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Disabled Syrian Student Finds Freedom in Berlin

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Anas al-Hakim feels at home in Charlottenburg, where he found an apartment adapted to wheelchair users.
Berlin: (Germany):
Seeing Anas al-Hakim navigate the hallways at the Technical University of Berlin, one would think he knows everyone on campus. “I enjoy meeting people and I have made good friends in Germany,” said the computer science and mathematics student. The 25-year-old was born with craniofacial fibrous dysplasia, a rare bone condition. Undergoing painful surgeries his entire life, a spinal operation left him permanently paralysed as a teenager, forcing him to get around in a wheelchair. After arriving in Germany in 2014, Hakim has found the freedom of movement he only dreamed about when he was in his native Syria. “Living in Germany is like a dream,” he says. “I can go wherever I want with the transportation system and there are wheelchair accessible ramps in most buildings.” Hakim’s journey to Germany was not an easy one. As the conflict in Syria escalated, many countries closed their embassies in Damascus, including Germany. With his family still in Damascus, Hakim’s hometown is never far from his mind. The student has become a role model in the Syrian community and beyond. One of his projects is “Make It German”, a project that helps Arabic-speaking students navigate life in Germany.