Kurdish actress plays mother of girls who join ISIS in new hit Swedish TV series

Womens cause
3 years ago

A 39-year-old actress named Ala Riani, a Kurd born in the city of Mahabad in Iranian Kurdistan now living in Sweden, plays a significant role in a new Swedish drama series called Caliphate.
In the program, which premiered worldwide on Netflix on March 18, her character is the mother of two daughters who become radicalized and run away to join the Islamic State.
Riani previously lived for two years in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, where she acted in television commercials and then in her first feature film in the city of Duhok with movie director Shawkat Amin. She also sang in the Kurdish-Breton band ‘Dengekan’ that toured the Kurdistan Region and France.
“Our last concert was just when ISIS attacked in August 2014. I was in France and I got the news. We all dedicated the concert to the Peshmergas; they were in our hearts that night.”
She still remembers how Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, was flooded with internally displaced after she returned from her French tour.
In the series, however, she does not portray a typical Kurdish role as have been popping up in some feature films in recent years, such as a female fighter battling the Islamic State or a Yezidi (Ezidi) women enslaved by the extremist group.
“There are beautiful films about the Kurdish fighters in Rojava (Iranian Kurdistan) in the YPJ (Women’s Protection Units). I’d love to portray and tell the story of these women too, but this is another side of the story, and we have to tell both sides of what is going on and who are the people who did this.”
The drama-thriller series aims to dramatize the stories of Swedes who joined the Islamic State in a compelling and realistic manner.   This was the biggest production that I’ve been part of in my career so far and, I have to say, probably the most challenging role I’ve had so far,” she told Kurdistan 24.
She said it was very difficult to play the mother of two daughters who rebel against their own family and try to join the Islamic State in Syria, adding, “It was challenging to put that pressure and responsibility on your shoulders to try to make it as fair as possible towards the character.”
“I think we need to tell all the stories and tell everyone’s stories and [give] everyone’s perspective,” she continued. “Also, as I said before, mostly because I wanted to do a fair portrayal of the mother of the two daughters and the family.”
“When you look at the family, it’s like–from the outside–, it’s like completely normal, they are loving, they are caring; they love each other. And it seems like a very stable home and the parents are not radical at all. Especially the father, who doesn’t consider himself as a believer at all.”
“There are so many parents that have been in that situation, and they don’t understand why this happened to them, you know? And you kind of ask yourself, what was my mistake? Why my daughter?  So for me, I just tried to not think in terms of good or bad; you know what I mean?”
It was during the process of shooting the scenes for the series that Riani came to the insight that, although the father character, Suleiman, seemed to be more progressive and voices his disdain of religion, he was in fact the less democratic parent. It is then the seemingly conservative mother who is the more open-minded of the two, and who thinks her daughters should make their own choices after the father bans them from wearing the Islamic headdress.
“Obviously, this was before she understood that they were being radicalized… It took me some time to get to that realization and understand who Tuba really was. That was an eye-opener for me.”
The series itself is inspired by the story of three girls from the United Kingdom that were caught in 2015 while trying to travel to Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital in Syria at the time. The only difference is that the girls are not from the UK, but from Sweden.
The series was extremely successful and well-received domestically, breaking all viewership records in Sweden. As Raini said, “In the first month, every episode was seen by 600,000 viewers. And that’s just the first month; the numbers kept rising.”
“Then it went on Netflix, worldwide. People from all corners of the world wrote to me and said how much they loved the series, how they can’t wait for season two and how they loved Tuba’s part.”
“The feedback was very positive, especially from the Kurdish community. I haven’t really heard any negative criticism.”
Although many viewers loved the series, it’s still not clear whether or not there will be a second season. According to Raini, “There is no news on that.”  

Kurdistan 24

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