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Friday, March 1, 2024

Fadwa Suleiman: Actress turned an outspoken activist against Assad

Fadwa Suleiman

Syrian actress Fadwa Suleiman was born in Aleppo on May 17, 1970, (exactly six months before dictator Hafez Assad seized power in Syria through a military coup) and died on August 17, 2017, in Montfermeil, France, where she took refuge after being forced to leave her country for her own protection.

After graduating from the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus, Fadwa participated in a number of television, radio, theatrical, and cinematic works.

What made Fadwa’s involvement in the peaceful protests even more special was the fact that she belonged to the Alawite sect, just like Bashar Assad

After the revolution began in Syria in 2011, Fadwa whole-heartedly joined the anti-Assad demonstrations even knowing that her participation could possibly lead to her death or imprisonment. What made Fadwa’s involvement in the peaceful protests even more special was the fact that she belonged to the Alawite sect, just like Bashar Assad, effectively dispelling the misconception that all Alawites fully supported the regime.

Fadwa said that she wanted, through her participation in the protests, to refute the regime’s allegations that the protesters were armed terrorists and militants.

With her popularity rising as one of the faces of the revolution, Fadwa, the actress turned activist, became a target of the regime. She cut her hair short like a man in order to move more freely from house to house to avoid arrest as the regime’s security forces combed the neighborhoods of Homs in search of her, sometimes beating regular citizens in an effort to force them into revealing her whereabouts.

Fadwa Suleiman in hiding

In one popular revolution video clip, Suleiman appears standing on a platform in the Sunni neighborhood of al-Khalidiyah in Homs alongside the well-known football player Abdel Basset Sarout who was considered one of the most prominent leaders of the revolution in Homs and a sworn enemy of the regime.

“We cannot let the regime sow sectarian strife and make these noble people kill each other”

Fadwa Suleiman

During a demonstration in Paris, she called on the residents of the Syrian coast, some of whom support Assad, to “take to the streets and declare their love for Assad if they wanted, and to affirm their refusal to kill the people.” She added in the same recording, “I ask intellectuals and people of all sects to come to Homs to be a guarantee of civil peace. Go to Homs to prevent the regime from creating strife in Syria. We cannot let the regime sow sectarian strife and make these noble people kill each other.”

Fadwa Suleiman during a demonstration against Assad in Paris; Credit: Social media

Fadwa repeatedly kept on rejecting sectarianism and highlighting the unity of the Syrian people.

Fadwa Suleiman managed to live hidden from the eyes of the authorities between Damascus and Homs until the following year when it became impossible for her to hide anymore from the eyes of the Assad regime. She managed to escape from Syria in 2012 and eventually settled in France where she remained until her death due to cancer in 2017.

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