Today is International Youth Day, an official UN day established to highlight the crucial role that young people play in building and keeping peace in areas of conflict around the world.
Meet Mohamad Aljunde, a 16-year-old refugee who left Syria in December 2013 and started a new life with his family in Lebanon. He appears in — and lends his filmmaking ability to — Cries From Syria. Mohamad brings awareness to the Syrian government’s war on its citizens, and holds up a mirror to those who turn a blind eye. Read our interview with him below.
Cries From Syria:Why did you leave Syria?
Mohamad Aljunde: My mother had been arrested twice already for resisting and protesting the regime. Then government sent a letter to her threatening to arrest her if she did not leave Syria. My family left Syria for Lebanon the next day.
CFS: What do you miss most about life in Syria?
MA: I miss the people there -- my family and friends. I miss my house and the day-to-day life in Syria.
CFS: How did you get into filmmaking? How did you start teaching filmmaking to kids?
MA: In Lebanon, I took a filmmaking course for 8 months, After that, I made my first movie and started learning on my own.
After I made three short films I decided to teach kids to make films, so I started teaching them to use simple cameras and focused on teaching them the ways they can express their ideas and stories through film.
CFS: What do you hope to achieve with your videos? When you teach kids filmmaking, what do you hope they get out of it?
MA: I make films because I want people to see that we as teenagers have the ability to discuss serious issues and that although Syrians live in the middle of a war, we still can be creative.
I hope filmmaking enables the kids to tell their stories so the world can understand and care. For me, the media is covering the stories they want to show, so it’s important for the kids to learn to tell their own stories.
CFS: What’s the one thing you want to say to other kids and youths still struggling to live in Syria?
MA:I can't tell them to stay strong because I’m not experiencing what they’re going through right now but what I can say is that I consider them to be true heroes and that there is hope for us, the new generation, because we have youths and kids who can survive and resist.
CFS: How/why do you think young people are important to building peace in Syria?
MA:We have grown up witnessing everything that happened in the country. That, along with our creativity, means that we know what we have to do to build the Syria we always dreamed of.
CFS: By sharing your story, both in the film and now, what impact do you hope to have on the situation in Syria?
MA:I hope that people who read this interview and watch the movie will know that we are still here resisting and that we still believe in Syria and the revolution.