A tribute to children who died 62 years ago in a vertical cinema fire

  • Rojava / North and East Syria

Every year, the people of Amudi commemorate the victims of the massacre in the Martyrs Cinema Garden, which was set up at the site of the massacre.

Dozens of neighborhood residents, neighborhood children and representatives of institutions gathered at the Martin Park cinema to commemorate the victims of the massacre.

The event was organized by the Amudi District Council, the Democratic Culture and Arts Movement in Mesopotamia, and the Children’s Arts Committee.

Cinema fire in Amoudi

The cinema fire in Amoudi is one of those stories that are firmly rooted in the memory of the Kurdish community. It was November 13, 1960, when on Sunday hundreds of schoolchildren were forced to watch the Egyptian film “Midnight’s Ghost” (Ghost of the Midnight) in the city’s only cinema in northeastern Syria, the Scheherazade Cinema House. At that time, the Ba’ath regime ordered a “solidarity week” with Algeria’s struggle for independence from France and was collecting donations for the “Algerian brothers”. In Amudi, all the students had to go to the cinema to get in thirty piasters.

The film has already been shown several times and each time the cinema is packed. In fact, it had a maximum of 200 seats in about 130 square metres, but on that day 61 years ago there were more than 400 children in the hall. Their eyes stared at the screen, on which a 1947 horror movie flashed, when after a short time the picture became very bright. But the brightness no longer comes from the projector, but from the fire. The flames quickly spread to the wooden beam of the hut-like building, which was covered in thatch and mud. Within a very short time, the entire cinema caught fire. Panic broke out when the children tried to reach the exits. However, there were only two narrow doors, which could only be opened inward. 282 children between the ages of eight and fourteen died agonizingly.

Whether it was the regime that organized the fire – two Syrian soldiers standing guard at the entrance to the cinema – or overheating that caused the movie star to suddenly catch fire remains a subject of speculation to this day. But the fact that the regime authorities ignored indications about the danger of the fire and insisted that the examination continue, that there was not a single teacher in the room on the day of the fire, and that even the children of regime officials did not attend witness the fact that the Syrian regime never investigated the tragedy leads many to believe that a vertical cinema fire It was a targeted and premeditated massacre. This is because discrimination against Kurdish culture and language has been part of state policy in Syria. Political activities were violently suppressed by the regime.

Muhammad Said Agha al-Daqouri, an Arab resident of Amudi who had passed by the burning cinema at the time, managed to save between 20 and 30 children from the fire before he himself died in the flames. The memorial erected years later in the Baxji Bakarwan Memorial Park on the site of Shahrazad Cinema to commemorate the disaster also tells his story. Algeria donated it as an expression of solidarity with the people of Amudi. As a memorial there is also a fountain in the garden. The rescued children took refuge in her, and they were rescued by Muhammad Saeed Agha Al-Daqouri. Pictures of the dead and their stories paved the walls of the memorial site. Hundreds of children’s eyes stared at the onlookers.

“Amidi’s children had to support Algeria not only with money, but also with their burning bodies” – these are the words of Rushdie Fat. Kurdi, 73, survived the cinema fire. I was about twelve years old and in fifth grade. I watched the movie on one of the balcony in the hall. There were hundreds of children downstairs. It was as if they could be crushed at any moment. At some point the screen was bright, the movie stopped. In the next moment, there was an extremely loud noise, as if a plane was flying at a low altitude. Immediately after that, the fires erupted,” Rushdi Fati recalls on November 13, 1960. Then I looked at the children in the lower rows. One by one they fell to the ground, crushed or trampled. They all screamed in panic and tried to reach the doors. I jumped off the balcony and ran to the south exit. But it was locked from the outside. We pushed the door with all our might. After eternity passed it opened and we ran outside. It was only there that I realized that my feet were burning.”

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