Saturday, 1 October 2011
Rafah- making a space to speak, to think
Rafah Nached, a French-speaking Syrian psychoanalyst, received her degree in clinical psychology from the University of Paris-Diderot, and was the first female psychoanalyst to practise in Syria. She recently founded the Damascus School of Psychoanalysis, in collaboration with French colleagues.
Nached was one of the organisers of weekly meetings for Syrians of all backgrounds and political affiliations to discuss their concerns in the face of a deadly crackdown by the security forces on six months of protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
This report from the Digital News Service SJ
Vol. XV, n. 16 | 6 September 2011
Published: September 8, 2011
SYRIA - At the Jesuit centre, in the heart of the city of Damas, the psychodrama begins every Sunday with a scene in which six people take part, from among the fifty or so who have gathered in the place. Taking centre stage in the room they discuss audibly a particular theme: this is meant to open the debate.
On that day they focalize on 'religious fear'. These Syrians belonging to various religious denominations - most of them coming from the middle class - (some supporters and some adversaries of Bachar al-Assad), meet each week, right from the early days of the anti-regime civil uprising, in order to exorcise a feeling they have all in common: fear.
"The paradox is that, in Syria, everybody is afraid. Why do the regime strongmen use violence and repression? Because they are afraid of loosing power. And the people in the street: do you think they are not afraid? They are very much so but they march down the streets all the same" says the psychoanalyst Rafah Nached, a co-initiator of the project.
Syria is a pluri-confessional country: Sunnites are the majority, ahead of the Alawites, the group that is holding power. The Christians are statistically third. "The population is quite aware of the risks of confessional clashes. You, you seem to suppose that the people will take a revengeful attitude, but this is not inevitable. The uprising is peaceful and refuses to get drawn into sectarian violence" retorts a Druze participant, Mayssan. She adds: "Personally, what I am afraid of, is a foreign intervention. This would lead to the breaking up of our country, as happened in the former Yugoslavia".
Then Zeina, a Christian, intervenes hesitantly: "I think that the opposition is divided. There are some who are enlightened and aware of what is going on, and the others who are at the same time more religious minded and less educated".
The group listens with attention. Suddenly Alaa, the Christian, tells of a recent experience: "Due to my upbringing I had prejudices against Muslims. At home I was always told not to receive them in our house. At the beginning I was in favour of the regime, but after seeing all these people killed I went to demonstrate". He was speaking fast, as if in need of extirpating something from himself. "I joined the rally, in Douma, in the suburbs of Damas, and those people who at home were talked about as 'rabble' kept me in hiding as the security forces were chasing me". "I was afraid of falling into their hands" continues the 20 year old young man.
[end of the scene].
Follows one minute of silence, to allow everyone to recollect him/herself. Then each participant is invited to speak, in turn.
Father Rami Elias, psychoanalyst, and in charge of the Jesuit residence that receives the group, explains : "There is no question to discuss politics or get involved in it but rather make space for everyone to speak of the fear he experiences, in order to share and canalize it in such a way that it does not become a new source of violence".
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