[Marxism] Mai Skaf, Syrian Actress Who Defied Assad Regime, Dies at 49

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jul 28 11:40:35 MDT 2018

NY Times, July 28, 2018
Mai Skaf, Syrian Actress Who Defied Assad Regime, Dies at 49
By Sam Roberts

Mai Skaf, a Syrian actress who fled to France to avoid arrest after 
defying political suppression by President Bashar al-Assad, was found 
dead on Monday in her apartment in Paris. She was 49.

Her death was confirmed by her cousin Dima Wannous, an author, who did 
not specify a cause. A colleague, Faris al-Hilou, said she died of a 
heart attack.

Ms. Skaf was jailed, accused of treason and repeatedly harassed after 
joining peaceful demonstrations against the government beginning in 
2011. Fearing further retaliation — she received death threats — she 
escaped to Jordan and then continued to Paris, where she had been living 
since 2013 in self-imposed exile.

“I will not lose hope,” she wrote on her Facebook page two days before 
her death. “It’s the great Syria, not Assad’s Syria.”

The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces 
issued a statement after her death expressing confidence that her “hope 
will continue to be a beacon for all free Syrians.”

A popular film and television actress, Ms. Skaf was among the first of 
about 30 Syrian entertainers, artists and intellectuals to challenge the 
government crackdown on Arab Spring dissidents in 2011 in what became a 
continuing civil war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and 
displaced 12 million people.

Supported by Russian air power and Iranian-backed troops, government 
forces have reclaimed rebel-held territory after killing civilians with 
sieges, airstrikes and chemical weapons.

In a 2013 interview that appeared in Al Quds Al Arabi, an 
Arabic-language newspaper in London, Ms. Skaf spoke of the impact of the 
Assad government’s constraints in broad terms.

“What about the lost dignity?” she said. “What about poverty, pain and 
disease? What about marginalization? What about daily humiliation and 
the daily enslavement of human beings? What about the loss of hope?”

When she was interrogated after one arrest, she said, an officer 
demanded: “What do you want? Do you want freedom?” To which she said she 
replied, “My wish is that my son will not be led by the son of Bashar 

Ms. Skaf was born on April 13, 1969, in Damascus to a Muslim father and 
Christian mother. Survivors include her mother and her son, who was a 
teenager when she fled and later joined her.

She studied French literature at Al-Sham Private University in Damascus. 
Encouraged by an uncle, Saadallah Wannous, a well-known playwright, she 
began acting while still a student.

In 1992, she starred in a Syrian television version of Agatha Christie’s 
novel “Sleeping Murder.” She was cast in her first film, “Echoes of 
Slides,” in 1993; appeared in the TV series “The Silk Bazaar” (1996) and 
“The Last Days of Al Yamama” (2005); and in 2008 returned to film in 
“Damascus: The Smile of Sadness” (2008). One of her last appearances was 
in “Orchidia,” a 2017 Syrian soap opera shot in Tunisia and Romania.

Before Ms. Skaf left Syria, she also ran a theater group that gave 
performances and acting classes.

She staged her first protest against the Assad regime in 2011 and was 
detained. A few years later she was told to fear for her life.

“They dared not do anything to me,” she said in a 2016 interview in 
Paris with the website toutelaculture.com, “because they pretend to 
fight the terrorists, and I am not one of them.”

Supporters drove her to Beirut, where she was reunited with her son. 
When she reached Paris, she continued her political advocacy.

In 2016, Ms. Skaf symbolically offered herself as fodder for four Libyan 
tigers at a demonstration in Berlin to protest the rejection faced by 
refugees fleeing war.

Participating in that protest, staged by the Center for Political 
Beauty, a German artist collective, she said that because European 
countries had curtailed asylum, “thousands faced the choice between the 
inevitable death of war and possible death at sea in unsafe ships, 
guided by charlatans.”

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