Six-year-old Mustafa El Nezel will be treated after an award-winning photo sparked a fundraising campaign.
The award-winning painting by Munzir El Nezel, who playfully raises Mustafa, his son, who was born without limbs, gave the family a chance at a new life as it became a touching symbol of the plight of war-torn Syria.
The shocking but tender photo taken by Turkish photographer Mehmet Aslan, titled Hardship of Life, captured an intimate moment of affection between a father and son whose bodies were crippled by the brutal conflict.
Six-year-old Mustafa was born with a congenital disease caused by drugs his mother took during pregnancy after suffering from nerve gas. His 35-year-old father had his leg amputated after a bomb attack in Syria.
After being named photo of the year at the Siena International Photo Awards (SIPA) last year and making headlines in Italy, it sparked a crowdfunding effort that raised about 100,000 euros ($ 114,000) to provide prostheses for her father and son.
The organizers of the photography festival then asked the Catholic Diocese to take on the task of processing documents, providing financial support and seeking a visa for humanitarian reasons in accordance with Italy’s sponsorship requirements.
Mustafa landed at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport on Friday, accompanied by his father, mother and two sisters, aged one and four. The family will be relocated to Siena, a city in the Tuscan region of central Italy, featuring its medieval brick buildings and home to a photography festival.
In a video message recorded before leaving Ankara for Italy, Mustafa expressed his gratitude. “We are coming, thank you,” he said. “We love Italy.”
In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica before the family left Reyhanli, along Turkey’s border with Syria, El Nezel said he was grateful for the opportunity to send his children to school.
But he said his biggest wish is to one day be able to see his child stand on artificial legs.
“I hope to get his hug, even if it’s a prosthetic hug,” El Nezel said. “That’s the most important thing to me.”
Prosthetics experts at the Centro Protesi Inail in Vigorso di Budrio, northern Italy, will design artificial limbs to help Mustafa gain mobility, according to The New York Times.
Currently, Mustafa cannot walk alone and will need long-term treatment to be self-sufficient. Experts quoted by the American newspaper said that although treating the child is a challenge, the father can regain most of his mobility in a few weeks.
The Diocese of Siena will be responsible for welcoming the family. “We are waiting for Mustafa and his family,” Cardinal Paolo Loyudise told local media.
Luca Venturi, the founder of the photography award, who launched the crowdfunding campaign, was expecting the family at Rome airport.
“When we received confirmation of their arrival, we were shouting with joy,” he told La Repubblica. “We never thought we’d be able to see that day.”