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Young Refugee Who Fled Syria in Wheelchair Thanks ‘Days of Our Lives’ Stars Who Reunited for Her

OCT. 1, 2015

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    By ROBERT MACKEY

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    Noujain Mustaffa, a disabled 16-year-old who fled Syria in a wheelchair, first came to the attention of the world’s news media last month when she arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos in a rubber dinghy with her sister and was photographed by an Irish photographer, Ivor Prickett, on assignment for the United Nations refugee agency.

    As Mr. Prickett wrote on Instagram, when he asked Noujain if she had been afraid during the crossing, she replied in fluent English: “No, I enjoyed it. I have never been on a boat before. It was very beautiful. I didn’t know if I was going to live or die, but thank God we are here.”

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    Noujain Mustaffa’s Arrival in Greece

    A photo posted by UN Refugee Agency (@unrefugees) on Sep 4, 2015 at 3:35am PDT

    Two weeks later, as Hungary closed its border with Serbia to keep migrants and refugees from entering, Noujain met another Irish journalist, Fergal Keane of the BBC, who was also taken aback by her hopeful attitude and her dream of one day becoming an astronaut.

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    A Sept. 17 video report on Noujain Mustaffa when she was stranded at the border between Serbia and Hungary. BBC News, via YouTube

    That same day, Noujain explained to Mary Bruce of ABC News that she had learned English by watching an American soap opera, “Days of Our Lives.” Her favorite plot, she said, was the tortured romance of two characters, Sami and E.J., played by Alison Sweeney and James Scott.

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    An amazing story on the Hungarian/Serbian border. An incredible spirit. Meet Nageen http://t.co/ZqIMJIuSf8 pic.twitter.com/5YJ1ex2Ate

    — Mary Bruce (@marykbruce) Sept. 17, 2015

    “That’s a great show,” she told the American reporter. “But they killed the main character that I loved!” Mr. Scott’s character, E.J., had indeed been killed off.

    Days later, Mr. Keane encountered the young refugee again, in a Slovenian holding camp.

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    Remember @fergalkeane47's interview with disabled 16-year-old Syrian Noujain? She's now in detention camp in Slovenia pic.twitter.com/SSGcfDysAZ

    — BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) Sept. 18, 2015

    Late last week, however, Mr. Keane provided a more hopeful update, in a report that showed Noujain and her sister finally arriving in Germany and being reunited with their older brother.

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    A video report on the end of Noujain Mustaffa’s journey to Germany. BBC News, via YouTube

    Noujain’s story took one more twist this week, when her journey was featured in a report on the migrant crisis on “Last Week Tonight,” the “Daily Show” spinoff on HBO hosted by John Oliver.

    Mr. Oliver, a British comedian and political commentator, used Noujain’s perseverance to make a serious point about what migrants who overcome great obstacles to reach Europe could offer their adopted homelands.

    But he also presented the young soap opera fan with a special treat: a sketch in which her two favorite characters from “Days of Our Lives” were reunited, and paid tribute to the struggles of Syrians who endure such great hardship to reach Germany.

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    John Oliver’s report on migrants and refugees, featuring a special sketch made for Noujain Mustaffa. Last Week Tonight, via YouTube

    After ABC News got video of the sketch to Noujain, who is waiting for her asylum claim to be processed in a refugee camp in Essen, Germany, she sent a video message thanking the two actors via Twitter and YouTube.

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    A video message from Noujain Mustaffa in a refugee camp in Germany. Rewanjuan, via YouTube

    “I have something to say to the victims of the wars around the world,” Noujain added in the video. “You are stronger and braver than you think. Fight for what you want, and I am sure that you will get it.”

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