Escaping Damascus unrest Syrian TV drama may be filmed in Dubai

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The producers of a widely popular Syrian television drama have been forced to look at different filming location options following recent unrest in the crisis-torn country.

“Bab al-Hara” (The Neighborhood’s Door), a series which depicted life in Damascus in the 1930s under French colonial rule, may now be filmed in mobile locations so as to evade security concerns while filming.

But the newly planned location may come as a shock to many.

A production company plans to build mobile locations for the next season of the series to be filmed in Dubai, a top entertainment hub in the Gulf which boasts more skyscrapers than typically found in quaint Damascene towns.

It may be an expensive option, but the Syrian series has come under fire previously by pro-government groups, charging that the show played a part in inciting an uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Last month, prominent Syrian-born Palestinian actor Mohammed Rafeh, who was believed to be a supporter of President Bashar Assad’s regime, was kidnapped and then killed by anti-government gunmen, activists and his family said Sunday. He was 30.

Rafeh had played roles in several Syrian TV series but became famous throughout the Arab world five years ago for his role in the Bab al-Hara program that depicted life in Damascus in the 1930s under French colonial rule.

Many expect the sixth season of Bab al-Hara to reflect what Damascus is witnessing in recent months.

Rafeh played the role of Ibrahim, the son of a wealthy textile merchant, who fights against French forces in defense of Syria.

His death came after a campaign began on social media calling for actors who support Assad to be punished.

A Facebook page titled “The black list of Syrian artists” carried a picture of Rafeh standing next to a wall with “Assad only” spray-painted on it.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in 20 months of conflict between Assad's forces and those fighting for his overthrow, a monitoring group said last week.