Syrian schoolgirl plans joint projects with Malala Yousafzai

Syrian schoolgirl plans joint projects with Malala Yousafzai
Syrian schoolgirl Muzoon Almellehan who was given asylum in the UK met with Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai on Tuesday in Newcastle with the two pledging to work together.
3 min read
23 December, 2015
Malala and Muzoon met at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan [AFP]

Muzoon Almellehan, a 17-year-old Syrian activist praised for her work in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan has been granted asylum in the UK and resettled in Newcastle, where Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai welcomed her on Tuesday.

At an event held at Newcastle City Library on Tuesday, the Pakistani education campaigners welcomed her Syrian friend and counterpart.

The two girls also pledged to work together to provide Syrian refugee children with access to education.

Muzoon, from the southern Syrian city of Daraa, fled the violence in her country along with her family to neighbouring Jordan in 2013, where they settled in the crowded Zaatari refugee camp and later moved to the Azraq refugee camp.

While at the refugee camps, Muzoon worked to persuade Syrian refugee families that education was the best way to protect the future of their daughters.

The teenager soon became an outspoken campaigner for girls' education, going from family to family to persuade them of the importance of keeping their girls in school despite the horrible circumstances of being refugees.

In 2014, Muzoon met Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai who was shot by the Taliban for refusing to quit school and became an international icon for women's right to education, where they started a friendship based on their mutual passion for girls' education.

I know I will get an excellent education here in the city and I hope to become a journalist
- Muzoon Almellehan

After winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala invited Muzoon to attend her awarding ceremony in December 2014 in Oslo, Norway.

The two young women have also kept in touch through Skype and email, in addition to meeting in Lebanon this summer when Malala was opening a school for Syrian refugee girls.

"Since arriving here, everyone has been so kind. My family is settling into the city and I have started school - I'm even getting used to the cold weather," said Muzoon.

"I know I will get an excellent education here in the city and I hope to become a journalist," she added.

"It was really nice to see her here and to know that now we can work together - we wanted to work together and now we can," said Malala in an interview with the BBC.

The two activists also called on western countries to take in more refugees in order to end their suffering in overcrowded refugee camps and in perilous conditions as they seek safety.

More than 250,000 people have died since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011, and millions more have fled their homes.

There are 4.4 million Syrian refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees, and the UN children's agency UNICEF estimates that 2.6 million Syrian children are no longer in school.