International Day of the Girl: Syrian refugees in Turkey show their talents

Girls' education


Ethar Kassab fled from Aleppo to Turkey four years ago with her mother, sister and brother.

Her father stayed behind to continue his work as a schoolteacher – and the 15-year-old has not seen him since.

Despite the trauma, Ethar – and thousands of refugee girls like her – show incredible resilience. They are talented, passionate and eager to learn.

Ethar is in 10th grade at a Syrian school in Gaziantep. She and her brother go to an afterschool club run by a group of Syrian engineers and physics teachers who show the students how to operate and programme robots

But 370,000 other Syrian refugee girls living in Turkey are out of school and at risk of child labour, early forced marriage and exploitation.

The children’s charity Theirworld warns today that action is needed to tackle the lack of funding and the gender barriers that prevent girls from getting an education.

The briefing paper was published on International Day of the Child. To celebrate the talents of Syrian refugee girls in Turkey, we look at just a few who are making their mark in different ways.


Pictures: Rosie Thompson/Theirworld

A group of Syrian girls learn how to walk on stilts at Art Anywhere Association in Mardin 

Dersim – on the far right – is 17 and left her home in Al-Hasakah with her family in 2013. She moved to Mardin, where she struggled at first with life in Turkey and was very angry about the situation.

But five months ago, Dersim joined a dance and acrobatic centre. She learned hip-hop dancing and stilt walking and began to love her new life and make lots of new friends. She is at a Syrian school in Mardin.

Haj – second from the left – is 13. She left Aleppo with her family four years ago and went to Mardin. A year ago she joined the dance and acrobatic centre and began to learn hip-hop dancing. She’s in 8th grade and has become fluent in Turkish.


Tasneem is 16 from Hama in Syria. She played table tennis for her country and in 2013 competed in the Arab Championships in Jordan, winning her age group. She has also competed in Europe and Asia and has won several competitions.

After their home was destroyed, Tasneem and her family fled to Turkey in 2014. They originally were hosted in a refugee camp where they lived for a year.

There wasn’t much to do in the camp so Tasneem and her siblings spent all their free time playing table tennis.

After President Erdogen found out about her talent, he personally offered her a Turkish passport and citizenship. She now plays table tennis for Hatay province along with her younger brother and sister.

Tasneem – who is in 11th grade at a Syrian school in Antakya – told a Turkish news website: “I am very excited. I was not certain if I could continue pursuing my dreams here but now my life changed.”


Farah, 16, fled with her family from Aleppo to Gaziantep just over a year ago. She had never acted before but recently she joined an amateur theatre company, which is putting on a silent play, reflecting their emotions and feelings towards Syria.

Farah – second from the right – is in 11th grade at a Syrian school in Gaziantep.

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