“Berlin gave me what I wanted: freedom, wildness. I could be who I wanted to be,” said Enana Alassar, a twenty-two year old Syrian actress and musician living in Germany. “In Berlin I learned to let go of my obsession to possess, of my desires to be possessed.”
On Thursday, September 21st, Enana came to Brussels to present the book: Letters to Europe – Refugee Women Write. The evening included a performance of the play, Refugee (Woman) 🙂 where Enana performed alongside Konstantin and Gudrun Bucholz. The event was organized by FutureLab Europe, a project of the European Alliance for Democratic Citizenship, affiliated to the Network of European Foundations and initiated by the Körber Foundation. It is operated by the European Policy Centre.
“I am who I am. And I enjoy it,” says Enana during the play. “Nothing ever stopped me. And nothing will now.”
The play addresses common perceptions, and often misconceptions, of the labels used to define refugees and women in our day-to-day lives. The book includes stories from women in different geographies including Colombia, Jamaica, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Iran, among others. Its main goal is to make these women, all refugee women, the subjects and authors of their own stories, not the object of someone else’s narrative. The script of the play has readings from some of the letters included in the book, as well as segments from Enana’s own story.
“Living in Syria was suffocating,” said Enana in an interview after the play. “It is illegal to be gay or lesbian. My parents feared for me, for my safety, and I understand that. But I wish they had done it differently, without all the pretending. I wish we could have had a more open communication. That’s what I would have done with my own child.”
In the past few years, there has been a current of thinkers and philosophers – among them Fatema Mernissi – who believe it is possible to be a feminist and follow the law of Islam.
“For me it doesn’t work,” said Enana. “Maybe you could be a heterosexual feminist. But a lesbian feminist? I don’t see how Islam could accept gays and lesbians in the foreseeable future. Not long ago I met a gay imam in Berlin. Yes, a gay imam. And everything he said made sense to me. But what percentage of the Muslim population thinks like him? It’s minimal.”
In the play, Gudrun Buchholz, a german-speaker born in the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, tells the story of her childhood, how she had to leave the country in 1945-46. Her grandson, Konstantin Buchholz, wrote and directed the play. He was born and raised in Germany.
“I think in life there’s no black and white explanation,” he said in an interview after the play. “If you were to ask the Czech people, the generation who witnessed the war, they would have their version of the events. I know my grandma’s version, of course, but that’s not the only story. I cannot judge for what happened during and after the war. I just want her story to be known.”
Tino, as he is known among friends, collaborated in this project with Albert Meijer, Yolanda Trujillo and Tom Schmidt. The four submitted their ideas, all revolving around the topic of refugees, for a project to FutureLab Europe. The program enables bright young Europeans aged 20-30 from across the continent to shape the future of Europe through civic engagement.
“Doing this project changed my perception of what happens in Brussels and the EU,” said Tino. “Before it was a lot more blurred. I started working with refugees back in 2012, and the opportunity of working with FutureLab was amazing. It made this possible. It made possible working with Enana and my grandmother.”