UNITED NATIONS, United States, April 24, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – A young Syrian
with cerebral palsy, who trekked with a wheelchair from her homeland all the
way to Germany as a refugee, on Wednesday urged the UN Security Council to
focus more on Syria’s “invisible” disabled people.
It was the first time the council has formally considered the rights of
disabled people affected by conflict, a rights watchdog said.
“I call on all members of the council to do more to make sure (of)
humanitarian access to address the urgent needs of the people affected by the
conflict, particularly people with disabilities,” said Nujeen Mustafa, 20.
She reached Germany in September 2015 after an arduous month-long 2,000-
kilometer (1,200-mile) journey with family members that included a terrifying
boat trip to Greece, after it became too dangerous for them to stay in
Mustafa, who dreamed of becoming an astronaut, wrote a memoir of her
experience and even Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai hailed her as
A student in Germany, Mustafa has become an advocate for the rights of
disabled people in conflict, trying to get states and UN agencies to include
them in humanitarian aid.
“There is very little data on how many people with disabilities live in
Syria or have fled to neighboring countries and what our needs are,” she
“And without this data, the programs and policies just don’t meet our
needs. We’re invisible.”
– Idlib’s 175,000 disabled –
New York-based Human Rights Watch backed Mustafa’s call, saying the
Security Council “should urgently act to improve the protection of people
with disabilities in armed conflict.”
Mustafa drew the council’s attention to the situation in Syria’s jihadist-
controlled Idlib region, home to about three million people and which has
come under increasing bombardment since former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat
Tahrir al-Sham took full control of it in January.
“In Idlib, there are more than 175,000 people with disabilities — many of
whom now have disabilities because of the conflict,” she said.
“The council cannot allow Idlib to be another Aleppo, with hundreds of
thousands forced to flee,” Mustafa said in an appeal reinforced by Ursula
Mueller, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs
and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.
More than 200 civilians have reportedly been killed since February as a
direct result of increased military clashes and attacks, Mueller said.
“Civilian structures — particularly schools and hospitals — continue to
be hit” in the jihadists’ last Syrian bastion, she said.
Idlib has since September been protected from a massive regime offensive by
a fragile ceasefire deal signed by Damascus ally Russia and rebel-backer
At the UN, however, several countries are worried that “the Russians will
soon let the regime take back the pocket in a bloodbath and with their
support,” according to a diplomatic source.
There are “more and more Russian signals that the situation in Idlib is
untenable, that it will be necessary to burst the abscess and that the
province will return to the fold of the government,” the source said.
On Wednesday, a powerful explosion in Idlib killed 18 people including more
than a dozen civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The cause of the blast was not immediately clear.