Samar Yazbek

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Samar Yazbek
Samar Yazbek at the Museum of World Culture, Gothenburg (2017)
Samar Yazbek at the Museum of World Culture, Gothenburg (2017)
Born (1970-08-18) 18 August 1970 (age 48)
Jablah, Syria

Samar Yazbek (Arabic: سمر يزبك‎) is a Syrian writer and journalist. She was born in Jableh, Syria on 18 August 1970, and studied Arabic literature at Latakia University, before starting a career in journalism and scriptwriting for Syrian film and television. Her writing spans several styles: novels, short stories, film scripts, television dramas, film and TV criticism and has been translated into numerous languages, including Dutch, French, English, Italian, and German.


She is a member of the minority Alawi community, but is an opponent of the government of her co-religionist President Bashar al-Assad – an antagonism that appears regularly in her work. She documented her experience and participation in the 2011 protests against the Assad government in her “Damascene Diaries.”[1] She described the uprising that started in Dar’a in March 2011 and the brutal response that came after. This outspokenness resulted in her being detained by Syrian security forces[2] and ultimately caused her to flee the country with her daughter.[3] Since leaving in 2011, she has lived in Paris and continues to be a key component of the global discussion on Syria and the position of women in Islam.[4]

In conjunction with her critique of the Assad regime, Yazbek has been a prominent voice in support of human rights and women's rights in Syria. She was an active participant in the Women’s Initiative Organization and in Liberties, a center that defends the freedom of speech for Syrian journalists. She was an editor for Women of Syria, a feminist electronic magazine and human rights group. In 2012, she launched an organization called Women Now for Development, a nonprofit that teaches Syrian women to read and write, offers them vocational training, educates them on computers, and teaches them how to get involved in politics.[5]

Her activism is at the core of her literary works. Yazbek’s 2002 debut novel, titled Tiflat as-Sama (Heavenly Girl), challenged existing taboos in Syrian society.[6]

In 2010, Yazbek was selected as one of the Beirut39, a group of 39 Arab writers under the age of 40 chosen through a contest organised by Banipal magazine and the Hay Festival. In 2012, she was chosen for the prestigious PEN/Pinter Prize "International writer of courage", in recognition of her book A Woman in the Crossfire.[7] She was awarded the Swedish Tucholsky Prize in the same year. In 2013, she received the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award to recognize writers who have been persecuted for their work.[8]

Samar Yazbek lives in Paris since 2011 and is anactive blog-writer.[9] In 2012, she attempted to move back to the North of Syria and settle in the newly freed areas, but she chose to stay in Paris because of the growing threat of ISIS in Syria.[10]

Later, she participated in the Syrian cultural caravan (2014–5), which was an artistic and cultural movement led by Syrian artists that started with a project called "Freedom for the Syrian People" and involved a road trip across Europe.[11]


  • The Blue Pen (Al mach'a) (2017)[12]
  • The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria (Buwabat ard al aadam) (2015)[13]
  • A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (Taqatoo niran) (2012)
  • Cinnamon (Ra’ihat al-Qirfa) (2012)
  • Clay (Salsal) (2008)
  • Heavenly Girl (Tiflat as-Sama) (2002)


  1. ^ Samar Yazbek’s Damascene Diaries
  2. ^ "A testimony from Syria", The Guardian
  3. ^ "Samar Yazbek speaks up on Syria in an Italian magazine"
  4. ^ "samar yazbek & hassnae bouazza | agenda | passa porta". (in Dutch). Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  5. ^ "Across borders, Syrian women gain strength from each other". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  6. ^ Beirut39 (2010-02-03). "Beirut39: On Mobilising and Testifying: an Interview with Samar Yazbek". Beirut39. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  7. ^ Alison Flood (9 October 2012). "Syrian author shares PEN/Pinter prize with Carol Ann Duffy". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  8. ^ Fred Geelen (February 22, 2013). "Oxfam Novib/PEN Award 2013". Oxfam Novib. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  9. ^ "Samar Yazbek : la Syrie au défi de la peur". Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  10. ^ " Samar Yazbek: Books, Biography, Blogs, Audiobooks, Kindle". Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  11. ^ "Syrian Cultural Caravan". SPACE. 2016-04-26. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  12. ^ "YAZBEK Samar | R A Y A | agency for Arabic literature". Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  13. ^ "The Syrian war: Divided country, divided narratives". The Economist. 11 July 2015. Retrieved 14 July 2015.