Sat. May 21st, 2022

Six-year-old Mustafa El Nezzel will receive treatment after an award-winning photo spurred a fundraiser.

The award-winning picture of Munzir El Nezzel playfully elevating Mustafa, his son born without limbs, gave the family a chance at a new life after it became a poignant symbol of the fate of war-torn Syria.

The shocking yet tender photo taken by Turkish photographer Mehmet Aslan, titled Hardship of Life, captured an intimate moment of love between a father and son whose bodies were mutilated by the brutal conflict.

The six-year-old Mustafa was born with a congenital disorder caused by medication his mother took while she was pregnant after she sick with nervous gas. His 35-year-old father’s leg was 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 crowdfunding efforts that raised about 100,000 euros ($ 114,000) for both father and son of prosthetic limbs.

The organizers of the photography festival then asked the Catholic diocese to take on the task of handling paperwork, providing financial support and applying for a visa on humanitarian grounds in accordance with Italy’s sponsorship requirements.

Mustafa landed at Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Friday, accompanied by his father, mother and his two sisters aged one and four. The family will be relocated to Siena, a city in central Italy’s Tuscany region characterized by its medieval brick buildings and home to the Photography Festival.

Munzir al-Nazzal, who lost his leg in the Syrian conflict, holds his son Mustafa for 5 years upon their arrival at Fiumicino's Leonardo Da Vinci airportMunzir El Nezzel holds his son Mustafa on their arrival in Rome [Alessandra Tarantino/AP]

In a video message recorded before taking off from Ankara to fly to Italy, Mustafa expressed his gratitude. “We’re coming, thank you,” he said. “We love Italy.”

In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica before the family’s departure from Reyhanli, along the Turkish border with Syria, El Nezzel said he was grateful for the possibility of sending his children to school.

But he said his biggest wish was to one day be able to see his child standing on artificial legs.

“I hope to receive his hug, even if it’s a hug with prostheses,” El Nezzel said. “That’s what matters most to me.”

Prosthetic experts at the Centro Prosthesis Inail in Vigorso di Budrio, northern Italy, will design artificial limbs to help Mustafa gain mobility, According to The New York Times.

Mustafa is currently unable to walk independently and will need long-term treatment to be self-sufficient. Specialists quoted by the American newspaper said that although the treatment of the child would be challenging, the father was able to recover most of his mobility within a few weeks.

The diocese of Siena will be in charge of welcoming the family. “We are waiting for Mustafa and his family,” Cardinal Paolo Lojudice told local media.

Luca Venturi, the founder of the photography award that launched the crowdfunding campaign, greeted the family at the airport in Rome.

“When we received confirmation of their arrival, we shouted for joy,” he told La Repubblica. “We never thought we would see this day.”

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