Isra Shahrour takes part in a studio exercise during an eight-week drama workshop in Beirut which culminated in performances of 'Antigone in Syria'
Isra Shahrour takes part in a studio exercise during an eight-week drama workshop in Beirut which culminated in performances of 'Antigone in Syria' © Tabitha Ross - Aperta Productions/AFP
Isra Shahrour takes part in a studio exercise during an eight-week drama workshop in Beirut which culminated in performances of 'Antigone in Syria'
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AFP
Last updated: December 11, 2014

Syrian refugee women tell their story through theatre performance in Beirut

Banner Icon A group of Syrian refugee women took to the Beirut stage this week to tell their stories of war and flight through a new version of the ancient Greek tragedy "Antigone."

The adaptation of the classic by ancient Greek playwright Sophocles, tells of arrests at government checkpoints, harassment by rebel factions, the search for hope and struggles against social barriers.

The women, whose show opened Wednesday at Beirut's top Madina theatre, had no previous acting experience.

The production, which also runs Thursday and Friday, is a show of defiance as the women act out their painful experiences through the rebellious character of Antigone, whose two brothers lead opposite sides in a brutal civil war.

To 33-year-old Syrian Mohammad al-Attar, who adapted the original script, it reflects "the battle Syrian women are fighting today."

Theatre has helped the women regain their self-confidence, who have suffered from violence, marginalisation and poverty, Attar said.

Narrator Mona, 29, lost her son to cancer after she was unable to get treatment for him because of Syria's nearly four-year war.

Speaking to AFP, she said the opportunity to act in "Antigone of Syria" allowed her and her friends to "express our grief."

"We used to find it very difficult to share our pain... Now, this grief has come out," said the former schoolteacher.

One scene shows a young woman from Daraa province, birthplace of Syria's revolt, recount her struggle after her husband ordered her to wear the full face veil, or niqab.

She refused to leave the house dressed that way, saying it would prevent her from seeing the trees, the birds, the sky, the things she loved the most.

Eventually, their baby fell ill and she had to go out, but her husband relented and said she could leave without the niqab.

Another shows a woman describing, in minute detail, the moment she fled her devastated Damascus neighbourhood, broken glass crunching under her shoes.

She didn't look back as she boarded a bus for Lebanon, because she mistakenly thought she'd be home in a few days.

Fadwa, a 58-year-old widow and mother of five, was initially reluctant to perform.

A Palestinian Syrian from besieged Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus, she has lost two of her sons.

She admits that she only agreed to take part after being promised a small sum in compensation.

"But now, I am now ready to do this work for free," she said, proud of her achievement. "I hope it helps end the injustices that (people in Yarmuk) are suffering, as well as our own."

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