people in the face of the migration crisis. She remembers walking past tourists with cameras as people who fled bombings slept on the road.

Open the gates

In the final chapters of the second part, the young woman tells about some situations they faced, such as when they arrived soon after a fence was placed to prevent refugees from entering the Hungarian border.

The narrative is always marked by the fear of having to return to the context of war or still not being able to reach the expected destination, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel had announced an opening to receive the migrant population in good conditions.

Before they could reach Germanic lands, they were arrested, and according to Nujeen, even photographed as criminals.

After using various means of transport, in addition to passing through refugee camps, the girl says they were confused without knowing if they had actually arrived. They had to ask where Germany was, and then they got the answer: "welcome to Germany!"

After so much struggle along the way, they finally reached their destination. The author of the book recounts the legal steps she went through to apply for asylum being a minor, and also talks about her eagerness to have a normal routine as a teenager, to finally be able to go to school, be safe and have friends.

Among the surprises and good news reported by Nujeen is the fact of having her story told in an American TV show. In addition, she was finally able to receive adequate treatment, as well as a more accurate diagnosis of her disability.

With the growing number of forced migrants in Europe, the writer says that the population is divided between supporters and objectors. According to her, the attacks that took place during the peak period of the crisis were attributed to refugees without proper proof, generating fear of being victims of repression.

She concludes by saying the challenges that continue to be faced, even with the refugee status in the host country. Among them, xenophobia and homesickness are the most frequent, but hope remains her most faithful companion.

Nujeen Mustafa's story is inspiring and "eye-opening" to the struggle of refugees and all the challenges they face, but also the strength and hope they carry with them. Therefore, it urges us to take practical and transformative actions.

She is currently a supporter of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). She is also a symbol of the struggle of young refugees and gives inspiring lectures.

What do other authors say about it?

The protagonist of a journey that was also very painful and difficult, Nelson Mandela explains in his biography "Long Walk to Freedom" how he faced the obstacles that were imposed on him and his attitudes based on that.

Barack Obama, when telling his story in "Dreams From My Father", highlights the importance and benefits provided by building a community with acceptance, hope and empathy.

Finally, Gandhi reports in the book "Autobiography: The Story of My Experiences with Truth" about his commitment to his beliefs and how this helped him during his trajectory.

Okay, but how can I apply this to my life?

  • Know that regardless of your limitations or the few resources you have, reaching a goal, such as learning a new language, is always possible with dedication;
  • We need to fight and seek more information about Human Rights, especially regarding refugees;
  • Learn about the importance of raising awareness about forced migration, fighting xenophobia and supporting the migrant population;
  • Keep in mind that no matter how difficult it is to fight and defend a cause as complex as this one, beneficial actions will always have an impact, no matter how small they seem to be;
  • Always try to observe what you can learn from each situation, even the most difficult and traumatic ones;
  • Try to find the beauty of life even amidst the most unlikely scenarios.

Did you like this summary of the book "The Girl From Aleppo"?

What did you think about knowing more about the incredible story of this determined and brave teenager? Inspiring, isn't it?

We hope you enjoyed it and that it can help you apply the teachings and thoughts presented in the text in your reality.

Leave your opinion in the comments, your feedback is very important so that our team can improve even more the content offered to our dear readers!

And to find out even more about the content, get the full version of the book by clicking on the image below:

Book 'The Girl From Aleppo'

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