Dresden, 5 December 2019 Syrian educational activist and UNICEF Special Envoy Muzoon Almellehan will receive the 11th International Peace Prize “Dresden Prize” at the Dresden Semper Opera on 9 February 2020. The prize, endowed with € 10,000, is sponsored by the Klaus Tschira Foundation.
The 21-year-old Muzoon Almellehan, who now lives in Great Britain, is regarded as one of the strongest and most influential voices in the struggle for education for children in crisis areas. She began her commitment at the age of 14 in a Jordanian refugee camp, where she had fled with her family from Syria. For many of the refugees, participation in educational opportunities was not the most important thing in view of the hopelessness in the camp. But Muzoon went from tent to tent and convinced parents and children of the importance of school. And she kept saying this sentence: “If you have education, no one can take it away from you”. The young Syrian saved the future of many children, especially girls.
Only a part of the refugee children worldwide can attend a school like in the photo in Jordan. According to UNICEF, up to 27 million children in conflict and crisis areas have no access to education. About three million Syrian children alone – refugees but also those who remained in the country of war – have not attended school for years. And so the crisis in the affected countries does not end with the end of the wars. With children without or with poor education it shifts into the future. The situation is dramatic, even if it is still far too little registered by the public. UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie demands that wealthier nations “close humanitarian funding gaps so that refugee parents do not have to choose between food and school for their children”.
In February 2019 Kim Phuc Phan Thi was awarded the 10th International Peace Prize “Dresden-Prize”. She was the little girl burned by napalm who walked naked and screaming across a Vietnamese street in 1972. Since then the 56 year old Kim Phuc Phan Thi has been the “girl in the photo” or the “Napalm Girl”. Today she speaks to thousands of people every year. And they listen to her. When she as woman, who still today suffers from pain from the Napalm attack, speaks of reconciliation, without which there can be no peace. Kim Phuc and Muzoon both experienced war as children. Today both help other children affected by the war. “It is wonderful that there are such young people as Muzoon who are committed,” says Kim. And: “We need the young people”.
Like prizewinner Muzoon Almellehan, 30-year-old Lina Abdalah comes from Daraa, Syria. From war-torn Syria she fled across the Mediterranean to Europe and has lived with her family in Dresden since 2015. She is studying electrical engineering at the TU Dresden.
For “querstadtein” Lina is doing city tours in which she tells about her escape as well as her arrival and life in Dresden.
For a long time now, the young woman of Muzoon Almellehan, who has already become a kind of legend in Syria, has known about the city. At the award ceremony in the Semper Opera House, Lina Abdulah will present Muzoon Almellehan with the prize sculpture and briefly tell her personal story beforehand. Lina says about Muzoon: “She is a role model for me”.
Anyone who hears the name of the Prohlis area in Dresden thinks of Hartz IV, anger and hopelessness and AfD. But since two years there is something else, which sounds completely different. In their voluntary social year in Peru, Dresden’s music padagogues Deborah Oehler and Luise Börner learned in a very special way about the power music can have. In one of the poorest areas they helped to build a youth orchestra and back in Dresden they founded a similar project in Prohlis. Meanwhile 80 children play together, German and refugee children. Many come from Syria. And all have fun with music. During their performances the children are celebrated enthusiastically. On 9 February 2020 they will receive the special prize for the 11th Dresden Prize and make music in the opera house.
Christoph Hein got to know the model of the orchestra for poorer children during a stay in Venezuela. In 1975 José Antonio Abreu had founded “El Sistema” there, a network in which children can use musical instruments free of charge and receive music lessons. The project was also a model for an orchestra in Peru, where the Dresden music teachers Deborah Oehler and Luise Börner worked with young musicians during their social year. Back in Dresden they founded “Musaik – Grenzenlos Musizieren e.V.” in 2017 in Prohlis.
Like Muzoon Almellehan, there are many very young people all over the world who are engaged in various areas. And they all do this how only young people can do: passionately, sometimes angrily and always unswervingly. And these young fighters against injustice have been around for a long time. Some even had to give up their lives because of their commitment. Like Helmuth Hübener, who was executed on the guillotine at the age of 17 in 1942 as a resistance fighter against the Nazi regime. At the award ceremony on February 9, 2020, pupils of the Dresden International School will present ten examples of particularly committed children and young people in the past and present in a scenic reading.
Even though the wars are over, they are far from over. The dangerous legacies of wars are still buried under the ground all over the world as a potential danger. Even during the bombing of Dresden, 10 to 15 percent of the bombs dropped were duds. In the last 75 years, tons of them have already been removed from the earth. “But we are far from being at the end of the line” says blaster Holger Klemig.
After ten years of the Dresden Prize, during which it has changed, the Friends of Dresden Deutschland e.V. association also wanted to have a new prize sculpture designed. The Dresden artist Thomas Onißeit had the idea to have the splinter of an unexploded bomb blown up by the explosive ordnance disposal for a prize sculpture melted into Plexiglas. The new prize sculpture is thus an authentic memorial against war, which in Dresden even three quarters of a century later is not really over.