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Civil War: Disabled Syrian Refugees Flee across Mountains ‘Strapped to Horses’

With the new controversial deal between Turkey and Europen Union in place, Any refugee caught by the coast guard or the Navy will return back to Turkish soil

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A Syrian refugee family walks towards the new Syrian camp of Azraq, . Image source: VOA
  • Disabled refugees fleeing from Syria because of the civil war, face many problems from moving so frequently
  • Alan and his sister, Gyan, are one of many disabled refugees, and they say it is difficult to move from one place to another but they proved, they are not insurmountable.
  • The brother and sister duo along with the family first began their journey when IS attacked their hometown, Al-Hasakah

For anyone fleeing Syria’s civil war, the journey to safety is hazardous, sometimes deadly. For disabled refugees, the challenges are immense – but as siblings Alan and Gyan Mohammed proved, they are not insurmountable.

Alan, 30, and his sister, Gyan, 28, both have muscular dystrophy and are confined to wheelchairs.

Their extraordinary journey began in 2014 as the terror group Islamic State advanced toward their hometown, Al-Hasakah in northeast Syria.

The entire family tried several times to escape across the border to Turkey, but each time they say they were fired on by Turkish border guards and forced to turn back.

So they fled instead to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. A year and four months later, Islamic State fighters swept across the region, forcing Alan, Gyan and their family to escape once more across the hostile, mountainous border with Turkey.

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“When we arrived at the top of the mountains, we took two horses, one for me and my disabled sister and one for our wheelchairs,” Alan said.

With Alan and Gyan strapped to either side of a horse, they eventually reached Turkey, where they paid people smugglers $750 each to take them on a boat to Greece. Alan says their small inflatable dinghy carried 60 refugees.

“Every time I looked around I saw babies, children, crying inside the boat. It was a very difficult moment.”

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The engine cut out soon after they left the Turkish shore. After 4 hours, they were spotted by EU patrol boats and taken to the Greek island of Chios.

Monica Costa Riba of Amnesty International found the disabled siblings and their family living in a makeshift refugee camp an hour outside of Athens. She says their story is inspiring, but it also highlights policy failures.

“This is a remarkable story that shows strength and resilience,” said Costa Riba. “But also it shows the failure of the European states to offer safety to these people that are fleeing persecution and the war in their countries.”

The Mohammed family’s arrival in Greece came just days before the European Union struck a deal with Ankara to return all refugees back to Turkish soil. But the route to Western Europe was now closed, and like 60,000 other migrants and refugees, the Mohammed family is now stranded in Greece.

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“What needs to happen is for the Greek authorities, with the assistance of the EU, to improve the living conditions of these people stranded in Greece. But ultimately, what really needs to happen is for the European governments to accept more refugees in their countries,” said Riba.

The EU’s proposed refugee relocation scheme is delayed amid growing opposition in Europe.

Alan Mohammed passes the time teaching English to refugee children. His family’s escape from terror marks a victory over adversity, but he says his journey is not yet finished. (VOA)

  • Ayushi Gaur

    Disgrace to humanity

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Trilateral Summit On Afghan Peace To Be Hosted By Turkey

The highest Pakistani court also handed over schools being run by the outlawed organization in the country to a Turkish government foundation.

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, welcomes Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan to Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. The two expected to discus bilateral and regional issues. VOA

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan says “a much stronger effort” is needed to further ongoing peace talks his country is facilitating between the United States and Afghanistan’s Taliban.

Addressing a televised joint news conference in Ankara after official talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Khan said Afghans have suffered for decades and it is time for the International community to help bring an end to the war in the country.

“Pakistan has already been helping a dialogue between the Taliban and the Americans but it needs a much stronger effort from all the stakeholders, neighbors,” the prime minister emphasized.

Khan was referring to two-day talks in Abu Dhabi last month between U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, and senior Taliban representatives that Pakistan said it had arranged.

Taliban, afghanistan, pakistan
Members of Taliban delegation take their seats during the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

Khalilzad and the Taliban described the dialogue “productive” and promised to meet again soon. Insurgents demand complete withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan, saying their presence are blocking progress toward peace.

Speaking Friday, President Erdoğan announced he will host a trilateral summit meeting with Pakistan and Afghanistan after Turkey’s March 31 local elections to discuss the peace process.

“I look forward to the summit meeting inshallah [God willing] in Istanbul where we hope that Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey will be able to help in this [Afghan] peace process … a much badly needed peace,” Prime Minister Khan said.

Pakistan’s role in arranging the U.S.-Taliban talks, analysts say, is leading to a thaw in Islamabad’s traditionally tumultuous relationship with Washington.

Speaking on Wednesday, President Donald Trump apparently acknowledged the improvement in mutual ties. “We do want to have a great relationship with Pakistan … so, I look forward to meeting with the new leadership in Pakistan. We will be doing that in the not too distant future.”

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a U.N. conference on Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2018, at U.N. offices in Geneva, Switzerland. VOA

Khan’s two-day official meetings in Turkey ended Friday and it was his first visit to the country since taking power after the July elections in Pakistan. The two Muslim nations enjoy close relations.

Prime Minister Khan assured Turkey of his country’s support to defeat Islamic State, saying the terrorist group “already has emerged in various parts of Afghanistan” and threatens the security of Pakistan.

Erdoğan also praised a recent ruling by Pakistan’s supreme court, which declared exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen’s organization, FETÖ, a terrorist group.

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U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pa., U.S. July 10, 2017. VOA

The highest Pakistani court also handed over schools being run by the outlawed organization in the country to a Turkish government foundation.

Also Read: Peace Offer By Afghan Government Gets Rejected By Taliban

Turkey accuses Gulen of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016. (VOA)