Iraqi Play Challenges the Assumed Authority of ISIL*
By Khalid Al-Taie In Baghdad 2014-08-26The tragedies of Iraqis displaced from their homes at the hands of the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) are the subject of a new play, “Nuun“, now showing at a Baghdad theatre.
The play opened on August 13th during the “We Are All Iraqis” festival organised by the Oil Ministry to express solidarity with those who have been displaced and to condemn the acts of violence committed by ISIL.
The play “is a message of defiance in the face of terrorism that wants to tear up the country’s unity and targets the national cohesion of the Iraqi people,” said ministry media spokesman Assem Jihad, who conceived the concept for the play.
“We tried through the play to shed light on the suffering of Iraqi families, especially those from minority groups that were subject to mass displacement at the hands of ISIL gangs, and the difficult circumstances they are going through after they lost everything,” he told Mawtani.
In June, swathes of northern Iraq were overrun by ISIL, causing waves of displacement.
Tens of thousands of Christians fled the area after the group confiscated their property, marking it with the letter “nuun”, for “Nazarene”, which is how the play got its title.
An evocative performance
The actors describe the recent events and tell the resulting stories of displacement through scenes that evoke the bitterness and pain of the displaced, the sorrows of their departure from their homes and the loss of their loved ones, Jihad said.
At the same time, it brings viewers a sense of hope and calls upon Iraqis to unite against ISIL and its extremist actions and ideology, he said.
“ISIL elements perpetrated the most heinous crimes against the innocent displaced — kidnapping, killing and harassment,” Jihad said.
“So we wanted this theatrical work to be a loud cry to express our condemnation of these crimes and their perpetrators.”
Through the festival of solidarity, the ministry sought to support the cause of the displaced as well as support the security forces in the fight against terrorist groups, he said.
“We wanted to urge people of all sects to stand by and support them until the liberation of all our cities from the scourge of terrorism,” he said.
Director Kadhem al-Nassar told Mawtani the play conveys tales of painful reality experienced by the displaced, and was not limited to a single religious or ethnic group.
The play expresses the plight of the entire nation, he said, adding that Iraq is under attack from barbarians who seek to target Iraqi civilisation and its “legacy, cultural identity and social composition”.
“This work has been prepared for and completed in record time to be the first theatrical presentation of its kind to protest the displacement crime committed by the forces of terror against thousands of citizens, and the tragedies and horrors they suffered during their mass displacement,” he said.
A message of hope for the displaced
Al-Nassar said he hopes to show his play to audiences of displaced Iraqis in various provinces to demonstrate the role and responsibility of art in drawing attention to their suffering and to make them feel that though their circumstances weigh down on them, they will inevitably return to their homes, and peace and security will prevail in their cities.
Playwright Majid Darandash said his play sends messages of optimism and hope for a beautiful tomorrow that has no place for fear of deportation, murder and repression, rather for a safe and happy life where everyone lives in co-existence and prosperity without terrorism.
“These terrorists will not be able to discourage our determination or take the love of life from us,” he told Mawtani.
Well-known Iraqi actors performing in the play include Maymoun al-Khalidi, Asia Kamal, Mazen Mohammed Mustafa, Bassel Shabib, Allawi Hussein, Nathir Jawad and Assaad Mashai.
“Our participation in the play ‘Nuun’ expresses our rejection as Iraqi theatre actors and artists of all the plans and intentions of terrorists aiming to destroy our country,” actor Mazen Mohammed Mustafa told Mawtani.
“This work represents an act of protest against forced displacement and against anyone who wants to uproot us and return us to the dark ages,” he said.