Samah Sabawi

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Samah Sabawi
Samah Sabawi 2.jpg
Samah Sabawi before a press conference in Sydney, Australia
EducationMonash University

Samah Sabawi (Arabic: سماح السبعاوي‎; 1967) is a Palestinian playwright, author and poet. Her plays include Cries from the Land (2003), Three Wishes (2008), Tales of a City by the Sea (2014), and Them, scheduled for premiere in 2019.

Sabawi's essays and opeds have appeared in The Australian, Al Jazeera, Al-Ahram, The Globe and Mail, The Age, and The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a frequent guest/co-presenter on 774 ABC Melbourne's Jon Faine's Conversation Hour. She appeared alongside Israeli writer Ari Shavit,[1] BBC News New York and UN Correspondent Nick Bryant,[2] actress Miriam Margolyes,[3] and numerous others.

Sabawi is a policy advisor to the Palestinian policy network Al Shabaka, and a member of the board of directors of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations.[4][5] She participated in various public forums on peace building, women in conflict areas, the Palestinian right of return,[6] as well as various presentations for interfaith groups.[7] Previously, she was a public advocate for Australians for Palestine,[8] Executive Director and Media Spokesperson for the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations (NCCAR), and a Subject Matter Expert on the Middle East's cultural and political landscape for the Canadian Foreign Service Institute's Center for Intercultural Learning.


Samah Sabawi has co-edited Double Exposure, an anthology of Jewish and Palestinian plays from diaspora for the Playwrights Canada Press. Her poetry has also been featured in various magazines and books, most recently in an anthology published by West End Press titled With Our Eyes Wide Open: Poems of the New American Century.[9]

In 2016, Novum Publishing released I Remember My Name: Poetry by Samah Sabawi, Ramzy Baroud and Jehan Bseiso. The anthology aimed to feature "deeply personal and deeply political expressions of three gifted Palestinian poets in exile". The book received Middle East Monitor's 2016 Palestine Book Award.

Currency Press published the script of Tales of a City by the Sea in 2016, which was then listed on the VCE play list for Drama students years 11 and 12. At the Drama Victoria Awards, it earned the title of Best Publication for VCE in 2016.


Sabawi wrote and produced the plays Cries from the Land (2003) and Three Wishes (2008), both successfully received in Canada.[10][11][12]

In November 2014, Sabawi's play Tales of a City by the Sea (described as a "Palestinian story of love and separation") premiered at La Mama Theatre in Melbourne, Australia and Al Rowwad Theatre, Palestine. With the venue entirely filled for each viewing, the play received highly positive reviews from The Sydney Morning Herald, The Music, The Australian Jewish Democratic Society and Melbourne Arts Fashion.[13]

In 2018, Melbourne Theatre Company premiered a reading of Sabawi's Them, scheduled to premiere at La Mama Theatre (Melbourne) in 2019. Inspired by the psychology of civil conflict, Sabawi describes Them as a "tragicomedy about love, honour and sacrifice". [14]

Views on the Palestine-Israeli conflict[edit]

Sabawi's family left Gaza following Israel's occupation of the Strip in the Six-Day War.[15] Although she has lived and worked in many countries around the world she still has "strong ties to her place of birth - ties that have shaped [her] work and identity".[16] As a result of this she is fluent in both English and Arabic and has given speeches and interviews in both.

She has challenged the media's coverage of the Palestine-Israel conflict [17] and is an avid critic of both Hamas and Fatah [18] Sabawi has called for better representation of the Palestinian people [19] She has, for example, criticised the Palestinian leadership for signing the Oslo Agreement. In her view, the Oslo Agreements were "designed to fragment the Palestinian people both physically and politically."[20] She has been a consistent participant of Israeli Apartheid Week [21] and a lifetime advocate for non-violent resistance.[22]

Wheeler Centre Incident[edit]

Sabawi was controversially dis-invited from a speaker panel at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, due to pressure from opposing speakers. Following a social media storm of protest, the Wheeler Centre reversed their decision.[23] Sabawi joined Peter Beinart, Mark Baker, Or Avi-Guy, Maher Mughrabi and Dahlia Scheindlin in the event What we talk about when we talk about Israel/Palestine. The panel was later broadcast on ABC's Big Ideas [24] and is currently viewable on the Wheeler Centre website.[25]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Work
2004 Canadian-Arab Foundation Award
2008 Palestinian-Canadian Ottawa Community Award
2016 Palestinian-Australian Community Achievement Award Tales of a City by the Sea (2016)
Australian-Muslim Achievements Award - Creative Artist of the Year
Green Room Award - Best Independent Production (nomination)
Drama Victoria Awards - Best Production
Drama Victoria Awards - Best Publication for VCE Drama
Palestine Book Awards - Creative Category (shared with Ramzy Baroud) I Remember my Name (2016)
2017 Biennial Patrick O'Neill Award - Best play anthology (shared with Stephen Orlov) Double Exposure (2016)


  1. ^ [1], ABC Melbourne, 21 May 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  2. ^ [2], ABC Melbourne, 3 July 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  3. ^ [3], ABC Melbourne, 30 October 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  4. ^ "Samah Sabawi, National Council on Canada-Arab Relations", CTV Newsnet Live, 12 December 2006. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  5. ^ "This is not a civil war. It is a prison riot." The Globe and Mail Canada, 6 April 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  6. ^ "The Palestinian right to remain and return", Al-Ahram Weekly, 30 June - 6 July 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  7. ^ "Events: Women's Role in Peacemaking in the Middle East Archived 2012-07-14 at, Potlucks for Peace, April 29, 2007. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  8. ^ "Palestinian priority is to resume talks", The Australian, 21 May 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  9. ^ . Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  10. ^ Mary Anne Thompson, ""Three Wishes" play opens in Ottawa", The OSCAR, 3 December 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  11. ^ "War from the eyes of a child", The Orléans Star, 5 December 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  12. ^ Brendan Ross, "Youth explore conflict in local play" Archived 2012-07-12 at, Centretown News, 3 December 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  13. ^ Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Them", Melbourne Theatre Company. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  15. ^ Samah Sabawi, "Pain of Gaza exile endures after 43 years", The Age, June 8, 2010. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  16. ^ "Samah Sabawi", Al-shabaka. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  17. ^ "Hamas and the Missing Video", Counterpunch 23 February 2006. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  18. ^ "Gaza's New Martyrs", Counterpunch 7–9 November 2008. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  19. ^ "September and Beyond: Who Speaks in My Name?", Al-shabaka 13 September 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  20. ^ Interview by ICAHD Finland. "Samah Sabawi: Crisis of Palestinian leadership". ICAHD Finland. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  21. ^ "Israeli Apartheid Week Sydney 2012 - Samah Sabawi 'Normalize This!", 31 March 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  22. ^ "Launch Events", The People's Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.
  23. ^ "Palestinian Author Dropped from Wheeler Centre Event", Sydney Morning Herald 21 May 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  24. ^ "Talks", Big Ideas 23 July 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  25. ^ "Samah Sabawi", The Wheeler Centre. Retrieved 23 December 2014.