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Peace with Freud 

In a civil war ravaged Syria, Rafah Nached continued his work as a psychoanalyst. It would cost her dearly.


Rafah Nached is tiny in stature, red-haired and well-dressed. Syria's first female psychoanalyst, born in 1944 in Aleppo, lives in exile in Paris for the third year; she was sent into exile for her work and for her books, texts and lectures. In 2011, she was arrested at the airport in Damascus, apparently for no reason. It was officially stated that she had opposed Assad's government and conspired against the Syrian state

In Syria, democracy, dialogue, freedom of speech and equality before the law have become foreign words. Language is also in crisis; the words have lost their power and one uses weapons in their place.

Nached would prefer not to talk about the war in his home country. She also does not want to talk about politics – the pain is too great, and her immediate one too hard hit. Maybe she's traumatized herself. and concealment provides the best protection against personal and national trauma. "Only what I have witnessed myself can I say anything about," she emphasizes, "Media consistently tells a different story about Syria than the one I know."

The arrest of Nached took place after she stated in an interview that everyone, regardless of political point of view, was welcome to her psychoanalytic center in Syria – to share her feelings and fears about the ongoing situation in the country. She was put in a women's prison near Damascus, where she shared a cell with 15 women and children for 62 days.

In Syria, the language is also in crisis; the words have lost their power and one uses weapons in their place.

Nached was released on bail after an international petition collected 10 signatures for the Syrian regime. The call was led by French authorities as well as an international group against human rights violations in Syrian prisons, and the then First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy fronted the case in the media.

I ask Nached if she's worried about her safety. "Not now that I've been here in Paris for a while. But I'm very careful about what I say and where I go. Nor am I talking about things that could be dangerous to those who remained in Syria; when so many talk about them, I don't have to. But I would like to discuss the Syria problem from a global perspective. Now we focus on Syria as if the country was not part of the world. However, the Syrian problem is not regional; it is international. Major politics has wanted, and clearly, to isolate Syria. It seems like all the world's problems have ended up there. "

Nached grew up in a Sunni Muslim family in Aleppo. She studied philosophy in Lebanon at a Catholic university before traveling to Paris and taking her graduate degree in psychology. Sometimes she married compatriot Fayssal Abdallah, professor of history with Mesopotamia as a special field. Together, the married couple left the good life in Paris for the benefit of their homeland.

Nached started her psychoanalytic career in 1985. In the early 2000s, she established her own school in Damascus, École Damascène de Psychoanalyse, which many international psychoanalysts have visited. Nached, who has written extensively on analytical theory and practice, with particular emphasis on Lacan and Freud, was the one who introduced psychoanalysis in Syria.

We return to the situation in today's Syria.

"In Syria around the revolution, it was like preparing the soil before sowing: You take soil from a place deep in the ground and place it on top for the field to become fertile. That's how the deep layers come to the surface, while getting rid of weeds. "

It is important to understand what role psychoanalysis can play in politics.

How could you as a psychoanalyst contribute?

"We psychoanalysts were in the middle of it. I asked myself what attitude we should have – should we stay there with our patients on the bench, or ask questions based on the social movements around us? Should we get involved in what happened?

There was a major upheaval in Syria in terms of the dynamics between the people. When people demonstrated in the streets, they tried to present a new political project: freedom, dignity and a union of all Syrians. With this, they wanted to say, 'That's how we should live together.' "

At the same time, there was massive repression and violence from the authorities, so everyone who demonstrated had to deal with death everywhere – an unstoppable stream of dead people. ”

I ask the psychoanalyst where her subject stands as of today, both in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.

“The revolution has raised new questions about what psychoanalysts should do in today's world, a question that is very important. It is not about whether psychoanalysts should engage in politics, but about understanding what role psychoanalysis can play in politics, that is, the social relations in a given society, including the international one. I want psychoanalysis to play a bigger role in politics.

There is no solution. But there is a common search for a solution, which came about with the establishment of the UN. Now, however, we are witnessing an international defeat. ”

I read that in Syria you cannot say "I" or "No". Is this right? 

"It was really a question of 'I' and 'we', which has influenced psychoanalysis all over the world. This 'I' and 'we' take place in the subconscious, which psychoanalysis allows us to work with a little. In this way, it can show the impact of war on the individual and on society. That is why I believe psychoanalysis must raise its voice in today's Syria. "

In the world of lies, rebellion, corruption, war and terror, Nached has tried to establish a platform for peace between people, and dialogue as the foundation for development, freedom and interaction. She has challenged everything the dictatorship of Syria and the Assad regime stands for – through her life of the free word, the individual self and the human psyche of a country totally bombed after five years of civil war. All she has left is a fatwa and exclusion from the Syrian community. When this happened,
she had worked for a better Syria for 26 years.

"The Freudian Spring" is my vision for a new and better Arab spring and future.

It is said that you believe in a Freudian spring in the Middle East. Can you change the world through your work with the individual? 

"I'm not changing the world – that would be pretentious to say. But I can tell a little more about what is happening in the world and in man, and thus contribute to making the world a better place – a place where the individual is not manipulated by the family or politics, but can be independent and free deep inside , and able to say "yes" and "no". "The Freudian spring" is my vision for a new and better Arab spring and future. "

The interview is a shortened, edited excerpt from the book Uncensored, printed with permission from the author and publisher. 

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