Author: Hozan Akko, September 7 2016 - A new radio drama for Syrians hopes to bridge divides and help people deal with the pressures of prolonged conflict.
To the relief of her family, a woman miraculously emerges from the rubble of a collapsed building on a small street in a Syrian suburb. She is scratched and dusty but otherwise unscathed. Amidst the sirens, there is the faint sound of broken wood and glass cracking beneath her feet. She’s escaped with her life – but her family business, a small restaurant, has been completely destroyed in the blast. Gazing back at the restaurant ruins, Archi has already resolved to rebuild what she has lost.
This is a scene from Hay El-Matar (Airport District), a new radio drama for Syrians living inside and outside the country which premiere[d September 4].
The 150-part drama series – accompanied by a weekly discussion programme - has all the hallmarks of a classic soap opera: love affairs, family feuds and tragedy. By portraying experiences common to many Syrians, Hay El-Matar hopes to foster peace and help people across different ethnic, geographical and religious divides to cope with the prolonged conflict.
Despite being a fictional character, Archi’s story of resilience reflects many of the challenges faced by Syrians at home and abroad. We recently played recordings of the storyline to Syrians living in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Many were inspired by Archi’s resolve to revive her business against the odds.
“[Archi’s] determination to keep the restaurant open no matter what circumstances and negative things happen around her, is something I can relate to; I feel like I have her determination too”, said a teenage boy, living in a refugee camp in Beqaa, east of Lebanon.
By Syrians for Syrians
Hay El-Matar’s dramatic storylines are inspired by real experiences.
There are four Syrian writers and 40 Syrian actors working on the drama, as well as myself and a deputy editor. Some of them live in Syria which helps them to write stories that reflect the reality of life there. They are powerful stories because they are authentic, timely and Syrians can relate to them.
Before Hay El-Matar, I’d always worked in TV and film so writing for radio was a particularly interesting challenge for me. The medium gives me much more freedom to be creative. Effectively my writers and I are blind – our challenge, to make others see through sound.
Using fiction to discuss real issues
One of the aims of the drama is to humanise the conflict. Life goes on in Syria despite the fighting. Through fiction, we’re bringing people together to discuss real issues affecting real lives – which may also give them a degree of psychological support. As a young Syrian women said, she would listen to the programme together with her family, “because it’s a shared pain.” I hope as the series develops, it can act as a shared healing too.
Hay El-Matar is produced in partnership with Batoota Films and broadcast on BBC Arabic in Lebanon on 93.6 FM and in Syria on 720 MW. It is also available to listen in Arabic on the programme website and SoundCloud.
Image credit: BBC Media Action, cpation: "Najwa Kondakji plays the role of Archi, a character in the radio drama Hay El-Matar"
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