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The Girl Who Lost Her Memory

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Fourteen year-old Aya has amnesia. She may never recover her memory, but if she does, she is sure to ask about one thing: her little sister, Iman.

“They were very close,” said Aya’s grandmother, Amina. “She never ate without her sister.”

One night in mid-March, as Aya and her family slept in their house in the outskirts of Aleppo, a bomb fell. Iman, who was 12 years old, was killed instantly. Aya was pulled from the rubble.

The rest of the family – father Mohammed, mother Ibtesam, younger brother Hammab and Amina were in a different part of the home and survived with light injuries. Aya’s skull was broken.

“That day, there were military planes flying around dropping explosives on us,” said Mohammed. “The whole house basically collapsed on the children.”

After burying Iman, the family hastily fled across the border to the Turkish town of Kilis, where Aya was admitted to a local clinic.

Now, they live in an apartment with almost nothing. Hammab, 8, sits in the middle of the unfurnished room with a laptop full of photos of the family in happier times. Before the revolution began four years ago Mohammed worked as a civil engineer. Ibtesam taught English at a local school. The family owned a home and had a comfortable life.

The apartment they are now in costs $300 a month. Since Mohammad doesn’t have a job, he’s getting nervous about making the rent.

“The home that we found after a great struggle is very expensive,” he said. Most Syrian refugees can expect to make about $15-20 a shift as a day laborer—hardly enough to cover costs. His qualifications as a civil engineer are not useful where he is now.

“We cannot afford to pay the living costs, but we cannot go back to Syria for some time,” said Mohammad. We must wait until Aya is better, and it is safe to return to Syria.”

- - Yuka Tachibana, Ammar Cheikomar and Aziz Akyavas

Syrian refugee Aya
Fourteen year-old Syrian refugee Aya lies in a clinic in Kilis, Turkey.NBC News

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