World in View: In memoriam–freedom fighter Alisar Iram

August 30, 2014

From the September-October 2014 issue of News & Letters

“My poem might be expressing despair, but at the end of the road the human spirit is at its mightiest. People who have become desperate have nothing to lose so they give their all. Victories are born of such feelings.”Alisar Iram (

It was devastating to learn of the sudden and unexpected passing of Syrian poet Alisar Iram in July. Her work had made a vital contribution to my understanding of the meaning of Syria’s Revolution, seeing it as she did against the backdrop of thousands of years of human civilization and values. As a poet, artist, blogger and activist, she fought to defend the great and small monuments of Syria’s past and to support the freedom struggle in which lies humanity’s future. Her commitment to women’s liberation was absolute.

It was her sensitivity to every aspect of human creativity that made her the revolutionary spirit she became. In the brutal response of Assad’s regime to peaceful protests, and in the terrorism of fundamentalists alike, she detected a nihilism and anti-humanism that was the ultimate enemy of humanity. By no accident, these writings of hers became central to News and Letters Committees’ organizational Perspectives this year.

One of her last writings included this reflection on the Theatre of the Absurd: “We are the Theatre of the Absurd; here on Syrian soil Brecht, Camus, Sisyphus, Ionesco and the rest of them would have started looking for other occupations. But since I am here in the middle of this absurdity that predicted the present and the past, let me stretch my Theatre of the Absurd which is Syria today to the future. 

“What do I predict, what do I see? I see absurd enlightenment, I see the absurd light of the mind triumphant, I see absurd freedom born of the absurdity of tyranny, I see the absurd birth of universal morality, I see humanity which has undergone the ordeals of fire, death, savagery and destruction emerge to lead the conscience of the world and the sensibilities of the world and the awareness of the world to that evolutionary leap which we have been awaiting for thousands of years.”

This millennium-spanning perspective is characteristic of the thought of the Syrian Revolution. Alisar’s ideas will live on to influence that evolutionary leap she wrote of. As the world observes the first anniversary of Assad’s genocidal sarin gas attacks on Aug. 21, her spirit will be there, fighting.

—Gerry Emmett


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