Tag Archives: refugees

SPRING REIGN, The Lowry 19/5/15

I watched a play this Tuesday about a cause that is very dear to my heart, since I travelled last year to the border towns of Syria/Turkey and met refugees. My thesis is also based on this war-torn country so the play was extremely insightful. Have a read below and watch out for it in the future! A must see for all! X

A story from the Syrian conflict, devised by the company and scripted by award-winning writer Rob Johnston. Produced and directed by Benedict Power.
Syria has descended into civil war and Aleppo is besieged. Salah and Aisha have lost control of their lives and are plunging headlong into an uncertain future. The Syria they hoped to change is gone, in its place, violence and destruction – the arbitrary brutality of war. With the unexpected arrival of two Westerners, who have stayed too long in Syria and must now be given refuge, the fragile existence of the Syrian couple comes under even greater threat. How will they survive as they fall further away from hope, from what they know and from what they used to be?
Based on real-life accounts collected from Syrian refugees, aid workers, activists, journalists and photographers, Spring Reign features live per­formance, video, original music performed by Chris Davies, and frontline photography by Musa Chowdhury.

“Spring Reign is rich with images, music, politics, stories, character, language, situation and relevance.”

Matt Fenton – Artistic Director of Contact Theatre 


Rites – A Co Production between National Theatre of Scotland and Contact, supported by Scottish Refugee Council and Dignity Alert Research Forum, created by Cora Bissett and Yusra Warsama

Rites is a fantastic play based on interviews conducted with people with diverse experiences of Female Genital Mutilation throughout the UK. A deeply complex issue, the play provokes thoughts and debates by putting a taboo subject out into the public domain. Co created by a beautiful friend of mine, Yusra Warsama, it was harrowing but deeply enriching to watch, providing a platform for voices not often heard.

‘Do u think its wrong? Its just what we do. An ugly opening or a dignified closure.’

‘We were waiting to see the pieces of flesh, cuttings of our flesh…’

‘Why didn’t you come to help me, mother?’ Girl, aged 5

‘Every survivor remembers the dress.. The day I got the polka dress was the day I became silent.’

Nurse to pregnant woman, ‘Are you sure you have not been stitched?’ ‘I don’t know how the lady should feel sexually. I can’t see what was taken from me.’

Lawyer- ‘We need education. Girls are sent back. They are the sufferers and come back depressed refusing to do P.E. Some dont come back. FGM bill in Scotland added the extra territoriality clause. Crime doesn’t have to be done on UK soil thanks to Kathleen Marshall. You can be guilty if you were involved in the arrangement. Prosecutions don’t happen though and the legislation isn’t used! We must weigh up the body’s integrity to be alive with parental privacy. The problem is lack of referrals from health officials. Unfortunately the community are all for FGM.’

‘I want my parents educated – not prosecuted. It doesn’t effectively deter people.’

‘Overtly punitive law will lead to FGM practice going underground.’

Muslim chaplain, ‘There is nothing in the Quran to say FGM is lawful. It says don’t harm others and don’t harm yourself. The Prophet Muhammed was being kind to women much earlier than the West endorsed it.’

‘Economic condition of women are a contributory factor. I hear women say that I need to preserve my daughter’s livelihood and this means marriage. Proving their virginity by type 3 cutting is a good way forward, they believe. I heard one woman say that FGM was a good way to protect against rape. I had to hold my internal feminist back and ask for an explanation.’ Fatima- activist and campaigner.

‘There is a genuine fear of cultural dilution but there are tons of somalis not interested in FGM. They are interested in living. It has to be looked at in context, its bigger than rivers- like using water to tie a knot. You just can’t quantify it.’ Student.

‘Many are caught in the dilemma to mutilate or not mutilate. Real fear has consequences.Social pain and social rejection are powerful factors. Initiative to bring about change would be great but if people are circumcising girls you feel you have to too.’

‘I watched a film about designer vaginas. It was the first time I was seeing a normal vagina. My husband said I have the cutest vagina in the world and I replied that people are saying I’m not normal. He said I was fine yesterday- that was before I was tagged as a statistic, victim, mutilated.’ FGM survivor.

‘It’s a question of choice. Yes its an invasive procedure but I could process it as an adult. Pain was worth it and no it’s not about liking the status of having the procedure done. I understand women are not always given the choice but women of culture have a right to choose- I am pro choice! For adult women in Sierra Leone it is a form of power. The West have added the shock factor to FGM, just by labelling it as mutation, causing the patronisation of African women. When white women have plastic surgery to get a designer vagina, it’s vogue!’

‘There is an increase in teenage female genital surgeries which I think is still FGM cutting process 1 & 2 types. The campaign to stop FGM still doesn’t sit right with me. I see the double standards and wonder if I am being coopted into a white led anti- community, anti- culture cause.’

‘Examinations taking place that lead passengers from airports to clinics, stigmatise anyone travelling with daughters. We feel this is an infringement of basic civil liberties. Often the victims are portrayed as an African Islamic child. Plenty of changes have been made and there are fewer people doing it. It has declined. There were campaigners saying no to FGM worldwide and change has happened. Lots of people have been educated. The West is only catching up now which means our voices are not being heard.’

‘People forget that a form of FGM took place in the UK and USA for many years against lesbians to remove their clitorises as a cure. Eventually they shifted away from this concept. Why don’t we believe other cultures can? Cultures are not static. It’s worrying that FGM is being discussed around Ukip agendas and rhetoric about immigration and I don’t think this is accidental.’

It’s a deeply embedded tradition from long ago. We have left it now and people have re-entered religion. Now the concept is strange.’

‘Victims are not angry. People see us as mutilated but we dont see that. It’s not like it was systematic abuse- just one act of ignorance but we educated them. We have forgiven our mothers…’

“The way agencies pressurise families is so wrong. Social workers passing judgment- it’s invasive and humiliating. Child protection orders are issued and it’s hard for parents who didn’t hide the fact that their child had gone through FGM. It’s an embedded tradition and people don’t understand it. I saw that the agencies kept being rude and dismissive with the parents. They even suggested they couldn’t work out who the father was. One social worker said, ‘I have checked and they all have got beds'”

‘If you choose to be a cutter, you have basic training and sit, watching the cutter work. You watch the knife. Then you ask to be the one to start this on your sister or family. Action aid taught me it was wrong and I stopped.’ FGM Cutter.

Fara campainer- FGM activist, ‘Women know where to find us now. We are always sharing the information that men are happier in those communities where FGM isn’t practiced.’

‘People said to me, why are you working with the youth instead of mums, grandmas and religeous leaders? I wanted to work with young people as they are the ones creating change and setting standards for the future.’

‘Its our duty to protect. A part of me was taken but I don’t have hate. I’m here because I’m loved and I have a job to do. Mum won’t change her mind but I want to teach other women so they understand the damage, pain, infection and suffering. Our bodies are our own- perfect as they are. Change starts with good men and boys saying we don’t want our females in agony. Why should women’s bodies remain the property of everyone else? Women and girls are worth more to us. Progress has been made but we still have far to go. Let’s start by listening …… ‘



WAST Workshop Part 2!

Loved working with the asylum seekers together women at WAST, Manchester! They produced some wonderful poetry for the roadshow they are devising and I am honoured to have helped them! Truly inspirational stories xxx



WAST Workshop!

Working with women asylum seekers has taught me that when we class ourselves as strong women, we are doing so by assessing a measure of our experiences and achievements. There are some women out there whose silent warrior-like strength renders ours pale in comparison, women with narratives that leave me speechless. The feats they have had to overcome are never mentioned in the media and ignored by the government. The silent lining of the underbelly, these are women who have had to leave their children behind in other countries, women who are subjected to cruelties and denied basic human rights, women who are given the measliest of food vouchers to live on, destitute women, living on less than £35 a week, women who have been detained in Yarls Wood, women mistreated at the Dallas centre, women who are left to rely on no-one else but the wonderful organisation of WAST, without whose help, many would be sent back to the very places they have fled from.
There needs to be a greater understanding that being a refugee is not a choice and that it is only the power of human connection, not rhetoric or information, that helps understand the reality of the situation. The creative strength and power of these women humbles me. If anyone is interested, the destitute women seeking asylum and those living off an income less than the benefit rate, rely on food banks and donations to help get by. If you know of anyone who wants to help at a grassroots level and can donate imperishable food items or clothing for women and children, inbox me. The workshop with them was a wonderful experience! Watch this space for the wordsmiths to emerge 🙂