Abdelaziz Zerrou / Aglaia Haritz Switzerland.:+41(0)79 296 53 41 Morocco.:+212 (0)6 762 864 63 contact@embroiderers-of-actuality.com www.embroiderers-of-actuality.com

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I come from a small village close to Der’a. I came here to Beirut because there were clashes; our village was occupied by the free army. At first we heard that problems had erupted in the village nearby, but soon they also started in our village. We sought refuge in the next village, but they attacked us there too. We had to hide in a bunker all day, from the morning until the evening. Even when it was Ramadan, we also had to sleep there.

After that we received information, that all villages will be destroyed and burned.I didn’t want to stay there, because all my family left, each one of us is in another country. Our home was at the entrance of the village, facing another village who fired rockets at us. If we turned on a light, they would send in a rocket, so I can’t stay in the village and that’s why I came here to Beirut in 2011.

In Beirut, I first lived with my husband’s brother, then I moved eight times. First I lived in a room in Laylake, this quarter is only for people affiliated with a political movement, and they always harassed us, asking if we were with the free army or with official army, and who our father worked for. They really provoked us and they were going to assume the wrong position about us.

I moved often and the last room I rented was in Bir Hassan. I was pregnant there but my daughter was stillborn, so I didn’t like this room, I couldn’t stay there, and I moved again. After that, we rented another room with a kitchen for $300 dollars, my husband earns $450, so we only had $150/month left, and that’s not enough.

In the beginning when we arrived here, we thought we would stay 2 or 3 months and that we could go back. We thought it would be simple, but it’s been three years now and we are still here. At first, we said it will end on the next month, then we said in one year, but now I don’t believe it any more. I know it’ll go on for a long time, but we would like to go back as soon as possible. I would like to go back home, today before tomorrow. I want to go back home.

Project It is a fragile moment for the Mediterranean and all over the world, socially and politically. The crisis has brought into question the lack of fundamental values and organizations, not to mention art in dialogue with the civil society, particularly with women. It is this context in relation to the question of what ‘resistance’ means and how we might perform it that is the subjects of our project. “Embroiderers of Actuality” is an action that aims to be a sensible provocation: a visual discussion about the position of women in the society. As an exchange between local populations and artists, its purpose is to map diversities of (feminine) resistance within the realities of the Global South. The project uses texts of art, poetry and literature, written by local women, and employs embroidery as a form of folk craftsmanship that speaks to notions of belonging, tradition and participation. Through this, the project aims to provide an opportunity for women to express their voice and to improve their socio-economic situation, since the embroidery work is paid, thereby generating an additional source of income. In this sense, “Embroiderers of Actuality” is also a confrontation and a statement between yesterday and today, between politics and religion, between modernity and tradition. Art is used here as a tool to realize a dialogue between the local population and artists. This situation questions contemporary art as such, as a possibility or necessity to bring art into the public sphere. This dialogue will develop, confront and stimulate the research for the artist (conceptual and formal) and will be, at the same time, a medium of communication, working in the intersection between the private sphere and the public one. Biography Aglaia Haritza Born in Ticino Switzerland, Aglaia Haritz received her artistic maturity diploma in 1999 at the CSIA in Lugano, Switzerland. In 2003, she graduated with a National Diploma of Fine Arts from ENSA in Limoges, France. She has exhibited in Museums and in Contemporary Art Centres in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France, Holland and Slovenia. Her works are parts of important Art Collections. Since 1996, parallel to her studies and artistic practice, she has developed a social artistic research program collaborating in humanitarian projects in India, Central Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, South America and the West Bank. In 2011, she was selected for the art residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. Early this year she has been selected to attend the Artist in Residence in Cairo, in Rabat and in Casablanca. She lives and works in Zurich since 2011. Abdelaziz Zerrou Born in Casablanca, He lives and works there. Abdelaziz Zerrou is one of the young artists of Morocco. He graduated from the National Institute of Fine Arts in Tétouan. Artistic Director of a graphic design studio “group3″ he founded while continuing his research in visual arts. The artist’s career took a turning point when he participated in the Biennial of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean (BJCEM) in Bari, Italy. This participation allowed him to confirm but also refine his artistic resolutely contemporary mostly in the graphic register, with a preference for universal symbolic figures: “memory 16″ or “drawing lesson” presented at the exhibition “body and figures of the body”, the art space of the Societé Générale in Casablanca, and “the war is not a game”, a mural in situ, presented at the Triennial in Luanda, Angola. The artwork “love revolution” was showed at the Galleria Continua Paris and at the New Art Exchange Museum of Nottingham, UK, and also “eurabia” made in Netherland.From 2009 he was in more art residences as: Cité Internationales des Arts in Paris, Dar Al-Ma’mûn Art Residency in Marrakesh, Studio Rondo Art Residency in Graz, Austria, DordtYart Art Residency in Dordrecht, Netherland and Artellewa in Cairo. Zerrou is also co-creator of a group: Young African Artists (jaa), which supports artistic creativity in Africa.

I come from Homs, and I’m originally from Bab El-Sebaa. I came here to escape the war in Syria. They attacked children and we were very afraid. At the beginning I went to Rif Hama and I stayed there for 5 months until we were besieged. Then I escaped from there too and went to a small village named Chorf, near Homs. From there, we rented a small flat, but we had to escape soon after because we were besieged again. Some people said it was the official army and some said it was the free army. When we were besieged we had no access to food and essential supplies.

I have a 9-year-old daughter and two sons, who are 3 and 4 years old. We escaped to Lebanon two years and half ago, and thank god I’m now in Beirut with my family, but we suffered a lot.

My house was destroyed; I don’t want to go back. I have no home now.

One time my husband was at the mosque and I was nursing my youngest child, and the soldiers broke the door down and came into our flat. The children started to cry and scream. They were searching for something and my children were terrified. Three days later I said to my husband, “Let’s go, we need to leave this place.”

My daughter still doesn’t speak and she has a lot of skin problems. Every month we have to spend between 50’000 and 60’000 LBP for her medical treatment. I asked people how is possible that she got so sick? They told me that she is angry or in shock. She already missed 3 years of school. She should be in the third grade but she’s only in the first grade.

Only my sister remains in Homs, but she has nothing left, because they stole everything.

My husband was dressmaker in a very well known fabric store, and also here he works as dressmaker, he earns $450. We pay $300 for the rent, but my husband smokes and we need also to pay the transport. Our situation is really very difficult.

We had a better life in Syria, the rent was cheaper and we didn’t have any problems living there. I try to help at home but it’s difficult. When I come to work at the association, I leave both my 3 and 4-year-old children alone, I close the door and go. What could I do? I have to do it. I can’t do anything else.

I love my country and if the war stops I will go back. I love Homs and don’t want to live anywhere else.

What they did in Syria is haram. It’s not good. We lived well, we ate what we had and we were happy. We didn’t think about the future, we lived happily day-by-day, and that was enough. I would like my children to have a better life than ours.

The revolution started in Der’a and people made a mistake when they went out.

My father had a three story house and one day when we were on our way back home they said, “Where are you going? Why didn’t you fight with us? Now go!”, and they took his home.

We want peace, we want a basket without grapes, and they didn’t let us live.

 

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My name is Gazale Channo. I came from a small village named Deir al-Fardis in Hamah. When I first came here there weren’t many checkpoints yet, it was easier. In our village there was no bombing. We came to Lebanon because our village was completely isolated and left alone.,we had no gas, no bread, no electricity, no water, we had nothing. The official army was responsible for it. People of Houla started with problems and they let them spill into our village.

I came here with my husband and my children and I’m still very afraid because sometimes people disappear at the checkpoint or borders and we don’t know where they are.

Two years ago we had our papers done and we came here. We’re now at the beginning of the third year. For the moment we can’t go back to Syria. If the war stops we could go back, but we now have problems here with the Lebanese authorities. Once I’m registered by the UNO in Beirut, I can’t return to Syria because I could never get the permission to come back to Lebanon after that, never again in my life. For our family it’s ok, but for people living here it’s very difficult, they can’t even go visit their family.

My mother is dead but my father, my sister and my brother are all still in Syria.In Beirut there are only young people with their wives. The only contacts we have with the family in Syria are phone calls. Every person who still lives there tells us to stay in Lebanon, because the situation is absolutely unstable.

We went from Hama to Damask, and then came here by taxi (service). The road was very difficult because it took 18 hours of travel. Normally you can do the same journey in 4 hours. It was very exhausting, a lot of check points, and we were often frisked.

The truth is that we created the problem, we, the Syrian people, because before you do anything you have to think about the result, and we never thought that this result could be possible. When there’s a region in peace, the Syrian people don’t leave them at peace. For example, the neighbouring village of Houla didn’t leave our village in peace. Instead they attacked Hararia and on the way back they allowed people to hide in our village, so the enemy thought that our village attacked.

We are worse than the official army. The road to Hamah was very easy before; we made it difficult and more complicated. We were in peace, Alawite and Sunni, but the people of our village killed an  Alawite and that’s why they blocked the entry of food and essential supplies, and they isolated us.

The people of Houla did all of this so that they can control the price of essential supplies. Previously we bought a gas bottle for 1’000 SYP and now they ask for 4’000 SYP. It’s a business strategy.

No one in my family has died, but my brother who is a baker, was accused of killing someone. They killed a person and said that my brother was the one who did it. So now he’s held in the village and can’t go out.

That’s my story.

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Ask me a questions and I’ll answer you.

I come from Damask and when clashes started we went to Der’a. Then clashes started in Der’a too and my husband disappeared along with my brother. So, alone with my children, I went back to Damask but my husband’s family told me to come to Lebanon with them and I accepted, because if something happens to my children my husband’s family will take care of them and pay their expenses because I have no money. My brother disappeared along with my husband, and my mother and father are dead. I have only three sisters, one is with her husband in Raqqa, the other is in Damask, and the third is in Jordan.

I cried a lot for my husband, and my children also suffer a lot from the loss. He was a normal man, he never joined the army and once on his way back home they just took him. Still till today I don’t know where he is. It’s now been 2 years and 7 months since he disappeared. I will never know, I even don’t know if he’s alive or dead.

We suffered a lot in Syria because we had to move several times from one place to another. We moved from Damask to Der’a, then from Der’a to the countryside of Der’a, then again back to Damask, and to Suweida after. We always were afraid of the free army and the official army.

A bomb destroyed my house, it was burned, and has been stolen…

We received official papers and we arrived to Lebanon regularly.

Here in Beirut it was also painful until we got our stability. My children are small and I have a lot of expenses and no money. I have a flat here but I can’t pay all the rent and I have to ask for money. My husband was an employee in a factory and I never worked outside, only at home.

I cried too much at home and only when I came to the association I started to laugh again. I have to be strong for the children. I have three children. She’s the youngest, Sally. I also have a daughter, she’s 14 years old, and a boy who is 12 years old. He’s sick and needs surgery and I don’t have any money to pay for it.

 

 

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I come from Kobane When I was there, ISIS came to fight us. Women and children had to abandon the city because for ISIS we are infidels and that’s why they will kill all of us.

PKK told us: women and young people that can take up arms can stay; everybody else has to leave the territory. For you, for your security, and for your honor, you have to leave. Everybody who is married and has children has to leave.

We left Kobane and we went to Jarablos. I have a son, he’s 12 years old and he goes to school. On the way back home, people from ISIS took him and brought him to a mosque to teach him religion, how to perform prayer, about the faith, how to open, assemble,  and take apart a machine gun, and standard weapons. I started to be afraid of what might happen to my child.

I have another child and he was sick. I took both my children and my papers, and went to the doctor. I was afraid, I knew that we had to go to Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey. We just had to go away from Jarablos.

I explained very clearly to my son that what they told him is not religion. They say we are infidels but we are Kurdish and we are religious. We are Muslim, we believe, we pray, and still they say we are infidels. I escaped only with my two sons and my papers. I left everything there before ISIS recruits my children. Usually they take children with them for one or two months, so that they will pledge allegiance first and then fight with them. I went with my children to Menbej and after that to Beirut.

When we arrived here in Beirut, we didn’t find anything at first. After a while we found a small flat and I started to work in embroidery. Thank god.

If you’re here in Lebanon you have to pay $200 if want to get a residency permit,. If you’re registered at UNHCR you get $19 per month per person. Men have to sign that they can’t work and you have to provide a lot of papers, 200 papers! $19 a month, what could you do with $19 dollar per month? We need medicine, bread, water, education; and we have to pay the rent. We need all this! We came here but we are not happy. I don’t want to stay here. As soon as bombs and the war stop, I want to go back home. If the war stops in my region, I would directly go home and I wouldn’t stay one more minute here. Every woman here will tell you the same thing.

Jarablos is a city at the Turkish border. I lived there for a while and there are a lot of Egyptians, Tunisians and Moroccans with ISIS. One time a Moroccan man called Abdullah came to preach on religion, but I asked him why he didn’t stay in his own country to preach religion. What does he want here? He told me to cover my face, but we wear a headscarf. In the Koran it’s not written that women have to cover their faces.

One time I was on the street and I saw a tall Egyptian man stopping a woman with her three daughters, all dressed black. He told her that she had to cover her daughters and she said: “I swear, my daughters are already covered!” but he said, that’s not true, that’s a lie and took a white spray and coloured all the black women’s dress in white, in front of all the people in the street. The woman screamed angrily: “What do you want here? Go back to Egypt. You, as an Egyptian, don’t know what’s happening in your country? Go back there and look for what happening in Egypt.  All the dancers, bars, and all that is not correct! We Syrians are more Muslim than you Egyptians!”

Sometimes Syrians in miserable conditions need to sell their children to ISIS. We in Syria, we were good Muslims and as soon ISIS came men let their beards grow so that avoid problems with ISIS. They started to dress like Pakistanis, and everywhere you could see the flag of ISIS, which says “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”.

I will tell you a funny story. Once I had no water and no electricity, I looked for water in a street a little far away and I came back home with two buckets full of water. I didn’t cover my face or my hands because if I hide my face I will fall., I brought water home and an ISIS car stopped in front of me. I heard a voice saying, “Decency! Cover your face!” and with so much rage I started to cry and screamed, “We don’t have water, we don’t have bread and all you say is just decency! Why should I cover myself? Don’t you see that I’m bringing water?” He said, “The voice of a woman is like nakedness! Silence!” I replied asking him to give me his dress, so that I could cover myself because I have no dress. He was angry and the neighbours calmed the men of ISIS. They said I was angry because I had children and no money and no water and life was hard and that I’ll cover myself. But how can I cover myself? I’ll fall down!