In 2013 Kholoud, 35, was working in her garden in Mo’damiyat al sham, Syria, with her children when a sniper shot her through the spine. She collapsed, paralysed from the neck down. ‘I tried to plant a small area of land near our house as it wasn’t possible to get vegetables like before’ she said. ‘I was taking care of the plants with my four children and suddenly a bullet hit my neck and I fell down and lost sensation. I could not move anymore.’
After her initial treatment, Kholoud’s family managed to get her out of Syria. Eventually they found themselves living in an informal tented settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, one of thousands of unofficial camps dotted across the country.
The UNHCR provided food coupons but the family struggled. Her husband, Jamal, was Kholoud’s carer. At the time I asked her: ‘What’s your hope for the future?’ ‘To be a mother again’ she replied. ‘I wish I could move my fingers because sometimes my son is injured outside and he comes in next to me. He moves my hand and he puts my fingers on to the wound. I wish I could move my fingers to touch him and make him feel like I am feeling the wound with him.’
For two and a half years she remained in bed, trapped in the same windowless room. She did receive an air mattress but had no regular physiotherapy and without a suitable wheelchair was unable to leave the tent.
In 2018 the family was finally relocated to Holland. Now, with support including physiotherapy, the privacy of her own room and a mouth operated wheelchair; Kholoud has, in her own words, regained her ‘dignity and independence.’