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Back to school for Palestinian, 'world's youngest mayor'

Published on Sep 2, 2012 6:20 PM
Palestinian mayor teenager Bashaer Othman, 15, sits behind her desk at the town hall of the West Bank village of Allar, north of Tulkarem, on Aug 25, 2012. Othman became mayor as part of a program from Allar's municipality aiming at encouraging youngsters to have a political and professional experience during their school holiday time. -- PHOTO: AFP

ALLAR, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - Like most Palestinian teens, Bashaer Othman goes back to school this week after a long summer break.

But rather than hanging out with friends, this 16-year-old has spent the past two months serving as mayor of a small town in the northern West Bank.

Sitting at a large desk in front of three framed photographs of president Mahmud Abbas, prime minister Salam Fayyad and veteran nationalist leader Yasser Arafat, Othman smiles as she signs a document allowing a resident to pay his large water bill in instalments.

"It's not about the title, it's about serving the town," says the teenager, who was just 15 when she took over from mayor Sufiyan Shadid on July 2 for a two-month stint as the top official in Allar, a town of 8,000 residents. The idea, she says, came out of a national youth parliament project run by the Sharek Youth Forum, which aims to involve youngsters in the day-to-day workings of Palestinian local government.

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