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The Boy Who Cannot Talk

Four-year-old Murad has escaped the violence of Syria, but he has not spoken a word for months.

Four-year-old Murad has not spoken a word for months.

His mother, Fatima, is certain he is still traumatized from the daily shelling they endured in Syria.

“He used to speak simple words, but since the attacks, he got very scared and stopped speaking,” she said. “I hope God helps my son speak and keep my children safe.”

Syrian refugee Fatima and her four year-old son Murad pose for a photo in Reyhanli, Turkey.Yuka Tachibana / NBC News

Fatima, Murad and her other son, 6-year-old Khaled, fled their village in Idlib – about 30 miles west of Aleppo – in February after her young daughter was killed in an air raid and she learned that her husband, Abdullah, had been killed as well.

Fatima and Abdullah were farmers. A year after the revolution began in Syria, Fatima said government soldiers raided her village, looking for opponents to President Bashar Assad’s regime. When the soldiers entered her house and grabbed her husband, Fatima pleaded with the soldiers to take her instead.

“The soldier said he will arrest either me or my husband. I had to choose. So my husband said to me, ‘Enough, you stay at home and take care of our children. Please take of them, you and them are most important.’”

The soldiers drove off with Abdullah. That was the last time she saw him. About six months ago a man in "plain clothes" came to her door and told her that her husband was dead. She has no way to know for sure if he is gone.

Adding to Fatima’s tragedy, her toddler daughter Samira was killed by an air raid as she waited for word on her husband.

“I was hanging the clothes, I saw that my house was on fire. My neighbor came out shouting, telling me that my daughter is in the house and she burned to death,” she said. “I started screaming. Thankfully my sons were outside playing with the neighbor’s children, God protected them. They are all I have.”

Fatima now lives in Reyhanli, a Turkish town near the border with Syria. She shares a dilapidated two-room house without windows or running water with her 60-year-old mother, and 10 extended family members. They rely on Fatima’s mother and sister’s earnings from working a few days a week at a nearby farm, while Fatima looks after the children.

- Yuka Tachibana, Ammar Cheikomar and Aziz Akyavas