Prominent Syrian writer beaten during Damascus funeral procession

BEIRUT, LEBANON – JULY 6, 2012: Syrian novelist, screenwriter and poet Khaled Khalifa poses during a portrait session while attending Hay Literary Festival on July 6, 2012 in Beirut, Lebanon. His 2006 novel In Praise of Hatred attracted worldwide media attention and was a finalist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction,and has been banned in Syria. It has been published in French, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian and more recently in Spanish. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)

AMMAN, Jordan, and BEIRUT — Khaled Khalifa, one of Syria’s best-known novelists, was beaten Saturday during a funeral procession in Damascus, the Syrian capital.

Activists said members of the shabiha militia and plainclothes security forces attacked the procession to disperse it and detained at least two people. Khalifa, author of the novel ‘In Praise of Hatred,’ said in a phone interview that his hand was broken.

‘They were approximately five men. It all happened on the street. My left hand is broken. I write with my right hand, but typing on the computer is difficult now,’ Khalifa said.

Khalifa was participating in the funeral of a friend, Rabi Ghazzy, a Syrian musician, who was killed overnight in unclear circumstances. Ghazzy’s body was found in a car parked in front of a hospital in Damascus, his sister said. He had been shot in the head, she said.

Pro-government enforcers tried to stop people from walking in the procession and started beating people, including Khalifa, said a witness who asked not to be identified.

Khalifa, in an interview conducted in February in Damascus, told The Times that he was working on a new diary-style book about the Syrian revolution based on his experience living in Syria during the uprising.

‘The fear is over …. maybe I was crossing the red line more than some citizens,’ he said. ‘But now lately there is no fear because people are dying in the streets now. I think the writer must be honest, especially when you are talking about the revolution of your own people.’

— Rima Marrouch in Amman and Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Published on Los Angeles Times here

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