A Teen Who Fled Syria Had High Hopes For Her Life In Lebanon: #15Girls

She's a teenager with a cellphone, surfing the Internet. And she's a Syrian refugee who works in the fields up to 14 hours a day. That's the new life of 15-year-old Fatmeh, seen here in the living room area of her family's makeshift shelter. Dalia Khamissy for NPR

She’s a teenager with a cellphone, surfing the Internet. And she’s a Syrian refugee who works in the fields up to 14 hours a day. That’s the new life of 15-year-old Fatmeh, seen here in the living room area of her family’s makeshift shelter.
Dalia Khamissy for NPR

“I really want to go back to school,” says 15-year-old Fatmeh, “because work, work, work. … Life isn’t only about work.”

This story is part of our #15Girls series, profiling teens around the world.
But that’s what her life is about right now.

Fatmeh used to be a top student at her school in Syria. Now she spends her days working in agricultural fields in the fertile Beqaa Valley, picking vegetables, plucking weeds and tending crops. And when the foreman thinks that she and the other kids in the fields aren’t working hard enough, he hits them with a black plastic pipe.

The Lebanese foreman yells at the children in his crew of Syrian refugees. They're picking potatoes in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. Whether the worker is a 45-year-old mother or a 7-year-old boy, the pay is the same: about $8 for a 12-hour day.

Before: Her Typical Teenage Life

Three years ago Fatmeh was pretty much a typical teenager. “My life in Syria was really very nice, very beautiful. I swear to God, really beautiful,” says Fatmeh, sitting in the shack her family has built out of scraps of tarps, plastic sheeting and salvaged lumber. She fiddles with the ends of a black headscarf that loosely frames her face.

Fatmeh says back in Syria they had a big house surrounded by a garden.

Her father taught high school — geography, sociology, history; her mother looked after the family. Fatmeh had her own computer.

Read more at http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/10/19/449920790/how-a-top-student-ended-up-picking-potatoes-15girls

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