Muhammed Qamand is 8 years old. He is from the Ansari Sharqy area of Aleppo, Syria.
On 2nd May 2012, Muhammed travelled to the Bab al Hadid area to visit grandparents with his mother, little brother, uncle and cousin. Muhammed’s father was at work at his barbers shop. It was a normal family day, Muhammed’s uncle shaving his grand-uncle, mother cooking lunch, his little brother sat on his grand-mother’s lap.
At the time that area of Aleppo was held by rebel forces, the government launched an airstrike, an explosion from a rocket hit the house, killing Muhammed’s mother, brother, grand- uncle and grandparents, Muhammed’s legs were gone below the knee and his cousin received facial injuries.
With the help of friends who had fled to Turkey, Muhammed and his father made it through rebel held areas across the border to Turkey. They live in Istanbul now supported by generous members of the Syrian community there.
Currently, Muhammed and his father live in a second floor apartment accessed by a spiral staircase, this in itself provides a challenge for the family. Muhammed who is learning to walk without physiotherapy with his second hand prosthetics suffers severe back pain and requires his father who still suffers from a chest wound (received in Syria from which he bears a ten inch scar, when a grenade exploded near him) to carry him often. This is a challenge, as Muhammed’s lack of limbs, which would balance the weight of his body, make it difficult to hold and carry him.
Muhammed has only ever had emergency surgery and will soon need an operation, as he is at risk of suffering from a condition known as bone overgrowth in which his leg bones will start to grow through the ends of his stumps.
On assignment in November 2015, I had the privilege of meeting Syrian refugees living in Istanbul. They receive no state support and have no medical care as they are not classed as refugees due to a clause in the 1951 UNHCR Convention on Refugees, therefore Turkey has accorded temporary protection to Syrians on their territory, which precludes forced repatriation. However, legally they are not refugees in Turkey but ‘guests’. Due to the geographic exception written into the original document the country is only obligated to accept refugees from European nations. Thus, Syrians in Turkey do not have access to all the legal safeguards accorded to refugees elsewhere, and those seeking permanent resettlement must look to a third nation. They are therefore supported by the local Syrian community.
Looking back at the past five years of the conflict in Syria and the plight of the refugees, we rarely hear of those who are amputees. These are people of absolutely no means and the worst affected by the war, yet the world hears little of them. They are normally stuck in Syria, a privileged few make it across the border to Turkey through rebel held areas. They are not mobile or well enough to join the rising number of refugees who seek to enter Europe and dominate mainstream media. Ask yourselves; how many times how many times have we heard about what happens to the disabled?
I could recognise the signs of PTSD in the refugees I met, of whose plight I personally empathised with following the sudden death of my wife which my family and I faced four years ago.
I began to set up Muhammed's Hope following an inspirational and heart wrenching encounter with a Syrian family of two, the now disabled Muhammed and his father. My experience cannot compare to the grave loss these people have been through and Muhammed's story is but one example, having lost nearly all members of his family in a single moment.
I felt compelled to fundraise in an attempt to raise money to help to pay for Muhammed’s medical care and with the encouragement of other photographers I chatted to, Muhammed’s Hope was born. The aim had grown to start a charity that would seek to provide medical help to those most affected by war such as Muhammed, and other children similarly affected by the conflict in Syria.
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