Ibrahim Al Hussein: The Voice For Millions Of Refugees

Today, we highlight Paralympian Ibrahim Al Hussein, who is truly an inspiration to the entire sports world. Al Hussein had dreamed of swimming for his native Syria at the Olympic Games, however, after civil war broke out in Syria five years ago, that dream would hit a wall. Having suffered a serious leg injury during the violence that ensued, Al Hussein had to make sure he could take care of himself just to survive. But despite the challenges posed by the war, he never lost sight of his ultimate goal of competing on the world’s highest stage.

In 2013, Al Hussein was caught in the crossfire of a bomb blast in which he lost part of his right leg. After the accident, he fled his home country to take refuge in Turkey. There, he began the arduous task of relearning how to walk. He would board a boat to Greece a year later, where he would ultimately be granted asylum and receive better medical care. He would also begin swimming again and train for the 2016 Paralympics after a friend working on behalf of Greek refugees encouraged him to do so. After five long years of war and struggle, the determined Al Hussein was back in the pool and ready to compete for the Independent Paralympic Athletes Team.

He was one of two Paralympic athletes to compete on behalf of the team, along with Iranian discus thrower Shahrad Nasajpour, who had been granted asylum in the USA. In a quote from the Daily Mail, Al Hussein stated that “I want to send a message to every athlete who was an athlete in his country and had to migrate, to become a refugee…To not stay in the camp and do nothing. To go out there and work for their dream to come true.”

To rousing cheers and a standing ovation, two para-athletes who faced the additional challenge of being displaced from their homeland made history this week leading the parade of athletes at the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 @paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Proudly carrying the flag of the International Paralympic Committee before him, Syrian Swimmer Ibrahim Al-Hussein walked into the famed Maracanã Stadium at the head of the first-ever Independent Paralympic Athletes Team. Ibrahim competed at local and national swim meets in a career cut short five years ago by the outbreak of war. After losing the lower part of his right leg in a bomb blast in 2013, he fled to Turkey where he spent much of the next year learning to walk again. In 2014, he boarded an inflatable boat to Greece, where he resumed competitive swimming. “I’m really happy and proud to be the flagbearer. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life. Before the war in Syria, I dreamt about participating in the Olympics … After what happened and after my injury, I kept going and now I’m in the #Paralympics. I kept my dream,” said Ibrahim. We wish Ibrahim and his teammates the best of luck! 📷 @unrefugees/ Benjamin Loyseau #teamrefugees #withrefugees #un4refugeesmigrants #globalgoals

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This story shines light on the many people who have fled their home country and have been displaced all over the world. The courage of the refugee team shows that even in times of hardship, sport can bring nations together. Al Hussein was chosen to carry the Olympic torch in an effort to show solidarity with the world’s refugees. Using this platform to drive social inclusion and the promotion of human rights all over the world, Al Hussein has proven an exemplary Role Model.

In acknowledgment of his contributions, he received the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. The mission of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award “is to enhance the will of people with impairments to overcome their adversities through the pursuit of excellence in sports and through the Paralympic Games.” The Award is presented to one male athlete and one female athlete at each Paralympic Games “who best exemplify the spirit of the Games and of Paralympic values.”

Ibrahim Al Hussein showed us inspiration, courage, and resilience at the 2016 Paralympic games. He did not win his races in the 50m and 100m freestyle, but having the opportunity to compete and bring national attention to the challenges that refugees face all over the world is his real legacy. Moving forward, Al Hussein will continue to be the spokesman for millions of refugees all around the world and help bring exposure to an issue affecting so many.


Written by Athlete CRUSH Staff

Posted 23 September 2016