Photo courtesy Asia Society.

Muzoon Almellehan is a 22-year-old Syrian activist and refugee, currently living in the U.K. She is sometimes referred to as the “Malala of Syria,” and is friends with Malala Yousafzai, having met at a refugee camp in 2014. 

Muzoon is the youngest UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, upon taking on the role in 2017 at the age of 19. She also was the first refugee in the role, and used her platform to influence change makers and connect with children in refugee camps all over the world.

When she was forced to flee Syria with her family, the only things she took with her was her school books. While she was living in a refugee camp in Jordan with her family, she focused on education and opportunities for girls and young women. Many of her peers were dropping out of school to get married for protection in the camps, but she persisted in her mission and helped many girls to have a different future. She impressed upon parents that girls, and boys, must be educated if they are to ever go back to Syria and rebuild their country. She spoke about her country in a 2016 interview with The Guardian, saying that ““I want to go back to rebuild Syria. It will need doctors, engineers, lawyers and journalists to make this happen, not ignorant people who have lost hope.”

Malala sought Muzoon out at a refugee camp in 2014, hearing from other girls that they stayed in school because they were inspired by Muzoon. “She has faced so many difficulties in getting educated,” Malala said of Almellehan. “But she remains totally committed. We want a Malala-Muzoon army to inspire young girls to stand up for their rights.” (The Asia Society) Malala also surprised her friend, visiting her in Newcastle shortly after the Almellehan family’s arrival in England. Becoming a refugee could happen to anyone, and Muzoon remains committed to advocating on the behalf of all girls everywhere. Education for all is a human right and should be treated as such. 

“It’s not my choice to be a refugee but I am one. People assume refugees can’t do anything or they’re weak. A refugee is a strong person. I came from conflict and tried to continue my hopes and dreams and people should be proud of the name refugee as it shows courage and strength.”

Muzoon is an important Girl Activist, role model, and beacon of hope for hundreds of children in refugee camps all over the world. She is changing the world, one child at a time, and showing parents that an education, instead of child marriage, is better protection for girls everywhere.

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