In its third edition, the Flying Carpet Festival drew smiles on the faces of children from impoverished communities in southeast Turkey. The festival is a visual and musical spectacle performed by artists from around the world.
With circus performances including acrobatics, juggling and stilt walking, organizers of the Flying Carpet Festival in Turkey always come prepared to entertain. In a recent event in the southeastern city of Mardin, performers regaled the children with a show featuring a giant puppet, followed by a music performance and tales told by a storyteller, among other segments. The festival is organized by a volunteer-based collective of artists who perform for vulnerable and refugee children in southeast Turkey, at the border with Syria. Among the performers was 21-year-old Mahmoud al-Faris, who was beside himself with happiness because he gets to teach at the circus school years after arriving to Turkey as a refugee. In total, the festival this year has reached more than 6,000 children from Syrian, Kurdish and Turkish backgrounds. "We mostly target children who are in need of beauty and come from the most deserved communities," says festival founder Sahba Aminikia. "There is lack of access in these communities to any form of actual culture and artistic activity," he adds. So Aminikia, an Iranian-American music composer and pianist himself, rolls up his sleeves and starts to entertain the children, playing the piano and singing with them. This year alone, he has performed alongside artists from across the world including American, Italian, French, Armenian, Iraqi, Turkish, Iranian and Venezuelan artists. Some of the festival's shows in certain villages were cancelled this year because of COVID-19 restrictions. The shows have had to relocate to schools, bringing performances to eight schools and two neighborhoods. The festival is a collaboration with the Mardin-based Sirkhane social circus school, which helps to restore confidence in refugee youth. In addition to receiving private donations, the festival gets funding from Germany's BMZ and the Welthungerhilfe.