“A Night at the Theater with Saadallah Wannous” by Ali Khan

“A Night at the Theater with Saadallah Wannous”
Dispatch from Damascus 19 (29/03/09)
Ali Khan, “Syria Comment” (Photo by Ketan Gajria)

Damascus Theater by Ketan Gajria 2009

Damascus Theater by Ketan Gajria 2009

A group of us from my class decided to go and see a play in the main theatre in Ummaviyeen Square. I went to buy tickets a few days in advance and was impressed by the modern building, the cleanliness and the organisation; the booklet listing the various plays, musical concerts and other performances even had a little colour-coded map at the back to help one choose the seats. However, I was most impressed with the prices of the tickets. A balcony seat was only slightly more than two dollars. Like any other place in Syria, just like in India, there were more people working there and milling about than seemed necessary but all of them were keen to help.

I had asked around whether I needed to wear formal clothes, as it indicated on the back of the ticket, but most people had assured me that as long as I didn’t show up in a Manchester United shirt, not that I have one or would ever dream of committing such an offence, and a pair of shorts, I would be alright. The evening was cold and windy and I softly uttered a few expletives as I saw Audi A8s and BMW X6s pull in to the theatre. I am always shocked by the number of new models of various cars that I see in Syria, some of which I have not even seen in London or New York. From a distance, I had seen a large sculpture in front of the main gates of the theatre. On closer inspection my fertile imagination interpreted it to be one of the symbols of the Anti-Christ, an upside down cross, with lots of colourful glass stuck on to it to add a modernist touch. However as soon as I triumphantly declared this to my friends they burst out laughing and said that it was actually meant to be the sword of the Umayyad Caliphs! The main building in the complex seemed to be having an identity crisis of sorts as the colour of its roof changed every few minutes from fluorescent pink, to yellow, to marine blue to emerald green!

Outside the main doors and large crowd had collected and all seemed dressed to the nines. The men wore sharply cut designer suits with patent leather shoes and the women carried frilly fur overcoats and gleaming handbags. Apart from the group of these mutathaqifeen, or would be cultured people, (it is amazing to ‘play’ with Arabic verbs) there was an odd mix of acting students, academics in their existentialist black, a few language teachers from the university and a group of French ladies in red anoraks. We all felt somewhat shabby and quickly headed inside and found some seats in the lobby. A group of young Syrians struck up a conversation with us. After the usual questions about where we live in Damascus (I have a sneaking suspicion that some people ask this so as to figure out ones ‘social and financial status’ rather than genuinely wanting to know where foreigners live), why we study Arabic and if we like Syria, I asked one of the long haired men who was lolling about on the sofa what he did. In the typical nonchalant yet studied way in which actors answer questions, he looked towards the ceiling and proclaimed: “Oh, I am an actor.” Meanwhile he was trying to appear aloof yet interested in the constant throng of women that were coming up to him. Later someone said that he was part of the “theatre scene” in Damascus.

Saadallah Wannous: We are doomed by Hope.

Saadallah Wannous: "We are doomed by Hope."

The play was called Tuqoos al-Isharaat wal-Tahavulaat, or Rituel pour une Metamorphose as the program card helpfully translated it, by Saadallah Wannous. In English it would roughly translate as Rituals of Signs and Transformations. Originally from Syria, Wannous studied in Cairo and was deeply influenced by famous existentialists like Camus and Satre. Later on having lived in France and having seen the works of famous socialist playwrights like Peter Weiss and Bertolt Brecht, Wannous became convinced of the need for ‘an ideology’ in theatre in order to educate the masses. Wannous is a legend in the Arab world for his astute plays about the human condition and political commentaries on the Arab world but unfortunately died in 1996 because of cancer.

Our seats were close to the stage and the theatre seemed to have all the necessary modern equipment and if it wasn’t for the large hijabi lady in front of me, I could have easily imagined that I was in any of the European capitals. The play began with an arrestingly explicit opening scene where a prostitute is shown cavorting with a married man. Above the stage, the French translation of the play was being projected on an empty space but for the French ladies who could not speak any Arabic, it was a choice between watching the play or reading the lines.

In short, the play depicts the shows how a girl, Wardah, who lived in a religious scholar’s house eventually becomes a prostitute and has sexual relations with the scholar. The scholar’s daughter, Almassa is married to man, Abdallah, who also has an affair with Wardah. Almassa’s brother, Safwan is gay. Abdallah is caught and thrown in jail and Safwan’s gay lover is also thrown in jail. Almassa decides that the only way in which she can redeem herself is by having her own body violated and so decides to become a prostitute. For this, her gay brother eventually kills her rather than bring ‘shame on the family.’ The revolving stage had two levels and worked wonderfully by interchanging the spaces used for the bordello, the jail, Almassa’s home and government offices. During the play there were various references to the decrees of the ‘Mufti’ of the town on various issues including the banning of liquor and lewd texts like 1001 nights.

I have tried, only somewhat successfully, to read the play and I talked to a few people who are familiar with the works of Wannous and all of them were surprised by the fact that one crucial dimension of the play had been deliberately left out by the directors. The play we saw successfully depicted Wannous’ cautious approach to religious authorities but neglected to portray his critique of an unjust government! I also found that many key scenes that portrayed the struggle between the Ottoman Wali and the Mufti had been removed from the play. Despite the fact that the play was heavily edited and therefore was not a fair portrayal of the author’s original intentions, the Brechtian influence on Wannous’ work was clear. The concept of ‘distancing,’ and the audience not just as passive receptors is evident from the attempt by Wannous to make people think about the play and not just empathise with the actors on the stage by stripping normal human acts and recreating them to be more arresting to listen to and view. This is why the play is set in the historical period of the Ottoman’s rule in Syria. This will inevitably trigger a historical search by the audience to think about the context of the play in real terms rather than just passively watching the play. Brecht too believed that theatre should try to make people think critically and induce self-reflection rather than just create a moment of false emotional empathy.

The actresses were both superb and very fluid in their movements and monologues but most of the men either overacted or were too stiff. Obviously, I am not at all qualified to judge the performance of the actors or for that matter the play itself but I do feel that the people who edited and chose the scenes did not do justice to Wannous or his play. I did however enjoy my first trip to the theatre in Damascus.

Dima Wannous

Dima Wannous

Until next week Ma’as Salaama!

p.s [landis] Saadallah Wannous’ daughter, Dima Wannous, recently published her first novel, called “chair” (kursi). Tafasil [Details], a collection of nine short stories, was published in 2007 (Dar al-Mada, Damascus). An extract of one story – “Sahar” – can be read in Banipal: A magazine of Modern Arabic Literature. Dima is married to Ibrahim Hamidi, al-Hayat’s bureau chief in Damascus and they have a son, Saad. See this Obituary of Wannous by Elie Shalala.

Comments (22)

majid said:

I like to congratulate KSA on its latest victory against the Iranian soccer team which took place on the Iranian team’s home turf in Tehran’s Azad stadium. The game was part of the finalists that would lead to the South African tournament leading to the world cup. President Ahmedinejjad was present in the audience indicating the political importance the Iranian leadership attached to the game. There were over 100,000 spectators who continued to utter offensive racial slurs (typical of some Iranians) against the Saudis. The Iranian coach declared before the game: “If we don’t win against the Saudis then we don’t deserve to qualify for the world tournament. If we win against the Saudis, then that will be enough for us even if we don’t qualify later on for the world tournament.” On the other hand, people of oil-rich Ahwaz with majority Arabs were overjoyed by the Saudi win. They held public celebrations and congratulated the Saudi team on its victory against their own home team.

March 29th, 2009, 8:15 pm


Off the Wall said:

Thank you very much for all of your wonderful posts. I usually am one of many who await anxiously for each an everyone of your well written, superbly pleasant articles not only because of their substance, but also because of the superb style. I am eagerly awaiting your first novel, because I can easily see that you are one outstanding story teller.

I followed the link about Dima Wannus, and read the entire “Sahar” piece. Although I have not read the Arabic version, i can see that the style has suffered a little in translation to English as sentences are short and more abrupt than would have been in Arabic. But Dima is obviously smart and her writing seem promising. I think on my long-awaited trip to Syria, I must catch up on new writers by spending a couple of days book shoping. Finally, I was hoping for more dialogue in the excerpt, just observe the very clever exchange:

“Is prostitution haram, hajja?”

“Not within marriage.”

That is a begining of a very profound dialogue one would like to finish reading.

Ali, you can not imagine how much have you done to connect many of us with places, scenes, smells, and sounds of a country we once more than simply called home. I am grateful.


March 29th, 2009, 11:08 pm


norman said:

We had good time in the seventies with Abo Antar,

God rest his soul,

وفاة الفنان ناجي جبر “أبو عنتر” عن 69 عاما بعد معاناة مع السرطان الاخبار المحلية

توفي صباح اليوم الاثنين الفنان السوري ناجي جبر الذي اشتهر عربيا بدور “أبو عنتر”, وذلك بعد صراع طويل مع مرض السرطان, وعن عمر يناهز 69 عاما.

وجبر من مواليد مدينا شهبا في محافظة السويداء عام 1940 والتحق بنقابة الفنانين عام 1972, وهو شقيق الفنانين محمود جبر الذي توفي في العام الماضي، وهيثم جبر، وعم الفنانتين ليلى جبر ومرح جبر.

ومن أشهر أعمال الفنان ناجي جبر مسلسلات صح النوم, وحمام الهنا, ومقالب غوار مع الفنان دريد لحام, ومسلسلات أيام شامية, أبو المفهومية, الخوالي, بيت جدي, أهل الراية, الرهان, أولاد بلدي, وادي المسك.


March 30th, 2009, 5:43 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Damn… 2$ a ticket? I move to Dimashk.
Here we pay 3$ for a shitty falafel, that will keep you hungry.!!!

March 30th, 2009, 6:44 pm


Enlightened said:

Article from The Sydney Morning Herald:

Libya’s Gadhafi hurls insults at Saudi king

* March 31, 2009 – 6:49AM

Letting the insults fly … Maverick Libyan leader Moamer Gadhafi launched a tirade against Saudi King Abdullah, inset.

Letting the insults fly … Maverick Libyan leader Moamer Gadhafi launched a tirade against Saudi King Abdullah, inset. Photo: Reuters

Maverick Libyan leader Moamer Gadhafi stole the show at Monday’s Arab summit, insulting Saudi King Abdullah and proclaiming himself “king of kings of Africa” before storming out to visit a museum.

But the flamboyant Gadhafi also left the door open for reconciliation with Abdullah, whose Western-backed kingdom is a regional heavyweight and the world’s largest oil exporter.

“It has been six years since you have been avoiding a confrontation with me,” Gadhafi snapped, just as summit host Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was ending his speech.

“You are always lying and you’re facing the grave and you were made by Britain and protected by the United States,” Gadhafi told Abdullah in front of 15 other leaders attending the annual gathering.

Tensions have run high between the two countries since articles in US and Saudi newspapers in June 2004 accused Gadhafi of allegedly plotting to assassinate Abdullah, then crown prince.

“I am the leader of the Arab leaders, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of the Muslims,” proclaimed Gadhafi, the Arab world’s longest serving leader who has been in power since 1969.

Gadhafi, recently elected as African Union chairman, was bestowed with the title “king of kings” by African tribal dignitaries in September 2008.

State-run Qatari television interrupted the feed to the press room, but when the broadcast was restored, Gadhafi was heard telling Abdullah: “I am ready to visit you and for you to visit me.”

Libyan state television aired excerpts of Kadhafi’s diatribe, and the official JANA news agency published the full text of his vitriolic attack.

“I tell my brother Abdullah, that you have avoided me for six years and you are afraid to confront me,” Gadhafi said, according to the Libyan media. “I want to reassure you: there is no need to be afraid.

“I tell you that after six years, it has been proven whose past is a pack of lies and who is facing death,” he said, echoing similar remarks by Abdullah at a 2003 Arab summit.

“You are a product of Great Britain and protected by the United States,” Gadhafi said, again quoting from Abdullah’s 2003 attack on him at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

“Out of respect for the (Arab) nation, I consider the personal problem between us over and I am ready to visit you and to welcome you” to Libya, Gadhafi said, the Libyan state media reported.

The flamboyant Gadhafi, dressed in an ochre robe and cap and wearing black sunglasses, then rose and swept out of the conference centre, with aides saying he was off to visit a museum.

Abdullah also left the conference hall briefly, diplomats said.

The Qatari emir later hosted a meeting to reconcile the two.

“The misunderstanding between Saudi Arabia and Libya has been ended during this summit,” Libyan official Ahmad Kadaf al-Dam told reporters.

Gadhafi has a history of unpredictability at such gatherings.

At an Arab summit in 1988 he wore a white glove on his right hand to avoid shaking “bloodstained hands”, and the following year he blew smoke from a fat cigar into the face of the late king Fahd of Saudi Arabia.

At the 2005 Arab summit in Algiers he upstaged the final session with an unscheduled address in which he described Israel and the Palestinians as “idiots”, leaving his audience in fits of laughter.

One aim of the Doha summit was to reunite Arab ranks divided over Israel’s 22-day onslaught on the Gaza Strip.


March 31st, 2009, 1:30 am


jad said:

(I have a sneaking suspicion that some people ask this so as to figure out ones ‘social and financial status’ rather than genuinely wanting to know where foreigners live)
They actually ask you where you live out of curiosity to know where about foreigners live in the city.
I think they are genuine in that particular question out of curiosity nothing more.
Syrians as you already know don’t really care much about the financial or social background of any foreigner, it’s their least priority to judge a student, and there is this general believes that only ‘poor’ foreigners would think to come to live and study in Syria regardless of the nationality.

If you where a local, some Syrians (few) might be interested to know where you live. IMHO for two simple reasons:
1- To know your ‘social’ backgrounds NOT financial, so they can decide the way they should talk to you and what language level.
2- Syrians usually like to get connected regardless if they live in a big city or a small village, therefore, knowing where you live give them an estimate of how far/close your neighbourhood to theirs so they can become more/less relaxed talking to you since they will know exactly the community mind set you are coming from.

And that, is my take (I bought the trade mark from Norman for the amount of $100.000) 😉

March 31st, 2009, 3:57 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Sudanese children integration in Tel-Aviv’s municipal public schools.
In Hebrew (some in Arabic and some in English).


March 31st, 2009, 9:10 am


Ali said:


Thank you Off the Wall for your very encouraging comments. All I try to do is to portray what i see, hear and smell and feel, the read beauty is not in my words but in the country!

Jad I agree with you but I was not talking about ordinary Syrians, rather members of the elite or more affluent classes here who tend to ask such questions with a purpose. And obviously this is not just in Syria but we unofortunately have the same thing in India. In the West too I have found people develop more subtle ways of trying to pin one down. However, I do completely agree with you that most people ask out of curiosity! Thanks!

March 31st, 2009, 10:47 am


Chris said:

Interesting video Amir. Thanks for posting it.

It reminded of the leaders of the Arab world recently embracing Omar Bashir, the genocidaire of Sudan, in Doha. He, after all, is responsible for those children becoming refugees.

Bashar Assad I, the king of Syria, made his support for the indicted war criminal in Sudan loud and clear. “What is happening now with regards to Sudan is a new chapter in the chapters that consider the Arabs weak and disrespect the sovereignty of their countries,” said the king of Syria.

From the NYTimes:
“There was also some criticism of the Arab League’s decision to welcome Mr. Bashir. Some critics said their leaders had embarrassed the Arab world and were supporting Mr. Bashir not on the strength of their convictions but from a sense of self-preservation.

‘The leaders’ position is their own self-defense, because they don’t want to open the door to an international tribunal of any kind that will open the file of any crimes they committed against humanity or against their own people,’ said Saad al-Ajmi, a former Kuwaiti minister of information. ‘Most of those regimes are actually dictatorships, and most of them have their hands smeared with the blood of their own people.’

An independent group called the Doha Center for Media Freedom condemned Mr. Bashir’s participation in the summit meeting and said that it was hypocritical for Arabs to want Israel to be investigated for its actions in Gaza and then “complain about it if a friendly country is involved.

Syria may have an additional motive for denouncing the arrest warrant, because its leadership is said to be concerned that the international investigation into the killing of a former Lebanese prime minister may implicate or even indict high-ranking Syrian figures.

Whatever the motives, the pro-Bashir stance is likely to play well with the Arab public, said Sarkis Naoum, a columnist for the Lebanese newspaper Al Nahar.

“Arabs are happy to see their leaders facing up the Security Council or other international bodies,” Mr. Naoum said. “And this has become a tool for regimes to try to gain more legitimacy.””

March 31st, 2009, 1:50 pm


Nour said:


Would the US turn George Bush over to the ICC if an arrest warrant was issued for him on charges of genocide and war crimes in Iraq? Would the US turn any American soldier over if they were indicted on war crimes charges? Does the US even recognize the ICC? Then maybe you should look in your own backyard before you judge others. Bashar al-Assad is absolutely right. The international court is used as a political tool to pressure and punish those who are not on good terms with the powerful countries of the world. And it is on this basis that an arrest warrant for Bashir was issued; not out of concern for the people of Darfur. The Ugandan government is just as guilty of genocide in its own country, but no warrants are issued for any of its leaders because they are on good terms with the US. So until there is a fair system of justice worldwide, Bashir’s arrest warrant can be seen as nothing but an attack on sovereignty.

March 31st, 2009, 2:43 pm


jad said:

Dear Ali,
Thank you for explaining.
I too, like many others on SC, LOVE your writing style and the story lines, as OTW wrote, it takes us into a great descriptive world that few talented writers (like Ali Khan) can do 🙂
I think what you are doing by getting involved with locals and write about your experiences is the only and the best way to get the best out of your adventure.
Good luck.

March 31st, 2009, 2:46 pm


Chris said:


The ICC does not have jurisdiction over the Unites States. It has not ratified the Rome Treaty.

The ICC has focused on Africa. This is because many countries in Africa lack the institutional capacity to deal with these crimes. Of course, many of the most lethal conflicts also occur in Africa.

When states initiate prosecutions the ICC stays away. If Britain, which has ratified the Rome Treaty, initiates an investigation against a British soldier for a specific crime the ICC would then be unable to go forward in prosecuting that crime. It does not have superceding jurisdiction, it complements.

You ask
“Then maybe you should look in your own backyard before you judge others.”

I don’t shy away from criticizing the United States. However, this really doesn’t seem the place to discuss U.S. politics or Thai politics for that matter. But I guess when one has run out of argument to defend a dictator they must resort to criticizing their interlocutor. Of course, the actions of the U.S. have nothing to do with whether or not Bashar ought to be defending the indicted war criminal of Sudan, Omar Bashir. The statements of the Bashar Assad, the king of Syria himself, do seem appropriate. Moreover, it seems that you are only bringing up the U.S. because I happen to be from the U.S. Agains hardly to relevant to a discussion of whether Bashar should be supporting a genocidaire.

March 31st, 2009, 3:12 pm


Nour said:


I brought up the US not for the sake of talking about the US. I brought it up to show that international law is politicized and is used by the strong to pressure the weak. The US does not recognize the ICC and refuses to be a signatory to it, yet it applauds its decision to issue an arrest warrant against Bashir. Moreover, arrest warrants are not issued against all those who have committed genocide in Africa, or in other places around the world, but merely against those whom the US and other powerful countries decide should be prosecuted. The US committed war crimes and genocide in Iraq, yet no one can hold any US official accountable for it. But you criticize Bashar al-Assad because he clarified that this is an attack on sovereignty, which it clearly is.

I am not defending Omar al-Bashir, nor do I like him. But the matter is a matter of principle. Do we take the position to allow the ICC to issue warrants against any leader who is not on good terms with the US, and thus allow it to be used politically to advance specific agendas? Or do we take the position that either the ICC applies to everyone equally or it doesn’t apply at all? I believe Bashar al-Assad is absolutely correct on this matter, because unless George Bush can be prosecuted just as easily as Bashir for war crimes and genocide, then the whole process is politicized and the targeting of Bashir is nothing but an attack on the sovereignty of Sudan.

March 31st, 2009, 4:17 pm


jad said:

God bless your unbiased golden heart Chris! (It’s rusting though; you might need to check if it is made of real gold or some kind of cheap metal that quickly rusts), why don’t you and your prince of Yafa stick to your own advice:
“However, this really doesn’t seem the place to discuss U.S. politics or Thai politics for that matter.”
Using the same argument, this really doesn’t seem the place to discuss Sudan, Darfur, or African matters. Does it???
And especially under a nice article celebrating Syrian theater and beautiful visual experience by a foreign student who know how to use the advantage of living in Damascus unlike others who waste it over nothing 😉

March 31st, 2009, 4:31 pm


Chris said:


Sudan becomes relevant to Syria Comment when Bashar, the dictator of Damascus, gives a long speech at the Arab summit defending the genocidaire.

The time wasn’t wasted in Damascus. One does have to agree with your politics Jad to not be able to appreciate Syria. Besides, I passed my Arabic proficiency for grad school. See you in Damascus this summer, right?

March 31st, 2009, 4:37 pm


jad said:

“Sudan becomes relevant to Syria Comment when Bashar…” Are you saying that Sudanese issues and political troubles has more influence on the Syrian political life than the Americans taking sides with Israel against the ‘terrorist Palestinians’ (as you called them), or for occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, or for supporting one group against others in Lebanon, or or or…..for all that, YOU are allowed to mention Sudan but Nour is not allowed to mention the States? Pretty smart!
Your comments are redundant and not worth to bother read them; they have no substance at all.

Your last comments made me laugh, what you write/wrote is a proof that you did waste your time in Syria and you will waste it again when you get back there, I’m just happy for individual Syrians to get some of your money, I hope that they are going to use it for something to improve their lives instead of wasting it over nothing like someone I know 😉

“I passed my Arabic proficiency” Good for you, bad for the culture.

P.S. Why don’t you answer Nour instead of telling me how good you are?

March 31st, 2009, 5:49 pm


norman said:

Jad , this is for you,

Syria Goes Green
Increasing numbers of voluntary initiatives are emerging to tackle threats to environment.

By an IWPR-trained reporter (31-Mar-09)

While environmental issues have traditionally received little attention in the Middle East compared with the coverage they get in the United States and western Europe, this could now be changing.

In the past two years, several grassroots conservation movements have sprung up to increase eco-awareness and teach conservation strategies to the next generation of Syrians.

“Our dream is for all of Syrian society to embrace large-scale conservation efforts, like those taking place in more developed parts of the world,” said Zaeda Sahloul, an English teacher at the Jawdat al-Hashimi secondary school in Damascus.

Sahloul set up the Green Syria Association in 2007, one of the first voluntary after-school environmental programmes in the country. Its members are students and parents who care about the environmental problems facing their country and who want to do what they can to help.

But Sahloul’s main target group is clearly the young.

“I think children will be the key to any lasting improvements. It can be difficult to change the opinions and behaviour of older people who are set in their ways,” she said.

Sahloul said she herself used to wonder how she could make a difference to the environment.

“I started by using my English class to discuss conservation issues and have my students come up with new ideas,” she explained.

She kept her students up-to-date with the latest studies about threats to the environment in the English language, she said.

Experts say Syria faces a number of environmental problems including deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, desertification, water pollution, as well as inadequate water supplies.

“Desertification, in particular, is a serious concern as temperatures rise, lands continue to erode and draughts become more frequent,” said Damascus-based scientific researcher Salah al-Deen Kharboutli.

Last year, Syria suffered from a severe drought that seriously endangered the harvest.

The Green Syria Association and other volunteer-based organisations are trying to confront these challenges and raise awareness of them.

Students at Sahloul’s school have formed various groups to take responsibility for environmentally friendly measures, such as turning off lights and collecting paper for recycling.

Although these tasks might seem small and irrelevant in a country where environmental awareness is scarce and waste-dumping is widespread, the students believe that even minimal steps can make a difference.

Adnan Ajlouni, a member of the association, said that he and his classmates have quickly started to see the results of their efforts.

“Last year, we collected half a ton of paper to recycle,” he said. “The school’s supervisor also told us that the electricity bill had gone down as a result of our [other] work.”

Early last year, the school won praise for its conservation efforts from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO.

“What matters most is that reducing the consumption of water and electricity has become daily behaviour for our students,” said Sahloul.

“We also work on cleaning the school’s garden and watering the trees. My hope is that after they graduate, they will continue to adopt these efficient lifestyle choices and have a larger impact.”

Last year, Dr Jamma Adeeb formed the Syrian Environmental Protection Association – a private group that encourages pupils at schools across Damascus to promote environmental awareness by recycling paper and plastic and riding bikes instead of taking buses or driving cars.

“The aim of the association is to raise awareness among the younger generation of Syrians who will inherit this environment some day,” said Adeeb. “We want young people to learn how they can help and then take that message and spread it to others.”

The association has financed programmes which look at ways of protecting drinking water and decreasing deforestation, he said.

“Recently, we completed work on a project to plant 600 new trees around Damascus,” he added.

“We are also in the process of another initiative to help clean up the Barada river basin in Damascus.”

According to Adeeb, overgrazing, soil erosion, raw waste dumping and desertification have contributed to the contamination of the river, which in some areas is more like an open sewage canal than a river.

But education alone will not be enough to end these damaging environmental problems, said Kharboutli.

“The government should set an example,” he said. “We need laws that protect natural forests and help relocate air and water polluting industries away from homes and bodies of water. We also need to find better ways to dispose of toxic waste.”

In 2002, the government approved Environmental Law No. 50 that established a special fund to contribute toward financing national environmental projects.

Lawmakers in Damascus have also partnered with the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, which provides policy advice and also links Syria with various pilot projects aimed at improving conservation efforts.

UNDP Syria helped facilitate a European Union-funded project in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan that aims to reduce the negative impact on the environment caused by the production of olive oil without harming the growth of this sector.

Such large-scale initiatives coupled with increasing awareness among younger Syrians should put the country on the right track in the future, hopes Damascus-based judge Bassam Asaad.

“By educating our young and following through on community and national conservation projects, we’re providing a way for all members of society to participate in making the country more environmentally sound,” he said.

March 31st, 2009, 8:10 pm


jad said:

Dear Norman,
Thank you for bringing a piece of some good news regarding Syria environment.
I knew about the green Syria association, they are trying to do something, there is another environmental organization doing some work as well but both have no real power to implement what we need most; a strict law for environment protection and waste management, nevertheless, what they are doing are highly appreciated, yet, We are still way behind of what we can do to our Syria.

Please read:
“God has lent us the earth for our life, it is a great entail. It belongs as much to those who are to come after us, and whose names are already written in the book of creation, as to us; and we have no right, by anything that we do or neglect, to involve them in unnecessary penalties, or deprive them of benefits which it is in power to bequeath”
That, what John Ruskin wrote more than 150 years ago…yet we don’t get the message….
Thank you again Norman.
And that is my take!!

March 31st, 2009, 9:07 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Amir in Tel Aviv,

Your link didn’t show Israel was “racist”.

Can you please “get with the program” and refrain from showing these types of videos?

The Management;)

April 1st, 2009, 12:29 am


majid said:

I find Chris’ arguments very logical, especially those with regards to the relevance of the Sudanese politics to the Syrian politics under what he described as king of Syria.
The Arabs are heading towards a dead end in the area of conforming to international law. Syria and Sudan are two such States that will perhaps have to face a mortal clash with the international community. Obviously mr. Assad did not reveive assurances of immunity from prosecution from all the delegates that have been confering with him. So he had to raise the issue in the only quasi-international forum (Arab meeting) available for him at the cost of embarassing many of the Arab leaders.

April 1st, 2009, 1:49 am


norman said:

Hay Jad ,

I just noticed that you bought my ((( And that is my take ))) for a 100,000 UD Dollars ,

When are palning to wire it to my bank account ?.

April 1st, 2009, 1:56 am


Off the Wall said:

This is Bad, the governor or Aleppo stops Wannus’s play after objection from clerics

محافظ حلب يوقف مسرحية لسعد الله ونوس بعد احتجاج رجال الدين – ملف خاص

إعداد أحمد الخليل – كلنا شركاء
03/ 04/ 2009
قام بعض رجال الدين في مدينة حلب (شمال سورية) بالاحتجاج على عرض مسرحية (طقوس الإشارات والتحولات) وقدموا شكوى لمحافظ حلب الذي أمر بإيقاف العرض في اليوم الثاني لها، كما تفاجأ الممثلون في العرض بطلب إدارة فندق (البلانت) منهم إخلاء غرفهم في نفس اليوم الذي قرر المحافظ عدم تكملة عروض (طقوس الإشارات والتحولات)

حيث أثارت المسرحية في حلب حفيظة بعض المحافظين ورجال الدين الأمر الذي لم يحصل حين عرضها بمدينة حماة المشهورة كمدينة محافظة جدا في سورية ،كما أن العرض قدم مؤخرا في دمشق ليومين متتاليين، بل إن النص المطبوع، الذي كتبه الراحل سعد الله ونوس، نشر قبل حوالي أربعة عشر عاما لم يثر أية إشكالات رقابية.
نص ونوس يعتبر من أجرأ أعماله المسرحية، وهو يعرِض، من بين ما يعرض، لبعض الشخصيات ذات المناصب الدينية، مثل مفتي الديار الشامية (تم حذف الشامية من العرض)، ونقيب الأشراف، ومتصوّف تحوّل إلى التصوّف بعد فضيحة القبض عليه مع غانية. ويبدو أن هذا التناول لمناصب دينية هو ما أثار حفيظة جمهور حلب، حيث وصلت الاحتجاجات، حسب ما قال بعض المسرحيين ، إلى شخصيات دينية طالبت محافظ حلب بإيقاف العرض.
وكان العرض قد نال سابقا موافقة لجان الرقابة المختصة من قبل في مديرية المسارح، وهو من إنتاج وزارة الثقافة في سوريا إلى جانب المركز الثقافي الفرنسي، وبدعم من الاتحاد الأوروبي ومشروع الشراكة الأوروبية المتوسطية.
وكان مخرج العرض الفرنسي السوري الأصل وسام عربش، الذي قدّم سابقاً (جدارية) محمود درويش بحضور الشاعر الراحل في باريس قد صرح لصحيفة السفير: (إيقاف العرض مفاجئ لي، بعدما استجبنا لما أرادته الرقابة. يفاجئني أيضاً أن بعض رجال الدين هو الذي أوقف العرض لا السياسة، ولكن الغريب أن أحداً لم يقل لنا لماذا أوقف العرض، ولا نعرف مع من نتكلم. المهم أن الحدث علّمنا أن المسرح ما زال قادراً على التأثير والفعل. نحن في النهاية سمعنا صوت سعد الله ونوس، وسنسمعه ليس فقط في سوريا، بل كذلك في فرنسا).
وكان وزير الثقافة السوري قد صرح للعربية نت: (بأنه تم الاكتفاء بعرض مسرحية “طقوس الإشارات والتحولات” لمرة واحدة في مدينة حلب السورية، لأنها أساءت إلى آل البيت من خلال الحديث عن نقيب الأشراف وعلاقته بمومس، نافياً صدور قرار بمنع عرض المسرحية وإنما تم وقف عرض ثان لها لأنها لم تلتزم بحذف جمل تسيء لآل البيت وشخصية المفتين، وذلك بعد احتجاجات من قبل المفتي وشخصيات دينية عديدة).
وتنطلق المسرحية، التي ألفها المسرحي الراحل سعدالله ونوس، من حادثة تاريخية كان فخري البارودي أوردها في مذكراته “تضامن أهل دمشق”، عندما يدبر مفتي دمشق خلال الحكم العثماني القبض على نقيب الأشراف متلبساً في وضع فضائحي مع إحدى العاهرات. لكن المفتي يتنبه إلى فضيحة سجن نقيب الأشراف مع المومس، وما يلحقه ذلك من أذى لسمعة الأشراف، حيث يستمد المفتي سلطته من موقعهم واحترام الناس لهم. لذلك يستبدل المومس بزوجة نقيب الأشراف لتدارك الفضيحة، إلا أن ذلك الإجراء يبدل في مصائر شخصيات العمل الأساسية.
إن استلهام هذه الحادثة في مسرحية (طقوس الإشارات والتحولات) ينفي تماما ما يحاول وزير الثقافة الإيحاء به من أن المسرحية تسيء لآل البيت إلا إذا كان الاحتلال العثماني استمرار لحقبة الخليفة علي كرم الله وجهه(!!)
والمسرحية تتعرض لمفتي ولا تتعرض للدين، فهل كل المفتين (شرفاء)؟ فالمفتي يخطئ ويصيب ولديه أهواء ورغبات كأي بشر آخر وبالتالي يصبح تناول رجل الدين بعرض مسرحي أو فيلم أمر مشروع تماما، رغم أن رجال الدين يحاولون إقناع العامة بأنهن هم الممثلون الحصريون للدين وبأن نقدهم هو إساءة للدين…
ومن جهة أخرى إن نص المسرحية منشور من سنوات طويلة في سورية والعرض نال كل الموافقات المطلوبة فما الذي أثار كل هذا اللغط؟ يقول المثل (اللي فيه مسلة بتنخزوا) هذا يعني أن العرض حك على جرب بعض المسؤولين ورجال الدين!!

(طقوس الإشارات والتحولات)
عرض جريء يكشف المستور

يذهب المخرج الفرنسي الشاب وسام عربش (من أصل سوري) في عرضه المسرحي (طقوس الإشارات والتحولات) إلى مناطق محفوفة بالمخاطر ومسورة بالتابوات، فنص سعدالله ونوس الذي يميط اللثام عن دواخل المجتمع الشرقي المغلف بالأقنعة بقي بعيدا عن اهتمام المسرحيين السوريين عامة لخوف (إن هم قاربوه فكريا وجماليا) من بطش مجتمعي مازال كشف المستور فيه يعد (كفرا) ومروقا يهدد تماسك مزيف لمجتمع مدجج بالمحرمات!!
المركز الثقافي الفرنسي ومسرح لوف أديبا بالتعاون مع مديرية المسارح والموسيقا قدموا الفرصة لنص مختلف عليه (كتبه ونوس عام 1994) ليرى النور على الخشبة في سورية بعد محاولات سابقة عدة لإخراج هذا النص إلا أنها فشلت كما هي حال المخرجة المسرحية الألمانية فريدريكه فيلدبيك، وأشيع أن أسباب رقابية حالت دون استكمال المشروع والذي أدى لنشوب خلاف حاد بين المخرجة الألمانية والفنان نوار بلبل الذي كان سيساعد فريدريكه بالإخراج إضافة للعبه دور المفتي في العرض،لكن النص قدمته نضال أشقر في لبنان و زيد مصطفى في الأردن.
في (طقوس الإشارات والتحولات) نحن أمام رؤية مغايرة في استلهام الحادثة التاريخية والتي برع فيها ونوس حيث ينزع الأقنعة التنكرية عن وجوه شخصياته، ويواجهها بحقيقتها وتناقضاتها ، أنها شخصيات تراجيدية يعريها ونوس بجرأة ليكشف لنا عن هوية مجتمع يتسم أفراده بالصراع الحاد بين الأهواء والأخلاق والنزوات ليجد الحل بحياتين ظاهرة وباطنة….
ولكن هل تتصالح الشخصيات مع نفسها كما هي حالة المومس التي تعيش حياة واحدة لا تناقض فيها ولا أقنعة؟
يلقى القبض على نقيب الأشراف في أثناء وجوده مع خليلته على يد قائد الدرك عزت بك، ويتدخل المفتى – وهو العدو الأول لنقيب الأشراف – بمكر مع قائد الدرك لإخراج نقيب الأشراف من هذه الورطة بمساعدة زوجة النقيب التي تشترط مقابل ذلك الحصول على الطلاق . وبعد هذه الأحداث تتحول أغلب شخصيات المسرحية إلى نقيضها، فالفاسق يصبح عابدًا زاهدًا، والمؤمنة تتحول إلى عاهرة…
المسرحية تواجه باستفزاز فكري مجتمع محافظ يريح نفسه بالانغلاق على السر فالمرأة الشابة ترفض الحياة ضمن طبقة عالية ذات شأن وسمعة تغلفها الاكاذيب وتطالب بالطلاق لتصبح عاهرة. أما الزوج (نقيب الأشراف) زير نساء سابق غارق بمتع الحياة في يقع ضحية خدعة سياسية يحيكها له المفتي،وفي خط آخر يقوم شاب متورط بعلاقة جنسية لوطية بالانتحار تحت وطأة الحزن والكآبة بعد أن يُرفض منطقه في الحب الشاذ…
العرض يركز على مسألة التصالح مع الذات من خلال تقديم شخصيات منكسرة مع ذاتها تعد في مظهرها منزهة عن الهفوات، لكنها في الواقع تغرق في شهواتها وغرائزها.
في العرض ثمة تقاطع بين خطين سياسي موجود في أغلب نصوص ونوس، كشف خبايا الطبقة الحاكمة وخط إنساني نرى من خلاله صراعات الأهواء البشرية وتوقها للتصالح مع النفس رغم قمع المنظومات الفكرية التي تحاول الحفاظ على المجتمع من خلال استمراره كقطيع متراص…
شخصيات (طقوس الإشارات والتحولات) عنيفة في مواجهة بعضها منكسرة وضعيفة أمام ذواتها باستثناء شخصية المومس،أما شخصية المفتي فهي شخصية غير متصالحة مع نفسها تضمر خلافا لما تظهر لذلك نراه مختلا في مسيرته الحياتية مهزوزا يتستر بالدين لتغطية ما يمارس من شهوات…
المخرج وسام عربش في عرضه الافتتاحي المقدم على خشبة مركز ثقافي حماة (18/3) لجأ إلى صيغة فنية تشبه الموشور الذي يكشف لنا كل جوانب شخصياته، فالديكور مقسم لثلاث طبقات تتحرك بسهولة يمسكها محور واحد تتوضع في مقدمة ومنتصف الخشبة ومع كل مشهد يدور الديكور فيكسر رتابة المشاهد المتتالية في عرض طويل (ساعتين تقريبا)…من ناحية ثانية لم يلجأ المخرج للإضاءة القوية الكاشفة والمتنوعة كثيرا، فخفوت الإضاءة بشكل عام حافظ على غلالة شفافة تكشف الخفايا في زوايا البيوت المعتمة ودواخل الشخصيات…وفي بعض المشاهد وخاصة (الحوارات بين ألماسة والغانية) كانت الستارة الشفافة المسدلة تارة والمرفوعة أخرى تتناغم مع حركة الشخصيات وتقلباتها ومواجهاتها مع الآخرين
في حين أردات قضبان الحديد والأقفال المتعددة إشعارنا بأننا في سجن واحد هو الانغلاق على أهوائنا ورغباتنا، رغم أن هذا السجن يكشف كل هواجسنا ونفاقنا.
مخرج العرض ألبس شخصياته لباسا معاصرا فحتى المفتي (يرتدي طقما و(برنيطة) وربطة عنق كدلالة على استمرار ذهنية الانغلاق والتستر بمكارم الأخلاق رغم تبدل الأزياء والألوان ومرور الزمن.
ممثلو العرض مجموعة من خريجي المعهد العالي للفنون المسرحية اجتهدوا للامساك بشخصياتهم من خلال محاولة فهم تناقضات هذه الشخصيات وسلوكها وحركتها، وقدموا أدوارا جريئة (عاهرات، لواطة، مفتي متصابي…) ضمن رؤية إخراجية لم تجمل الواقع ولم تداور عليه، بل قدمت لنا بدون أقنعة مجتمعنا عبر شخصيات تكثف واقعا يراوح في مكانه بفرض كوابح فكرية وسياسية عليه تبقيه في حالة ضياع تجلى ممثلو العرض في تجسيدها…(ناندا محمد في دور المومس، حلا عمران في دور ألماسة، كفاح الخوص في دور المفتي، تيسير أدريس في دور الأب، سعد لوستان في دور نقيب الاشراف، وأسامة حلال في دور الأخ، وسيف أبو أسعد في دور الشاذ، إضافة للفرزدق ديوب وجمال المنير..)
الفنيون: بيسان الشريف، بسام حميدي، فؤاد عضيمي، غيث المحمود
السينوفرافيا والأزياء: بيير أندريه فيتز
التصميم الإعلاني: أحمد معلا، المدير التقني: بسام الطويل….
الإنتاج: المركز الثقافي الفرنسي ومديرية المسارح بدعم من الاتحاد الأوروبي

April 6th, 2009, 3:08 am


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