With a big smile of hope on his face, Mustapha told us his story. He is a thirteen-year old boy from Al-Haidariya neighborhood in Aleppo. Mustapha dreams of becoming a doctor one day. “A doctor is a good guy, he treats sick people,” he said. But Mustapha can’t go to school to pursue his dream. “I can’t,” he told us, “I have to work six days a week from 7:00 in the morning until 7:00 in the evening, non-stop.” In Turkey, where his family found refuge, Mustapha works in a retail-shop for 12 hours daily delivering heavy bags of clothing items to the shop from factories. He does this for only 12.50 Turkish Liras a day which is less than 6 U.S. dollars. The minimum wage in the U.S. is 7.75 per hour. “The bags are very heavy, they make me carry 6 of them at once, and they yell at me and hit me with a cane on my body. I quit 5 times already, but my father keeps bringing me back.” Mustapha is the youngest among his siblings, with his parents there are ten people in his family. When we asked him about his views on the situation in Syria, he told us that he wishes to go back to fight: “I want to go to Jihad,” he stated not knowing what that means. “The Assads have been there for 40 years. It’s enough! Assad must go! He attacked us with chemical weapons and missiles!” Mustapha said frightened. When a missile hit right next to Mustapha’s home, his father decided to leave Aleppo immediately. Mustapha luckily was able to flee with his family, but young boys his age who have hopes and dreams for their future are being compelled to join the ranks of Jihadi radical groups that are to a great extent a product of the Assad regime itself. “I saw my school split in half. They dropped a barrel bomb on it and demolished it. I want to go back to school” Mustapha said. But, his family cannot afford to pay for his education.
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