[Marxism] Fadwa Suleiman, Actress and Voice of Syrian Opposition in Exile, Dies at 47

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Aug 17 17:14:38 MDT 2017

NY Times, August 17 2017
Fadwa Suleiman, Actress and Voice of Syrian Opposition in Exile, Dies at 47

Fadwa Suleiman, a Syrian actress who bridged gender and sectarian 
boundaries to personify the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad, 
died on Thursday in Paris, to which she had fled in 2012. She was 47.

Her death, from cancer, was announced by the National Coalition of 
Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, an anti-Assad group based in Cairo.

“Fadwa became known for leading the protests and sit-ins against the 
Assad regime and for chanting the first slogans for freedom,” the 
coalition said in a statement, which called her “one of the symbols of 
the Syrian revolution.”

Facing a death sentence for her role in peaceful antigovernment 
protests, and scorned by her own family, Ms. Suleiman fled Syria in 2012 
with her husband, Omar. They found their way to France, where she was 
granted asylum.

Syria’s civil war has been waged by several factions, including Sunni 
Arab and Kurdish groups and pro-democracy rebels inspired by the Arab 
Spring in 2011.

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The factions have acted independently or as proxies for foreign 
governments. (Russia is supporting Mr. Assad, whose Baath Party seized 
power in a 1963 military coup; a NATO coalition has bombarded Islamic 
extremists.) The rebels have failed to dislodge Mr. Assad.

In her impassioned calls for peaceful protests, Ms. Suleiman emerged as 
a rare female symbol of the rebellion. She, like Mr. Assad, is a member 
of the minority Alawite sect of Shia Muslims, who compose about 10 
percent of Syria’s population.

“There are, of course, supporters of the regime from the Alawite sect, 
like there are from any other sect,” Ms. Suleiman told the news network 
Al Jazeera in 2011. “But since the regime is Alawite, all its 
wrongdoings are being blamed on the whole community.”

In a 2012 interview with M, the magazine of the French newspaper Le 
Monde, she disavowed sectarian ties of her own.

“I am a human being, living out of all prejudice and going to the 
unknown,” Ms. Suleiman said. “I belong to humanity. My first and my 
second husbands are Sunni. I do not belong to any religion. These 
classifications are out of date.

“When the revolution broke out, I realized that I was a Syrian, and that 
my role was to guide people so as not to let them be dragged to death.”

She said at the time that she was joining rallies and making other 
public appearances to protest the state’s influence over Syrian cultural 
institutions and to counter Mr. Assad’s attempts to demonize the 
antigovernment demonstrators. She was joined at a number of protests by 
Abdul Baset al-Sarout, a Syrian soccer star.

“I just wanted to go just to say we Syrians are one people,” Ms. 
Suleiman told Al Jazeera. “I wanted to contradict the narrative of the 
regime and show people that there is no sectarianism in Syria. I wanted 
it to stop its lie that those who protest are armed groups, foreign 
agents or radical Islamists.”

Most sources said that Ms. Suleiman was born on May 17, 1970, in the 
northern city of Aleppo.

After moving to Damascus, she graduated from the Higher Institute for 
Dramatic Arts and acted in numerous plays. She also appeared on Syrian 
television shows including “The Diary of Abou Antar,” “Little Ladies” 
and “Small Hearts.”

Peter Harling, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, an 
organization in Brussels whose goal is to prevent deadly conflicts, was 
quoted by The Financial Times in 2012 as praising Ms. Suleiman’s role in 
preventing even worse violence in Homs, the city in western Syria that 
endured indiscriminate bombardment by government forces and was one of 
the first to hold large demonstrations against Mr. al-Assad in 2011.

“She has tried to contain the damage among Alawites who have been 
hijacked by the regime,” Mr. Harling said.

Ms. Suleiman told Reuters in 2012, “The regime portrays Homs as a hub 
for extreme Islam, but I walk in Sunni neighborhoods distributing 
fliers, and go like this, without a veil, into the homes of religious 
families and discuss politics and organizing the next protest.”

Asked if she feared a victory in the civil war by groups that want to 
create an Islamic state, she replied: “If the Syrian people choose 
democratically that they want to be ruled by Islamists, then this is 
their choice. I am not scared of Islamists ruling the country, because 
if you are in the Syrian street, you will realize that Islam here has 
never been strict or extremist.”

After the revolt began in 2011, Ms. Suleiman was hunted by state 
security forces. Disguising herself with cropped hair and dark glasses 
and armed with fake identification papers, she fled to Jordan before 
seeking refuge in France. There, she published a book of poetry titled 
“When We Reach the Moon.”

There was no immediate information on survivors.

A year ago, Ms. Suleiman still expressed hope for her homeland.

“Even if they erase everything, we should not let them erase our dream,” 
she told Midi Libre, a French newspaper. “If there is only one Syrian 
left, I am sure he will build the Syria that we love. Syria is not a 
country, a geography. It’s an idea.”

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