Nujeen follows the incredible true story of Nujeen Mustafa: a young Kurdish teen, wheelchair bound with cerebral palsy, who is thrust from the protective circle of her large family into the horrors of the Syrian uprising. To escape she must face a grueling journey that will lead her to a perilously overcrowded dinghy to Greece, and overland through Europe to safe haven in Germany.
Written with award-winning foreign correspondent Christina Lamb, Nujeen’s story distills the heartbreaking statistics of the Syrian refugee crisis into the life of one intelligent, perceptive and knowledge-hungry young woman. Along the way, this book sweeps the reader deep into the hearts and minds of those fleeing oppression and war.
“I don’t collect stamps or coins or football cards – I collect facts.”
Nujeen Mustafa knows facts about “physics and space, history and dynasties,” and why the Kurdish people – her clan – feel like foreigners in their own land.
The youngest child in her big family – born 26 years after her older brother, Shiar – Nujeen spends her cossetted childhood cooped up in her fifth storey apartment, watching too much daytime TV and thinking. But while her physical disability and medical needs may have prevented her from going to school like her older brothers and sisters, Nujeen’s mind is ever active.
A stunning autodidact, she only needs to “hear something once to remember it,” a skill that allows her to learn English through TV shows like Days of Our Lives. But her safe, constricted life will soon be devastated as her country is swept into civil war, and the vicious reprisals of the Assad dictatorship. And no amount of channel flicking will stop the news from sinking in.
Nujeen – who had barely spent a day outside before – will find herself fleeing from country to country, tossed about on the Mediterranean, sleeping rough in makeshift camps, bottom bruised from jolting train journeys, facing hunger and hostility. Until, safe with family in Germany, she experiences unexpected kindness, the chance to grow and learn, to build a new life, and dare to dream about the future.
Nujeen Mustafa’s journey is a story the world needed to hear, and it’s just one of many. Nujeen shows the hopes and struggles of those caught in the tides of history, the violence and horror they must face, and the resilience and bravery it takes to make it through.
Christina Lamb is one of Britain’s best-known foreign correspondents. She has won awards for her reporting on everything from wars in Afghanistan to Libyan detention cells, and has travelled both main refugee trails from Libya and Turkey across Europe. She is the author of the best-selling The Africa House, Waiting for Allah, The Sewing Circles of Hera, Small Wars Permitting, Farewell Kabul and co-authored I Am Malala with Malala Yousafzai.
Born with cerebral palsy, 16-year-old Nujeen Mustafa 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 first across the border into Turkey and then further into Europe, where they currently live, in Germany.
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