Camp in north-west Syria brings hope and a better life for the blind


View of Al Kamouneh camp, where displaced people in Idlib governorate, in Syria, are being housed. Photos: dpa

The Nour camp, a “village for the blind” in north-west Syria, provides a glimmer of hope and happiness for blind people.

Yazan Qassam, a blind 10-year-old boy displaced from Zawiya Mountain, in Syria’s governorate of Idlib, is among the children whose life has changed since moving to the village.

Yazan, who used to live in a tent in one of Idlib’s refugee camps in miserable conditions, says, “Living in a tent is already hard. But how is it if you are blind?

“I suffered a lot, but my life has changed now. Living in this camp is perfect for blind people.”

Yazan Qasam, 10, smiles at his father before he leaves their house in Nour. Yazan Qasam, 10, smiles at his father before he leaves their house in Nour.

Nour, which means light in Arabic, is a unique charity project that houses people with severe visual impairments along with their families. Some at the camp were born blind while others lost their sight due to war injuries.

The village was designed in a way to help the blind navigate the space with ease. Wall tiles have been placed throughout the village that are marked with Braille letters so each person can work out which path to take to their destination or find their way back home.

The apartments also have tiles with different patterns, to help people reach their rooms, living rooms or bathrooms.

Yazan, who has been blind since birth, says he has never seen light in his life. “I am happier now, especially since I am learning to read with Braille and can move around easily,” he says.

Amar Garad, who heads the Nour camp, is also blind.

The village was built by Basaier, a Kuwaiti charity, and is staffed by the local humanitarian organisation Al Diaa, he says.

People have been living in the camp since last year and it has now some 103 houses out of a total of 182 spaces, with the remainder being tents.

“Truly, living in a regular tent when you are blind is hell. I used to call the regular refugee camps ‘hell tents’,” Amar says.

Some 3,000 blind people live in north-west Syria, with some losing their sight due to war injuries while others were born blind, a survey in Idlib shows, he says.

The civil war that has been raging since 2011 has claimed more than 350,000 lives so far. Around 13 million people have been displaced within Syria or have fled to other countries.

Although Syria’s ruler Bashar al-Assad now controls around two-thirds of the country again, Idlib remains the last stronghold of opposition rebel groups.

The village has also launched several educational initiatives designed to improve the lives of people with visual impairments, Jarad says.

Blind men playing a special game for the blind in Nour, Syria. Currently, about 100 families live there, each of which has at least one person who is blind or visually impaired.Blind men playing a special game for the blind in Nour, Syria. Currently, about 100 families live there, each of which has at least one person who is blind or visually impaired.

Rouqya Ahmed al Mokhder, 10, displaced from an area in the southern countryside of Aleppo, is blind and lives in Nour camp along her brother and sister, who are also blind.

“Since we moved here, our life is much better. Our hearts have come back to life again,” she says.

“We’re part of society here again, we have friends, we learn and we play,” she says.

Ahmed Al Hamid, 29, another Nour resident, lost his sight in 2016 after a missile launched by the Syrian government forces hit his home in the countryside of Hama, leaving him blind and his wife with a severe injury.

Ahmad, who has two children, is the only blind person in his family. As his wife now has a prosthetic limb due to her injury, he moved to this village as he and his family can get help and live better lives.

Thanks to Nour, Rouqya and Yazan can dream of a future again. Both hope that one day they will become a teachers and help other blind children learn.

“Our aim here in Nour village is to help ease the sufferings of the blind and erase as much as we can of their war sufferings,” Amar says. – dpa/Weedah Hamzah, Amira Rajab and Anas Alkharboutli

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Syria , Nour camp , blind , blindness , visually impaired


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