14-year-old refugee from Syria dreams of Paralympics

14-year-old refugee from Syria dreams of Paralympics
By Katy Dartford
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In Syria, a bomb attack left Najib Alhaj Ali paralysed. He fled with his family across the Mediterranean to Greece, where para sports gave him hope for a better life.


Najib Alhaj Ali is 14 years old. Two years ago he was left with a spinal cord injury, unable to feel anything below his naval, after a bomb attack on his home in in Homs, Syria.

His father took him to a make-shift clinic after the attack but did not manage to get treatment.

His family decided to escape the war in Syria, and crossed the Mediterranean Sea on rubber dinghy from Turkey to Greece, where they eventually were granted asylum in 2016.

Thanks to Para sport, the future is looking brighter for Najib....

"I'm happy and I'm feeling better because he's playing sport. His attitude is changing. Sport is bringing him out of his shell. I hope that god gives him luck." said Najib’s mother, Faten Shahuod.

"I hope that he will get in touch with people, get to know them better, especially the people who are in similar situation as him."

"This could encourage him. That is what encourages me."

"It's not only about winning."

Since October 2016, Najib has participated in the Paralympic Education Development in Refugee Populations, a project funded by the Agitos Foundation’s Grant Support Programme (GSP) and supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR).

In the last two years the Agitos Foundation has provided opportunities for the most vulnerable refugees, those with an impairment, to find a tool for social inclusion through para sport and a better life. 

A year after starting training , Najib has taken part in two national competitions in Greece, and in December made his debut at the International Wheelchair Federation's World Games 2017 in Vila Real de Santo Antonio in Portugal.

"We are here to compete, to show Najib some things, to add some inspiration to his life." said Christina Marouda, Najib's Trainer.

"And maybe get a small personal best even though we've been working only for short time."

Invited by IWAS and the Agitos Foudation, the 14-year-old to competed in the U18s 100m and 200m wheelchair racing, and also took the opportunity for international World Para Athletics classification.

"I am really happy because I met new people from Brazil, UAE and others." said Najib.

"When I go back to Greece I will train more. Instead of one hour I will train for two. Instead of two I will train for three. So I can start winning races."

"My dream is to get more treatment, to continue my studies, and compete in the Paralympics."

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