The art of theatre is a weapon of resistance and a tool to express the suffering of people from northern Syria’s Afrin (Efrîn) after Turkey took control of the Kurdish city, director and theatre actor Mihyedin Arslan, a founder of the Afrin theatre group Creators of Hope, told ANHA news agency on Monday.
In 2018, the Creators of Hope theatrical troupe began on a stage built in a refugee camp in the countryside north of Aleppo, locally known as the Shahba (Şehba) region, staging its first play, The Horse’s Sin, four times a day for ten days.
Arslan said that Turkey targets culture in the region and tries to destroy it in cross-border operations into Syria’s Kurdish region, and that those who have lived through these offensives showed great interest in the troupe.
The liberation of Afrin will be realised through art, said Arslan.
Zeyneb Mihemed, another founder of the troupe, told ANHA that they “sowed love, hope and persistence in a region where ISIS had destroyed life”.
“We present our plays in Kurdish against the tyranny that tried to destroy our language. They took our city of Afrin, our region, but they cannot take our Kurdishness and our ideas from us,” Mihemed added.
The founders emphasised that the aim of the Creators of Hope is not only to bring joy to camp residents and make them laugh, but also to bring cultures closer together through participation in festivals in various districts across northeastern Syria. The theatrical troupe also participated in the Kirkuk Theatre Festival in northern Iraq.
The troupe started out just six-strong in Shahba refugee camp in a small tent on a stage of only a few square metres. The group took it upon themselves to recreate hope in the lives of displaced people in the war-torn region, and Creators of Hope continues to grow.
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch in January 2018 with factions known as the Syrian National Army (SNA), aiming to take control of the Afrin region which until that point had been a relatively peaceful area where civilians affected by the Syrian war found refuge.
In March 2018, Turkish forces drove the Kurdish-led autonomous administration out of Afrin, leaving the Turkey-backed allied factions groups in control.
Once Turkish forces had taken control of the region, Turkey implemented a resettlement policy.
Turkey’s Afrin offensive displaced nearly 300,000 Kurdish inhabitants, who have since taken refuge in the Shahba region.