“Dark legacy of Skaf crimes” headlines a Sydney Morning Herald story, today, about a hard hitting production coming to Sydney Writers Festival, Wharf Theatre 2, May 24. Michael Mohammed Ahmad has created #Three Jerks with two fellow writers Peter Polites and Luke Carman. They are members of the Bankstown based performance group Sweatshop.
All were at high school when the notorious Skaf gang rapes were committed in western Sydney in 2000. The crimes generated a media frenzy, which Mohammed says demonised young men of Arab-Australian background and portrayed western Sydney as a war zone of ethnic and religious tensions. Simplistic reporting by the media and knee jerk responses from political and religious leaders “messed with the heads” of many young men of related cultural backgrounds, he says. As a result they adopted the caricatures of violence and menace they saw in constant media coverage.
Mohammed and his co-writers and performers argue that there were many more people affected by the crimes than the young women, who were the immediate victims. They are not offering solutions, but striving for recognition of the complexities of issues like these. The production is directed by Roslyn Oades, who recently directed Mohammed in the verbatim theatre production I’m Your Man.
Sweatshop is operating under the wider umbrella of Sweatshop Western Sydney Literacy Movement, based at University of Western Sydney. Founded by Mohammed, the movement is dedicated to achieving equality for western Sydney communities through literacy and critical thinking.
Mohammed and Luke Carman will be part of a wider discussion, The Centre of Sydney, at ICE, Parramatta, May 21, part of Sydney Writers Festival. Bookings.