American Premiere of Syria: The Trojan Women; Syrian Refugees Denied Visas

News   American Premiere of Syria: The Trojan Women; Syrian Refugees Denied Visas The American premiere of Syria: The Trojan Women, a production featuring a dozen Syrian women performing a version of the Greek tragedy revised to include their own stories, has canceled productions because the State Department rejected the women's applications for entertainers' visas, the Washington Post reports.

The play, which was scheduled to be performed Sept. 18-20 at Washington D.C.'s Georgetown University, splices into Euripides' tragedy about the surviving women of a brutal war the tales of the Syrian refugee women, some of whom lost husbands and other relatives in Syria before fleeing to Jordan. It was first performed last fall in a community center in Amman, Jordan's capital.

The production, which would have played the Gonda Theatre, was organized by husband-and-wife team Charlotte Eagar and William Stirling, along with Syrian stage director Omar Abu Saada.

The Washington Post quotes a letter to Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, from a State Department official, Michele T. Bond, saying that the women "were refused under section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act." That part of the code requires applicants to prove that they have a residence abroad and, according to the department, that they have "no intention of abandoning" it, and the department told the university in the Aug. 18 letter that it was not certain that the women would be allowed back into Jordan.

"As you are aware a significant complicating factor in these cases is that the applicants have no assurance they will be permitted to return to Jordan following their trip to the United States," Bond, the acting assistant secretary for consular affairs, wrote.

Syria: The Trojan Women was going to serve as the kickoff of a two-year festival, underwritten by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, aimed at reducing ethnic and religious misconceptions by examining the Muslim world's culture, history and politics. "This is the greatest tragedy, because in the United States we really don't have access to the voices of the Syrian people. Who are we hearing from? ISIS," Cynthia Schneider, a former U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands who is co-chair of Georgetown's Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, which organized the event, said to the Post. "We are completely missing this absolutely vital human perspective of the war in Syria."

"What's in play is the growing involvement of DHS [Department of Homeland Security] in visa affairs, in a post 9/11 environment," Jonathan Ginsburg, an immigration lawyer who was consulting on the Syria: The Trojan Women application, said to the Post. "And it is affecting the arts across the board. It is more difficult than it has been in years to get the underlying petitions approved" for visas for artists.

Goldman and Schneider told the Post they plan on presenting an evening titled "Voices Unheard: The Syria: Trojan Women Summit," featuring excerpts from a documentary, "Queens of Syria," about the play, as well as a live feed from Amman, so the women can participate, Sept. 19.

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