A 12-Foot Puppet Of A 10-Year-Old Syrian Girl Is Raising Awareness For Refugees

Little Amal is controlled by four puppeteers and has visited 12 countries since starting her journey from the Turkey–Syria border in July 2021.

People surround a puppet of a girl, dressed in a skirt and boots and standing twice as tall as the puppeteers controlling her

Little Amal, the 12-foot puppet depicting a 10-year-old Syrian refugee, continued her journey around the world in New York this month, hoping to bring awareness to the millions of people forced to flee their countries in search of safety.

New York was the puppet’s first stop in the United States since starting her journey in July 2021 from the Turkey–Syria border. Organizers said she was expected to travel to all five New York City boroughs in search of her uncle Samir in a 17-day journey that began Sept. 14.

Little Amal represents and brings attention to the 27.1 million refugees, about half of whom are children, seeking safety as of 2021. The largest proportion of those refugees, 6.8 million, come from the Syrian Arab Republic, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The stop in New York comes as local officials struggle to house more than 2,200 immigrants and asylum-seekers who were bussed to the city by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Little Amal has greeted hundreds of New Yorkers who have come out to see her, taking selfies and touching her gigantic hands. Crowds followed the puppet and her trailing brown hair down New York streets. At times they were joined by live bands whose beat she danced to.

People hold up paper lanterns on sticks in front of Little Amal

Little Amal was designed and built by Handspring Puppet Company, and her visit to New York is a collaboration between St. Ann’s Warehouse and The Walk Productions. She requires four puppeteers to move, one for each arm, one supporting her back, and one inside walking on stilts.

So far, Little Amal has traveled nearly 5,600 miles across 12 countries, organizers said.

A map noting appearances in the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Turkey, Greece, and New York City

Amir Nizar Zuabi, artistic director of The Walk Productions, said in a statement that he was moved by the number of artists and organizations who helped make the theater production possible.

“For immigrants and refugees around the world, New York is a place of opportunity and promise — but there’s a tension running through US history that suggests not everyone is welcome here,” Zuabi said. “This is a crucial moment to explore these themes.”