Behind the ‘photo of the year’: Life without limbs for a Syrian father and his son

Syrian father Munzir al-Nazzal has struggled to get by since he was injured in a bombing of a market and fled to Turkey. His thoughts are not on the broken leg. It is the future of Mustafa his 5-year old son who was born with no limbs.

The two are the subjects of a photo by Turkish photographer Mehmet Aslan, which came in first out of thousands as photo of the year in the annual Siena International Photo Awards.

“We wanted to bring attention to this,” said Aslan, who hopes the image will highlight the refugee child’s quest for prosthetics. The boy is always full of energy. The father seems to have given up.”

Aslan told The Washington Post he had met the father of three in southern Turkey near the Syrian border, where they lived in a shop. In an effort to help their oldest child, Mustafa (their eldest), who requires medical care they can’t afford and prosthetics that they don’t have in Turkey, the parents moved.

“I swear I’ve gone from one hospital to another. Munzir said that there is no town in which I haven’t inquired about it, and nothing has happened.

Mustafa, who was born with the congenital disorder tetra-amelia, smiles as he rolls on the carpet, before his little sister picks him up and places him on a sofa. His father stated, “This is him, but he’s so, so smart.”

His family has relied mostly on charity in more than three years since they escaped Idlib, the last major pocket of Syria in the hands of Islamist rebels after 10 years of war, which has come under attacks by government forces and their allies.

That corner of northern Syria sits along a border dotted with camps crammed with refugees. Millions of Syrian refugees have fled their homeland to Turkey over the past decade, following a conflict that lasted ten years. Aslan hopes that the photograph will help to ease criticisms of refugee communities in Turkey. Some blame them for their economic problems.

His image — which he titled “Hardship of Life” and which jurors described as “emotionally strong” — will be placed on display with others in an exhibit in Italy this month.

“The picture has reached the world,” said the boy’s mother, Zeinab. We’ve been trying for many years to make our voices heard, in order to support his treatment. We’d give anything to give him a better life.”

Zeynep Karatas in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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