Syria Library

Syria Speaks – A Detention Controversy


The detention of a British woman, Faizah Shaheen, on her way back from her honeymoon in Turkey speaks greater volumes than (perhaps) anything else ever could have. A crew member, from her flight, saw Shaheen reading Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline and reported her.

Shaheen told the Independent: “I was completely innocent… I couldn’t understand how reading a book could cause people to suspect me like this.”

Irony abounds, given the fact that Syria Speaks is a collection of essays and writings that are meant to challenge the “culture of violence.” It’s an award-winning work, and it has also been received with critical acclaim. Kirkus called it: “a rich, creatively diverse motif sublimely representative of a country and its people awash in strife and insurgency…”

The Syrian Controversy

Zaher Omareen, the co-editor of Syria Speaks, called the detention “despicable” and told The Guardian: “It was enough to carry a book which includes the word ‘Syria’ in its title for its owner to be under suspicion as a potential terrorist.”

As fears and terror surface, it’s probably not surprising that we haven’t heard more laments about detention and false accusations. Since Shaheen is also a psychotherapist in Leeds, she may know more than most the full import of the situation.

What are your thoughts? Should reading material ever be seen as “suspicious behavior”?



Esther is a full-time freelancer, who draws upon her background to deliver fun and compelling stories. To her, the story and the vehicle(s) of expression are important, but sometimes it's just as essential to explore those areas just outside one's comfort zone. She loves to jump head-first into that deep ravine, and discover where her parachute will take her.

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