'Our new homeland': Syrian refugee family granted visas in Italy after photo goes global

This award-winning photograph travelled around the world. As a result, a war-stricken refugee family has been granted a second chance at life.

Munzir Al-Nazzal and his son, Mustafa, who survived the Syrian war, now call Italy their new home.

Munzir Al-Nazzal and his son, Mustafa, who survived the Syrian war, now call Italy their new home. Source: SBS / , Supplied/Mehmet Aslan

Last year, Munzir Al-Nazzal and his family were stuck in a refugee camp in Turkey desperate for a better life after fleeing war-torn Syria.

Now, the refugees will call Italy their new home after a global effort succeeded in helping the family. Their story became known globally through an award-winning photograph that went viral.

The Al-Nazzal family upon their arrival in Rome.
The Al-Nazzal family upon their arrival in Rome. Source: AP

Mr Al-Nazzal lost his right leg after walking through a bazaar in Idlib during the Syrian civil war.

His son, Mustafa, was born with no limbs after his mother, Zeinab, inhaled nerve gas in a chemical attack while she was pregnant.

Her medication led to complications with Mustafa's health, and he was born with tetra-amelia syndrome, leaving him with no limbs.

The family fled to a refugee camp in Hatay, Turkey, where photographer Mehmet Aslan befriended them and shared their story with the world with a single snap of his camera.

In the photo, Mr Al-Nazzal is sharing an intimate, happy moment with little Mustafa at their refugee camp.

The picture was crowned Photo of the Year at the Siena International Photo Awards 2021 (SIPA) and it captured the hearts of thousands around the world.

Humbled by Mr Al-Nazzal's story, the SIPA organisers launched a to assist the family in receiving prosthesis treatment.

The campaign has reached almost A$200,000 (€125,203) with 1,800 donations on their GoFundMe webpage.

"Let's show our spirit as our Siena Awards family by combining forces worldwide to help this family get customised prostheses, and support them economically," the campaign read.

"This is the power of photography."

Driven by the global momentum, SIPA decided to sponsor the family by way of a humanitarian visa, which was approved this month.

On Friday, the family was all smiles as they arrived at Rome International Airport to officially settle in Siena. Both father and son will receive treatment at the Prosthesis Center of Vigoroso di Budrio.

Five-year-old Mustafa is all smiles as his father carries him into their new homeland.
Five-year-old Mustafa is all smiles as his father carries him into their new homeland. Source: AP

"Since I have been in Turkey I have not owned anything more than the clothes I am wearing. In the suitcase I put the hope of starting a new life," he told Italian news outlet, La Repubblica.

Mr Al-Nazzal released a video of his family online, thanking the Italian government and SIPA founder Luca Venturi, for welcoming his family into what he called his new homeland.

"I would like to thank the Italian government and the people for their help in aiding my children and their education."

In the video, Mr Al-Nazzal is holding a smiling Mustafa, who exclaims excitedly, "We love Italy!"

The man behind the camera, Mr Aslan, shared his happiness on Instagram, with another photo he took of the father and son. 

"The journey of Munzir and Mustafa to Italy with his family begins. Electronic prosthesis treatment will be started there. It's a pleasure for us," he wrote. 

He previously told SBS News that he had sincere hopes that his photo would raise international awareness for the Al-Nazzal family.

"I hope to use my photography to create awareness and create change, but the aim in particular for this photo was to raise awareness on Mustafa's family, and receive funds for Mustafa's prosthetic limbs," he said in October last year.

Mr Aslan's dream has since become a reality, and a new shot at life awaits the Al-Nazzal family. 

4 min read
Published 22 January 2022 at 4:25pm
By Rayane Tamer
Source: SBS