An interview with Yassin al-Haj Saleh on the role of culture in Syria’s struggle
Yassin al-Haj Saleh is a Syrian writer, intellectual and former political prisoner. In 1980, while studying medicine at Aleppo University, the 19-year-old Yassin was arrested by Hafez al-Assad’s government for his membership in the Syrian Communist Party-Political Bureau. He remained in prison for 16 years and 14 days. Since 2000, Yassin al-Haj Saleh has been writing on political, social and cultural subjects relating to Syria and the Arab world for several Arab newspapers and journals outside Syria. In addition, he has authored and edited four books about Syria, including one about his experience in prison. His fifth book is a critique of contemporary Islam and a critique of the critique.
When the Syrian revolution began Yassin al-Haj Saleh, then working in Damascus, went into hiding for two years in the capital. In 2013, he and his wife, the revolutionary activist Samira Khalil, moved to Douma to work for the revolution. Later that year he travelled to his family home in Raqqa where Da’esh was gaining control, and where two of his brothers had been abducted by Da’esh. His brother, Feras al-Haj Saleh is still in their hands. After living in hiding in Raqqa for two and a half months, Yassin was forced to flee to Turkey where he now lives. His journey is the subject of the documentary Our Terrible Country. Samira Khalil was abducted in Douma in December 2013, along with three other well known activists, Razan Zeitouneh, Wael Hamda, and Nazem Hammadi, and their whereabouts are still unknown.