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Priyanka Chopra gets trolled for visiting Syrian refugees over Indian kids, responds with a tweet

The world must do more to help Syrian refugee children get an education, actor Priyanka Chopra said after chatting and joking with young refugees at an after-school centre in Jordan’s capital.

hollywood Updated: Sep 11, 2017 13:14 IST
Associated Press
Priyanka Chopra,Syria,Syrian Crisis
Priyanka Chopra, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, gives an interview to The Associated Press at the UNICEF Country Office in Amman, Jordan.(AP)

The world must do more to help Syrian refugee children get an education, actor Priyanka Chopra said after chatting and joking with young refugees at an after-school centre in Jordan’s capital. The actor was trolled online for her visit. In a tweet, a Twitter user asked Priyanka why she hadn’t visited “rural areas of India where malnourished kids waiting for food”.

Priyanka dished out a firm response. “Ive worked w/ @UNICEFIndia for 12 yrs&visited many such places. What have u done @RavindraGautam_ ?Y is 1 childs prob less imp than another?” she wrote on Twitter.

“We need to take it into our own hands because this is our world and we only have one of it,” Chopra, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and Bollywood and Hollywood star, told The Associated Press at the end of her first day in Jordan.

Priyanka Chopra, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, views artwork by Eman Ahmad, right, from Aleppo, at UNICEF's Makani Centre in Amman, Jordan. ( AP )

“I think the world needs to understand that this is not just a Syrian refugee crisis, it’s a humanitarian crisis,” she said.

Without sufficient support, “this can be an entire generation of kids that could turn to extremism because they have not gotten an education,” she said in an interview Sunday.

Some 5 million Syrians have fled civil war in their homeland since 2011, many settling in nearby Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The influx has overburdened host countries, including their schools. More than half a million Syrian refugee children of school age - or one-third of the total - are not enrolled in school or informal education in the host countries. Meanwhile, UN and international aid agencies supporting the refugees routinely face large funding gaps.

On Sunday, Chopra, a light gray scarf slung over her hair, visited a UNICEF-backed children’s centre in Jordan’s capital of Amman. The UN child welfare agency supports more than 200 such “Makani” centres - Arabic for “my space” - in Jordan, along with other refugee education programs.

In the centre, preteen girls and boys sat around low table or on the ground, colouring or gluing glitter on paper. Only a few children knew who she was, but easily engaged with her.

A young boy told her he wanted to become an actor. She told him that one of the prerequisites is not to be shy and then challenged him to a staring contest. They locked eyes until she stopped, laughing.

Chopra later said she was moved by the hopefulness of the children she met.

“Some of them want professional careers, some of them want to go back to their countries and rebuild,” she said. “Parents ... want that for their children.”

Chopra, 35, shot to fame as Miss World in 2000 and has acted in several dozen Bollywood movies and is increasingly making her mark in the United States.

She stars in Quantico, a TV drama about FBI trainees on ABC, now entering its third season. She appeared in the Baywatch movie and has two more coming out, Isn’t It Romantic with Rebel Wilson, Adam DeVine and Liam Hemsworth, as well as A Kid Like Jake with Claire Danes, Jim Parsons and Octavia Spencer.

Chopra said that she didn’t realise until working in America that it’s “difficult for a woman of colour” to be cast in a wide range of roles.

She said change will come when “people like me and other people, other actors that are coming in from other parts of the world, in global entertainment ...we dig our feet in and say I don’t want to only play the stereotype of what you expect me to be.”

“It’s a fight, it’s a battle, and I am not afraid to fight it,” she said.

She recalled being insecure about her looks as a teenager.

“I was considered darker toned, so in my head, I was not pretty and that’s the ideology,” said Chopra, who once did an ad for a skin lightening cream, a decision she later regretted. At the same time, she said she’s seen “a lot of girls who are light-skinned in America who say, ‘I am too pale, I’m not pretty’.”

In India, she has become selective, preferring more complex roles to the pretty girl parts of her early days.

Chopra is also producing films in regional languages, to create an outlet for artists who might otherwise by overlooked by the Hindu-language Bollywood juggernaut. The latest is a film about two refugee children who come from Nepal to India.

Follow @htshowbiz for more

First Published: Sep 11, 2017 11:46 IST