GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Reham Kahlout, 19, is making her way in the world of comedy in the Gaza Strip, a society that has not generally been accepting of women taking part in acting roles that break with customs and traditions.
“Society refuses my roles. It sharply criticizes my acting with young men and finds it a disgrace. It considers acting to be a waste of time and makes fun of comedians without showing any respect to them,” Kahlout told Al-Monitor.
Despite this negative social outlook on Kahlout’s career choice, her family helped her and encouraged her to keep going. Yet they did not allow her to complete her university education in the field of cinema and acting, as they forced her to study law at the University of Palestine in Gaza and keep acting as a secondary option for the future.
Kahlout found her hobby when she was a child, and she started acting when she was 16 years old. She took part in small roles at school and then participated in 2015 in the stand-up comedy show “Bas Ya Zalameh” (“Stop it, Man!”). In the show, young men from Gaza appear in short stand-up comedy clips that sarcastically deal with the Palestinian reality and customs and traditions. The clips are posted on the show’s YouTube channel, which has about 97,000 subscribers and about 17 million views. The show started in 2012 and is still ongoing.
Remarkably, the male actors in this show are forced to wear a veil, put on makeup and soften their voices to appear as women, given the lack of actresses who have the courage to break into the world of comedy and defy society.
“Through my participation in comedy roles, I am trying to encourage talented girls to act and break with the societal barriers,” Kahlout said. She added, “Freedom of choice and initiative cannot be monopolized by men. Women must also be given this chance away from any restrictions.”
Kahlout represents a very small number of girls who have the courage to defy society’s negative outlook on actresses who take part in shows with young men. These include Serine al-Barkooni, 21, who graduated from the Press and Information Section of the College of Intermediate Studies at Al-Azhar University in Gaza. She took part in several episodes of "Bas Ya Zalameh" and will soon join the stand-up comedy show called “Summer Cloud,” which sarcastically deals with the economic issues plaguing Palestinian society such as poverty and unemployment. This show is broadcast on social media websites.
Barkooni told Al-Monitor, “Customs and traditions require girls to stay home until a suitable groom comes to marry them, and that is what I'm trying to rebel through my participation in comedy shows.”Read MORE!