Syrian Women's Suffering Told In Greek Tragedy



Refugees of the long and brutal conflict perform in the touring UK theatre production to highlight the plight of victims.



 
 
 
 
 

A Greek tragedy recounting the suffering of women in war is being performed in the UK by 50 Syrian refugees in a bid by the arts to increase awareness of the crisis.

Sham fled Syria with her four children.
She said: "This is about the suffering of mothers and fears for their children.
"I had my own pharmacy in Damascus in Syria, we had beautiful life, a beautiful house, family. It was bombed and we lost it all. This play gives us a voice."
Desperate to alter the perception of Syrian refugees, she added: "Refugees are not just people living in camps, we are people with lives."
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Waed Alsayyah said she had no choice but to leave Syria for Jordan.
She said: "I was faced with the option either stay in Syria and watch my family die and get slaughtered or to leave."
She added: "The production gave the women a voice with which to conquer stereotypes of both refugees as well as women and sends a powerful message to the West.
"I would like to show the world that being a refugee is actually something we're ... not proud of but ... we're going to have to deal with and we're not just the leftovers of society, we're not uneducated, we're not uncultured we're normal people living normal lives and we've had to go through this ... and it could happen to anyone."
Engulfed by civil war for more than five years, the conflict in Syria has claimed more than 400,000 lives.
More than 11 million have lost their homes and more than five million have fled the country.
Queens of Syria, an adaptation of Euripides' Trojan Women, tells the story of the women left behind by war.
After a stint at the Young Vic it goes on tour to Brighton, Oxford, Liverpool, Leeds and Edinburgh.
It's an ancient story, but this adaptation allows each cast member to bring their own personal story to the stage.
Charlotte Eagar, the producer from Refuge Productions, described the play as "powerful and important" because this is "the real world burst into theatre ... this play is about therapy and awareness".
She admitted the biggest challenge was "getting visas to get everyone here, but it was an emotional arrival".
Working with Oxfam and UNHCR, Ms Eagar went to Jordan to find women to cast in the play, searching food queues and refugee centres. None of the final 50 in the cast are actors.
Cast member Reem Alsayyah, who left Syria with her eight brothers and sisters, said: "None of us are an actor or dreamed we'd ever be on a stage, it was very strange, but we did it.
"The play is important because we need people to understand we are people, such a horrible thing happened to us, we had families and houses, we lost it all because of this war.
"So there is a huge message behind this play, it gave us the place to be ourselves."
The director Zoe Lafferty said the project has opened her eyes to Syrian crisis.
She said: "It's a great privilege to work with this group of women. When I went to Jordan I didn't know what to expect.
"They are so articulate, intelligent and politically engaged, and clear on what they want to say and why to a UK audience."
Reem added: "People think people living in camps just live in camps, they don't think they are educated.
"I was studying engineering at Damascus University. In Jordan I have no work, no official papers.
"My father is a lawyer, he lost everything, our house is destroyed his office burnt out.
"My brother was in the army we were afraid he would become a killer or a dead man.
"I tried to work as a secretary but it was illegal. I was paid £200 a month (the average pay there would be £800) ... then I got involved in drama.
"Life is difficult but you fight to have something. You can't just wait and give up."
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Sky news


Sunday, July 10th 2016
By Lucy Cotter, Arts And Entertainment Correspondent
           


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