Isabelle Hubert's GULNARA'S DRESS Gets Reading in Paris
On 29 October, Gulnara's Dress, written by Canadian playwright Isabelle Hubert, was read by the author and Annie Ranger, Director, I.N.K Theatre, Montréal, at the Maison d'Europe et d'Orient (MEO) in Paris. This was followed by a discussion regarding the ongoing plight of the 875,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in Azerbaijan that are the victims of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding districts. The evening was organised by The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) and the MEO.
The event was attended by an audience of theatre-lovers, who went on to discuss the issue of the IDPs and refugees in Azerbaijan during a debate chaired by Bernard Dréano, Co-Chair, Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Network. This also provided an opportunity for Isabelle Hubert to explain the objectives of the play. Eliza Pieter, Head, TEAS France, presented the current situation of the Azerbaijani IDPs and refugees. They have continued to live in camps across Azerbaijan since the ceasefire was signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1994. Dominique Dolmieu, Artistic Associate, MEO, shed light on the work carried out by his organisation on the theme of population displacement.
The event ended with a presentation by Tarana, an Azerbaijani singer displaced from her home city of Lachin, which remains under Armenian occupation. She shared her personal experience as an IDP and sang a moving Azerbaijani song on the topic of separation. The event was an opportunity to commemorate the victims of a conflict that is too often overlooked by the international community.
The event was very topical, as Chaloka Beyani, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs, released a report on the complex situation of IDPs throughout the world on 25 October.
The play Gulnara's Dress tells the story of 13-year-old Mika, an Azerbaijani girl living in an IDP camp on the border with Armenia. After staining her sister Gulnara's wedding dress, she tries to clean and eventually replace it – a real challenge in this poverty-ridden region. Having explored all possible avenues to replace the dress, the young girl finds herself faced with a single remaining option – to sell her body to a merchant of the refugee camp. A child, Balaja, will be born of this sacrifice. This was a touching and tragic piece, featuring vivid and evocative imagery and touching upon the harsh reality of armed conflict.