Life as a refugee

The special bond

While many daughters enjoy a special bond with their fathers, the bond Rahaf and her dad have go beyond the norm.

Updated 26 Jan 2022

While many daughters enjoy a special bond with their fathers, the bond Rahaf and her dad have go beyond the norm.

While many daughters enjoy a special bond with their fathers, the bond Rahaf and her dad have go beyond the norm.

House exploded and set on fire

Many daughters and fathers have an unbreakable bond, but Abdulsattar and his daughter Rahaf have a special relationship. They are both patients who need medical care. Abdulsattar is battling cancer, while his 16-year-old daughter Rahaf suffers from second-degree burns on her body.

It happened when an explosion set their house in Syria on fire. The other family members were unharmed, but Rahaf sustained severe injuries. Abdulsattar tried to get his daughter the treatment she needed. It was a tremendous challenge since the conflict destroyed most hospitals in northern Syria.

According to UN OCHA in 2020, only 64% of hospitals and 52% of primary health care centres across Syria were functioning, while 70% of the health workforce fled the country. When the family finally managed to access health care, the nurses were not experienced enough to give Rahaf the specialized treatment she needed.

“She went through a lot of pain,” he remembers.

“My daughter cried during treatment, which worsened her condition.”

More challenges appeared when Abdulsattar was diagnosed with cancer. The health care system in northern Syria, damaged by years of war, could not provide treatment for his condition. His situation was getting worse and worse.

He applied for treatment in Turkey and application was accepted a few weeks later, but he could not bring his family members.

Important papers.

Important papers.

“It was a miracle”

He stayed in touch with his family members through WhatsApp. His daughter Rahaf talked about the failed surgeries.

“I cannot handle my situation anymore,” she told him.

Determined to get her the best medical care, he contacted different organizations to bring his daughter to Turkey, but to no avail. One of his neighbours told him about the Danish Refugee Council (DRC)’s legal programme.

Funded by the European Union, the project aims to provide refugees with legal support to learn about their rights and access legal services in Turkey. DRC provided Abdulsattar with transportation, legal counselling and translation support throughout the reunification process.

“DRC helped me on both legal and emotional levels,” he said.

“They were always by my side.”

The day came when the application to bring his daughter to Turkey for medical treatment was accepted.

“My friends could not believe it,” he said. “It was a miracle.”

It was an important moment. Abdulsattar saw his daughter Rahaf at the border for the first time in two years.

“I cannot describe my feelings at that moment. I felt as if the world were in my hands.”

His daughter is now undergoing treatment and her condition is slowly improving. She is still unable to raise her head because of the burns on her neck, but she knows that her father and other people are there to lift her up.

Living as a refugee.

Living as a refugee.

Legal aid

“Turkish people are so nice,” Rahaf said.

“They help us in every way.”

Thanks to the support from Turkish neighbours, she is taking Turkish classes and is planning to go to school later.

Her experience in Syria taught her a lot about the impact of the limited health services on people’s lives, and the great efforts by the medical staff in Turkey inspired her to become a nurse in the future. She is now supporting her sick father in every way she can.

Abdulsattar and Rahaf managed to receive the health care they needed, but many others are still in need of immediate care. DRC and its partners will continue to provide legal support for refugees to reach the services they need.

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