A new play depicting the stories of families in Mosul during the rule of the so-called Islamic State has taken to the stage in the city of Nasiriya in southern Iraq.
Presented by the Artists’ Syndicate in the province of Dhi Qar, to which Nasiriya is the provincial capital, the play attempts to highlight through visual and expressive imagery the suffering of those who lived under ISIS’ barbaric rule. It also seeks to remember those who were used as human shields by ISIS militants in the battle to liberate Mosul.
On a dimly lit stage with black and red hues filling the backdrop, it is a frank reminder of the dark days of ISIS rule, and according to the play’s director, Abu al-Hussein Mahoud, provides an illustration of being “closer to the Old City” where the final battle against ISIS took place.
For the lead actor, Salam Shishan, who has returned to the stage after an extended absence, the play is an emotional catharsis and an attempt to erase the bad memory of the past.
“We show all the suffering of the people of these cities of great Iraq, and their continuous waiting and great expectations for the return of the Iraqi army to liberate them,” said Shishan. “And the result is the end of ISIS’ myth, which is already over.”
With the complete defeat of ISIS in Iraq an ever closer reality, many people have been dealing with the trauma of living under the militant group’s rule in different ways. Some have returned to their art or music, while many have simply attempted to move on with their lives and forget about the past, in large part due to the very limited psycho-social support and available treatment. Yet for others, the theatre has remained the prime avenue through which to document and portray their experiences.
In Mosul following liberation, a group of students from the university’s fine arts department organised a play entitled “Tickets and Travellers,” which highlighted daily life under ISIS and the widespread destruction of the city’s infrastructure and architecture.
In Dohuk, a theatre clinic has opened for patients suffering from psychological problems by helping them find relief by taking the stage to act. And in the city of Ramadi in Anbar Province, a cultural revival is taking place with local people involving themselves in theatre performances after ISIS. While the memory of ISIS is still etched on the minds of millions of Iraqis, it is hoped that performances and cultural avenues like these will go some way to closing the chapter on the group, thus rendering them a distant memory.