Malala and Muzoon reunite to proclaim benefits of education

“Are two Malalas better than one?” I ask, only partly in jest, of two smiling teenagers sitting on a purple sofa in a gleaming public library in northern England.

It elicits some quiet giggles.

“Or two Muzoons,” 18-year-old Malala Yousafzai immediately chimes in. Muzoon Almellehan, 17, hands clasped demurely in her lap, smiles shyly at the world’s most famous campaigner for girls’ education who is fast becoming the best of friends.

On a cold rainy day, their two families are reunited in a glass fronted room in Newcastle City Library which offers sweeping views of Muzoon’s new home in Britain. Her Syrian family is among the first to come to the UK from refugee camps on Syria’s borders.

When the Pakistani teenager who survived a Taliban assassination attempt travelled to Syria’s border with Jordan nearly two years ago to meet refugees fleeing the war, she heard about a girl they called “the Malala of Syria”.

Young Muzoon was going from tent to trailer in the camp, urging nervous parents to educate their daughters instead of marrying them off.

Their teenage lives were changed forever by two very different conflicts. Now they are both schoolgirls in Britain whose lives are changing again.

“We want a Malala-Muzoon army to inspire young girls to stand up for their rights,” Malala declares as Muzoon nods firmly in agreement. “We always wanted to work together and now we can.”

Their next project for Syrian girls’ education will be launched in early February during a major aid conference in London.

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