Diakonia - People change the world
Rahaf and her son Naser. Rahaf with her four-year-old son Naser who has to wear a brace due to being born with spina bifida. Photo: Alice Chlouk

Hope for a brighter future

“I cannot describe the feelings I have been through since the day I knew I had to leave Syria,” says Rahaf. She left Syria with her unborn baby in the womb. Her husband stayed put to take care of their house, but shortly after he went missing. Despite all her sorrows, Rahaf is hopeful, because due to the support from Diakonia’s partner Najdeh, things are starting to look better.

 “I was afraid of the unknown and the security situation in the country. I did not know what would happen once I got to a checkpoint since many atrocities were taking place around our area. I was afraid of getting arrested,” said Rahaf when describing the big step she had to take to save her life and the life of her unborn child at that time.  

Rahaf is a 24 year-old Palestinian Refugee from Syria (PRS). In 2012, when the fighting broke out, she escaped Yarmouk, a Palestinian camp near Damascus, pregnant with her first child, leaving her husband to take care of the household.

Her husband went missing

“I was newly married when I left Syria, only two months ago we got married and I was living with a man who treated me so well, I never imagined that I would ever leave him or live away from him.”  However, in 2013 her husband went missing. 

“I am unaware of my husband’s whereabouts and it is so hard to live not knowing what really happened to a person you love, to live in darkness, I hope he is still alive and I am still waiting for his return.”

Rahaf did not register her marriage in Syria and it took her a year and a half to finish the registrations and receive a family identification document from Syria. She currently has a temporary residency permit that she renews every two to three months, however her son Naser is not registered in Lebanon.

Tremendous strain on her health

Naser was diagnosed at birth with spina bifida, which is a type of birth defect called a neural tube defect. This defect causes a curve in the spine, which in Naser’s case needs a brace that he should wear daily for at least three years.

Rahaf and her son Naser walking in the narrow streets of Shatila Camp, heading towards Association Najdeh where her son is receiving his primary education.

“Naser’s illness and the fact that I lost my husband affected my health tremendously. I also was sick and did not know how I can provide my son with medical help since I am alone and my home in Syria was destroyed and robbed. I can’t describe the feeling I have been through, I was living in darkness and sorrow.”

Rahaf has not given up 

Although she does not have the financial means, she has managed to provide Naser with medical support by registering Naser under another child’s name.  Rahaf’s parents have received asylum in France, but Rahaf has had to stay in Lebanon because she could not get a passport for Naser without his father. But with the help of Najdeh’s Legal Assistance Program, she was able to get parental custody and obtain Naser’s Syrian passport. She even received medical support from the French government who will take care of all her child’s medical expenses.

“The legal support Association Najdeh provided us with enabled me to apply for a visa which we shall receive soon and we will join my family in French Guiana, a region of France on the northeast coast of South America.” 

By: Natacha Moukannas