This is a really rough translation, heavily reliant on Google Translation Software, of a text which you can read in the original French on http://liberationrafahnached.org/ It really is very rough in places, and I apologise, and appeal to anyone with a better grasp to let me know if I have misrepresented anything here. JL
[Pierre Bruno met Rafah Nached about four years ago in Paris, and having worked with her on psychoanalysis, became friends. He would like to pay tribute to her in her effort to put psychoanalysis to work in her context.]
Rafah Nached, now 66, first studied philosophy in Lebanon at a time when it was rather exceptional for a woman to do graduate studies in this field. She then went to Paris, where she undertook a long psychoanalytic training, and at the same time studied psychology in Paris VII, to obtain a degree in clinical psychology. She could have stayed in Paris, especially since her husband, a history professor and now an acknowledged specialist Sumerian writing, was working at the College de France, in France. However, they preferred to return to Syria, because of there roots, this was a courageous choice, and certainly not comfortable. So, in Damascus, Rafah began practicing – she was the first woman psychoanalyst in Syria, perhaps in the Middle East. She has done this for 27 years. At the turn of the century, in 1999-2000, she founded the psychoanalytic school of Damascus, joined by some analysts and some others (doctors, educators, psychiatrists, psychologists) who engaged with the Freudian discovery.
With a determination unusual in a context in which the least we can say was that psychoanalysis was an unknown land, she organized seminars, extended invitations to foreign analysts, traveled to Paris regularly to update her knowledge of psychoanalysis and to learn about hospital practices concerning in particular the psychoanalytic clinic children.
It was in this context that I met her a first time, during one of her stays in Paris. It was quite a meeting: I was immediately sensitised to the accuracy and the radicalism of her appreciation of psychoanalysis. Hers was not a pedantic sophistication, nor a sweetness, but she seized it all the same. She made it possible for her analysands to discover how to live where their subjective satisfaction opened up a relationship to the other. So, our ties were strengthened. I was invited to the first seminar in spring 2007 in Damascus, with Isabelle Morin and Dominique Le Chevallier, we talked with our thirty Syrian colleagues, about little Hans, phobia, and the paternal metaphor. With an admirable translator, we were able not only to interact with a quality and a level we never imagined, but also to discover new metaphors. For example, a word which in French can mean penis, in Arabic also designates the body of a deceased husband, which as is known, must not be seen by his wife, the widow.
Seminars were held, also in Damascus, with colleagues from the Association of Psychoanalysis Jacques Lacan. Finally, Rafah Nached and I conceived the idea of a conference in Damascus on psychoanalysis: conducted in November 2010 before an audience of over 200 people (including some forty French psychoanalysts), who were riveted to their seats for two and a half days - the interest of the conference was great. Rafah Nached, less timid than I, had chosen the title: feminine and mystical experience in psychoanalysis. It must be said that she was fascinated by the great mystic of Islam, Hallaj. She had given me a little book where some of his texts were translated and I was almost forced to buy - and read - the sum of four volumes devoted to Louis Massignon had Hallaj. Mysticism, it should be remembered, is not always looked on well by orthodox religion. I must say, to be truthful, the host of Syria, and its authorities, was impeccable. Nothing was done to prevent exchanges that were sometimes on intimate matters, sexual, or on the status of women or religion. The Damascus press gave the event a wide positive response. René Major and I were interviewed extensively on Syrian television, and this in an atmosphere of sympathy sensitivity.
Then, everything turned for the worst. A few days before her arrest at the airport in Damascus, Rafah Nached wrote and phoned to tell me she had decided, as a psychoanalyst, to open a place to speak with groups in which each regardless of their opinion on the political situation could state, freely, the way he lived these events and in particular the fear that he could feel. She made a courageous and risky choice, but definitely informed by her conception of psychoanalysis. I might add, which is not secondary, that her objective in doing so was to contribute to peace, like all her colleagues with whom I spoke. Today, after five days of terrible ordeals in an interrogation center, she is in a women's prison, a prison of common rights in Douma, a suburb north of Damascus, awaiting trial.
A humanitarian gesture could still release her, since she is innocent except for holding onto the dignity of her position as analyst. A small woman, you say?