Yassin al-Haj Saleh

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Yassin al-Haj Saleh
Born1961 (age 57–58)
ResidenceBerlin, Germany
Alma materUniversity of Aleppo
Occupationwriter, political dissident
Spouse(s)Samira Khalil

Yassin al-Haj Saleh (born in Raqqa in 1961)[1] is a Syrian writer and political dissident. He writes on political, social and cultural subjects relating to Syria and the Arab world.[1]

From 1980 until 1996 he spent time in prison in Syria for his membership in the left-wing opposition group Syrian Communist Party (Political Bureau),[2] which he calls a "communist pro-democracy group".[3][4] However, he has also stated that his time in prison allowed him to break out of the "internal prisons [of] narrow political affiliation [and] rigid ideology", and has called the Syrian revolution an "open-ended and multi-leveled struggle", while remaining supportive of aspects of Marxism.[2] He was arrested while he was studying medicine in Aleppo and spent sixteen years in prison, the last in Tadmur Prison. He took his final examination as a general medical practitioner in 2000, but never practiced.[1]

He has been granted a Prince Claus Award for 2012 as "actually a tribute to the Syrian people and the Syrian revolution. He was not able to collect the award as he is living hiding in the underground in Syria.[5] He was awarded Swedish Tucholsky Prize in 2017.[6] He was one of the talkers in a two-day anti-capitalist forum, which was held in Ankara, Turkey, on Nov 23rd-24th, 2013. Additionally, he was speaking at the event 'Reporting Change - Stories from the Arab region' in Amsterdam on 15 June 2014, an event jointly organized by Human Rights Watch and World Press Photo.[7]

Al-Haj Saleh is married to Samira Khalil, a communist dissident, former political detainee and a revolutionary activist abducted in Douma in December 2013.[8] After 21 months of hiding in Damascus and whole Syria, for being wanted by both the government and radical Islamist militants, he fled to Turkey and lived in Istanbul until 2017. Al-Haj Saleh is now a fellow at Berlin Institute for Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin).[9]


One of the most influential Arab writers and dissidents as well as a prominent intellectual voice of the Syrian revolution, Yassin Al-Haj Saleh writes on political, social and cultural subjects relating to Syria and the Arab world for several Arab newspapers and journals outside of Syria, and regularly contributes to the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper, the Egyptian leftist magazine Al-Bosla, and the Syrian online periodical The Republic.

Among his books (the majority in Arabic):

  • Syria in the Shadow: Glimpses Inside the Black Box (2009, Dar Jidar);
  • Walking on One Foot (2011, Dar al-Adab, Beirut), a collection of 52 essays about Syrian affairs, written between 2006 and 2010;
  • Salvation O Boys: 16 Years in Syrian Prisons (2012, Dar al-Saqi, Beirut);
  • The Myths of the Latters: A Critique of Contemporary Islam and a Critique of its Critique (2012, Dar al-Saqi, Beirut);
  • Deliverance or Destruction? Syria at a Crossroads (2014, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies);
  • The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy (2017, Hurst Publishers, London). [In English]


  1. ^ a b c Filmed Conversations, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, 2008
  2. ^ a b Conscience of Syria, Danny Postel Nader Hashemi and Yassif al-ham Saleh, "Boston Review", 12 March 2014
  3. ^ Column archive (2005) at Voltaire Network
  4. ^ Prisoner of Damascus, Yassin al-Haj Saleh, The New York Times, 10 April 2011
  5. ^ "Syrian writer in hiding unable to collect award". September 7, 2012. Retrieved September 8, 2012.
  6. ^ "Den syriske författaren Yassin al-haj Saleh tilldelas 2017 års Tucholskypris". November 26, 2017. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
  7. ^ "Reporting Change - Stories from the Arab region". June 15, 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  8. ^ Samira, Razan, and the multi-faceted struggles against tyranny
  9. ^ Yassin al-Haj Saleh's page on The Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin

External links[edit]


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