If you Google “Syria” you won’t find a lot of good news or happy words returned to your screen.

“Civil War”
“Human tragedy”

Just today the United Nations presented the biggest financing appeal in its’ history, asking for $5 billion dollars in humanitarian aid for Syria to help with the millions of people affected by its’ civil war and to contain the mounting pressures on surrounding nations overwhelmed by Syrian refugees flooding across borders.

In times of desperation, turmoil, and darkness it is nearly impossible, or at best foolhardy, to seek beacons of light or reasons for hope.  Yet today, there is real hope in Syria.  There is hope because of a different sort of word than what is returned in your internet search of “Syria.”  There is hope today in Syria because as long as this word exists, hope will be everlasting and ultimately drive out the darkness:


Ghassan noticed Azhar in 2010 at their first team gathering for swim practice in preparation for the 7th Special Olympics Middle East North Africa (MENA) Regional Games held in Damascus, Syria.  Despite his great skill in swimming, he was not able to give all he had that day. He knew he could do better, but the thought of Azhar’s sky blue eyes distracted him.

Day after day, Ghassan’s feelings towards Azhar grew stronger. She felt the same way. Ghassan once missed two days of practice, when he showed up the third day, Azhar’s joy was obvious. That is when Ghassan realized that their feelings for each other were mutual.

They fell in love thru the on-going activities provided by Special Olympics Syria for their athletes. Their days consisted of swimming practice in the morning, then Syrian singing and dancing in the evening. One day, they realized they couldn’t live without each other.

Their families had been aware of the relationship, thinking it was only a temporary crush that would be over soon. However, with Ghassan and Azhar, their teammates and friends knew that it was real love.

When Ghassan won 2 gold medals in the 2010 Special Olympics MENA Regional Games (Azhar won a bronze medal), he gave her his medals, considering it an engagement present.

Following the Regional Games, Ghassan asked his father to go with him to Azhar’s house to ask for her hand. The families readily agreed and an engagement ceremony was held. Azhar wore a beautiful wedding band while Syrian folk music and dancing surrounded she and Ghassan.

As their bond grew, they decided to live together.  This year, they were married.

Ghassan and Azhar wed in a small ceremony hosted by the two families and their close friends.  One of their favorite activities is to take out photos from all of their competitions over the years.  Inevitably they linger over the photos from the 2010 Regional Games in Damascus as they recall the memories of where their love was born.

In those memories, lay hope for a nation.

11 thoughts on “Real Hope for Syria

  1. I worked in NYS with people with all kinds of developmental disabilities for 37 years. My field was recreation so of course I was involved in years and years of NYSO programs. There are certain memories that I will never forget, unfortunately this is a sad one. I was with a hound woman with Down Syndrome who I knew very well, including her family. She talked openly with me about her Down Syndrome and told me one day she wished she could get married someday like her sisters and brothers but her mother told her people with Down Syndrome don’t get married. I wish I could show these inspiring stories to that mother and teach me her that guess what, yes they can!

  2. I hope that can happen for Mark and I. We meet about the same way. Mark came to Special Olympics in ’09. He tried talking to me but I did not know him at the time. Another girl got a crush on him at Camp. And, I had to too. He liked me the moment he seen me. I got up the courage to ask him out on a date a month later. We went skating on our first date. We have been going strong for 3 years. I am 36 and he is 29 but age does not matter. I through about asking him to marry me but I will just let him. With him being so young his parents think he should wait I guess. We just want to be together most of the time.

  3. This is a beatiful story , people on DS are like the rest of us with the right to love and to be loved.i hope my son will find love someday and be happy too, Nicosia Cyprus

  4. They look truly happy, I wish my son could find such happiness, but Special Olympics brings him out to be with his peers, and I never see him smile so much. He feels happy and most of all, he feels wanted and that he truly belongs.

  5. This is such a beautiful story with a happy ending , I wish them the best, I m a true believer ll people with and without special needs can find true love

  6. This is such a beautiful story-thank you for sharing it with us! We support Special Olympics by hosting a golf tournament named in memory of our granddaughter, Brooke Leitterman. The tournament is tomorrow and we hope to raise a lot of money for Special Olympics here in NW Missouri by hosting this event. Each year, we try and make it bigger and better-we know Brooke would be proud to know we are raising money for something that she loved so much and keeping her memory and dreams alive through support for all the kids that continue to reap the benefits and rewards of Special Olympics competitions around the world.

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