Arab Liberals: the last hope for reform

Special to The Daily Star

An interesting phenomenon has been taking place of late: coverage in the international media of the activities of Arab and Muslim terrorists has given way, for a short while at least, to a consideration of Arab liberal intellectuals and activists and their potential role in the longed-for reform process in the Arab world.  Continue reading

The Young Syrian

The Jerusalem Report / page 24

Ammar Abdulhamid hopes to spark an intellectual renaissance and encourage political reform at home in Damascus.

Yigal Schleifer / Istanbul

SYRIAN PUBLISHER AND author Ammar Abdulhamid doesn’t like to think small scale. The founder of a year-old nonprofit Damascus publishing house, Abdulhamid is embarking on a translation project through which he plans to introduce the Syrian public to the classic literary and philosophical works of the Western canon.  Continue reading

If Hillary can make it in Arabic, will Rousseau?

By Samar Farah | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

DAMASCUS, SYRIA – Nouri Bookstore, one of the main book dealers in Damascus, bulges and buckles with Arabic translations of Western texts – mostly books on computers, medicine, and cooking. On prominent display: a book by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke with the very loosely translated title “My Awakening, the Jewish Control over USA”; a copy of Hillary Clinton’s autobiography, and other works on Sept. 11 and the Iraq war. Continue reading

PROFILE: Writer lifts veil on Syrian life

By AYAKO KARINO / Asahi Shimbun News Service

Ammar Abdulhamid’s daring debut novel “Menstruation,” which examines the issues of sexuality and repression, has been banned in the author’s conservative Muslim homeland.

Syrian writer Ammar Abdulhamid has come a long way to publish his first novel, the provocatively titled “Menstruation.” It was only through his journey into various aspects of Islamic fundamentalism and his struggles to come to terms with his own identity and religious beliefs that he was able to write his daring debut, which explores in depth the contemporary issues of sexuality, self-awareness and repression within the conservative religious framework of Syria. Continue reading

Manners and Customs of Modern Day Damascenes

Not sure where this article was eventually published, but it was written around 2002 as part of a travel guide of sorts.

To speak of the manners and customs of modern-day Damascenes is not an easy task, the people of Damascus are simply too varied to allow for making the necessary generalizations in this regard.

For in addition to the multiplicity of religions, sects and ethnic groups, and the multifarious levels of westernization prevalent everywhere, the Damascene stands as a staunch “rugged individualist” basking in, rather than hiding underneath, that amazing layer of traditions which he/she has to follow to keep the vestiges of a seven thousands years old culture going. Continue reading

Going underground

By Richard Woffenden

Ammar Abdulhamid’s debut novel creates an image of a Syrian underworld

Set in contemporary Damascus, Ammar Abdulhamid’s debut novel is going to upset people. Its title, Menstruation, leaves readers in no doubt that Abdulhamid is not about to pull any punches when it comes to taboo subjects. Clearly a reaction to repression in itself, the novel looks at the effect of conservative values on society, particularly the young. Continue reading