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How a Syrian ballet dancer challenged ISIS in Yarmouk camp

Published: Updated:

Ahmed Joudah, 26, a ballet dancer from Yarmouk camp in Damascus, said it was not easy to achieve his dream, which was rejected by his father. However he insisted on achieving it and he continued his education in theater and danced at the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus.

During the war Joudah was teaching the children in the camp dancing and ballet, however he received death threats from ISIS.

Joudah went out from Yarmouk with his mother, because of the painful siege imposed on the camp in 2012.

He lived near the camp, leaving his memories in the streets of Yarmouk, where he was dancing between its lanes.

In 2014, Ahmed was invited to join the Arabic version of "So you think you can Dance" in Lebanon, he was fortunate to reach the semi-finals. But then he was told that he would not be able to win he is a Palestinian- Syrian, which that was a severe shock.

But he did not lose hope and returned to Damascus to complete his education at the Higher Institute where he was asked to design a series of dances for dance festivals in the Syrian Opera house, such as several rounds for the "Youth Film Festival".

Joudah’s story attracted the attention of a Dutch journalist who came to Damascus to shoot a documentary about him in 2016.

Ahmed appeared in front of the camera dancing on the ruins of his home in Yarmouk refugee camp that was what he wished for, He also went to Palmyra with the Dutch journalist to film him dancing on the old Roman theater, the site that witnessed the mass executions carried out by ISIS against the civilians in Palmyra.

"Dancing at the Palmyra Theater was my style in defying ISIS. I told them you could take our lives but you could not stop us from dancing. This theater was made for art and not for murder," said Joudah.

Displaying the film in Netherlands


After showing of the documentary in the Netherlands, it attracted the attention of many dancing schools in Europe, the most important being the Dutch National Ballet, whose executive director Ted Brandson decided to create a fund called “Dancing for Peace” to enable Joudah to come to the Netherlands to dance and study.

Joudah currently completing his studies at the University of Amsterdam for the Arts in the Department of Dancing choreography, and works as a dancer in the Dutch National Ballet, in addition to his work as a dance instructor at a ballet school in Amsterdam.