Syrian diplomat and writer Dr. Anas al-Raheb speaks to Syria Times about his books

Anas Hilalal-Raheb, 50-year-old, Syrian diplomat and author from Latakia governorate’s Mashqita village. He traveled to different countries of the world such as the Soviet Union, Hungary, Egypt, Sudan, Senegal, Yugoslavia, Britain, Sudan, South Africa and Venezuela. He is from a political and intellectual family. He graduated from the University of Damascus’ Faculty of Law. He obtained a masters degree in political and diplomatic studies and a doctorate in international relations from the National Center for Diplomatic Studies at the Sudan Academy of Sciences of the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates from 1991 to 2013. He joined the Arab Writers Union in 2017.

Q1: You are from a diplomatic and intellectual family and served as a diplomat in different countries, how have these factors affected your writing and the way of your thinking?

“There is no doubt that access to different cultures of countries gives the author the ability to distinguish between human societies, which will in turn deepen his thought, concept and logic, expand his imagination, enrich his experience and increase his knowledge.

I have visited many countries of the world and have lived in many of them, and I have seen some of their cultures. They are all important and influential, especially with a great difference among the cultures of states. Cultural identity is not the same. What you read from the writers of Britain, Spain or France, or what you see in ancient theaters is not as the same as what you read or see in Senegal, South Africa or even in Latin America, and not as what you read in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon or Iraq. But ultimately, they all share morality, respect, thought and creativity which in turn creates diversity and inspiration in writings of the author.”

Q2: What are the obstacles and problems facing your publishing and writing process? What is your comment on the Arab reader in general and the Syrian one in particular?

“This question is very important, I don’t’ hide my dissatisfaction with the procedures followed by some governmental publishing institutions. I have had this experience more than once, which led me to stop dealing with them completely.

On the other hand, there is a significant weakness in the process of advertising, publicity, marketing and publishing.

Some of the publications are distributed to governmental institutions and some annual book fairs, while the majority are put in warehouses until with the damaged.

As for the Arab reader, I think they share with their brothers in Syria the same passage of time became. There are still Arab readers but their numbers have decreased due to concerns of the Arab citizen and the high prices of books. The Syrian reader has suffered a lot during the crisis and this made them focus on securing characteristics their daily needs more than reading. Here comes the role of institutions concerned with culture, education and the media, which requires them to start immediately laying down plans to develop culture and education.

Therefore, I find that the absence of culture and education in any country is a deadly disease which dangerous consequences than those left by wars, siege and the collapse of the economy.”

Q3: All your books tackle the crisis in Syria, how has this crisis guided you in choosing your book’s subjects?

“When I started writing, I never thought I would take this path. It all started suddenly. My practical experience has pushed me to writing. At the end of the 1990s, I worked at the Syrian Embassy in Cairo, in addition to my work in the Syrian Arab Republic’s Permanent Mission to the Arab League.

When the crisis began, I followed up what is happening in the Arab League towards Syria. I was not surprised by the decisions issued against my country, Syria, which ended in freezing its membership.

I found myself holding my pen and I began writing, searching and reviewing many references, documents and publications in order to illustrate the deception and misinformation practiced by the Arab League’s member states against Syria.  My first book was ‘The Arab League A Crack in the Future of Homeland 1945- 2014’, which was published by the Syrian Ministry of Culture’s Syrian General Organization of Book.

My second book is ‘The United Nations Security Council – A Hegemony over the UN Organizations and its Impact on the Policy of States’, which was published by the Damascus -based Kana’n Publishing House. This book shows the disorder and divergent positions and methodology used in UNSC’s member states to attack Syria and fuel its crisis.

My third book is ‘International Politics in the Middle East One Hundred Years of Occupation’ which was published by the Beirut -based Dar Al-Farabi in 2017. This book tackles the occupation powers and their policies in the Middle East.

My fourth book is ‘Crimes in the Memory’ which was published by the Beirut -based Dar Al-Farabi in 2018.

This book speaks of domestic politics and regional and international interventions in Syria from 1915 to 1963, especially what is related to the division of Syria and the status of the Iskenderun. 

Q4: What is your new project? What is your favorite writing field?

“I finished a novel entitled ‘Al-Israa_A Wandering tale”, a social novel talking about the life in the village of Mashqita and Latakia city during the period following the Ottoman occupation until the French occupation of Syria.

It’s noteworthy that this novel was written after I had found some of the writings, left by my late father Hilalal-Raheb.  My father hoped to complete it as a fourth part of his 5-part novel of ‘Steams of Blood’. I worked on updating it and had to make some changes in it to get it done.

However, I enjoy writing in the field of international law, politics and modern history. It seems that the reason for this is my studies, my previous work and the political environment that I have experienced from my family members who worked in the political and literary fields.


Report & Interview:

Editor in chief: Reem Haddad

Obaida al-Mohammad