Fleeing your home due to conflict is a traumatic and unimaginably painful process. When you find yourself as a refugee, your cultural identity is often all too easily lost.
There are endless stories as to how a refugee copes with her struggle to regain a life she has lost. Recently, I came across a particularly interesting article from the UNHCR looking at a group of Syrian refugees.
Due to the conflict in Syria, most national actors, directors, film crews, and entire productions have fled the country. Today, a number of these production groups continue to make T.V soap operas in Lebanon.
Soap operas are extremely popular in the Middle East. Syria was particularly well known for its high quality “Ramadan soaps” – highly anticipated soap operas to be enjoyed during Ramadan.
Working on these programs put actors’ and crews’ futures at risk, as there is a threat that they will find themselves on an internet “black list” of Syrian artists who have left their country to make money elsewhere.
Despite this, and the constant worry for their homeland, Syrian directors like Saifeddine Al Sibaii continue their artistic work.
“Although Al Sibaii has left Syria, he says that in his heart he is still there. He is engaged with filming and work, but says that he and all of the actors worry about what’s going on in their country and they are often depressed. They are displaced and uncertain what their future will bring.” – UNHCR’s Elena Dorfman in Beirut, Lebanon
Al Sibaii’s soap is currently based on the Syrian war itself, asking questions about what course of action is to be taken by Syrian people in the light of such incredible turmoil.
While this may seem like a simple story of soap stars moving on with their lives in a new country, there is a deeper story to be seen here. One of the many problems that refugees face is a loss of cultural identity. Al Sibaii, among other Syrian artists, has successfully kept a firm hold of his identity as a Syrian, through continuing the work he did before the rise of civil war and violence.
Syria may be engulfed in conflict, but thanks to the efforts of refugees and their sense of cultural identity, Ramadan won’t be without a good Syrian soap to watch.