Syrian twins closer than ever through disability as they find refuge in Turkey

By Ayberk Yurtsever

Nizip, Turkey, July 2014 - With its organised and clean streets, open living spaces, social facilities, schools, clinic and market, the Nizip-2 Container Campsite established for Syrian families resembles a tent city rather than a camp.

Despite the safety of their new surroundings, Syrians here continue to face the hardships of their previous lives — none so much as young Amir and his family, who came to Nizip from Damascus nine months ago. At only the 8th week stage of his mother’s pregnancy, Amir had developed an oedema of the brain. Although doctors warned the family of the situation, his mother was determined to continue with the pregnancy. Amir’s twin Nabil was born without any problems, but Amir came into the world with physical and mental disabilities. Doctors said that Amir would not live beyond the age of 2. But today, he is 14 years of age.

Amir was only able to attend school for two years in Syria and then had to leave due to his disabilities. In this short time at school, he was able to learn numbers and some general knowledge. He speaks of his twin brother Nabil as the “meaning of his life”. Their father comments, “He doesn’t get along with his other siblings as well as he does with his brother. It must be because they are twins. He is very fond of Nabil.”

Nabil is as fond of Amir, as Amir is of him. “The most special person in the world is my brother,” says Nabil. “I feed my brother, dress him and comb his hair. We watch TV together. In the evenings, I take him on a stroll around the campsite in his wheelchair. I do what I can to make him comfortable.”

Nabil is in the 9th grade and goes to school at the camp. At first, he says he has not yet decided on what he will do after school, but his favourite course is science and he loves animals. Later on we find out he wants to become a veterinarian. His favourite animal is the budgerigar.

Three wishes of Nabil

As with all interviews with Syrian children, we ask for his three wishes. His first wish is for his brother to get well, then to have a successful education and, lastly, for the war in Syria to end.

Nabil recalls that the last time he cried was the day his family left their country. He says that they saw too much fighting and that he was most frightened of the tanks. Their home was not demolished, but the walls were pockmarked after being pounded by bullets. He misses home the most. When asked when the last time he laughed was, Nabil answers without hesitation: “The day I came to Turkey.”

Although Amir and Nabil do not go to the UNICEF Child Friendly Space at the campsite, their brothers Nuh (13) and Beşir (7) participate in activities organized by the Turkish Red Crescent Youth Workers. All of them were very happy to receive the UNICEF colouring books and toys we presented to them as gifts.

Nabil and his father would like to receive support for Amir to have a detailed health check and for an air-conditioner and some diapers. Amir’s story is yet another example of the need for specialised care and services for children with disabilities living in the camps.