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Rest in Peace Mai Skaf: Death of Exiled Artist Mirrors Syria’s Dying Revolution

Elie Chalala

Skaf Collageby Elie Chalala.

As an editor of an arts and cultural magazine, I could not help but closely follow the views and activities of two Syrian activist artists, actress Mai Skaf and poet Fadwa Suleiman, since the onset of the Syrian revolution. Both passing away while living in exile in France, Suleiman lost her battle with cancer on August 17, 2017 at the age of 47 years, and Skaf passed away by an acute brain hemorrhage on July 23 of this year at the age of 49 years.

The death of Mai Skaf represents not only a professional and political tragedy, but also a personal one, as she died prematurely at 49 years of age, sending shockwaves through her friends and loved ones, leading some to immediately label her death suspicious. Subsequent reports by a relative of hers said the death was caused by natural causes.

The reaction to Skaf's death has been passionate, intense and inseparable from the current retreat of the Syrian revolution, a revolution which Mai supported. Hazem al-Amin, a Lebanese columnist, noted that Mai would have found it "hard … not to die now," and added that many found it difficult not to view her incomprehensible death as the final sniffing out of the defeated Syrian revolution.

While we do not know if Mai has chosen this very timely moment for her death, or whether death has chosen her, both possibilities have the same end result. For the time has come for Syria, just like in Mai's case, to declare its own death. Al-Amin continues: "The tragic death of Mai Skaf parallels the great death which pervades Syria, and parallels the tragedies of what is happening there. Therefore, when her death was announced, it revealed some of the mystery that Mai was suggesting about her relationship with Syria, Damascus, her mother and sister."

Mai died at the appropriate time, and by her death she answered questions that crossed all our minds, leaving us to ponder the benefit of staying alive at this moment in which we and Syria live. She died for all of us, concluded al-Amin.

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