Meet an Inspirational Syrian Teenager Who Trekked 20 Days in a Wheelchair Getting to Europe

Nageen Mustafa says she learned English by watching "Days of Our Lives."

ByABC News
September 17, 2015, 4:10 PM

— -- In so many ways, Nageen Mustafa is like any other 16-year-old -- she loves reality TV, has big dreams and is fearless. But she has a tenacity and determination that instantly sets her apart.

For 20 days, she has traveled from her home in the war-torn Syrian town of Kobani to the Serbian border with Hungary. Bound to a wheel chair, the obstacles she has faced are unimaginable, and yet she is endlessly optimistic.

She described her harrowing journey as “funny,” because, she said in English, it was “the first time I see the sea.”

It was “beautiful” she told ABC News with a smile, “when you’re not in it.”

She is honest about the dangers she has been through, saying frankly that she “didn’t realize I was putting my life in danger,” but views her experiences with an astounding positivity.

“I’ve tried many things for the first time during these 20 days. A train, a ship, and a lot of other things. The most important thing is that it’s my first time in Europe,” she said, exclaiming “a journey across Europe!”

Her English is impeccable for a teenager who has never seen the inside of a classroom and who spent most of her childhood indoors, in a culture where she told us she was shunned for her disability.

PHOTO: Nageen Mustafa, 16, has spent 20 days traveling from Kobani, Syria to the Serbian border with Hungary.
Nageen Mustafa, 16, has spent 20 days traveling from Kobani, Syria to the Serbian border with Hungary.

How did she learn to speak English so well? “At home with my favorite TV show, 'Days of Our Lives,'” she said, beaming. "I watched it for two years.”

“I was waking up at 8 a.m. some days to watch it. That’s a great show," she said. "But they killed the main character that I loved!”

She’s learned much of the world from watching TV and she now has an impressive to do-list, as she dreams of her big future.

“I hope than I will be an astronaut,” she said. “I’ve always wanted what Neil Armstrong saw on the moon.”

But her future is rife with uncertainty. When we spoke with Nageen on Wednesday, she had just arrived at the Serbian-Hungarian border to find the route closed and her plans suddenly halted.

“That’s enough! We don’t need more suffering and struggling so please open the door,” she said. “Please, I need to get to Hungary.”

Just hours later, violence erupted on the border as refugees broke down the gate and tried to force their way into Hungary.

“I’m waiting to be in Germany but they won’t open the door. ... I want to continue my journey. I was really excited about it -- Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, also Austria, then the final goal, Germany,” she said, raising her hands up, before pausing and lowering her head.

She does not know what she will do now, but it’s clear she has lived up to her name. “Nageen” means “new life.”