Nujeen Mustafa at a refugee center in Germany.

Nujeen Mustafa at a refugee center in Germany.

The civil war in Syria has killed 400,000 people and displaced millions. One of the displaced is a girl named Nujeen. Last year, at age 16, she fled her Syrian homeland. She joined the massive outflow of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa seeking a safe haven from war, extremist violence and repression. Like many others, Nujeen traveled several thousand miles on her journey to Europe. But Nujeen–who has cerebral palsy–made the journey in a wheelchair. Diane talks with Nujeen Mustafa and veteran foreign correspondent Christina Lamb, who together share Nujeen’s story.


  • Nujeen Mustafa Author of "Nujeen: One Girl's Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair"
  • Christina Lamb Foreign correspondent of Britain's Sunday Times; co-author of "Nujeen: One Girl's Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair" and "I Am Malala"

Read A Featured Excerpt

Excerpted with permission from “Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair.” Copyright 2016 by Harper Wave.


  • 11:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. For most Syrian refugees, the journey to Europe is a difficult one. Many pay smugglers exorbitant fees and risk their lives on long overland treks and crossing the sea in flimsy overcrowded boats. A new book recounts the experience of an exceptional 16-year-old asylum seeker. The book is titled "Nujeen: One Girl's Incredible Journey From War-Torn Syria In A Wheelchair."

  • 11:07:30

    MS. DIANE REHMAuthor Nujeen Mustafa and her co-writer, Christina Lamb, join us from a studio in Cologne, Germany. You are, of course, invited to be part of the program. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send an email to Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. It's wonderful to be with you both.

  • 11:08:00

    MS. CHRISTINA LAMBThank you. Great to be with you.

  • 11:08:02

    MS. NUJEEN MUSTAFAThank you.

  • 11:08:03

    REHMNujeen, tell us a little bit about your family. I know that you are one of nine children, pretty big family.

  • 11:08:13

    MUSTAFAYes, it is a pretty big family, but it's fun. You're gonna get bored if you're the only child or something.

  • 11:08:21

    REHMYes. I think many people might say that. You have four older sisters, one of whom pushed you in a wheelchair for much of your journey. How religious was the home you grew up in?

  • 11:08:42

    MUSTAFAWe're not rigid about it. I consider myself a religious person, but not too much.

  • 11:08:49

    REHMYour parents were strict Muslims. Is that correct?

  • 11:08:57

    MUSTAFANot in the sense of the word. They were not strict, but they liked us to keep the basics of the religions.

  • 11:09:05

    REHMYes. But you -- I gather you were allowed to go to school.

  • 11:09:14

    MUSTAFAOf course, we were. But I didn't have the chance.

  • 11:09:19

    REHMYou never had the chance.

  • 11:09:22


  • 11:09:23


  • 11:09:26

    MUSTAFAWell, as I suppose you -- as I assume you know that our region is different from Europe so our lives is different, our set is different. And we don't have much facilities for disabled people and not much of it is expected from you when you are a disabled person.

  • 11:09:51

    REHMChristina, tell us how you and Nujeen met.

  • 11:09:56

    LAMBWell, as a journalist, I was reporting last year a lot on the refugee crisis. As you know, it's the biggest number of refuges coming into Europe since the second World War so it was a huge story for us. I was traveling along the routes of the refugees so going on the two main routes, one of which is from Libya to Italy into Europe and the other route from Turkey across the sea to Greece and then across Europe. And so I'd been reporting a lot on it and it seemed to me that people just didn't really understand what it was like to be a refugee because the numbers were so huge.

  • 11:10:39

    LAMBI mean, we're talking about more than a million people coming. And, you know, when I was going to various places along the way, there were, you know, thousands of people -- for example, crossing the Hungarian border were 4,000 people every day. So I was really looking for a person that I could tell the story through. In my journalism, I always sort of believe it's a lot easier for people to identify with one person's story than in a big mass of people. So the day that Hungary closed their borders to refugees, I was actually on the Hungarian side and Nujeen and her family were on the other side.

  • 11:11:25

    LAMBAnd I heard that there was this girl in a wheelchair who spoke fluid English, who was on the other side of the fence, but I didn't actually meet her then. I met her afterwards.

  • 11:11:39

    REHMHow did you actually meet? You sought her out?

  • 11:11:46

    LAMBWell, we met through a mutual friend who is BBC reporter who interviewed her and told me that there's this remarkable girl who has come all this way in a wheelchair. And I just found this amazing because, you know, it was a really difficult journey for anybody, for able-bodied people. Lots of walking, never quite knowing where you're going to go, at the mercy of sometimes police in places like Hungary were rounding people up, sometimes tear-gassing people. You know, it was a really difficult journey. And, of course, the boat from Turkey to Greece, crossing in a dingy is really packed with people.

  • 11:12:35

    LAMBSo it -- the idea that someone had actually done that in a wheelchair and with just her sister pushing her, I found astonishing.

  • 11:12:44

    REHMIndeed. Christina, I know Nujeen is a Kurd, which happens to be an ethnic minority in Syria. How did the Kurds come to settle in Syria?

  • 11:13:05

    LAMBDo you want to answer that, Nujeen? Do you want to talk a little bit about the Kurdish heritage? I think the Kurds are sort of split into different countries.

  • 11:13:16

    MUSTAFAYes. So it starts with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. And because the Ottoman Empire contained three parts of Kurdistan so from there -- the Persian part. And after the super powers who won the first World War split the countries and formed countries and split them, the Ottoman Empire, we ended up in three countries as Kurds or in four.

  • 11:14:08

    LAMBSo you have Kurds today, really, don't you, in Iran.

  • 11:14:11


  • 11:14:12

    LAMBIn Iraq and Syria and Turkey.

  • 11:14:13

    REHMAnd Syria. And Nujeen, how was your family treated in Syria, as being Kurdish?

  • 11:14:26

    MUSTAFAI think we were lucky. We luckier than most the Kurds in Syria. I mean, we were all surrounded by Kurds, at least -- I was born in an Arabic city and that was not a really good thing, but then we got lucky and left Aleppo and lived in a Kurdish neighborhood. I think -- that's what I hate the most is that I was not -- I've never been in a place where I didn't feel odd when I spoke my mother language and when I spoke to my parents because they never learned Arabic. And that hurts. It really does. It feels so odd when someone doesn't understand you. Looks really suspicious about who you are.

  • 11:15:26

    REHMAnd I know that you learned English by watching soap operas.

  • 11:15:39

    MUSTAFAOh, I've been asked this question a thousand times and, well, I had to find a way to go on living. What I want to -- I wanted to have something to talk about when I'm older, you know, aside from ISIS and war. And I think most of us remembers the adolescent, like, years with a smile and I want to do so as well, you know. It was really important for me to not grow indifferent to things, to still feel different feelings and not just fear. So I was glad that I found something that was so intense and, you know.

  • 11:16:40

    REHMI'm glad for you as well. Nujeen Mustafa, she and Christina Lamb have co-authored a brand-new book. It's titled "Nujeen: One Girl's Incredible Journey From War-Torn Syria In A Wheelchair." Christina Lamb is foreign correspondent of Britain's Sunday Times and also the co-author of "I Am Malala." If you'd like to join us, give us a call, 800-433-8850. As you think about what the journey must have meant and continues to mean for those many refugees fleeing Syria, fleeing Aleppo as we speak, Nujeen Mustafa, who has cerebral palsy doing so in a wheelchair.

  • 11:17:52

    REHMWe'll take a short break. When we come back, more of our conversation, your calls and comments. Stay with us.

  • 11:20:02

    REHMWelcome back, Nujeen Mustafa and Christina Lamb, co-authors of a brand new book, titled "Nujeen: One Girl's Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair." Nujeen Mustafa has cerebral palsy. They are both joining us from a studio in Cologne, Germany, having made this extraordinary trip through so many barriers and having reached a place of comparative safety in Germany. Christina, what's the quality of care in Syria for those with cerebral palsy, compared, say, to either Europe or the U.S.?

  • 11:21:01

    LAMBWell, I mean, it depends how much money you have, I think is the answer, but generally very little. And the fact is, you know, as Nujeen was talking about it, she almost never went out of her apartment because it was so difficult. So the family were living in a fifth-floor apartment in Aleppo, which had no lift, and so if she wanted to go out, one of her brothers actually had to physically carry her out, and she didn't have a wheelchair and was for a while going and getting some physical therapy.

  • 11:21:38

    LAMBBut then of course the revolution started, and then the war in 2011, and that was the end of that. So really, I mean, for her condition she should, if she had been in Europe or America, would be in a much better situation than she is. And I think she could tell you, but I think she was surprised when she came to Germany all the facilities that there were, how much easier it was for people and also at the school, which she's going to for the first time, how people who are actually more disabled than her were able to do much more than she was because they'd grown up in a society where they were having more facilities and able to be much more independent.

  • 11:22:27

    REHMNujeen, can you describe your own situation in that wheelchair with cerebral palsy? Can you talk about how you were able to move or not?

  • 11:22:44

    MR. NUJEEN MUSTAFAWell, I had my -- I had my rabbit-like jumping. So I was often called the rabbit of our -- the rabbit of our family because I had to -- I moved like a rabbit around. And that became more embarrassing as I grew older. So I didn't -- I didn't like to look at myself in the mirror, but I had my own ways of making myself feel better about myself.

  • 11:23:26

    REHMSo you were actually jumping to move around?

  • 11:23:32


  • 11:23:34

    REHMThat must have been...

  • 11:23:36

    LAMBAnd sort of dragging your feet, weren't you, sort of using your arms on the floor to pull yourself.

  • 11:23:40

    MUSTAFAYes, so as I was pulling myself and some kind of jumping, so...

  • 11:23:46

    REHMAnd tell me, where did the wheelchair come from?

  • 11:23:55

    MUSTAFAThat was in 2013, I believe. Once we were out, that was (word?) and then we met someone who (unintelligible) having much difficulty in getting me into the car, and they said we can offer you a wheelchair. So that's the -- that is the first wheelchair I got. And then there was an organization who provided me with a better one in Turkey, so...

  • 11:24:29

    REHMI see.

  • 11:24:30

    LAMBBut even so, the kind of wheelchair that Nujeen was using, you know, not only was it very difficult to cross Europe like that in a wheelchair, but it was a wheelchair that was not fitted for her. It was a big wheelchair that she was sort of being tossed around in and sort of bruising herself, as they moved along. So I think, you know, it made it particularly hard.

  • 11:24:54

    REHMShe looked as though she was holding on very tightly.

  • 11:25:01

    MUSTAFAYes because it hurts, and it feels like you're going to fall off any minute.

  • 11:25:06

    REHMYes, yes, I can understand. Christina, what was happening in Syria at that moment that led to the decision by both Nujeen and her family to leave Turkey?

  • 11:25:23

    LAMBWell, I think what happened, as with many Syrians last year, was that by then the war had been going on for four years, and people couldn't see an end to it. So whereas in the early years people moved to Turkey and thought, well, you know, we'll just be here for a few months, and then we'll go back home, suddenly people were realizing, you know, there's no end to this, in fact, you know, things are getting worse. You had ISIS appear, and so you had that, then the Russians getting involved and starting bombing an helping the regime, and the whole thing became more complicated.

  • 11:26:03

    LAMBAnd, you know, you started to think that there was just no way that this was going to end anytime quickly. So it was better to actually get somewhere safe and start a new life.

  • 11:26:16

    REHMAnd wasn't there an aunt and an uncle who fled in their car?

  • 11:26:28

    MUSTAFAYou mean us, right?

  • 11:26:40

    LAMBThere was an aunt and uncle who'd actually also gone to Turkey, and then they went back to Syria, to Northern Syria, to Kobani, for a funeral of somebody that had died. And while they were there, Daesh, ISIS, attacked, and they were killed. So that happened just before Nujeen and her sister decided to leave Turkey.

  • 11:27:09

    REHMWell, all right, we have some callers here in Washington and Houston, Texas, who are interested in Nujeen and her thoughts. Let's go first to Claude in Washington, D.C., you're on the air.

  • 11:27:31

    CLAUDEThank you, thank you, Diane, thank you for having me. And thank you, Nujeen, for bringing your story forward. I wanted to know, since I have the opportunity to speak to someone from Syria, taking us back to the Arab Spring, I mean, was it a time of hope? You know, you were living there, I'm assuming, at that time. And how long did that hope last before it became clear that it was going to be a time of, you know, repression and harsh treatments towards -- as a backlash towards the people? Is there any way you or the reporter could speak on that? Because I don't know much about the feelings of Syria at that time.

  • 11:28:14

    MUSTAFAWell, there was much enthusiasm for the revolution and for the Arab Spring. We kind of knew what kind of regime we had, but we hoped -- we hoped for the best as we did this revolution. And there was -- and because that we were witnessing a historical event, and I kept thinking, oh God, when I'm older, how am I going to tell the end of the story, what end it's going to be.

  • 11:28:50

    MUSTAFASo I was so excited, and I started already imagining myself old and telling the story. But it seemed like -- now it seems like a never-ending thing. And I think we lost hope, basically in 2013 let me say.

  • 11:29:22

    REHMSo in the beginning you were optimistic that the revolution there was going to lead to a better life not only for you but -- and your family but everyone around you, and then in 2013 you saw it going badly.

  • 11:29:45

    MUSTAFAAs they started using everything they had to kill people, I mean the regime and his allies.

  • 11:29:57

    LAMBIt's interesting because in talking to Nujeen's family, I think there was a generational difference. Like the young people, her sisters who are at university and other young people thought that this was going to be a change, and they'd seen what happened in Tunisia, and they'd seen what happened in Egypt where Mubarak was kicked out and so, you know, thought there was going to be -- this revolution would succeed in Syria, too.

  • 11:30:25

    LAMBOlder people like Nujeen's father, he says he never thought that there would be change, that he warned his daughters at the beginning, you know, don't get involved because this regime will do everything possible to stay in power because he'd seen, in the past, President Assad's father, the previous president, massacring thousands of people in an uprising, and so he knew what lengths they would go to.

  • 11:30:55

    REHMWe have an email from Michael, who says, Nujeen, when you were living in Aleppo, how did you view the war? What did you see as the reasons for the fighting?

  • 11:31:13

    MUSTAFAThe madness, need to control, narcissism. They just don't want to give it up. They own -- they own this country. It's their farm. Why would they give it up?

  • 11:31:33


  • 11:31:35

    LAMBYes, I mean, I think that it feels -- all of us feel watching on television the pictures from Aleppo, for example, at the moment that they don't care what lengths they go to to keep control, and it doesn't matter if they destroy the whole country, they destroy ancient cities like Aleppo, they kill hundreds of thousands of people. They'll do anything to maintain control. I know Nujeen, when we just met before coming in here, was saying to me how cross and upset she was at watching what's happening.

  • 11:32:11

    REHMAll right, to Patricia in Houston, Texas, you're on the air.

  • 11:32:18

    PATRICIAOh thank you. Wow, thank you, Nujeen, for telling your story, and I hope things are turning around for you. Everybody here is praying for your country, hoping things get better over there. But I'm really curious. I hope your life today is -- what's going on with you -- but I also want to know what's going on with your sister that wheeled you that way. I mean, the caretaker hasn't been mentioned, and the -- that love that she showed for you. And what's happening with yourselves today?

  • 11:32:47

    REHMSure, good question, Nujeen?

  • 11:32:53

    MUSTAFAI'd say I have an ordinary life. I wake up every day, she goes to the German course, and I go to the school. I tried to help her with German, but she gets on my nerves because she doesn't know how to pronounce German words. She doesn't know German words, and that gets on my nerves.

  • 11:33:16

    REHMThey're difficult, yeah.

  • 11:33:20

    MUSTAFAI'm working as an official translator for the family, and things are going well. I hope she learns German fast because I'm tired of -- I'm tired of feeling like a remote control, going from language to another.

  • 11:33:42

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Christina, does that mean that they're all living together? Who is with Nujeen on a daily basis?

  • 11:34:01

    LAMBSo Nujeen lives with two of her sisters, Nisreen, who pushed her across Europe and is the real heroine, I think of this story, and her other elder sister, Nata, (sp?) and she's got four small children, so three adults, three small children in a two-bedroom apartment. So it's quite crowded, quite noisy, but I think the most important thing to them is they're safe. You know, there's nobody bombing them, they can go out in the streets and know that they'll come back again in the evening.

  • 11:34:35

    LAMBAnd I think that's one of the things that, you know, is important to understand about these refugees, they want just a normal life. They want to be able to just get up in the morning, brush their teeth, go to school, go to work and know that they can come home again in the evening.

  • 11:34:50


  • 11:34:51

    LAMBAnd it was really amazing to see Nujeen at school in Germany and making friends for the first time.

  • 11:34:59

    REHMNow what about the establishment of permanent residency in Germany for Nujeen? This morning German police arrested a Syrian man suspected of planning a bombing attack. Might incidents like this affect Nujeen's asylum request, Christina?

  • 11:35:25

    LAMBWell, both her elder sisters have been granted asylum. So I think that she will get it eventually. It's not quite clear why she hasn't got it yet, maybe because she is a minor. But, I mean, what certainly has happened in the year since they came here is there's been, you know, a change in attitudes towards refugees here.

  • 11:35:49

    LAMBThey -- Nujeen and I are speaking to you from Cologne. This is where at New Year there was this attack on hundreds of girls on New Year's Eve, which was blamed on migrants. So that was the sort of first incident here, which started to make people really question was it such a good idea Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, saying that they would take in a million people. And then subsequently there's been a number of incidents recently. There have been several kind of terrorist attacks or shootings, and so people are now starting to really question whether it is a good idea to have all these refugees here.

  • 11:36:36

    LAMBAnd I think Nujeen and her family, you know, it's very difficult for them because they don't want people to be looking at them with suspicion or fear.

  • 11:36:49

    REHMWho is providing the financing for Nujeen and her sisters?

  • 11:36:58

    LAMBWell, the German government give every refugee an allowance. So once you've -- once your application is accepted here, you're given an allowance, which for adults is 320 euros. How much do you get, Nujeen, do you know, as a child?

  • 11:37:18

    MUSTAFAI think 320 euros.

  • 11:37:19

    REHMThree hundred and...

  • 11:37:20

    LAMBFor adults, and for children it's 100-and-something, I think, but then they also provide accommodation and pay the bills.

  • 11:37:26

    REHMAll right, we'll take just a short break here. When we come back, we'll talk once more with Nujeen Mustafa and Christina Lamb.

  • 11:40:03

    REHMWelcome back. Nujeen Mustafa and Christina Lamb have written a new book together. It's titled, "Nujeen." And it's "One Girl's Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair." Christina Lamb is also the coauthor of the extraordinary popular book "I Am Malala." I wonder if both of you can explain to our listeners how you, Nujeen, made that incredible journey. I realize you were in a wheelchair.

  • 11:40:50

    REHMI realize your sister was pushing you. Can you talk about how many countries you went through and how you managed that in a wheelchair? And Christina, if you can jump in on that, as well.

  • 11:41:11

    MUSTAFAWell, I think, including Germany, we have been in eight countries. And…

  • 11:41:18

    REHMLet me clarify you. You just said eight countries.

  • 11:41:24

    MUSTAFARight. And I think the key to this whole thing was our determination to do it. And our realization that there was nothing on the horizon for us. So we, like, we had to get to Germany for the sake of all of us, you know.

  • 11:41:48

    REHMAnd what kind of resistance did you meet along the way as you went through those eight countries?

  • 11:41:59

    MUSTAFAWell, I don't think it's a resistance, but I thought of it as a -- always as a contradiction. Because there are these people who treat you really well, and they are nice to you. And, like, everyone is nice and empathize with you. And then there's police and the police stations. And you are being interrogated as if you are a criminal. And they treat you as if they are protecting their country from you. And I suppose none of us would like to feel that way, as if he was something bad that's gonna happen or some kind of a disease that's gonna just spread among people.

  • 11:42:49

    LAMBI suppose to me one of the things I found fascinating covering it was that how people knew where to go. You know, how it actually worked. And, of course, the one thing every refugee has, if nothing else, is a smartphone, because you need to be able to follow on Facebook or WhatsApp or Vivo. Being in contact with the ways to go, because those ways changed as different countries closed their borders.

  • 11:43:16

    LAMBSo, for example, when Hungary closed their border, built this fence all along, Nujeen had to go into Croatia and that way. Which, at that point, wasn't the route. So I was very keen in the book to try and also just show through her story just how people do it, how it works, how you find people smugglers and how there are these people actually trying to profit from all of the refugees fleeing war and conflict and desperation.

  • 11:43:52

    REHMAnd how much does it cost, typically, for someone to make that journey that Nujeen and her sister did from Turkey to Europe, going through eight countries?

  • 11:44:10

    LAMBWell, it varies from different people. But in their case it cost them 6,000 euros for the two of them. I know people that have spent $10,000 to do it. It's -- depends on the timing and, you know, how much a people smuggler is demanding from you if you're going that way. But the interesting thing about that, it does mean that the kind of people doing it are actually not the poorest people. You've got to have some kind of resources to be able to make this journey. So an awful lot of the people coming that I was meeting were, you know, lawyers, surgeons, people that were very educated people, but just in such a desperate situation.1

  • 11:44:59

    REHMSo educated, fairly well off in order to make these kinds of payments. Do most refugees make this journey on foot, Christina?

  • 11:45:17

    LAMBYes. I mean, a foot some of the way. They're also going by bus, by train. I mean, you're talking about thousands of miles. So, but the journey's usually about 3,500 miles, if you add up all the different routes. So that would be an awfully long way to walk. But the people get busses, trains, boats. I mean, one of the most dangerous bits -- maybe Nujeen can talk a little bit about that -- is the taking the dinghy from Turkey to Greece, which is a short journey. It's only a few hours, but very treacherous.

  • 11:45:59


  • 11:46:02


  • 11:46:04

    REHMI'm just wondering about making that trip in a dinghy. And there you were sitting in your wheelchair. What was that like for you?

  • 11:46:20

    MUSTAFAOf course it was hard. You can't help but be scared. But I had my own techniques to just relax.

  • 11:46:31

    REHMTell me about those.

  • 11:46:32

    MUSTAFAPsychology helps.

  • 11:46:33


  • 11:46:34

    MUSTAFAAnd so you have to take a deep breath and just say a short prayers and things. And then just have faith in God, you know. But I just trained myself to do the trick as on (inaudible) I used to watch it. So deep breath, try to relax and, you know.

  • 11:46:57

    REHMI think that's good advice for all of us. Go ahead, Christina.

  • 11:47:04

    LAMBThe very day that Nujeen crossed in the boat was the day that that little boy, Alan Kurdi, drowned. The boy whose body then was photographed. This little three-year-old laying on the beach in his little shorts. And I think if she and her sister had seen that before they crossed they might have felt differently.

  • 11:47:30

    REHMSo as I understand it, they crossed the Aegean from Turkey to Greece, then went through Macedonia to Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and then Germany.

  • 11:47:52

    MUSTAFAAnd Germany.

  • 11:47:54

    REHMSo at what point did you, Nujeen, and your sister, Nisreen, have to try to make it to Germany on your own

  • 11:48:12

    MUSTAFAI think it was always been that way. The hardest part for me was Slovenia because we were alone and we were in some kind of -- detained in a military base. And that's -- just scared me. But it was also an eye-opening experience. I think that was the only time I cried during the journey. At the time I realized how precious freedom was and why did this whole thing begin in Syria, from the start, you know. Why did revolt on the regime? So that was an eye-opening experience.

  • 11:49:00

    MUSTAFABut it was hard to think that you wouldn't see the sunlight again, maybe for months or years, because you are surrounded by these bars. And there's no one but the police and you don't know what's gonna happen to you. So that was a pretty tough time. But luckily, it was soon over. So…

  • 11:49:25

    LAMBI found, as a European, you know, I was ashamed at the way that people were being treated in many places. Obviously, there's a lot of debate about letting refugees in. And Europe wasn't going to let everybody in. But they at least should have been able -- we're a very affluent continent -- should have been able to have had some kind of reception centers for people, so they were treated with dignity.

  • 11:49:53

    LAMBI think one of the things I felt, found awful, was these people doing these long journeys who were coming into these countries and then having to sleep in muddy fields or on station concourses or, you know, there's just nothing for them. And you sort of, you saw the worst of humanity in some places, the way the police were beating people up and pushing them out. You also saw the best, because, you know, a lot of local people were horrified by what was happening in their countries and were volunteering and coming with food and clothes. And so it really -- you saw both sides of humanity, I think.

  • 11:50:34

    REHMThere's a chapter in the book titled, "Thank You, Mama Merkel." So Angela Merkel is getting a great deal of pushback because of the number of refugees that Germany has taken in. Do you think that could or might affect Nujeen's asylum request, Christina?

  • 11:51:09

    LAMBI think that, you know, clearly, the atmosphere has changed. But the majority of people still think it was the right thing to do. Of course, you know, Germany has a history that was -- some people felt that this was a chance to kind of change the image of Germany to be a place that was welcoming in foreigners and really setting an example for the rest of Europe. But even Angela Merkel herself has sort of rode back a bit now on what she's said.

  • 11:51:50

    LAMBAnd there is no (unintelligible). And I saw from covering this crisis at a very close hand, that a lot of people made the decision to come to Europe after she made that statement in August of last year, saying that we will deal with this and we will let the people in.

  • 11:52:10

    MUSTAFAAnd there is something that I would like to say about -- on this subject, is that what I don't understand is the politicians that complain about refugees. And it's like a kid who's not doing his homework and then complains, oh, God, I haven't done my homework. You know, we are not eager to come to Europe, you know. We are not eager to learn German. We just, you know, just -- you have to stop the war and we will gladly be back -- go back to our country. We're not eager to like go to the job center or whatever or to do these terrible work, this terrible paperwork that takes years and to get -- to be done.

  • 11:52:58

    MUSTAFAAnd I think they are just -- this is laziness. This is some kind of laziness because they don't take their responsibilities in stopping the war. And then complain about refugees coming. This is laziness, I think.

  • 11:53:16

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Nujeen, you mentioned the kind of work that Germany is asking the refugees to do. What kind of work are you talking about?

  • 11:53:36

    MUSTAFAI mean, the German (unintelligible) no one of us is just -- no one of us has that patience. You know they are just -- they just have -- they're just doing their job, but we have no patience. And I think for me, for example, I feel like I live in a parallel world. Like, I'm -- I have -- I've wrote this book and I have to do a lot of interviews and I'm apparently famous. And then I'm still a refugee, a second-class citizen who has no right to travel, even though I speak German. So I'm always jealous of my sisters. I always complain about it. You have no idea about a word in German and you have this residence permit. So I always complain about it. This is unfair.

  • 11:54:33

    REHMAnd that is -- I gather, Christina, that is because the rules of have changed.

  • 11:54:41

    LAMBWell, it's not clear, really. I think it is also just because she's younger and it's sometimes more complicated for minors to actually get the asylum.

  • 11:54:48

    REHMI see.

  • 11:54:51

    LAMBSo but, you know, the fact is that an awful lot of people are stranded in other parts of Europe that didn't actually make it to Germany. I've spent the last few weeks in Greece, on the Greek islands where there's -- well, in Greece, there's about 58,000 refugees stranded in camps because they arrived after March 23rd when the deal was done by Europe to basically close the doors and stop anybody coming into the EU. So both Greece and Italy have ended up with large numbers of people stuck there.

  • 11:55:27

    LAMBAnd as Nujeen said, you know, politicians have answer for their own responsibilities. Because the EU had actually said that they would take 160,000 of these refugees and distribute them. Which wasn't a large number, considering that the EU is 500,000 million people. But actually only 6,000 have actually been taken. So just a tiny percentage.

  • 11:55:55

    REHMAnd here's a final comment from Jeff. He says, "As a privileged white American male, father of three children, two young girls, I find myself incredibly moved by your guest's journey in the story that she's only begun to tell. Please share with her how important her own personal legend is to so many of us who are cheering and hoping someday to support a world where all are welcome and deserving as she is." So I hope that comment, Nujeen, gives you some comfort.

  • 11:56:46

    REHMI want to thank you both, Nujeen Mustafa and Christina Lamb, author of the new book titled, "Nujeen: One Girl's Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair." I wish you all the best, Nujeen. And thank you, Christina, for bringing her story to light.

  • 11:57:16

    LAMBThank you, Diane.

  • 11:57:17

    REHMThank you both so much. And thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.

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