Sweet revolution! High schoolers fight Syrian oppression with pastries

Baking against oppression: Sarah Elshenawy and Layana Abutouq show off the cupcakes they decorated with the flag of the Syrian Revolution and sold at the Arab-American Festival on July 8 to raise funds for the victims of the Assad regime.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Two Bay Ridge teens are fighting oppression in Syria — one cupcake at a time.

Layana Abutouq, 16, and Sarah Elshenawy, 18, whipped up more than 100 of the miniature confections topped with the fllag of the Syrian National Council, a revolutionary group in the war-torn Middle Eastern country.

The teens sold the green, black, and red star-colored cupcakes at the Arab-American Festival in Shore Road Park on July 8 — raising $700 that the girls will donate to Red Cross relief efforts in Syria.

“People donated a lot. The price was one dollar for a cupcake, but people were giving more,” said Abutouq.

Abutouq thought up the political cupcake sale after reading media coverage of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s persecution of the Syrian people.

“I knew that people were dying, and I wanted to help them,” said Abutouq.

Abutouq approached Elshenawy, who she knew from volunteering at the Arab-American Association of New York. Elshenawy, whose aunt recently escaped Syria and whose grandfather and cousins remain in the bloodied country, was impressed by her friend’s dedication.

“I thought it was wonderful, because she’s not even Syrian and she wanted to do something,” said Elshenawy.

The pair initially planned to sell T-shirts and wristbands, but the company they hired to make everything told them they wouldn’t finish in time.

Instead of panicking, Elshenawy thought up a sweeter plan.

“We had to do something for Syria,” Elshenawy said. “And I thought, ‘I used to make cupcakes a lot, so we can make cupcakes with the Syrian revolution flag and sell them.’”

Abutouq said she never realized how hard making cupcakes could be.

“We didn’t sleep for two days because we were making so many,” Abutouq said.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at wbredderman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman

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