“Khirbet al-Sheikh Ahmed” … The story of the “Shawaya” community in northeastern Syria | culture

In northeastern Syria, on the border with Iraq and Turkey, a new novel tells events that took place in the village of “Al-Safra” in the 1980s, especially the semi-nomadic Bedouin communities or the rural tribes (of Bedouin). Arab origin) called “Shawaya” for their care of sheep (sheep), goats and horses) more than the camels that the Bedouin graze.

In his first novel, “Khirbet al-Sheikh Ahmed,” Syrian writer Issa al-Sheikh Hassan discusses details that no one has touched so closely, such as: seasons and customs of marriage, “Al-Hayar” (breaking the promise of a girl’s marriage to her cousin since her childhood), revenge, genealogy, news of the tribe and village, scenes of food festivals and rituals Sufism and the sheikh and their conflicts, and other things within Syrian society in the region east of the Euphrates.

Oral documentation

In his novel, published by Mosaic for Studies and Publishing, (Istanbul 2021), Sheikh Hassan documents the lives of people, their moods and ideas, and he moves you with his graceful pen and captivating words to live in themselves and their lives. .

The author says that the events of this novel document the oral that has fallen into oblivion. I do not think that “Khirbet al-Sheikh Ahmed” is a history book, but it does benefit from recent contemporary history “the eighties of the last century”.

Author Issa Sheikh Hassan: The novel is a documentation of the oral that went into oblivion (communication sites)

Sheikh Hassan continues to Al Jazeera Net, “I wrote this novel in a state of clear nostalgia for the days of childhood and youth, and this nostalgia fueled the state of war in the country. The writing was motivated by fear of the countries that live.in the anxiety of time and place and the terrible demographic spread to the uninterrupted waves of immigration.From the first bullet.

The destruction of Basra and the plague of the Mongols

“Khirbet Sheikh Ahmed” is a new novel experience depicting the smallest details in the lives of the people of the eastern region of “Al-Shawaya”, and the people of Safra were no strangers to “Khirbet Sheikh Ahmed”, as they is not. relatives of one descent, their fates crammed into two neighboring villages as in the days of distant travels. These bygone days were not counted by written documents, but they remained recorded in poems and “bearded beards” more like legends.

Sheikh Hassan wrote in the novel: “The tribes struck in the east and west, gathered after (the destruction of Basra) and the plague of the Mongols, and settled on the Levant island, Mosul, Homs and Hama, and then reached Edessa (Urfa).), between two eternal wounds and characterized by geography, they continued to walk the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates.The cities (Al-Shawaya) and they carry a language that in his words the vocabulary contains of (the first two), even if it sometimes acted in its meaning. ”

Syrian novelist Ibrahim Al-Youssef, who lives in Germany, says of the novel: “According to the novelist’s description, the works that dealt with this (Shawi) environment were very few. They have their living lexicon, like their lexicon. of life, whose vocabulary the novelist began to analyze.

Al-Youssef adds, “The author’s clarity is clear by mentioning the character (Shawiya) on his environment, regardless of its lexical and semantic origins, to say: We are ours, without being closed to the self. “

Al-Youssef explains – in his talk with Al-Jazeera Net – “The novel, like many works released in the country during the war years, could force the reader to recall memory in an attempt to recreate it. a creative form as a form of self-preservation work. “

Novelist Issa Sheikh Hassan signs his novel at the Doha Book Fair 2021
Issa Sheikh Hassan signs his novel at the Doha Book Fair 2021 (Al Jazeera)

strict traditions

The novelist tended to analyze his characters through their living conditions in a language that ranged from colloquial to eloquent.

The events of the novel reveal the depth of its author in the psychological, intellectual and social aspects of the characters of the novel, and the story of the novel is based on the teacher Abdul Alim Yassin who moved to a remote village (Al-Saffra ) go. to teach in her only school, and there he married Salha and had two children after 3 years “Yassin”, and when Yassin died the first year of His parents in a traffic accident so that the family of Haji Abdul Latif the orphan adopted.

The child grew up to be a teacher in a remote southern village. And brought together a love story between him and “Hasna Al-Fawaz”. Yassin proposed to “Hasana”, but her family refused this marriage because the teacher “Yasin” is an orphan, and his tribal ancestry is ambiguous as his father is from outside the region.

Yassin begins his arduous journey in search of his family until he finds them at the end of the novel and goes with his family to introduce the girl he loved with his clan, and here he clashes with the customs and traditions rooted in the tribes that control this society in terms of social and family relationships, as her cousin “Jassem Al-Sael” insisted that A “well” is his right, and he would not allow anyone to approach her through the cousin to force’s marriage on the cousin. Under the guise of “Al-Hayar” that haunts women in the region to this day.

When our circumstances were full

As if this subtitle, “When Our Circumstances Were Full”, published by the novel, is nothing but proof of the author’s nostalgic past.

Sheikh Hassan relies on the heritage and vocabulary of the villages of the eastern Syrian countryside in the narrative construction of the novel, and relies on dialogues in the Shawi dialect, which include proverbs and harvest songs.

In the novel he writes, “The September sun walks on two legs of anxiety and refraction, driven to its eternal nest by gray, dark clouds torn to pieces by the wind and by the dim rays of the sun to the wreck of a large mirror. The brilliant silver water overcomes the opaque lead paint. At the small hill the sheep of the two villages are scattered over the fields.

Awwad Jassem Al-Jeddi describes the novel as “a wonderful symphony by playing the sweet local dialect for those who understand it to taste, and perhaps many readers, even in Syria, need some of the vocabulary of folklore (Swehli) explained., (Ataba) and (Nile), which the author mentioned in The Beginning of his novel chapters, although this sometimes does not coincide with the content of the chapter.

Criticism Awad Jassim Al-Jadi (Al-Jazeera)
Criticism Awad Jassim Al-Jadi: The novel is a wonderful symphony playing in the fresh local dialect (Al-Jazeera)

poetic language

In his speech, the author explains: “I was eager to stay away from the poet’s tools, but poetry is a chronic Arabic pain.”

On the other hand, the Sudanese writer Muhammad al-Rabi`s Muhammad Salih, who lives in Doha, believes that “the writer used his knowledge of the secrets of language and poetry to illuminate the depths of his heroes and the rhythm of their revealing souls, emotions, and worries, with a narrative interspersed with charming sentences such as: And Hassana felt a green bliss when Yassin said: My family. “

He adds that “the protagonists of the novel are a group of farmers from the island and the Euphrates basin in the Syrian Batha and on the outskirts of Iraq. Their way of life, the language of their communication, their clothes, their food, and the rhythm of their existence diminishes a narrative with a different color, taste, flavor and horizon, for the grids are a different melody in the melody of the great Syrian presence. “

Saleh confirms to Al-Jazeera Net that “Issa Sheikh Hassan in his novel does not provide an intellectual overview of the issue of identity, but he shows us with love, kindness and cleverness how the narrative triumphs in the archive of fame.”

They said about the novel

In turn, the novelist, critic Jassem Al-Jadi, who lives in Germany, told Al-Jazeera Net: “Issa Sheikh Hassan’s novel has two distinct peculiarities, which take the reader with a passion for the plot with to follow a social background, through intertwined events and characters, the first of which is perhaps the language of the narrative narrative in the local dialect, so it looked like a wild bundle collected from The dialects of the Qamishli countryside were mixed with the dialect of the city of Deir ez-Zor and its countryside, which ran through the countryside of Idlib, and it did not end at the east of Hama, but it was mixed with Mardilian and the Kurdish language.

Through the novelist’s artistic vision, we feel his characters as if they had found a reality and practiced the act of existence, as the author addressed the life reality of the novel’s characters through a unique and unknown vision.

The Sudanese writer Saleh believes that “this novel celebrates this difference in this region of the world, where the author has given the characters absolute freedom to express themselves as they are in their language (the language of place) and their own rhythm in time.”

He explains that “it is a way of writing that is motivated by love and a just prejudice against this way of life, away from the inferiority complex and its compositions that they and the language of their communication and way of life leave a margin in the notebook of the new existence in the cities. “

The Sudanese writer living in Doha, Muhammad Al-Rabee Muhammad Salih (Al-Jazeera)
Sudanese writer Muhammad Al-Rabi`s Muhammad Salih: The novel celebrates the difference in this region of the world (Al-Jazeera)

Rehabilitation of the marginalized

On the secret of interest in his novel by critics and readers, Issa Sheikh Hassan says: “The novel was perhaps relatively happy to adopt the method of the Shawi language dialogue or the subject that reconsidered a marginalized environment, and ‘ a historical stage that evokes the nostalgia of the generation of adults who realized that stage and looked at it from a “non-transcendent” point.But Khirbet attracted a new segment of readers.

Sheikh Hassan is a Syrian poet and writer living in Qatar. He was born in the village of Umm Al-Fursan in the rural area of ​​the Syrian city of Qamishli in 1965. He has a BA in Arabic and has published many literary texts and articles in Qatari newspapers and Arabic magazines.

He has published 6 volumes of poetry: “Songs Wet with Sadness” in 1998, “O Obi Mountains with Him” ​​2001, “Umayun in an Abbasi Dream” 2005, “As if the Wind” 2006, and “They Passed on Me” , 2015. The last of which is a collection of “A thick bath” Mediterranean House, Milan – Italy 2016. He has won many awards, including the Sharjah Prize in his fifth session and the Abdul Wahab Al Bayati Prize in his first session.

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