Rafiq Salloum .. A Syrian martyr , poet and resistant to the Ottoman occupation

The late poet  Rafik Rizk Salloum's poem, which he composed in front of the gallows  of the martyrs of  May the 6th , is still  crying  out for vivid consciences, arousing enthusiasm and urging  resistance, as if this poem written before  more than 100 years ago is suitable for our time and speaks in our tongue..

To document the biography of that  resistant  poet, the Damascus History Foundation prepared a study for the Wikipedia website to be published on its pages, based on the agreement signed between the two parties last June, which stipulated that the Foundation provides  the website with biographies of 100 documented and verified Syrian personalities.


The poet  addressed his countrymen and his nation before his execution, calling them to avenge the Ottoman occupier when he said: “Neither the Arabs are my family nor Syria is my home if they do not revenge”. 

The poet  was born in the city of Homs in 1891 and  educated in its schools, and  while his family  was hoping  for him to become a  cleric , he  took off the dress  of monasticism early and went to Beirut to study  at the Syrian Protestant College, "the American University of Beirut," and while he was still a student, he wrote his first novel, "Diseases of the Modern Age."

After  he finished  his studies in Beirut, he traveled to Istanbul to study law, and there he wrote to the major Arab newspapers and magazines and worked as an editor for Al-Hadara newspaper published by Sheikh Abdul Hamid Al-Zahrawi.

During that  period of his life, he wrote a comprehensive book on economics entitled “The Country's Life in Economics,” and by the time he finished studying law, he had mastered the Russian, Greek and Turkish languages.

Salloom had a fondness for music, so he mastered playing the instruments of  the lute, the violin and the piano. He was also one of the most important contributors to the establishment of the Literary club, which aimed at the coalition of Arabs and the preservation of their rights and the independence of their country.

In 1914, the Ottoman occupation authorities brought Sallum to service with their forces participating in the First World War, and there he was able to communicate and coordinate with the factions opposed to this occupation. 

In 1915, Salloum was arrested after they  informed  the Ottoman authorities   about his activities  against the Ottoman occupation ,and  he was transferred to the Military Court in Aley, where he was sentenced to death by hanging. 

At that time he sent an influential letter to his mother in which he described the torture he had experienced during his arrest and interrogation and mentioned the names of the persons who had insulted him and forgave them.

On the morning of May 6, Sallum was executed while he was still a young man at the age of twenty-five, and he had a number of free men  with him including  Shafiq Muayad al-Azm, Rushdi al-Shamaa, Shukri al-Asali, and his teacher Abd al-Hamid al-Zahrawi. 

The officer at the Ottoman occupation army  Fouad Arden described in his memoir Salloum’s stand at the moment of  death and how he  walked  with steady and rapid steps. He saluted the body of the martyr Al Zahrawi, describing him  as the Father of Freedom, and improvised his poem in which he calls on Syrians and Arabs to avenge the martyrs of May 6 and to liberate themselves from the Ottoman  occupation.

In the will that Sallum left, as extreme evidence of his feelings and his sense of belonging to the homeland and the nation, he asked that verses from the famous  poem of the poet Almuqanna Alkindi be written on his grave  “The One Who had  between me and  the sons of my father”  to express his belief  in  Syria, his Arabism and his defense of his fellow countrymen, even those who betrayed him and handed him over to death..


Rawaa Ghanam