Refugees take their harrowing stories to the stage in 'No Borders'

Syrian refugee Ibrahim Rima, 18, is one of the participants in No Borders

No Borders will combine real-life testimonies from refugees in Ireland with plays, poetry and music, writes John Tynan

OVER and over again , the same question, still beating me.” Ibrahim Rima is recalling the time he was picked up by the Syrian army from his home near Damascus and interrogated for three days.

Now aged 18, he has the demeanour of someone much older, a consequence of the experience he’ll recount as part of the No Borders event at the Everyman in Cork tomorrow.

The seminal moment for Ibrahim happened when he was 14.

“A man came to our house. So many guys burst in, shouting, and they started searching. We can’t do anything and the soldier can do anything. We can’t tell him stop, because it’s easy for him he can just kill us. It’s so easy to just kill someone.

“I said stop. I said to them my mother and my brother’s sister did not have their hijab on. After three minutes, they took me, my dad, and my cousin away. My father was asleep, they woke him, pointing a gun. They put hoods on us and took us away handcuffed. I was very afraid. I didn’t do anything and I could not understand. Why me?”

For about five hours Ibrahim was subjected to a severe beating. Then the questions started.

“First question, I remember it because it was so stupid. He asked me was I a suicide bomber. I said, how can I be a suicide bomber if I am here. Over and over again, the same question, still beating me.

“They then electrocuted me. They did this three or four times. I can’t remember, I don’t want to remember.”

After three days, Ibrahim was asked if his father had money. “I said yes. When I told them this, nobody touched me and after three hours I was free. We were told go home, but they said we had only one or two days to stay, or they would take us again.

“Then we went to the Lebanon. In Lebanon, it’s not bad, but you need work. I worked really hard in Lebanon, we needed money for food.”

Eventually, Ibrahim and his family were relocated to Ireland.

Tomorrow, he will recount his story at the Everyman Theatre in Cork as part of No Borders, a production featuring six one-act plays, two performances of poetry, and a musical performance.

This show was devised and is directed by John Hayes, who was overwhelmed by the reaction it received on its initial and only presentation at Camden Palace last December.

Aimed at giving a personal perspective to the humanitarian crises, it was performed by established local actors and migrants making their first foray on stage. It was impossible not to be moved, while the Q&A session afterwards added to the understanding.

“The first night, nobody could have expected the reaction we got, particularly since the show was put together over just six weeks,” says Hayes. “Now, we have had six months to prepare and it’s more ambitious. I’ve never been so passionate about something, as the refugee cause is so important to me.

“I’m trying to get as broad an overview of the experience of refugees as possible, but no matter how vivid the stories, it’s impossible for us to appreciate it, so this show is as much a tribute to people who have endured,” says Hayes, recalling that the show was to be put on in the Jungle migrant camp in Calais, France, until it was torn down. Ibrahim had taken himself away, but, as Hayes spoke, he returned and asked to make a point.

“I would like to tell everyone in Eire and all around the world, that we only come here for peace,” he says, straining to find the words that will convey his appreciation.

No Borders is at the Everyman in Cork tomorrow; and in Dublin’s Smock Alley on July 9. All proceeds from tonight’s production go to Island to Island, a West Cork charity that supports refugees on Greek Islands


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