While the youth population suffers marginalization at large, in North-Western Syria, those who are with a disability struggle the most from lack of attention and support by society and civil society. Youth with disabilities lack the opportunity to be part of their society and are stuck in a stress, stigma, and helplessness dilemma. Initiatives to build a much-needed setting with accessible resources are underway, but at a slow rhythm and narrow scope that covers medical and special needs educational programs proportionately.

The reality is that civil society movements had invested in many ‘medical’ and ‘special educational’ which are inevitably crucial to the recovery and assistance they need. Though it is equally imperative to pre-prepare youth with disabilities to a more diverse-education atmosphere, and social change participation as well.

Stigma and exclusion & Civil society engagement

The majority of disabled Syrians are suffering from stigma and exclusion within their communities, in addition to the effects of the war. The embedded negligence and lack of psychological help had left a permanent psychological scar, especially on those who became impaired by the war. 

They are facing an overwhelmingly unfavorable socio-economic struggle that has almost no chance of getting into the work or becoming productive members in their communities.

Ali Waheed, Identity of a Country Centre manager operating in Northern-Syria by Kesh Malek organization, said that the “Special needs inclusion and empowerment is one of Kesh Malek’s main vision in the new Syria, their improvement is key to accelerate the recovery and development of the country,” the manager said

The manager explains that the center’s aim and works to reintegrate, support their stigmatization vulnerability, and reconnect with their peers to spend more time with one another regardless of their ability preferences and feel belonging again.

Derived from a zero-exclusion policy development plan, the Youth Citizens’ Club started since its establishment, to encourage youth who have a disability to participate at the Youth Citizen Club. While lack of youths’ participation in mixed capacity building with their peers in interactive civil activity movements remains a striking phenomenon.

Ali states that the Identity of a country centers since their establishment in 2015, took into consideration visitors with special needs, yet in a non-discriminate personal manner. Inclusiveness’ succession can only be through equal non-personnel treatment. 

“We make sure to display shared responsibility and support for all participants,”

The bright side of transferring to the Online clubs

Since the beginning of 2020 Identity of a County centers has faced many obstacles. As the year began the Syrian regime with its Russian and Iranian allies held an intensified military campaign in which the Syria regime took control of Ourem and Kafrnaha, and the centers which were hosting the clubs closed its doors. Followed by the spread of the Corona Virus globally, and the pandemic imposed unconditional circumstances. The Youth Citizens club had to move to operate online. Opening the door for new participants to be part of the clubs and expanding its geographical coverage. The new teams comprise three people with disabilities at the Youth Citizens Club.

Oula is a twenty years old girl from Aleppo countryside, is a member of the Youth Citizens Club in Kafarnaha before the spread of coronavirus. She was forcibly displaced in the new regime’s military offensive and lives now with her family in Jendērs. Although Oula struggles from “Maternal Disability”, she joined in 2018 to the center and had been ever since an active member. Ali highlights that Oula had been one of the most active members at the center. Her participation and engagement with her peers in the club with high self-esteem, passion, and confidence. 

“I have always been eager to enhance my abilities and be an active part of society. I do not want to be in the margin,” Oula said

Over the past year, the 20 years old girl praised the quality of much-needed knowledge and training that she received at the center. “I am now more able to facilitate debates, comprehend the problems, and listen carefully to judge and logically make decisions.”

Slow but continuous advance

Affected by the pandemic, civil society organizations’ operations transferred to online form as a precautionary measure. As a result, a new – disable- youth managed to register to take part in the Youth Citizens Club. Hadi, twenty years old displaced from Aleppo suffers from [muttering, attention, and communication disability]

Knowing about the Youth Citizens Club previously through the computer skills enhancement courses he attended, Hadi recently became a member at the center. 

Asking about the motive the youth believes that, he wants to expand his knowledge and contribute to his community. 

“Young generations in general and those who are struggling from disability need to direct their efforts to enhance their knowledge level,” Hadi said  

“The center amplifies our abilities and provides a cornerstone platform where we can mobilize now and organize wider initiative independently,”

The significance of his participation the young man says will manifest in the future of Syria. As the new skills he learned capacitated him with the means to improve himself and other youths to learn more themselves.

Hadi and Oula outline that Once youth learn more and expand their awareness, they will become liable to be more responsible and relinquish the stereotype image of adolescents.

“The learning process at the Youth Citizens Club prepares us to be more and more liable for taking the social change initiatives ourselves in the future and help other youths to be a positive citizen and change Syria to the better”, she said

“We want to take a leading position in the future in our communities and lead the social change movement,” Oula said

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