Halabja is a city in Kurdistan Iraq near the Iran border.
In 1988, five days before Nawroz (New years Day), the biggest celebration in the Kurdish calendar, the city was attacked from the sky with a gas that was ironically scented with the sweet smell of apples, but once inhaled caused a painful death within minutes.
The Smell of Apples - The Halabja Story, is a multi media performance featuring music, drama, visual arts and video, drawing on the testimony of Halabja survivors from Birmingham’s large Kurdish community.
The show explores the secrets behind the attack.
Zirak Hamad talks about ‘The Smell of Apples' on BBC Local TV
Watch rehearsal highlights and an interview with Zirak Hamad featured on BBC Local TV.
Watch the video below
About the show
With a mixed cast comprising of Iraqi, Kurdish and British actors and musicians. The drama sets out to portray the last hours of a family living in Halabja.
|The Smell of Apples actors|
The theatre and film production for the show is directed by experienced Black British directors Pervaiz Khan and Michael Aduwali.
The original score of music was written by Zirak and he will be performing alongside four other Kurdish musicians from the Birmingham region.
Zirak explains: “The music explores traditional and contemporary Middle Eastern musical styles and will be played on the traditional instruments zarb, daff, tar and saz alongside violin, cello and keyboard.”
Halabja survivors in Birmingham
Some of the Halabja survivors are living in Birmingham. The effects of the gas have left many disabled, with breathing difficulties, chest cancer, loss of memory and mental problems.
|Dahol Kurdish Ensemble|
Zirak explains: “Still the Kurdish community support the Halabja survivors, we know it’s not only the Halabja gas attack that has happened in Iraq Kurdistan, there has been many other tragic events.
But Halabja was a big massacre and still we can’t forget the Halabja people.
Most of our songs reflect the message - ‘Never you don’t die.. you are living in our hearts and eyes, we see you all the time, don’t ever think you have died and we’ve forgotten you, all the time we remember you…’
The Kurdish community in Handsworth
|Soho Road, Handsworth|
A large percentage of the Kurdish community live in the Handsworth area of Birmingham.
“One thing about the Kurdish community that I’m really proud of is that we are very sociable people we like to be around each other and socialise with each other.
"It doesn’t mean they don’t want to integrate with the British society, but were are happy being with each other and we like to support each other,” explains Zirak.
“I love England and especially I love Birmingham, I want to build my future in Birmingham. I have a lot of dreams here.
“We have a lot of future plans for our arts company 'Dahol Kurdish Ensemble' to do more shows and arts projects. We would like to see more integration of the Kurdish culture with the British culture.
“One thing that is very nice about Birmingham is that it's very multi-cultural which makes it easier for us to integrate and build our future.
“We are hoping to take the ‘The Smell of Apples’ show on a tour around the country.”
The Smell of Apples is supported by Academy Community Theatre Arts Council England, ArtSites Birmingham, Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Rep, Celebrating Sanctuary, Academy Community Theatre, Collide and West Midlands Refugee Arts Project.
For more information about The Smell of Apples and future performance dates visit the Daholl Kurdish Ensemble website.