First Published: 2017-12-05

Award-winning Syrian teen pleads for 'a chance to prove ourselves'
Mohamad al-Jounde says he hopes Syrians will be treated 'as normal people, not as refugees or immigrants.'
Middle East Online

Mohamad Al Jounde celebrates after receiving International Children's Peace Prize from Malala Yousafzai (L).

THE HAGUE - A Syrian teenager made a strong plea Monday for the world to give refugees fleeing his country's war an opportunity, as he received the prestigious International Children's Peace Prize in The Hague.

"We just want people to give us a chance to prove ourselves," Mohamad al-Jounde told AFP.

"I can promise you, we are people just like them, we live in the same world," Jounde said, as he was handed the award at a gala ceremony in a medieval hall in the Dutch capital.

The 16-year-old's words came after yet another wave of Syrian air strikes killed at least 25 civilians and wounded dozens across the besieged rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus on Sunday, a Britain-based monitor said.

More than 340,000 people have died in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 and more than five million people have fled, according to the UN refugee agency.

Many refugees, including 2.5 million children, are now in camps in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and elsewhere.

"Mohamad receives the award for his tireless efforts to ensure the rights of Syrian refugee children," the KidsRights Foundation, which organises the prize, said.

Despite being a refugee himself, the energetic boy and his family built a school now housing 200 children in a refugee camp in Lebanon where he taught maths, English and his passion, photography.

"As Mohamad knows, Syria's future depends on its children and their future depends on education," said Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who presented Jounde with the KidsRights prize.

"Despite all they have personally suffered, Mohamad and his family have helped many children to go to school," she said.

Jounde said it was especially photography that helped children deal with the terrible experiences they had endured.

"It's often only through their pictures that we can really see who these children really are, as they don't trust anybody," he told AFP.

After the worst migrant crisis in Europe since World War II peaked in 2015, as well as a string of jihadist attacks, refugees and migrants have faced a growing backlash in recent months.

"My message to people who don't want refugees to be there is we didn't want to come either. But that's what war does," said Jounde, who now lives in Sweden with his father but whose mother and sister still live in Lebanon.

"Start dealing with us as normal people, not as refugees or immigrants," he said.

KidsRights has awarded the prize annually for the past 13 years "to a child who fights courageously for children's rights."

It also includes a 100,000 euro ($118,000) investment for projects in the winner's home country.

Past winners include Yousafzai, a Pakistani education campaigner and the prize's first recipient, and Nkosi Johnson, a South African boy who shone a light on the plight of children with HIV/AIDS.

 

Pentagon skeptical about Russia's Syria pullout claims

Senior Saudi prince blasts Trump's "opportunistic" Jerusalem move

Kuwait ruler’s son named defence minister

EU accused of complicity in Libya migrant rights violations

Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas

Israeli sentenced to four years for arson attack on church

Erdogan risks sabotaging fragile relations with Israel

6.2-magnitude earthquake strikes Iran

Two Gazans killed by Israeli ‘strike’, Israel denies claim

French FM accuses Iran of carving out ‘axis’ of influence

Somali journalist killed in front of children

Over 170 dead after South Sudan rival cattle herders clash

Russia begins partial withdrawal from Syria

Russia weary of returning IS jihadists before World Cup, election

EU says Syria war ‘ongoing’ despite Russia pullout

Istanbul nightclub gunman refuses to testify

Integrating Syrians in Turkey carries implications

US opinion views Muslims and Arabs more favourably but political affiliation makes a difference

Iranian conservative protesters say Trump hastening end of Israel

Jordan referred to UN for failing to arrest Sudanese president

Turkey demands life for journalists in coup bid trial

Netanyahu expects EU to follow suit on Jerusalem

Putin orders withdrawal of ‘significant’ amount of troops from Syria

Putin to meet with Sisi in Cairo

GCC at a critical juncture

Houthi rebels tighten grip on Sanaa after Saleh’s assassination

Israel’s Syrian air strikes risk renewing escalation as Iran expands presence in Golan

Qatar to acquire 24 Typhoon fighters from UK

Bahraini civil society group criticised after Israel visit

Israel PM faces renewed pressure in Europe

Palestinian stabs Israeli guard in ‘terrorist’ attack

UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed says US Jerusalem decision could help terrorists

Fateh encourages more protests, refuses to meet Pence

Chinese electric carmaker to open Morocco factory

Iraqi victory over IS remains fragile

Morocco’s renewed ties with South Africa likely to consolidate support for Western Sahara stance

Lebanese security forces fire tear gas at protestors

Syria’s justice system: ‘working without a written law'

Egypt revives controversial desert capital project

Iran sentences fugitive ex-bank chief to jail

Iraq announces 'end of the war against Daesh'

Israeli air strike kills 2 in Gaza

UK foreign minister in Iran to push for Briton's release

Turkey's Erdogan seeks to lead Muslim response on Jerusalem

Iraqi Christians celebrate in town retaken from IS