3 December 2018 • Ligthouse
Theatre performance gives a different view of refugee students
About 700 refugee students from Syria are currently following a degree programme at a university of applied sciences or research university in the Netherlands. It is no mean feat for these students to shape their futures and become part of our society. With his new theatre performance ‘Kinderen van Aleppo’ (Children of Aleppo), theatre maker and winner of the Gouden Kalf award, George Tobal, in collaboration with the Foundation for Refugee Students, UAF, is asking for attention for the students’ dreams of the future, their courage and their amazing perseverance.
Kinderen van Aleppo highlights a weighted theme in a light-hearted manner. Tobal’s talent and professionalism enable him to have a feel of how to write and narrate this story of ‘the stolen revolution’. Tobal keeps his distance from the complexities of the Syrian civil war. He has taken a different track by going deeper into the personal stories and experiences of the students who saw the peaceful revolution to improve their society, that preceded the civil war, at close quarters or were even involved in the first protests. This has made the performance human and tangible. The student life in Aleppo, also the amusing and naive sides, are presented in the show and it is often comparable to the life of students in the Netherlands.
Kinderen van Aleppo
The performance is based on true stories from students who were involved in the first protests for more freedom in Syria. In a personal monologue, Tobal tells the story of these peaceful students whose revolution was stolen from them. Tobal emphasises that the show is not about pitiful refugees: “Many of the Dutch dismiss the fact that many of these students were once freedom fighters, without weapons, who fought for a better future for their country. We are so easily blinded by prejudices. I hope that I show a different side of Syria and of these brave students.”
George Tobal himself also fled Syria. He had to wait eleven years for a residency permit and the UAF gave him the opportunities he needed to develop his talent and do what his heart desired: acting and making theatre. Tobal: “It was quite scary to suddenly be part of a society when you haven’t been for so long. I needed someone to support me when I was at my most vulnerable. The UAF was my safety net at that time.”
Kinderen van Aleppo was given four stars by the theatre magazine Scenes . The show is being performed in the context of the 70th anniversary of the UAF. The UAF has been taking the show to universities of applied sciences and research universities since end October. On Tuesday, 11 December the show can be seen in the Auditorium at The Hague University of Applied Sciences from 4.15 pm. After the show, Sahar Shirzad (THUAS student of International and European Law) will discuss the performance with George Tobal.
The UAF has been working with THUAS for years to offer better support to refugee students during their studies and to prepare them for the employment market. There are presently 35 Syrian refugees studying at THUAS with support from the UAF.