Ibn Rushd Fund for Freedom of Thought

Mustafa Khalifa

Mustafa Khalifa was born in 1948 in Jarabulus near Aleppo. He grew up in Aleppo, where he participated in many political activities already as a teenager, due to which he was twice sent to prison. Upon his release form prison he studied art and film direction in France, and was arrested at  Damascus airport when he returned from Paris. From 1982-1994, Khalifa was held without trial in various state security prisons, including the infamous Tadmur Military Prison.
2006 he emigrated to the United Arab Emirates, although he was banned from traveling outside Syria, and then to France, where he still lives today. He is married to the activist Sahar al-Bunni, sister of the political activists Akram and Anwar al-Bunni.
„al-Qawqa’a. Yawmiyyat mutalassis“ (The Shell. Memoirs of a Hidden Observer - Beirut: Dar al-Adab, 2008) is his first and only book.

The Shell

The Shell (Beirut: Dar al-Adab, 2008) is a gripping autobiographic novel, written in spare, stripped-down prose punctuated by introspective, poetic reflection. In it, the first-person narrator describes being apprehended by state security and the twelve years in prison that follow. He details the brutal torture at the hands of the prison guards and military police, as well as the social fabric of prison life. Early on, the protagonist tells the guards that he brought up a Christian, hoping they will understand that their accusation that he is working with the Muslim Brotherhood is clearly false. Yet with true catch-22 logic and a belief in the infallibility of Syria’s state intelligence, the guards tell him that if he has been arrested, it must be for good reason, and as a Christian accused of working for the Brotherhood, he is doubly a traitor. As a professed atheist, the protagonist is ostracized by his fellow inmates, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who suspect he may be a spy planted among them by the state. Tortured by the guards and shunned by the other prisoners, he retreats further into himself, forming a protective shell around himself for which the book is named.