Hope in Despair: One Girl’s Mission to Educate the Children of a Jordanian Refugee Camp

The Syrian civil war began in early 2011 when a seemingly peaceful pro democracy protest erupted into a standoff between President Bashar al-Assad’s supporters and opposition. The Syrian government responded to the nationwide protests demanding Assad’s resignation, by using force.

This action forced the opposition to acquire and use arms to defend themselves, their families and their localities. This was essentially the beginning of the Syrian civil war; the use of force between opposition and support. However, over the years, the war focused less on political tensions and instead expanded into a battle between the Sunni majority and the Shia Alawite minority. In addition, terrorist groups, most notably, ISIS, have joined the conflict, adding increased tension to the situation. The Sunni-Shia rivalry presented the opportunity for Islamic State to expand its power. ISIS seized territory in Syria, which it used for its headquarters. In response to Islamic State’s increasing influence in the country, Assad claimed that only his government could provide resistance to the terrorist group. In 2013, chemical weapons were launched into the town of Al Ghouta, killing hundreds of civilians. Western governments, particulary the United States, blamed Assad’s government for the attack but Assad blamed rebel forces.

There is substantial evidence that either Assad’s government or the rebels could have initiated the attack, but no matter who is to blame, the fact remains that civilians were the ones to suffer. Further, the civil war seems far from over, yet media and international attention on the nation has wavered. Civilians are dying on a daily basis, yet there has been no solution to the fighting. While the United Nations has tried to discuss a political solution, both Assad’s government and the rebels are refusing to negotiate. The civil war has reached the stage of a humanitarian crisis.

To date, over 200,000 Syrians have lost their lives in the conflict, many of them were innocent civilians. Further, over eleven million Syrians have been internally displaced and forced to leave their homes. Four million of these Syrians have become refugees, moving to refugee camps outside the country. Many of these refugees have fled to neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. In addition, these countries have been struggling to find a solution of how to accommodate the ever-increasing number of refugees. The refugees are living in poverty and are now subject to living in cramped makeshift tents.

In the refugee camp Al-Azraq camp in Jordan, one girl is vowing to make a difference despite hopeless conditions. Her name is Mazoun Almellehan and she is a sixteen-year-old activist trying to improve the lives of children fleeing the horrors of the Syrian war. With the uncertain economic conditions, many parents at the camps are deciding to marry their daughters in hopes of securing their financial futures. The majority of these girls are too young to marry, but parents weary of their daughters’ economic stability are turning to marriage. Mazoun disagrees with these parents’ decisions. She firmly believes that girls should stay in school instead of marrying at an early age. She argues that if the marriage collapses, girls will be left vulnerable and dependent. Mazoun claims that education can act as a protector; giving girls the confidence they need to succeed in life. She campaigns door-to-door convincing parents to keep their daughters in school instead of marrying them off. Mazoun is undoubtedly a remarkable, inspiring young girl. Her words, courage and intellect are a comforting message to all those in despair.