Syrian actress Maryam Ahmed: The war took everything from me
Maryam Ahmed is a famous Syrian actress. She presented many artworks in the Syrian drama and cinema, which resonated in the Arab world. She also presented many TV and radio programs. Maryam chose to deliver her message to the community through the small screen and she was able to enter every home. She struggled for years to engrave her name on stone and become the well-known an actress today Maryam Ahmed, but the war took everything from her. Suddenly, she found herself with her children in the crowd of hundreds of migrants on a rubber boat that crossed the sea to reach Europe. In the next lines Maryam Ahmed tells us about her success story and her trip to Sweden.
How did you start in the artistic field, was it coincidence or was there a passion for artistic work?
– My studies were in the field of law in Beirut. I got a law degree, but I did not work in the jurist field. My love for artistic work has grown with me since school days. It is impossible you can create in a field if there is no passion. It started with me when I was in elementary there was a play and I was among the candidates in the school. I had no idea what to do, but I had love to experience new things. I played a wonderful scene. Since that day, I loved acting and decided to go ahead in this field and strive to achieve my goal. I continued in the school theater and took roles in some plays in the school and university theater. The first play in the university theater was "Hamlet" for William Shakespeare. This play was attended by senior actors such as Ayman Zidan and director Basil Al-Khatib. They liked my performance. At that time, they were filming the series "Hawi Bahri" and they were looking for a talented and bold girl to play the role of the series. They offered me a role in the series, I immediately agreed. It was my first TV experience and I loved it very much.
You had a passion for acting and artwork Why did you choose to study law?
– I love working in the field of rights because I hate injustice. There is a lot of persecution in our society, especially against women, it is a family and societal persecution. I met real models in my life. I could not help at that time. I did nothing, only screaming. I decided to study law in order to be able to defend the oppressed. After that, I realized that as lower, the number of those I can help will be very limited. But I can help a lot of people through artwork. I will be able to enter every home through a small screen "TV screen". So, I chose the artwork. When I started working in the artistic field, I was wanting to be a member in the Artists Syndicate. There were conditions that there must be knowledge about the international and Arab literature. I was not a specialist, so I self-exhausted and went to the library and collected as many books as possible about the world stage, William Shakespeare and many other international and Arab writers. I read all of these books and then submitted to the syndicate’s membership test. Besides, I presented two scenes, which I wrote. And I got the membership. But that prevented me from being a member of the Bar Association because joining two different unions is forbidden in Syria, so I am satisfied with artistic work.
Is your role limited to working only in the drama?
– The delivering the message in the artistic field is very difficult. So I worked in the artistic field in all its forms, acting in drama, cinema and dubbing, in addition to that I worked in the media field in presenting radio and television programs. I have made a TV program that highlights violence against women by interviewing women who have experienced violence. The goal of the program was to teach women to be strong, not to be silent injustice, and to defend their rights. The program also contained dramatic scenes embodying the horror of violence against women, and I played some roles in these scenes. I wanted to communicate my message to everyone in various ways. This program was highly successful. But after this program, I was fought, and the program stopped. Because it is forbidden to discuss such topics in the programs. I was accused of inciting women to revolt against men. Not that at all. All I wanted was for the woman to know that women had a right and that they should be treated in an uplifting and fair manner and that there should be an integral relationship and respect between the man and the woman.
What is the most important artwork you presented in the Syrian drama?
– I presented many famous works of art with major artists, including the series "Seven Star Family, Hawi Bahri, Tamr Henna, Escape to the Top, Innocent guilty, Study Days, Purple Paper, Love and War Messages." In addition to cinematic works such as "Yasmina Damascus" and "Sham", which personified the war in Syria. As well as I presented the children's radio program "Let's Read". A program aimed at encouraging children to read. And a lot of other radio works and radio series and TV and dubbing programs.
Are you satisfied today with what you provided with your artwork?
– Yes, there are a lot of works that I am proud of and completely satisfied with what I did. But there are some jobs that I am not satisfied with because it was the circumstances that forced me to do them.
What did war take from Maryam?
– The war took my memories, my job, my effort, everything I got tired to get. The war destroyed my dreams. I got tired to create my artistic name until Maryam Ahmed became brilliant and well known. The war came and took all that. Now I start from below zero, not from scratch. But whatever I lost, I am not sad as long as my family is safe and as long as I have learned and gained experience from all that I have provided. Today, I work with my experience that I learned through my previous work and my name that I have made.
If there is not war, what would Maryam do?
– I had a very big ambition. I was writing a series. In addition to a lot of artwork and programs were waiting for me.
How did you come to Sweden?
– I came in 2015 with all the people on an arduous and dangerous journey from Turkey to Greece. In Greece there was a Red Cross welcoming and helped us. And after that we moved through many countries to Sweden. What motivated me to emigrate was my fear for the life of my children when death was besieging us from all directions.
Why did you choose Sweden?
– I read a lot about Sweden before I came here. Sweden is one of the most humane European countries. Besides that, the people of Sweden are conservative and have values. So, I chose Sweden. In addition, Sweden is one of the countries that most support women. This is what I found already. The Swedes helped us a lot to start over again and give us a feeling of safety.
How was your beginning in Sweden?
– Language was the first obstacle. So, I decided to learn the language with determination. When I arrived, I stayed in the refugee camp in an area close to Malmö. During the waiting period, I went to the library and asked how I could learn. They told me that there are old people who teach the language to foreigners every evening. After that, I knew that the church also teaches the refugees a Swedish language. I tried to take advantage of all opportunities to learn. I was refusing to accompany translators when I went to complete formal transactions. I was trying to speak by myself. After six months I could speak Swedish. After that, I moved to Nyköping. When the theater there knew that Iam an actress they contacted me and offered me a role in the play "West Side story" in Swedish. I didn't trust my ability to speak Swedish, but they encouraged me a lot. So, I challenged myself. I used a lot of Google Translate. The Swedish actor Karl Töllbörg helped me a lot to overcome the language barrier and supported me with my work as well. The Swedes helped me and gave me extraordinary support. They made me feel I beloved and welcome. This encouraged me to be more creative. The Swedish actresses helped me, and they were happy and proud to work with them. When I take a scene, they praise me a lot and say " jättebra" this makes me feel loved and respected by them. Then I move to Växjö. In VäxjöI worked in the regional theater. The first theatrical work in Växjö was the play "Hemma" by director Therese Willstedt, which gave me a lot of support and encouragement.Therese loves to work on cultural diversity, so I received a lot of support and encouragement from the regional theater team in Växjö, although I am the only Arab among them. They spend a lot of time with me to explain a certain idea to me. I have learned a lot through my work in Swedish theater in Swedish language. This is an addition for my career, and I am proud of it as an actress.
Besides your work in the theater, what other activities did you do?
– Recently we filmed the series "Nights of the North" in Helmstad in Arabic with the director Imad Najar. It will be shown on Arabic channels in Ramadan. The series revolves around the cultural difference between Arab immigrants and Swedish society. the series embodies immigrants’ ignorance of the Swedish law, which caused some problems. There are some things that they do in Arab society and here is forbidden. Like hitting children.
What are you looking for in Sweden?
– I like to work in various arts and media fields. First, I am looking to make an educational radio program for the Arab woman, who still does not realize that the law in Sweden protects and treats women equitably and equates them to men. If she is subjected to any domestic violence, she can resort to the law. In addition, the program is to educate mothers on how to create a language for dialogue with their teenage daughters. There must be friendship between them. I am subjected to violence and therefore I wish to support the woman who is subjected to violence by husband or family. Besides that, I am looking forward to working in Swedish drama and cinema. I hope to have some roles in Swedish series or movies.