The dozen Syrian women who were scheduled to perform the play “Syria: The Trojan Women” on campus last week before the State Department denied their visa applications saw their chances of eventually performing in the United States advance, after receiving their re-entry passes for Jordan, where they are living as refugees.
This document is expected to aid the refugees, who were blocked from entering the United States due to uncertainty about whether they will leave, in obtaining U.S. visas.
“The U.S. consulate in Amman had no reason to suppose that they would even have the ability to return [to Jordan], should they wish to do so. Now … the one issue that represented an immutable barrier to their ability to obtain visas has been removed,” said Jonathan Ginsburg, an immigration lawyer who has been assisting the university with the visa approval process for the refugees.
The Jordanian government changed its policy to refuse the re-entry of refugees without passes while the women were in the midst of the visa application process with the U.S. State Department this summer. The U.S. government is typically unwilling to admit refugees who are not assured of return.
The women received their re-entry passes two days before they had been scheduled to come to Georgetown University on Sept. 19.
“It looks like we will be able to bring them to Georgetown after all. [The re-entry permits] were the stumbling block. It’s very exciting,” Charlotte Eagar, the production’s co-producer, told The Hoya.
In place of the performance last week, the university’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics hosted a summit featuring footage from a documentary about the making of the production and a panel discussion featuring regional experts and the show’s producers. Additionally, there was a live video chat with the refugees, who were in Amman.
The refugees will be performing in Switzerland in late October, and obtained their Swiss visas earlier this month.
According to Ginsburg, the Syrian refugees will be able to make the strongest case for their U.S. visas if they re-apply after they return from Switzerland.
“At that point, two things will have changed. First, they will have the permission they need to re-enter Jordan should they depart,” Ginsburg said. “They’ll also have demonstrated by going to Switzerland and returning [to Jordan] that they won’t jump ship at first chance to leave the Middle East.”
The university is currently working with the refugees to prepare their visa applications.
“Probably what we’re going to do is get everything in place to apply for their visas and actually do the application after they get back from Switzerland, which will be late October,” Ambassador Cynthia P. Schneider, a co-founding director of the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, said.
Ginsburg said that, despite the State Department’s previous decision regarding the refugees, the women may receive U.S. visas after they reapply.
“I think, realistically, that they do have a chance. It’s a high-profile matter. A lot of people were very disappointed [by the State Department’s decision],” Ginsburg said.
If the women are able to come to Georgetown, they will perform “Syria: The Trojan Women,” as well as participate in a panel discussion. Although the Gonda Theatre, where the show was supposed to take place, is completely booked through the remainder of the school year, Schneider said that she is considering holding the performance in an off-campus theater or in Gaston Hall.
The performance is a part of the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics’s Myriad Voices: A Cross Cultural Performance Festival, a series that will take place over the course of two years and explore Muslim communities around the world.
According to Schneider, the group of refugees will also stay on campus for about a week.
“They’ll be able to visit classes at Georgetown and interact with the students and faculty,” Schneider said. “It will go beyond the performance. They’ll really become a part of the Georgetown community.”
Schneider said that she is excited about the recent development, as the refugees had been highly anticipating their trip to the United States and were disappointed when their visa applications were denied.
“I think it will really mean the world to them. These women have been through so much,” Schneider said. “They were so looking forward to coming to the United States and being able to tell their stories and tell their dreams for Syria. … To be able to come and to interact and to be present in this place, Georgetown, will be even more meaningful than it would have been if they had come initially.”