Syrians act in playback theater to heal war trauma

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In this Friday, Feb. 8, 2019 photo, a team of Syrian actors takes part in a playback theater at the end of a three-month training session, in Beirut, Lebanon. Syrians from different parts of their war-torn country have gathered inside a theater telling their stories that are later re-acted by a group of Syrians who have been training on playback theater. (AP)
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In this Friday, Feb. 8, 2019 photo, Syrian actor Hassan takes part in a playback theater at the end of a three-month training session, in Beirut, Lebanon. Syrians from different parts of their war-torn country have gathered inside a theater telling their stories that are later re-acted by a group of Syrians who have been training on playback theater. (AP)
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In this Friday, Feb. 8, 2019 photo, a team of Syrian actors take part in a playback theater at the end of a three-month training session, in Beirut, Lebanon. The aim of the training, that was held for the first time in a Beirut theater, is to raise awareness of conflict, help in reconciliation and initiate dialogue between rival groups. (AP)
Updated 15 February 2019
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Syrians act in playback theater to heal war trauma

  • The group of seven men and three women has been training for three months to do “playback theater” during which members of the audience tell their stories and then see them re-enacted on stage
  • The training was organized by Fighters for Peace, which was founded in 2014 by former Lebanese militia members

BEIRUT: The young Syrian woman walked on stage and began telling the story of her brother’s kidnapping in the early years of her country’s civil war, wiping away tears as she recalled the 2013 incident that changed her life.
The woman, who identified herself as Mae from a government stronghold in the central city of Homs, said Ihsan’s kidnapping in 2013 turned her into a more tolerant person, despite the eight-year conflict that has killed more than 400,000 people and displaced half the country’s population.
Inside the theater in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, Syrians from other parts of the country who support rival factions listened carefully to what she said.
Once she was done, 10 Syrian actors dressed in black began re-enacting what Mae had just said, one of them screaming: “Ihsan, I miss you a lot!” Another walked on stage and said: “No matter what our religion or ethnicity is, we are all Syrians.”
The group of seven men and three women has been training for three months to do “playback theater” during which members of the audience tell their stories and then see them re-enacted on stage — an initiative to get war victims to talk through their trauma, initiate dialogue and help forge reconciliation.
The training was organized by Fighters for Peace, which was founded in 2014 by former Lebanese militia members who took part in their country’s destructive 1975-90 civil war and are now peace activists. They have been using playback theater for years as part of their campaign to promote peace and try to prevent another breakout of war in Lebanon.
Despite the mostly friendly atmosphere in the hall on the on the top floor of a building in Beirut, tensions boiled over at one point, reflecting the bitterness and hate that nearly eight years of war has created in Syria.
Once they were done reacting, a young man in the audience stood up angrily and shouted at Mae, screaming that the government was to blame for everything that happened over the past years in Syria in a tone that showed he did not care about her brother’s fate.
“You are hurting me,” the woman replied, to which he responded: “I want to hurt you,” before he burst out of the theater.
Syria’s conflict began in March 2011 with largely peaceful protests against President Bashar Assad’s rule but eventually turned into an armed insurgency and civil war after a violent crackdown on the protest movement. It has occasionally spilled over to neighboring Lebanon, where the country’s population is divided between supporters of the Syrian government and others who support the opposition. Related fighting in Lebanon between rival groups in recent years has left dozens of people dead or wounded, mostly in the northern city of Tripoli.
“By reacting to what the members of the audience say, we are supporting them morally and helping them heal,” said Maher Sheikh Khodor, 28, a freelance photographer and graphic designer from Syria who has been living in Lebanon since 2014.
Khodor, who is from the central Syrian town of Salamiyeh and has been training in playback theater for months added that the work helped participants meet Syrians from other ethnicities and sects. “We are Syrians from all parts of Syria and all of its sects,” he said.
Another team member, Hassan Aqoul, 28, said the training “broke the ice between us.” Aqoul, who has been living in Lebanon since 2012, said those who trained them are experienced and a few days after the training started “we started feeling as if we have been friends for a long time.”
“They have good ideas. They were fighters and now reconciled and discovered that they were wrong,” he said.
Asaad Chaftari, a former commander with the Lebanese Christian right-wing militia, the Lebanese Forces, confessed and publicly apologized years ago for his role in atrocities committed during Lebanon’s civil war that killed 150,000 people. He is now an active member of Fighters for Peace and for years has been campaigning for peace.
“Violence leads to nowhere and this is what we discovered in Lebanon. That at the end, everybody will have to sit together and search for a new way to live in their country,” Chaftari said.


The ethical gold rush: Gilded age for guilt-free jewelry

Updated 21 April 2019
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The ethical gold rush: Gilded age for guilt-free jewelry

  • Specialized producers now tack a “fairmined” ecologically friendly label on their output
  • Swiss house Chopard last year became the first big name to commit to “100 percent ethical” creations

PARIS: Forget how many carats — how ethical is your gold? As high-end consumers demand to know the origin of their treasures, some jewellers are ensuring they use responsibly sourced, eco-friendly or recycled gold.
Specialized producers now tack a “fairmined” ecologically friendly label on their output, and the Swiss house Chopard last year became the first big name to commit to “100 percent ethical” creations.
The Geneva-based firm, which makes the Palme d’Or trophy for the Cannes Film Festival, says it now uses only verified suppliers of gold that meet strict standards to minimize negative environmental impacts of mining the precious metal.
Among the many certificates and standards claiming to codify “responsible” goldmining, two labels stand out.
They are “fairmined” gold — a label certified by a Colombian NGO — and the more widely known “fairtrade” label launched by Swiss foundation Max Havelaar.
Both support artisanal mines that seek to preserve the environment in terms of extraction methods, along with decent working conditions and wages for the miners.
Such production remains limited — just a few hundred kilograms annually. Global gold output by comparison totals around 3,300 tons.
Concerned jewellers are keen to ensure they can trace the source of their entire supply to an ethical production cycle and to firms certified by the not-for-profit Responsible Jewellery Council, which has developed norms for the entire supply chain.
RJC members must adhere to tough standards governing ethical, human rights, social and environmental practices across the precious metals industry.
The French luxury group Kering, which says it has bought more than 3.5 tons of “responsibly produced” gold since 2015 for its Boucheron, Pomellato, Dodo and Gucci brands, has committed to 100 percent use of “ethical” gold by 2020.
“We are trying to maximize the proportion of Fairmined and Fairtrade gold — but their modest production is in great demand so the bulk of our sourcing remains recycled gold, (which is) certified ‘RJC Chain of Custody’,” says Claire Piroddi, sustainability manager for Kering’s jewelry and watches.
Fairmined or Fairtrade gold is “about 10 to 12 percent more expensive. But recycled gold barely generates any additional cost premium,” Piroddi told AFP, since it was already refined for a previous life in the form of jewelry or part of a high-tech product.
Going a step further, using only precious metal from electronic or industrial waste is an original idea developed by Courbet, a brand launched just last spring.
“We do not want to promote mining extraction or use recently extracted gold, so we sought suppliers who recycle gold used in graphics cards or computer processors. That’s because we know today that more than half of gold’s available reserves have already been extracted,” says Marie-Ann Wachtmeister, Courbet’s co-founder and artistic director.
She says the brand’s watchwords are ethical and environmental consciousness.
“In a mine, a ton of terrain might contain five grams of gold, whereas a ton of electronic waste might generate 200 grams,” Wachtmeister says.
“Clients are also demanding an ecological approach more and more — they are aware of their day-to-day impact and consider the origin of what they wear,” she adds.
“The issue of supply really resonates with the public at large,” adds Thierry Lemaire, director general of Ponce, a jewelry firm that was established in Paris’s fashionable Marais district in 1886.
The company is RJC-certified and uses only recycled gold.
“There is a logic to that — if we want to do our work well, then let’s go the whole hog and respect nature. That can be done today because the entire chain has become standardised.
“Studios such as ours that work for major names on Place Vendome are all certified,” Lemaire says, referring to an upscale square in Paris.
He represents the fifth generation of family firm Ponce, which produces 45,000 gold rings a year from recycled gold.
Working in a pungent atmosphere of heated metal, refiners sit hunched over polishing machines, a large leather hide slung over their knees to catch the tiniest shaving.
“Every Friday, we have a great clearout and go over the workshop with a fine-tooth comb to pick up little bits of (gold) dust and shavings,” Lemaire says.
“Nothing is lost, it’s a truly virtuous chain.”