|Qais Awayes, Coordinator of Active Nonviolence Network in Nablus.
Qais Awayes is a unique figure. A playwright and drama teacher, he also serves as Coordinator of the Active
Nonviolence Network in Nablus.
Before he started working with MEND, he organised camps for children, simply in order that they might have
fun, a right which the ubiquitous shadow of violence does not respect.
Qais started working for MEND in 2004. A man with remarkable charisma, his personality plays its part in
attracting volunteers, such as Muhammad Tamimi, a 22 year-old who acted as interpreter for our interview.
Qais now also supervises around 80 young Menders, boys and girls of 10 to 17 years-old.
Not surprisingly, he has drawn upon the dramatic talent that exists amongst his volunteers – and there really
is some talent. Qais showed me a video recording of one of his hour-long plays, which ran for ten nights, and
attracted an audience of around 1000 for each performance.
The scenario, which Qais co-wrote with Afaf Khalaf, tackles the daily struggles of Palestinians, some of which
are related to the occupation, and others which relate more broadly to the human condition: marriage,
domestic violence, and the misery of crossing Israeli checkpoints.
It traces the effects of occupation and poverty upon a family in which the father, himself subject to
violence, resorts to violence against his two sons. The sons flee home for the street, whilst the father
attempts to force his 15 year-old daughter to get married so that he does not have to pay school fees.
In one particularly poignant scene, he is stopped at the checkpoint on his way to Tul Karem to find work.
Soldiers order him to walk like a donkey before he can pass. Desperate for money, he bears the humiliation
of walking on all fours for his family – for whom, despite everything, he cares deeply. However, he is still
denied passage to Tul Karen and returns to his house angry and full of hatred.
The climax of the play is a dialogue between the father and his son’s school teacher wherein the teacher
encourages him to deal with conflict and his anger through conversation with his family, rather than through
I found the play thoroughly moving and thought provoking, and the response of those who saw it would
suggest I was not alone. Qais said that he received phone calls from audience members, asking his advice
for conflict-resolution within their families and homes.
Ten Menders are currently rehearsing for his forthcoming play, but it is not all work and no play – on the day
of our interview they had been given a day’s break from rehearsals in Jericho.
Bearing in mind the extent of incursions and Israeli operations in Nablus, any break is well-deserved. I asked
Qais how this almost daily violence affected the work of MEND in the city.
He was philosophical. “All over the world people face danger”. He continued, “Still, life stops when the
Israeli soldiers come near” as indeed happened during the previous week. Fortunately, they had finished
their practice before the incursion was in full-swing.
The activities Qais runs in Nablus are courageous statements of non-violent resistance to violence. In
Nablus, the arena of so much suffering and so much violence, this is not at all easy.
However, he can be encouraged. Theatre has clearly had an effect upon those who saw his plays. This is a
wonderful testimony to the potential of Active Nonviolence.
He said that the idea MEND promotes is the guiding principle in his life. The effects of this, when
accompanied by his remarkable character and charisma, makes him and the ideas he espouses popular
with children and adults alike – a contagious nonviolence.
This article is based on an interview conducted on March 8th 2007 by Takanobu Nakahara, International
Public Relations volunteer for MEND.
Author: Takanobu Nakahara
Edited by: Mark Calder
Translator: Muhammad Tamimi