Report by Rima Youssef
Translated by Aline Aoun
NNA - "Jawhar" is not the only one amid the gusting winds and within the walls of Roumieh prison, but the wind takes us every day to one side and problem, which can't be resolved, and we have gotten used to it in Lebanon.
Perhaps the true words which we have heard in Lebanon these days were within the walls of the prison and on the lips of those sentenced to life imprisonment or death penalty or those talking about the mentally ill prisoners who suffer from mental illness and are in the blue building.
The song "execution is over Omar," performed and written by an inmate in Roumieh prison for the play "Jawhar amid gusting winds" was the truest expression of his pain, remorse, regret and the regret of the inmates. Upon the invitation of the Lebanese Center for Drama Therapy " Catharsis", with the support of the European Union and under the auspices of the Minister of Interior and Municipalities Nouhad Mashnouk, 40 prisoners who were sentenced to death or life imprisonment had presented a drama show for an hour and a half.
The show tells the stories of inmates who suffer from mental illness and are doomed to life imprisonment. The aim behind this play is to make their voices heard to achieve legal amendment on improving the psychological and legal status of the prisoners. The play "gusting amid winds" shines light on prisoners with mental illnesses and prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment who are united in one fate: a prisoner sentenced to an unknown term.
The play tells prisoners stories through monologues in which they explain the sufferings of the state's failure to secure minimum living requirements, as well as their demands to separate personal rights from general rights regarding life imprisonment. Also, they demand to lower the penalty of those suffering from psychological diseases by abolishing the term "until the healing" of the law.
President of "Catharsis" Center and Director Zeina Daccache confirmed that this theatrical work was the result of "a year and a half of training, the second after the play "12 angry prisoners" that had toured 74 countries and has turned into a film in 2009."
She explained, "The theme of the play is revolves around prisoners who are in the precautionary blue building, the convicts who suffer from mental and psychological diseases and the term of their trial has ended, but they cannot get out of the prison because the law text contains the phrase "until the healing", therefore, dying in prison because their diseases cannot be cured."
"We as Catharsis are working to amend this statement (until the prisoners are cured) with the judge Hamza Sharaf al-Din, a number of other judges and MPs who perceive the need to adjust it," she added, pushing to "heal the law and modify it humanly."
For his part, Deputy Atef Majdalani said in an interview with NNA "National News Agency", "We need to change the style of thought, to change our approach to the prisoners, especially those who suffer from psychological problems." For his part, member of the Administration and Justice Committee, MP Ghassan Moukheiber, told NNA, "The problem is that the sentenced patient cannot leave the prison even if he has spent his prison term, until the final healing." He added, "We are currently working on a draft bill to amend some of the components of this law, which will be submitted to the House of Representatives. I will sign it with my colleagues to later refer it to the Joint Parliamentary Committees and then to the General Assembly."
Moreover, doctor of mental illnesses and member of a committee tasked to reduce sanctions at the Ministry of Justice, Dr. Antoine Saad said, "What the prisoners have performed in the play was to express the suffering of their friends." As for the amendment of the law related to these sick prisoners, he stressed, "the state is entirely absent. Zeina Daccache, Catharsis organization and Judge Hamza Sharaf al-Din are working to amend this law."
It is worth to note that Zeina Daccache founded Catharsis-Lebanese Center for Drama Therapy in 2007, establishing Lebanon's first organization dedicated to theatre as a social and psychological therapy tool. Her theatre productions have a dual purpose: to help participants deal with their own psychological trauma, and to give voice to marginalized and disadvantaged communities within Lebanon. Her latest play was created with migrant domestic workers (MDWs), raising awareness about the needs and rights of MDWs. Catharsis has continued to grow since its inception, and now features a professional drama therapy training program where people learn the necessary tools and skills to become Registered Drama Therapists. As the organization continues to expand its reach, it gives voice to a greater diversity of marginalized and victimized populations, addresses important social issues, and challenges the Lebanese society to address its most sensitive topics.