Yassin al-Haj Saleh

Yassin al-Haj Saleh (born 1961) is a Syrian writer, intellectual and former political prisoner. In 1980 and while studying medicine in Aleppo University, the 19-year-old Yassin was arrested by Hafez al-Assad regime because of his membership in the Syrian Communist Party-Political Bureau. He remained in prison for 16 years and 14 days (7/12/1980–21/12/1996). In 1994, the State Security Court, without witnesses or defence, sentenced him to 15-year imprisonment. When his time was up, the security forces asked for his cooperation as a condition of release. He refused and was sent for an additional year to the notorious Tadmur prison. He returned to medical school upon his release, graduated in 2000, but never practiced medicine, instead he turned to writing and is now one of Syria’s leading and most vocal writers.

Since 2000, Yassin al-Haj Saleh has been writing on political, social and cultural subjects relating to Syria and the Arab world for several Arab newspapers and journals outside Syria. He regularly contributes to Al-Hayat and Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspapers and the Syrian online periodical al-Jumhuriya. In addition, he has authored and edited five books about Syria. Together with a group of Syrians and Turks he established “Hamisch”, a Syrian Cultural House in Istanbul.

In 2012, Yassin al-Haj Saleh was awarded the Prince Claus Award, a prize supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that recognizes intellectuals who make an impact on their societies. He was unable to collect the award, as he was living in hiding in Damascus.