Workshop blog - To be or not to be? That is the question.

Day 17

Back to work in a new space - a yoga studio on the 7th floor of a building looking out to sea.  Large windows, cool, bright, and makes you want to take a deeeeeeep breath.  Everyone is very pleased with it.
Straight back into where they left off with the director - who has done their homework? Writing a monologue of one of the characters, but in their own words and not in classical arabic.  There are still those that struggle not to write in classical. (I asked Zarifa why this is but she couldn't answer me. She said that she didn't know but she just can't. All written Arabic text is classical so it's almost ingrained in them.)
Discussions about characters - Is Creon a dictator? Most of them think so.
How did Antigone die? Suicide. Why did she commit suicide?  Ahlam comments, “Why wait for the king to kill you, it’s better to kill yourself.”
Radhia replies, “Life is precious.”
Ahlam retorts, “Forget precious, it’s better to kill yourself.”
“If we wanted to die we would have stayed in Syria”, states Radhia.
The director asks, “Have any of you tried to commit suicide?” Half the group have.  We hear stories of slitting wrists, swallowing bleach, overdoses, cuts with knives.  Some of them laughing as they’re telling their stories, to the point where I think I have misunderstood the question. But no, I haven't.

Hajja talks about being at home after the deaths of her two sons (which happened within a year of each other) and feeling strangled, like she couldn’t breath. She goes out onto the streets and walks for hours with so many thoughts, contemplating suicide, not knowing what to do. And she said,”You reach a point when you get close to suicide that you see the beauty in life.” I love her.

Then Isra’a, who is a very young 16yrs (remember we have two Isra’as in the group) says she wanted to kill herself due to domestic problems.  There was so much pressure on her mum and dad. She is one of 6 children and both her parents worked but couldn’t afford to keep the family, she would see her mum crying a lot and Isra’a thought if she killed herself it would make life easier for her parents but she didn’t have the courage to do it.  Tears roll down her cheeks. Sighs, tuts and sounds of sympathy come from the rest of the group.
The writer comments that he is surprised so many of them have thought about or tried to commit suicide.  “Life is difficult, especially for women here” Zarifa replies.
The conversation moves on. The director asks, “If you die, would you be a shaheeda?” (Shaheed literally means ‘witness’ or ‘martyr’ in Arabic, not necessarily used in a religious context, but also fighting for a cause, particularly one’s country). Half say yes. "I would fight with the Syrian Army and I would die for Syria.” Another answers, “Suicide is wrong.” “I would die for God”, says another. The debate goes on, what is a shaheeda (feminine form of shaheed) anyway? The FSA/regime question flares up, Israel also comes into the conversation. “In Palestine it’s easier because you know who the Israelis are. In Syria you don’t know who is going to kill you, it could be anyone.  We’re killing each other - Muslim on Muslim - it’s wrong. What are they fighting and killing for?”
The director brings it back to Antigone and we finish by making a tableau of her suicide.  

An interesting day.