BEIRUT: Back in 2016, the inquisitorial commission in Mount Lebanon raided two super night clubs in Jounieh and saved 75 Syrian women from the biggest sex trafficking network to date in Lebanon.
The story gained huge media attention, nurtured national concern on sex trafficking, and prompted substantial investment in counter-trafficking interventions by diverse organizations and members of the civil society.
In this framework, theater Professor at the American University of Beirut Sahar Assaf, directed a performance titled “No Demand No Supply: A Re-reading of Lebanon’s 2016 Sex Trafficking Scandal."
As part of AUB's Theater Initiative and KAFA Violence & Exploitation's collective efforts, the performance staged the victims' stories on Wednesday at Zookak Studio.
Attendees were transported back to 2016. The show narrated how women were held captive without access to sunlight and fresh air for nine months, confined and locked in rooms, and forced to have 10 to 15 sexual relationships each day.
No Demand No Supply relied on a specific recorded delivery technique: the victims' stories were narrated in their own voices into the performers' earpieces. In their turn, performers repeated on spot what they are being told.
Assaf acted as a narrator. She would intervene at different instances to share facts and figures. Voice-over was also added to represent the male clients. A chair was added whenever a “Mr. X" voiced his opinion, cluttering the stage with empty chairs of invisible buyers.
Important elements of the research on which the play was based included video-recorded interviews with eight women survivors, the indictment issued on November 2016, interviews with Colonel Moustafa Badran, who led the raid to the brothels where the women were imprisoned, and a study conducted by KAFA in 2014 titled “Exploring the Demand for Prostitution: What male buyers say about their motives, practices, and perceptions."
The performance left the attendees angry, motivated to fight for justice and put an end to the most lucrative business in modern-day history.
“As I was watching the performance I was truly saddened by the statistics about this ubiquitous but often overlooked problem,” Fouad Naccache, an attendee, told Annahar.
According to a 2018 UN report, human trafficking is the second-largest illegal economy in the world, only beaten by arms deals. Women and children are targeted victims of a market controlled by supply and demand.
In terms of the production’s history, No Demand No Supply was first showcased in April 2016. It was then performed again in May 2017 in collaboration with The Arab Institute for Women (AiW) and at Al Madina Theater in July 2017.
Later on in that the same year, it got selected to participate in Between the Seas Festival in Athens (Sept 15, 2017). Excerpts of the play were also read at Martin Segal Theatre Center in October 2017.
After receiving a grant from the U.S. Embassy Beirut and the Department of State, NDNS was performed again in Between the Seas Festival, NYC edition. Finally, before coming back to its local audience at Zoukak Studio, it was read by Rachel Valentine Smith in July at Shubbak Festival, London.
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