Syrian Refugee Women See Themselves In Powerful Play

30 Syrian women who fled their war torn homeland for a Lebanese refugee camp found strength and healing in an unlikely place — the stage. Originally conceived of as a way to relieve the pressures of daily camp life near Beirut, the women's theater project blossomed into powerful art therapy. Sophocles' Antigone, written more than 2000 years ago, tells the story of a princess whose two brothers, fighting on opposite sides, both die in a civil war. One brother receives a hero's funeral while the brother on the losing side is left unburied by a decree from the new king. Antigone defies the king and buries her brother, knowing that she will pay a steep price for doing so.

The courage that Antigone displays in the face of danger is an emotional touchstone for the Syrian women whose lives have been torn apart by civil war. They see their reflections in her character. Antigone makes hard choices, but she is in control. “We were not born just to listen, just to obey, just to receive orders,” one participant told NPR, “we should be able to stand up for something in our lives.”

The 8-week “Antigone of Syria” acting workshop helped the refugees process their trauma, gain self-confidence and build community as they compared their lives to Antigone's. The resulting performance was a combination of their own stories and that of the tragic heroine. The project sponsor, Aperta Productions, provided free child care, and the women earned a stipend for participating. The project also resulted in a documentary film called “We Are Not Princesses.

“According to the United Nations, there were over three million Syrian refugees as of 2015, and the civil war they escaped has left many with invisible psychological wounds. Learn how you can help support therapeutic programs for Syrian refugees.

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